Claremont McKenna College

A Change in Perspective, by Palin Liu

Prior to the Silicon Valley Program, I had set myself an ambitious 5-year “career plan”. I was planning to finish my undergraduate degree in Economics-Accounting in 4 years, and complete my Masters of Finance degree in the following year. Afterwards, I wanted to work in a finance or consulting firm for 2-4 years, and then planned on going to business school.

After having worked in Silicon Valley for just over a month, however, my outlook has drastically changed. Undoubtably, careers in any high-powered profession demand intense schedules, as well as invoke increased amounts of stress. In contrast, the atmosphere in Silicon Valley, is nothing like what the “real world” has been described by recent alumni. I do not have over-bearing supervisors that micro-manage every minute of my day. Nor am I required to work more than eight hours per day. Of course, this only applies to my company – but from the general impressions I have been getting from my classmates, most of their work environments are similar, and equally as laid back.

The work experience and classes also only constitute to around 50% of the Silicon Valley Program experience. The other 50% is allocated to networking with many people during the different excursions, networking events, and conferences that you will attend during the semester. While the working experience is definitely valuable, the chances to network gives you the ability to engage and socialize with people that are very experienced within the tech industry – thus giving students greater opportunities for industry entrance, after their four years at CMC have been completed. In the long run, our three month internships will not matter significantly. But, building our career network and foundation will prove to be a timeless asset.

The vast majority of people that I have talked to here in Silicon Valley enjoy their work, and favor it over other salary-comparable positions. It is crazy to think that I have only been here for 5 weeks, yet I feel like I have learned more an entire year in Claremont. My in-depth and intimate look into the tech industry has also given me several academic luxuries that I previously never thought that I could have afforded. Previously, I thought that being an Economics major was a very important factor regarding post-graduate employment, and that the Silicon Valley firms only hire people with computer science and engineering degrees. This is definitely not the case, as I have met numerous people who almost stumbled their way into the Silicon Valley, having never planned to work here during their undergraduate college program.

Looking into the future, I have no idea what is in store for me. However, I believe that sooner or later, my attraction to innovation and entrepreneurship will allow me to return to the Valley.

Palin Liu
Claremont McKenna
Class of 2015

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