Silicon Valley Philosophy, by Xiaoyin Qu

Silicon Valley is an awesome place. Having been at the Silicon Valley program since January, the most frequent word I have said has been “wow.” When your company is offering free beer and wine every single day (although I am not allowed to drink, since I am underage), when we watch a Warriors game in the luxury suite for free, and when your colleagues constantly show you the most fancy apps from Sunrise to Tinder, from Google Glass to 3D printers, what else can you say other than “wow”? Yet there are times I don’t say “wow,” like now. I am sitting in a techy meeting room, trying to think of answers to a question that I have never seriously considered. What makes me a human being?

Everything started from a random conversation I had with my boss. We were talking about the news of potential HIV cures, and he firmly said, “I believe we can eventually cure all diseases using technology, maybe in 40 years.” He was not simply daydreaming. One of our colleagues has diabetes and he carries a diabetes injector that is inserted into his body all day long, showing him his insulin level 24 hours a day. The appliance warns him every time his insulin level becomes abnormal and tells him it’s time to take his medicine.

Then my boss added, “Think about 20 years later, when we can not only get those injectors, but also insert several chips into our body, each in charge of a different organ. We will be able to cure all diseases eventually, so we could live for 150 years with ease.”

“Can we?” I wondered. “What if we get computer viruses, and those chips break down? Computer viruses will become the real viruses!”

“That’s probably true. And the war … people don’t use weapons anymore. They code to destroy those chips since everybody is using those. When your chips get stuck, you are game-over.”

“And doctors need to know how to debug!” The conversation went on and on as we got so excited and began to imagine everything that is going to happen with those chips. It may sound as though we were writing science fiction, but we felt more like fortunetellers.

The conversation suddenly froze, as my boss asked me, “When we have nine chips inside our body, are we human beings or robots or something in between?”

“Well…” I got stuck. I got silent. I began to wonder what makes human beings human beings. If we are human beings because we have brains, and technology takes over the role of our brains to control how we function our organs, what makes us special then? If those robots, designed by the smartest human beings in the world, have a higher IQ than the average IQ of human beings, is intelligence still the thing that defines us as human beings? If Google Translate is finally accurate and those artificial-intelligence apps can function with the same quality as human beings, what makes us indispensable? What are the real criteria defining who we are then?  Our body, our emotions, or our creativity?

As I ask myself all those questions, I am happy that Silicon Valley challenged my previous immature philosophy. Here I was surrounded by all these technological masterpieces, but I couldn’t solve all those questions only with technology. I need humanities. My geeky colleagues are not only talking about Java or Ruby, but also philosophy. Two months ago I was wondering if I need a liberal arts education for this fast-growing and technological world, and now I realize that I not only need it, but also ought to use it.

Now my mind is full of those questions that make me wonder who I am, what I am doing, and why I am here. I appreciate those questions Silicon Valley has brought to me. Maybe I should take another philosophy class or history seminar when I get back. I was surprised to realize that the technology world in San Francisco, in addition to stimulating my interests in technology and computer science, does remind me of the value of a liberal arts education. I feel lucky: The technology world just motivates me, and I know how to put my next two years to better use now.

Xiaoyin Qu
Pomona
Class of 2015

Reprinted with permission of The Student Life, Smith Campus Center, Pomona College, Claremont, CA 91711
e-mail: editor@tsl.pomona.edu web: http://tsl.pomona.edu/

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Introducing the Fall 2013 Interns

Silicon Valley, watch out!  The third semester of Silicon Valley Program interns have been selected.  They arrive at the beginning of September 2013, and are working away on securing their internship placement for Fall.  So, if one of these bright students contacts you, answer the email or pick up the phone.  You’ll enjoy meeting them.

Fall 2013 Silicon Valley Program Interns
Fall 2013 Silicon Valley Program Interns

Next semester, all of the students are Claremont McKenna College students.  We have six women and eight men.  Two sophomores and twelve juniors.  All-in-all, fourteen enthusiastic students.

Another change for the 2013-2014 academic year is that Professor Manfred Keil will be teaching a new course designed especially for the SVP.  ECON 123 CM is titled “Applied Quantitative Methods,” and will be a step between statistics and econometrics, incorporating live corporate data sets from some of the companies who have hosted students in the past.

Professor Keil will join Professor Darren Filson, who will teach ECON 165 CM: “Industrial Organization” again for a second year.

We bid farewell to Visiting Professor Constance Rossum, who taught Marketing and Innovation, inviting leaders from the companies featured in the cases we studied.

Who’s who? Back Row: Lauren Henderson, Christian Hoxsie, Christian Mkpado, Palin Liu, Michelle Goodwin, and Paul Perrone.  Front Row: Ji Young Huh, Michael Elhardt, Kenny Cunanan, Michael Cornell, Tianxiao Ye, Danmai Xiang, Nikki Yea, and Keerthana Nunna.

 

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Reflections from a New Intern

Sitting at a table outside the cafeteria, my manager asked, “Now that you have been here for a week, how do you like EA so far? How does it differ from your expectations?”

On top of my head, I couldn’t think of anything but how everyone has been so nice to me, which is a pleasant surprise to the “real world” I had in mind. I said my thoughts, but there is actually a lot more to be told, as I took time to unravel what I experienced in the first week of interning with the Analytics team.

Three days before I started my internship, I flew across the country to the opposite coast and set foot in an unfamiliar valley powered by silicon. I began a life with no dining hall and no friends down the hallway. It was like first day of college all over again, but with magnified anxiety. As my friends back at Claremont are probably waking up minutes before class, I wake up at 7:45 am every morning, improvise lunch (i.e. avocado-carrot-lettuce-cereal salad), walk to the Caltrain station by 8:37 am, and transfer to the EA shuttle that brings me to campus by 9:06 am. Walking past countless strange and hurried faces, I reach the third floor where the EA Analytics team is located.

My work varies day by day, but usually consists of both quantitative and qualitative learning. I have done some simple python programing to clean up data before uploading, as well as practicing with SQL tutorials to navigate database. At the same time, I learn about the video gaming market, understand EA customers, and make sense of the data collected. I actually dreamed of excel sheets one night after I saw one with 5 million+ lines.

Going back to my manager’s question, I like the flexibility of the working hours and the casual atmosphere at EA. People at the office are extremely intelligent; their computer screens are filled with lines of intense code or equations or words or graphs that look crazy (sometimes a soccer game playing live in the other window). At the same time, they are very willing to help with any questions I have. They regularly check on me and see how am I doing. My manager is really busy, but he makes time to teach me, walk me through my project and include me as part of the team. It is definitely overwhelming to be pushed out of my comfort zone, and things felt very uncertain especially in the first week, but I have slowly started to feel more at home in my cubicle with the warmth of my manager and co-workers.

Szeyin Lee
Scripps College
Class of 2014

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In with the New

The first semester of the Claremont Colleges’ Silicon Valley Program (SVP) ended mid-December with a whirlwind of activity.  The interns’ long hours at work, careful analysis of cases, and thoughtful preparation of papers and presentations gave way to the satisfaction of a job well done for the students.  I could tell twenty stories of success from last semester, but one key indicator is the number of “alumni” who now want to help spread the word about the Silicon Valley Program.

Here we are at the start of February – the start of semester two.  This new group of eleven students from three colleges (Pomona, Scripps, and CMC) has a fresh perspective on our new program.  We are experimenting with having a group live in San Francisco—far closer to their internships—while the rest live in Mountain View.  Spring semester also affords more time for a break from course work mid-semester.

What will this group think of the SVP?  How will their perspectives on work and learning change over the next few months?  What stories will they tell?

Read on!

Steve Siegel CMC’87
Director, Silicon Valley Program
www.cmc.edu/svp
SVProgram@cmc.edu

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Venture Funded Big Data Analytics Startup, by Ankit Sud

Random jumble of buzz words or a description of my workplace this
semester? Not surprisingly, both. In typical Silicon Valley fashion, this blog post will
focus on metrics (2 to be exact). “Traffic” and “conversion” are metrics I have come
to know and love over the course of my time working at RetailNext and you will
know and love by the end of this post.

RetailNext measures traffic and shopper behavior at real-life brick-and-
mortar stores, much in the way Amazon tracks your behavior on its website. We
are a way of leveling the playing field for retailers around the world. Traffic per
store or per aisle, as you may imagine, is a useful piece of information for managers
to use when determining the ideal time to restock shelves, staff employees, and
position their products. Conversion is the measure of how many people actually
make a purchase after entering a store and is often a useful way to determine store
performance.

At my job, I am also working on driving online “traffic” to the company
website using the magic of Google AdWords as a way of finding new customers.
The sales team then tries to “convert” site visitors to clients. Again, traffic and
conversion haunt me.

Most importantly, I have begun seeing the Silicon Valley Program
participants as traffic and our opinions on the valley as conversion. In the grand
scheme of things, our traffic figure is small (below 20 students), but as I have
learned, a high conversion rate is often more indicative of success. I believe this
program has exposed us to the exciting world of technology, and the alumni, host
companies, and our coworkers have certainly contributed to our conversion.
If nothing else, the Silicon Valley Program is, in many ways, the typical valley
experience. And, in many ways, I couldn’t be happier.

Ankit Sud
CMC
Class of 2014

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An Epic Battle, by Ducky Duckworth

This post is not about how cool my internship is, how much I am learning in class, how little free time I have, or how Mountain View compares to Claremont (there are more trains).  This post is about the epic battle that is currently being waged at the Archstone Mountain View at Middlefield Apartments.  You are probably thinking, “An epic battle?! I thought Mountain View was safe!” Don’t worry Mom; the only weapons being utilized in this battle are tennis racquets.

Allow me to provide you with some details about this nightly tennis, who the players are, and why the matches have turned into battles.  Initially, there were multiple players, Mike Franklin, Maddie Bannon, Locke Brown, Carter Wilkinson, and I have all played at one time or another.  However, most nights I meet Locke on the courts at 8:30pm.  We usually get in two sets before the lights shut off at 10.

Locke and I are not the most consistent tennis players, my racquet often aims shots as though we are playing doubles, and my serve’s passionate affair with the net continues nightly.  However, Locke and I are enthusiastic tennis players.  This combination of enthusiasm and inconsistency fuels our battle.  Match scores oscillate wildly, and having a 4-1 lead often results in losing 6-4.  I would guestimate that 85% of our games involve at least one deuce, and games with 5 or 6 deuces are not uncommon.

A wise person would say that my nightly tennis matches are teaching me valuable lessons that can be applied broadly to the future of my life.  That winning a set after being down three-five, love-forty is teaching me that success can come out of the direst circumstances.  Maybe that’s true, maybe one day when I am cramming for an exam in medical school or working for my board certification I’ll remember back to these nightly matches.  For now, I don’t see the tennis tradition through this lens of greater meaning.  Instead, I go to the court to run around, clear my head, and laugh a lot.

Discovering delight in tennis has inspired me to offer some advice to all you future SVPers.  Be ready and willing to find joy in new pursuits.  Many of the activities you will participate in up here, whether through your job or on your own time, will be things that are new to you.  Don’t be afraid to embrace the novel.  As Steve Jobs once quoted, “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”  And bring a racquet.

Ducky Duckworth
CMC
Class of 2014

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My Silicon Valley Experience, by Michael Franklin

Joe inspired me to write a little poem for y’all so that is how I will start my post:

On a hot summer day in mid July
A little boy named Michael began to cry
He hated his current internship at this bank
Everything was so boring and his hopes shrank
The future looked dismal, full of demise
Praying that the Valley would bring a pleasant surprise
Our brave young hero was jealous of his friends going to Spain
Meeting beautiful foreign women, and travelling Europe by train
But little did he know, the Valley would be awesome
With Brock, Filson, Steve, and a professor named Rossum
The rest of my story, will not be in rhyme
But instead, will be prose documenting my time

This summer was my first internship and I was really excited to be interning at this local bank. It all sounded perfect to me, I got to live at home, my work was only five minutes away, and I found a paid internship in the field I was interested in. I discovered very quickly that banking is not what I was trying to do. I really struggled through my internship and did not have high hopes for my upcoming semester in Silicon Valley, as I was doing an accounting internship and believed it would be similar to my summer banking internship. The first week of my internship at Travelzoo was really boring and I was starting to really get concerned and question my career path. But after that first week, everything started getting so much better and all of my concerns were immediately eradicated. As an accounting intern, I was put in charge of the accounts payable department with one of my co-workers. This showed me that I could be trusted with a pretty significant part of the company’s operations while also giving me the opportunity to learn some very helpful skills. As I began mastering my job, I started having more and more free time to pursue my own project. With this free time, I have been taking lessons from what we’ve been learning in our marketing and innovation class and coming up with a new marketing campaign for Travelzoo. I’ve been presenting it to various people in the marketing department and have gotten mainly positive feedback. I am really excited because I am presenting my idea to the CFO of Travelzoo this Thursday and think this could be my lucky break!

One thing I’ve learned this semester is that whatever career path I choose for the future needs to be something I enjoy doing. Before my internships, I naively believed I would be able to do anything, regardless of how boring it was, if I were receiving a good paycheck. I learned that some people can definitely pull that off, but I am not one of them. Mountain View and Silicon Valley in general is an area that fosters innovation and it is very infectious. Since being up here, I have started my first website and my first business with some classmates. I am truly enjoying my time up here and am learning a lot about myself. I can confidently say that I have never worked so hard in my life, but it is always good to see how far you can push yourself.

Michael Franklin
CMC
Class of 2014

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Stone Shou’s Silicon Valley Experience

Have to say, I am really enjoying the valley culture. This semester I’m working for Equinix, and we are one of the biggest data center providers in the world. That is, we host network providers, implementers and users together, and we compete with a lot of other colocation providers. That is, we put network carriers like AT&T and Verizon, cloud providers like Citrix and VMware, enterprises like Disney and Southwest Airlines, all together in the same building, and then we connect them to make sure necessary services are delivered in a nice timely manner. I’m doing some low level work for my team that doesn’t require a deep understanding of networking.

My manager Brian Lillie has been the nicest and one of the most knowledgeable and inspiring people you can know. Being able to spend time with him is a blessing. But honestly, I enjoyed the valley more than I enjoyed working at Equinix. What I benefited most from this program, maybe compared to a lot of classmates, has been from socializing with entrepreneurs that are doing great work. If I am to summarize what I’ve learned: vision and motivation really matter. Another thing I really enjoyed is just that Google has helped organized some great social events. Mr. Jonathan Rosenberg has created a Google group to share things with us, and I’ve enjoyed every piece of article and video clip.

For those considering the Silicon Valley Program, here are a few recommendations. Use company resources well. Really branch out if there’s any chance. I would also recommend you take both classes seriously. Both professors do great jobs organizing the content, and some knowledge you can apply to your work right away. Yeah don’t drink too much coffee at work.

Well I’m actually feeling quite depressed these days, after a good friend left the program, and things just look really fake and dim…man…You’ve heard about plenty of positive stories so far, so I guess it doesn’t matter if I just add a little to the opposite.

Stone Shou
CMC
Class of 2014

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Life @ Project 402, and beyond, by Shiwei Zhang

Key words of life at SVP — 402.

What is Project 402? I walked in Google’s San Francisco office with the same question on September 19th. “402 is the http response code for payment required”, I got the answer from one of the founders of our product, “we just named it 402 when we started the project.” Still confused? Well you must have seen “404 Not Found” before, same thing. And you heard me right, the founder of our product.

Project 402 stands for Google Consumer Survey (GCS). It has been a startup within Google. Googlers have 20% of the time to work on just any project they are interested in, and 402 started off as one of these projects (in case you don’t know already, Gmail came from 20%, too).  It was first launched end of March this year, only 7 months ago. If you are not aware yet, Google is now in market research industry!

Google Consumer Survey, the name pretty much explains itself …… but wait, not quite.

We don’t run surveys, those lengthy questionnaires you may be thinking in your head. We run micro-surveys, one or two questions at one time. If you are market researchers and want to ask just about anything to your customers (of course, not literally anything, we have review policies), we are the cheap yet fast and scientific way to do it. GCS runs your surveys on our publisher networks across nation ( and now Canada and UK, too!) so that you can get a representative sample of your target audience. For an ordinary user browsing the internet, taking a couple of seconds to answer a question will give you access to premium content which otherwise may require login or subscription. (Win Win Win!)

The team has achieved amazing stuff in the 2 months since I joined. The product is constantly developing new features and getting new deals done. Everyday is an exciting day.

  • We launched customized polling with Harris Poll to survey on people’s satisfaction with banks they are dealing with.
  • We got endorsed by Pew, Pew Research, one of the most respected research organizations in the world.
  • “Perhaps it won’t be long before Google, not Gallup, is the most trusted name in polling.” — Nate Silver.

Personally the most exciting thing, look below. Nate Silver mentioned us in his blog in New York Times. We came up top among all online polling for Presidential Election, second if you include live phone polling, etc. The article was printed in the actual paper NYT as well! Pretty amazing for a product that’s been out there for barely more than 6 months!

  • Launched many more features in the product itself!

When you get free lunches, free massages, free shuttles with WIFI and all kinds of other perks, you know it’s Google. When you get email updates on bug status late in the night or sometimes even weekend, new features rolled out and deals signed every week, everything going on in a very fast pace, you know it’s a startup. You know where I’m going — 402 has the best of the two.

 

Oh, I forgot to mention my role in the team. I do hypothesis testing using A/B test tools on our website, a little bit of imagination (or, critical thinking), a little bit of Photoshop, a little bit of understanding of statistics, and a lot of collaboration. I also work to understand user behavior by going through each transactions. Sporadically I take on side projects like election results analysis and Excel programming.

Hmmm, what else have I left out…

Yes I live in Mountain View. Commute 3 hours everyday to and from work on my bike and the Google Bus. Yikes!

Bay Bridge — look below. It was a casual breakfast on 6 floor cafeteria of SF office.

 

Charisma — you get to take classes that interest you, and NO tests OR homework. I took “Presenting with Charisma”. As the name indicates, the class teaches presentations styles and things to practice/notice when you are presenting. We had people videotaped and critiqued each other. I was accidentally registered into the class, as it was meant for experienced presenters, but I’m happy I went.

Conferences — Probably one of my top favorite activities in the program. I try to go to all kinds of tech events in my spare time. Listened to keynotes from CEO of EA, VP of Facebook, VP Google Wallet, interactive sessions with CEO of Intuit, and soon with a Partner at a prominent VC firm in the Bay Area.

Awesome roommate, awesome people —  a 7 out of 10 weirdness roommate, yet energetic and full of ideas/stories to talk about. A group of people you can have fun with and also have intellectual conversations with.

What I realized from SVP program:

I want my future career to be related to technology. It is my passion.
I want to work at Google.
I want to live in San Francisco after I graduate.

I feel fortunate that I got into 402 for my 11 weeks of job at Google. And participating in Silicon Valley Program is probably one of the best decisions I’ve made in college.

Whoever has kept reading until this point, thank you for your attention! Have a nice day.

Shiwei Zhang
Pomona College
Class of 2014

#Google#, #Startup#, #SanFrancisco#, #MountainView#, #BayBridge#, #Conference#, #Pew#, #Harris#, #NateSilver#, #Charisma#

 

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Time flies when you’re having fun… by Locke Brown

Time has been flying by up here in Silicon Valley. With work all day during the week, and class all day on Saturdays, everyone is staying very busy! That isn’t to say we aren’t having any fun though. On top of work, classes, and the accompanying homework and reading, we’ve managed to make it into the city to explore, go to baseball and basketball games, and attend cool events with alumni. Some of us have even made it down to CMC to see friends and get a taste of life at home.

Earlier in the semester, we attended a Giants game with the CMC alumni association. This was a great time to get out of Mountain View and have some fun in the middle of the week. It was great to meet and talk to some other alumni from the Bay Area, and seeing the Giants on their way to World Series Champs was pretty exciting too! We also had the opportunity to go over to the president of CMC’s Alumni Association, Carol Hartman’s house to see the Blue Angels in the San Francisco airshow. It was an awesome opportunity to go into the city, meet alumni, and see some awesome airshow acts!

Last week we had the privilege to attend the Warriors basketball game versus the Cleveland Cavaliers. Jonathan Rosenberg hosted the Silicon Valley Students in his box at the Warriors Stadium, providing awesome food and a great time! Even more epic, there were four seats on the very front row of the floor seats right at the half court line. These were arguably the best seats in the house! Everyone had a chance to sit down there for one quarter of the game. It was amazing – you felt completely immersed in the game, and incredibly small compared to all the players.

As the semester comes to an end, we still have some pretty exciting events coming up to help take our minds off of all the looming presentations and deadlines. We will be going to an SVP reception this week, and then have Thanksgiving break the week after. I think everyone is looking forward to Thanksgiving, as it’ll be four times longer than any weekend we’ve had so far! Even with all the work and events coming up, we’ll try to savor the remaining four weeks on the Silicon Valley Program.

By Locke Brown

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