Unexpected, by Jacquelyn Zehner

It’s mid-way through the semester and my internship is not what I expected.

At school I am studying Computational Neuroscience and Economics. However, I have a background that heavily favors the lab-science end of my major. Naturally I expected my internship to fall somewhere within the realm of biotech.

Instead, I’m sitting on the first floor of a converted warehouse in downtown San Francisco learning about database warehousing. I couldn’t ask for a better internship. I am part of the Business Platform Analytics and Integration team at Atlassian Software Systems. ‘Business Platform’ roughly translates to ‘IT department’ and ‘Analytics and Integration’ means that we are responsible for debugging and refining Atlassian’s internal database warehouses to ensure quality data. We also monitor data for abnormalities, and create and deploy new data models when needed.

Initially, I was skeptical. An internship in IT? I thought, ‘That’s not what I was looking for. I don’t want to answer phones, what a dull semester’. In reality, I have spent the two months learning how software infrastructure functions (or, maybe more accurately, what parts of the infrastructure are most liable to break, and how to fix them).

Last week I learned how to develop a tool to visualize client account data for customer analysts. I first had to pull the data from our database, then piece together the code needed to display it in a browser. I had to create new tables in different database schemas, join the tables so the information was universally accessible, and write a script to update the table every day. The end result was a webpage full of easy-to-read graphs and charts that can be changed to reflect different parameters with toggles at the top of the page.

I love what I’m doing. 3 months ago, I would not have guessed that I would spend large chunks of my day building web pages and writing SQL queries. But now that I have some experience in the software world, I think it will change my career.

Jacquelyn Zehner
Intern, Atlassian
Claremont McKenna College
Class of 2015

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“Free Time” in the Real World, by Alex Chang

Editor’s Note:
The SVP students are on “Spring Break” as we post this, which means that they are sitting in class all day on a Saturday working on Python exercises, getting ready for their Saturday night and Sunday off, then back to work on Monday. In other words, the “real world.” –SMS

Dearest SVP Blog,
Wow, this semester has flown by. A week until Spring break and I couldn’t be more excited! The one negative thing about SVP: it’s sure to keep you busy.

That being said, I am thoroughly enjoying my time in the bay area thus far. I am one of the 4 fortunate members of the group to live in the City, which has proven to be very exciting and a whole lot of fun. Coming from Hawaii (non existent City atmosphere / made up for by the surrounding of beautiful beaches / no complaints there), city life is certainly a new experience for me.

Our apartment is perfect – less than two blocks away from work and affordable… something not so easy to find these days in San Francisco. Though the occasional homeless appearance is not uncommon on our side street, I find that I feel relatively safe in San Francisco in comparison to other cities that I’ve briefly stayed in.
Through working full time, studying and keeping up with my football workouts, there is little time to spare. However, Saturday nights have proven to be a great unwinding opportunity. Our group of students in the program have grown pretty close in our short time here. And though we will all admit that probably the only things we have in common are ambitions to enter the business and tech world following school, we moved past differences very quickly and are pretty tight knit. This has been awesome, as we mob the city by night. Thanks to us city-goers, we all also have a spot to crash (to the dismay of our landlord… if he actually knew).

We have explored a few different places, with the clear winner being the Marina. The Marina consists of a few blocks of shops, bars and restaurants in one of the nicer areas of the city. What seems like a casual area by day turns into a pretty happening spot at night- so much so that it becomes very difficult to snag a cab ride home. Our other go-to spot we’ve checked out is Polk St., which has also provided good times (including our first night out as a group!).

So, all in all, despite the program being hectic, I am definitely finding time to experience San Fran, and enjoying my free time. As this was one of my defined goals coming in, I feel like I am well on my way to accomplishing it, and could definitely envision myself ending up here at some point in my life.

Yours Truly,
Alex Chang
Intern, Atlassian
Claremont McKenna College
Class of 2015

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Warriors, by Kevin McNamara

The Silicon Valley Program has afforded me a number of awesome and rewarding experiences outside of work and the classroom in my time so far here. As a big basketball fan, once such experience has been our trip to Oracle Arena to see the Golden State Warriors take on the Houston Rockets. What made the opportunity particularly special was the box seating, courtesy of CMC alum Jonathon Rosenberg. We got to enjoy the game comfortably, complete with catered food and drinks, a private bathroom, a coat check, and more.
While this was my first ever time enjoying an NBA game live from the comforts of a suite, for many of my fellow students, some of whom were born and raised in distant countries where basketball is merely a faint blip on the radar, the game meant their first ever time watching the NBA, in any capacity. While this ended up meaning that the chatter in the suite was more about which player was the most attractive and not about either team’s chances in the playoffs, it was an entertaining experience for me nonetheless to try explain as much about my favorite sport as quickly as I could.

Of course, the game itself only proved to be a part of the fun. I had heard that Warriors’ home games were an experience unlike anywhere else in the NBA, and I wasn’t let down. Every timeout meant another fun game for the fans to take part in, from shooting contests to a competition for who could come up with the best play-by-play commentary of a highlight. Even the pre-game introductions had more energy, excitement, and actual fire than anything I’d seen at Staples Center. A large group of young fans, who couldn’t have been more than 10 or 11, occupied the suite next to ours and seemed far more interested in torturing whatever poor soul from our group was seated closest to the large window separating the two boxes. Alex in particular was forced to suffer through their wrath on a number of occasions, but all in all it was in good fun.

For the most part, I just enjoyed a rare opportunity to see everyone from the program together in a setting other than day long Saturday classes. The San Francisco residents in particular I mostly see just one day a week. I was glad to be able to get away from the some of the stresses of work every day and classes on Saturday to enjoy some of the great opportunities that the Bay Area and the Silicon Valley Program have to offer.

Kevin McNamara
Intern, Trinitas Partners
Claremont McKenna College
Class of 2015

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Not the Work Itself, but the People, by Nicole Yicong Lin

I don’t know if it’s too early to say this: Equinix is AWESOME!

Equinix’s headquarter (my SVP internship home-away-from home) is like a delicate glass box floating on the water. Looking through the window, you can see a huge lake, surrounded by cherry blossom trees and willows. Seagulls and ducks can be seen everywhere. As our colleagues told us, there used to be an aquarium. You can imagine how beautiful this place is.

After participating in many information sessions presented by different groups, we decided what we want to do in the first month. For me, I am spending half of my time on Equinix Intranet and half of the time on marketplace platform. So I am kind of commuting back and forth between headquarters in Redwood City and another office in Sunnyvale.

As an Econ-accounting student who maintains a dream of becoming a fashion designer, I fell in love with my first job—intranet. Equinix is trying to move everything from the old intranet to the new one, I am helping them design the new web page to make it more user-friendly and good-looking. This job requires us to be super detail-oriented. Sometimes, it takes us an hour to discuss where we should put a certain text field. Unlike my first job, which doesn’t require so much background knowledge, my second role is more technical—writing functional descriptions for developers of the company’s Partner Central Platform. This is definitely a learning process. I searched on the SharePoint and studied the previous story features and story lines. Put it in a nutshell: I am trying to help developers understand what functionalities potential users need.

Now let’s talk about Equinix People. After interning in Equinix for almost three weeks, I feel that I am so spoiled by Equinix people. Our supervisor took us to Hot Pot to celebrate Chinese New Year because he didn’t want me to be homesick. In order to optimize our experience here, they organized many presentations for us to get more information of what they are working on. Additionally, they do trust us and help us to complete important assignments. I am involved in all the meetings either in person or by phone and I can see my value in this whole process.

I used to think of Silicon Valley as a place full of geeks—no offense—and that I would never like it here. I am totally changed after coming here. In fact, these smart people make a real impact on our daily lives, and they create a unique working environment here in the Valley.

It is not the work itself makes you love this place, but the people you are working with. I am enjoying this experience so much.

P.S. Happy Valentines’ Day!

Nicole Yicong Lin
Intern, Equinix
Claremont McKenna College
Class of 2016

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Real Life, by Sarah Chung

At this point, we’re approaching the end of week 2 on our internships and I’ve had the honor of writing the first blog post of our semester. It’s already been a wild ride and seems like I’ve been here for years considering all that I’ve accomplished at Samsung so far.

My Silicon Valley Program experience didn’t start out the way I’d imagined.

When I arrived in San Francisco—full of eager anticipation and at the last stages of my internship search—I was robbed of everything. This experience taught me that life can sometimes give you some really sour lemons and knock you back, making me want to crawl back to the love-filled sanctuary we know as the Claremont Bubble. Yet, somehow, I was able to find the strength within to not let circumstances dictate my life.
Although the hard skills we learn on the internship that let us analyze business trends, conduct market research or develop business strategies are valuable for our career goals, I think that what we gain from the experiences that allow us to better understand the world—and more importantly, ourselves—is at the heart of the value of an internship experience.

Speaking of life skills, I made some spicy seafood Korean tofu soup that brought the house down last night. I naturally sent a picture to my parents, who were pleased to see that there’s still hope for me to be the domesticated Korean housewife I’ve always wanted to be when I grow up*.

I hope life’s treating you well, dear Reader. You can write to me for my recipe if you think you can handle not just “spicy” but “Korean spicy”.

You can never predict what life has in store for you, and the skills you develop from being on your own in the “real life” are invaluable traits that neither the workplace nor Claremont can teach you.

*=insert sarcasm here

Sarah Chung
Intern, Samsung
Scripps College
Class of 2015

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Silicon Valley – Tech and Sports, by Michelle Goodwin

Silicon Valley… high tech and high energy. I am officially half way through the program here in Silicon Valley and I think I am really living off of residual sleep and free food. Working in the legal department of a South San Francisco tech company has its perks. I have been inducted into the “pranking crew” at SuccessFactors and had the pleasure of bringing home over 3 pounds of mashed potatoes to the apartments in Mountain View.

All of those perks cannot beat the chances I have to get involved in the Bay Area community in general. I have always been a huge sports fan, specifically football. Being back in the Bay has reminded me of just how much of a sports center this place is. Two football teams, two baseball teams, a basketball team, a hockey team, and a soccer team, not to even start on college sports. I could not be more set for sports or any happier about it. While working 40 hour weeks, 10 hours of commuting, 6 hours of class, and hours of studying have been great, I have had the chance to add to that time commitment by working for the San Francisco 49ers.

I work for the 49ers on game days and on some of the events they plan. I have had the honor of interviewing Y.A. Tittle, Russ Francis, Dana Stubblefield, and more amazing alumni through this job. Eric Wright now treats me like his daughter, scaring away any boy or player that tries to talk to me. Donna Perry, Joe Perry’s widow, is now my grandmother getting me involved with even more community events and giving me advice when I need it the most. But the icing on the cake is being able to dance like a total dork with Bryant Young and Roy Barker on the sidelines at the 49ers games just because I can. Nothing can beat these experiences.

While many just think of Silicon Valley as the center for tech and innovation, which of course is true, it can be so much more. This is a community built in technology, tradition, and best of all sports! I promise that if you branch out, experience all that the Bay Area offers, and root for the home team, your experience here will be that much better.

Michelle Goodwin
Claremont McKenna College
Class of 2016

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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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Tackling San Francisco Public Transportation, by Lauren Henderson

Three of us chose to rent an apartment in San Francisco to be closer to our Silicon Valley Program internships this semester. We are completely separated from the other members of the program six days per week, since they are living all the way in Mountain View. During our first week in the Bay Area we had orientation in Mountain View that started at 9 a.m., two days in a row. The three of us living in the city, without a car, were forced to figure out public transportation in a city that we knew nothing about it.

The night before, I used all of the MUNI, BART, and Caltrain apps, and Google Maps, to figure out exactly what route we would take and when we would need to leave our apartment. We left the next morning at 6 a.m. to meet the bus that would take us to the Caltrain, which would take us to Mountain View. As we were approaching the bus stop, we saw it driving away with no plans to stop and let us on (which was a good thing since we realized the next day that it was actually going the opposite direction than the one we really wanted to take). Thankfully, I had another plan just in case we missed this first bus.

This plan involved a MUNI ride, a bus ride, and the Caltrain. We successfully got on the MUNI, and on the bus, and despite all of the issues earlier in the morning, we were about to make it to the Caltrain station with just enough time to get to orientation by 9 a.m.. But, of course, that was too good to be true, because a semi-truck tried to make a turn that blocked a huge intersection that the bus needed to go through to get to the Caltrain station. The bus driver let everyone off the bus and people started running towards the station. Having no idea where the station was, we decided to follow everyone else. By the time we had run about 2 blocks, the bus had caught up to us, and the bus driver stopped to let us back on.

We eventually made it on the Caltrain and arrived to the Mountain View train stop at 8:40 am. We almost made it to orientation on time, but we walked 10 blocks in the wrong direction and didn’t make it to orientation until 9:15am. We traveled over 3 hours that morning and the rest of our classmates simply walked from their apartments across the street.

While many people joke about my obsessive planning, everyone benefitted from my having a back up plan, in this situation. We may have tackled the route from our apartment to Mountain View by day 2, but since then we have chosen to rent a car every Saturday in order to be on time for class.

Lauren Henderson
Claremont McKenna
Class of 2015

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Discovered Opportunities, by Christian Mkpado

I thought I knew the career path that I wanted to pursue before I came to Silicon Valley. The tech industry, for some reason, never seems to be in the discussion at CMC where the careers of choice overwhelmingly favor glamorous careers such as banking and consulting. In fact, I was so focused on Finance that I almost took a job at a bank and passed on the opportunity to work at Google. Luckily, I ended up at the latter, an amazing tech company that gives me the ability to explore numerous opportunities and gain insight into products that can change the world.

There are a few things that can be done to maximize the benefit of the Silicon Valley experience but few are more important than educating yourself on the opportunities available in the tech industry. It does not take a Engineering degree or a Computer Science degree to work in the tech industry as many would believe. There are a plethora of opportunities that require no tech degrees.

Some of the most important and most informative discussions I have had involved the potential career opportunities available in tech. Just the fact that I am aware of these opportunities will help me when I come to a final decision on what career path I want to pursue.

Unfortunately, my time at CMC is slowly coming full circle and I will have to leave one of the most fun, exiting and insightful places that I have had the opportunity to experience. Fortunately, Silicon Valley has allowed me to explore an industry that is laid back and less stressful that many other high powered careers, yet also happens to be the most innovative and adaptable industries in the world. I have already made plans to return over the summer and plan on pursuing a career in the area. Exploring Silicon Valley has made leaving CMC much less of a drastic change than expected.

Christian Mkpado
Claremont McKenna
Class of 2015

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Musings on a Caltrain, by Keerthana Nunna

Soon after accepting my internship I started looking for a place in the city. After weeks of searching and getting nowhere, I gave up and decided to live in the college provided apartments 1.5 hours from work. I rationalized my decision by saying that it was cheaper, a nicer place to live, and it would be more fun to live with friends. But in all honesty, my decision was founded on pure laziness.

As far as poorly reasoned choices go, this one turned out to be great. It’s definitely worth the extra couple hours on a train to be able to come home to friends after a long day at work, and all the other reasons already stated turned out to be true as well. And the commute isn’t as harrowing as I originally expected, instead I have come to love it. I spend an hour on a train and then thirty minutes walking (or if I’m feeling lazy I can take the muni). Sometimes I even take the longer train if it means getting a more secluded seat.

Walking in the city is nice. There are all the obvious benefits of walking: exercise, sun, and fresh air. I don’t like the outdoors, so walking in the city is a nice way to get these benefits while still not really being outdoors. But the train is actually my favorite part. I spend all day at work surrounded by colleagues, and then I come home to an apartment full of roommates. I spend all day Saturday in class with professors and fellow students, and many Sundays are also spent doing group activities. I never really get the chance to be alone, which is how taking a break from society on the train has come to be the favorite part of my day. For two hours a day I get to just sit there. And I don’t have to feel bad about not doing anything, because technically I am – I’m commuting. I’m getting from point A to point B; I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.

I get to just sit and stare out the window and think. I love that hour. Many a post has been written in that hour. It’s also nice having a break between work and coming home. It’s like a transition period. Sometimes I listen to music or read or do homework. But mostly I sit and stare and think.

Keerthana Nunna
Claremont McKenna
Class of 2015

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