Direct to Tech: ITAB 2010 Leadership in Technology: the Silicon Valley Connection

Jonathan Rosenberg ’83 said it himself: Google focuses on hiring young people right out of collegepeople who are adept at the Internet, which, he says, more or less correlates with “youth.”

For the past few years, Rosenbergsenior vice president of Google’s product management and marketinghas been among the alumni who’ve welcomed Claremont McKenna students into the behind-the-scenes operations at some of Silicon Valley’s brightest high-tech companies. It’s been happening for the past several Januarys, when a cluster of hand-picked CMCers use their winter break to mix and mingle with CMC alumni who’ve carved out high-profile careers in the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley. The annual networking trips are chaperoned by Cynthia Humes, Claremont McKenna College’s Chief Technology Officer, as well as CMC Trustee and Chair of the ITAB Bart Evans ’70.

“The U.S. has always been all about leading the way in innovative goods and services,” Evans says. “Claremont McKenna College has the ‘services’ well-covered–both on campus and off; the ITAB offers opportunities to get closer to high-technology ‘goods.’”

Along with Google, the name-brand businesses that invited CMCers into their work space this year included Applied Materials, Atlassian, Electronic Arts, EMC2, KKR, Lockheed-Martin Space Systems, Meebo, Microsoft, and YouTube. A key point of the visits (aside from being wowed by the workings of the industry) is for students to establish relationships with Claremont McKenna alumni, parents, and friends working in the high-tech sector, while gaining exposure to various job opportunities in technology (marketing, human resources, finance, management, and technical). Ideally, these relationships will evolve into summer internships and full-time job opportunities for CMC students in the Silicon Valley.

The participants will be the first ones to tell you (and they do, on the ITAB Web site where their post-trip comments are displayed) how opportunities such as the ITAB annual networking trip could only happen at a place like Claremont McKenna.

Jeremy Merrill ’12 says he was awed when chatting with the product manager for Google Translate for half an hour. “We talked about machine translation, machine learning, and natural language processing, as well as life at Google,” says Merrill.

A few of the young entrepreneurs he met also offered suggestions for the Web site he just launchedClaremont Currents, a 5C media portal and blog aggregator.

“The trip was extremely well planned and well executed,” Merrill says. “I had some very good opportunities and made some great contacts. I know I would not have had the opportunity to go on this trip at a larger school: ITAB made an effort to not only get computer science majors to attend, but opened the trip to all majors, from finance to history and to my major: philosophy/linguistics.”

Having lived in the Bay Area for the last 11 years, the ITAB trip was a wonderful opportunity for Daniel Black ’11 to “really experience what Silicon Valley is all about on a more physical level,” he says. “I loved having a group of like-minded CMC students to travel around with; The Q&A sessions were very productive because of this.”

Although he enjoyed learning about internship and job opportunities, “for me, the trip was more about picking the brains of our brilliant alumni and really getting an inside look into how differently-sized companies structure themselves and operate,” Black says. “Students on the trip really got a sense of what environment they would want to work in without having to do an entire summer internship to figure it out.”

A history and biology major, senior Karynna Asao hadn’t given much thought to a career in the technology industry. But the ITAB Silicon Valley Networking Trip revealed just how far-reaching the technology sector is, she says. “We met with CMC alumni with both technical and non-technical backgrounds who had influential roles in their respective companies, and were exposed to the many facets of the technology industryfrom marketing and sales to software engineering and operations.

“We engaged in meaningful and informative conversations with the most prominent and significant leaders in the Silicon Valley, including Jonathan Rosenberg and George Roberts ’66, a founding partner of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.,” she adds.

Highlights, she says, included touring the manufacturing facilities of Lockheed Martin as well as the top-secret development headquarters of Dante’s Inferno, a new game recently released by Electronic Arts.

Says Asao, “The ITAB trip showed me that there are so many opportunities within technology, from the giants such as Google and Microsoft to smaller companies and startups such as Atlassian and Meebo. The opportunities in the technology world are endless, and CMC’s liberal arts education more than adequately prepares us for management, entrepreneurial, and creative roles within these companies.”

“The CMC ITAB trip afforded me the chance to network with CMC alumni and parents, and ultimately educated me on possible career paths after graduation from CMC,” adds Asao. “Only a small institution such as CMC, with an intimate community of students, faculty, alumni, and parents, could provide such an opportunity as this.”

For more information about the annual ITAB trip, including photo galleries, corporate hosts, and student testimonials, visit: http://www.claremontmckenna.edu/itab/.