MIT MBA Students Tour Silicon Valley As Tech Campuses Expand

Opinion

It’s easy to catch the technology bug. After all, tech companies are pretty much everywhere. I became hooked when I worked as an IT consultant at Accenture after college, and plan to work at a technology company after I finish my MBA. So when I had the opportunity to participate in a Technology Trek at MIT, I jumped at the chance of visiting some of the leading market players recognized globally for their entrepreneurial and technological innovation.

I was very curious about what it’s like to work at a larger technology company, especially big ones with more resources like Facebook and Google. What is their culture really like? What kind of impact can a recent MBA graduate make? During our Technology Trek last week with 27 other MIT Sloan MBA students, I was able to get some answers.

First up was Google’s Mountain View campus. I had never seen it before, and was taken by the size of campus, the people I met, and the general atmosphere. In addition to the famous Google bikes that employees use to get around, we also saw the Wellness Center complete with nap rooms, yoga studios, and a juice bar. During our tour, we learned that Google is opening new offices just a few miles away. It’s pretty big now, but soon it will double in size!

As part of the tour, we met with a panel of MIT Sloan MBA alumni who work on different teams across Google. They talked about the opportunities for graduates to make a difference at the company. One speaker explained how he helped build the infrastructure for Google’s massive servers. Another talked about working on the Motorola acquisition a few years ago. They also noted that Google is focused on helping employees succeed with career growth and networking opportunities. That was all very encouraging to hear.

We then headed to Tableau, a data visualization software company located in Menlo Park. It’s smaller comparative to Google, but is a fast-growing publicly traded company. An executive gave us an overview of the company, and an MIT Sloan alum provided a product demonstration. One of the cofounders, Pat Hanrahan, also stopped by to talk about Tableau’s origins and vision. It turns out that Pat is responsible for some of the technology used in movies and has won Academy Awards for his work.

From there we headed to Facebook’s newer campus in Menlo Park. It was the most stunning campus I’ve ever seen. It feels more like Disneyland with themed restaurants, pastel buildings, perfect landscaping, and sky bridges. Incredibly, it’s expanding with second campus of similar size.

After our tour, we met a panel of MIT Sloan alumni. There’s the notion out there that having an MBA isn’t necessarily enough to succeed in the tech industry. So we asked our panelists for the lowdown. They said that education is important, but it’s true that the company won’t hold your hand. You need to be scrappy and a hard worker. They also talked about its collegial environment and how there are many other MIT Sloan alumni there to support you. One thing I particularly liked was their “ship love” motto – encouraging employees help each other out. The bottom line was that it’s a fast-paced environment with cool things to work on. It’s high pressure, but employees have opportunities to go above and beyond and really shine.

We also went to Netflix’s campus with its stucco and red-tile buildings. Like most other companies we visited, it is expanding. The campus is designed to be open and inviting with a collegial vibe. In support of that, our conference room was designed like a coliseum with concentric circles of seats for roundtable discussions.

Our panelists talked about how a big focus is on developing exclusive content. I asked if they had any plans to go into books or music like Amazon and Spotify, but the clear answer was no. The company is also very data driven, so we talked about how data received from subscribers is used to make the Netflix experience more robust.

On our last day, we visited a few smaller tech companies in the city, including Symphony, which had a startup vibe with its warehouse design, open desk seating, ping pong table, fridge full of snacks, and a few dogs running around. Instead of a formal presentation, it was more of a meet and greet. Employees talked about how the company pivoted a few years ago to focus on helping the operational side of new businesses. They discussed how they are expanding and a big challenge is hiring more people. That was good news for a group of first-year MBA students.

Overall, it was a very enlightening trek. We learned a lot about the different types of companies in the area, and I’m more excited than ever to return to Silicon Valley after graduation and enter this sector.

[Editor’s note: The Technology Club at MIT’s Sloan School of Management organizes an annual student trip to Silicon Valley to tour top technology companies. Xconomy traditionally invites one Sloan student each year to blog about the experience.]

Shany Alon is an MBA student at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. She was previously an IT consultant at Accenture (Israel). She is also a co-founder of RestCloud, an online messaging solution for the food delivery industry. Follow @MITSloan

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