Sep 292015
 

Last week, a few intrepid Smith MBA students including myself set off for our first ever Smith MBA West Coast trek. It was hard to believe that no-one here from previous classes had ever undertaken such a trek, especially given the tremendous impact that tech innovations are having across the economy. Even if your future career has nothing to do with the new iPhone, there’s no doubt that today, in 2015, the impact of technology—across sectors ranging from from healthcare and education to consumer marketing and HR—is only accelerating.

An unsupervised tour of Google campus in Mountain View, on wheels, before our Googler friend showed up.

An unsupervised tour of Google campus in Mountain View (on wheels!) before our Googler friend showed up.

The over-arching goal for the trip was to get immersed in the heart of the the world’s leading tech innovation engine, San Francisco. The main event was TechCrunch Disrupt, one of the highest profile events for up and coming startups from around the world. With tickets running between $2,000-$3,000, we were also very fortunate enough to take advantage of the student discounted rate at $300. The re-purposed Pier 70 facility was to be the center of the digital world for those 3 days, with the tech media, investors, and industry figures all in attendance. Past winners include Uber and Airbnb, but good luck spotting the next gems from among the 450 booths on exhibition. If nothing else, these events provide strong practice for quickly evaluating and homing in on the most promising outfits from among the crowd vying for attention and validation.

Also, did I mention that Snoop Dogg was on hand to announce the launch of his very own startup? A premium cannabis lifestyle media site dubbed Merry Jane. And the Disrupt winner this year? A cloud-based management system for indoor farming operations. I’m sensing a theme here…

An awesome discussion over drinks with EMBA alumni Peter Hazlehurst, who's done just about everything one can do in Silicon Valley

An awesome discussion over drinks with EMBA alumni Peter Hazlehurst, who’s done just about everything one can do in Silicon Valley

We also had some serious networking planned while out there, including dinners with various Smith alumni in the Bay Area, and tours of Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn through personal contacts within our group. And that’s not even counting the after-parties all three nights after Disrupt…

I really hope this is something that gets carried on to next year, and becomes a tradition in the Smith school. Shane and Shwetha, we’re counting on you!

All in all, it was a great trip, and looking back I’m a little amazed everything we managed to fit into the time we were there. I’m thoroughly exhausted now, and could probably use a nap…

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A tour through downtown Facebook

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What kind of trip would it be though, if a few of us didn’t get to join the rest of the class in Orlando for a little R&R afterwards?

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Sep 152015
 

Every summer internship comes to a close, and usually that means a final presentation to everyone invested in the internship program. For us, this meant a free trip down to headquarters in Northern NJ, within an hour’s drive of New York City. All hands on deck for this one, every intern is expected to present on stage. We were divided up into two teams within our site, and present alongside the other teams formed at Product Development sites from San Jose to Los Angeles. It helps to have a vision that everyone can buy into in this case, since ours was almost like a case competition covering a topic that was unrelated to our actual projects this summer.

So after painstaking rehearsals that included more than a little bit of public speaking 101, a well-delivered final presentation, an HR mixer that lasted through the evening, it was only natural to stop in the New York before returning home. After all, we were already in the area…

A tip for those who have never been, after you’ve checked off Times Square and the Statue of Liberty–and do so quickly–it’s time to explore the real New York. The New York that keeps its residents and attracts more by the year despite the crowds, the aging and woefully under-maintained subway system, the sidewalk piles of trash awaiting pickup, and some of the highest cost of living in the country.

It’s the city unlike any other, a global crossroads of finance and media with the sheer scale and density to offer a dazzling variety of, well, anything. There’s always something new to explore, to taste, to see.

Here were a few highlights we enjoyed on this particular trip:

A stunning view of Mid-town from the highest rooftop bar in the city. (Hyatt Times Square)

A stunning view of Mid-town from the highest rooftop bar in the city. For a city of skyscrapers, surprisingly most rooftop bars in NYC actually aren’t situated very high up. This one is. (Hyatt Times Square)

While most people navigate New York by subway or taxi, few think to take advantage of the ferries. On a nice day, this under appreciated way of getting around delivers excellent views for visitors

While most people navigate New York by subway or taxi, few think to take advantage of the ferries. On a nice day, this under appreciated way of getting around delivers excellent views for visitors

Subway connections between lower Manhattan and the more interesting areas of Brooklyn are actually not very convenient, requiring at least one connection. Instead, just hop on a ferry and enjoy the panorama of Manhattan slowly pass by on a direct trip to waterside center of Williamsburg.

Subway connections between lower Manhattan and the more interesting neighborhoods of Brooklyn are actually not very convenient, requiring at least one connection. Instead, just hop on a ferry and enjoy the panorama of Manhattan slowly pass by on a direct ride to waterside center of the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn. And for a taste of everything NYC has to offer without the aforementioned crowding and trash, definitely check it out.

For a place called Burger and Lobster, there's not much confusion with the menu, everything's $20. The burgers, the lobsters...and, that's about it.

For a place called Burger and Lobster, there’s not much confusion with the menu, everything’s $20. The burgers, the lobsters…and, that’s about it.

Sep 082015
 
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Our hotel. San Jose, CA

There are times when it pays to be an MBA intern. The pay, for one, is literally better compared to one’s undergrad days (for most folks). You’re a bit older, a bit wiser, and for most of us, this certainly wouldn’t be our first lap around the block when it comes to working in a real office. The surprises might be fewer, but on the other hand, so is the terrifying uncertainty.

We had just one more perk.

By intention or accident, our division was split between two major offices, Boston and SF. The new members of our team, one of whom literally had just started when we were about a month into our internship, were also in SF. I was working all summer with another MBA intern, from a different school, and together we were the only two MBA interns in our site. So our manager gave us an opportunity, the new hire had to be brought up to speed, and not just on the work ahead.

The following week, we landed in San Francisco. A quick drive around the Bay and we were in San Jose, amidst the world famous Silicon Valley. That was our hotel. I looked around, it being my first trip to the Bay Area, and took it all in. Who would have thought that this unassuming bay-side suburban area would become the very center of technological innovation for the entire…world? Yes, they have Stanford. And yes, the weather is just about perfect. From the garage of William Hewlett and Bill Packard to Gordon Moore’s little startup called Intel that believed it could develop better microchips than the industry titans of its day, dreamers have always dreamed and entrepreneurs have always forged ahead in this narrow strip of land tucked between the mountains and the bay.

Reflections aside, we spent about a week there, discussing current projects, product strategies, internal outlook, and capped it all off with dinner over team bonding. When your team is scattered on opposite coasts, there’s nothing like real face to face interaction time to build a highly functional team. When it comes to real human familiarity, a webcam just can’t compare.

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Staring into the future, right there, on a visit off the clock to a fellow Smith MBA intern at Google in Mountain View, CA

No, unfortunately this is not our office. Still in Mountain View.

No, unfortunately this is not our office. Still in Mountain View.

Sunset walking back from dinner.

A West Coast sunset, palm trees mandatory

Sep 042015
 
Downtown viewed from a bridge over the Charles River

Downtown Boston as seen from a bridge over the Charles River

This past summer, I was a Product Manager Intern at Verizon Innovations in Waltham MA, just outside the charming city of Boston on the Route 128 corridor. The area was a bit like New England’s Silicon Valley, home to a sprawling community of healthcare, technology and biotech offices. On top of that, there is downtown Cambridge, an area within walking distance of MIT, Harvard, and Boston University with a surge of new offices for the likes of Google and Microsoft. On a per-person basis, at least, Boston easily takes the lead over New York for high tech jobs, with a much stronger tech presence in the local economy and workforce.

As an MBA, be prepared to begin orientation with the other summer interns, many of whom will still be undergrads barely over 20. Hopefully, with the bounty of real world experience and wisdom that you’ve accumulated in the years since college, they’ll naturally look to you for some level of guidance on any intern projects that HR might come up with.

Otherwise, summers in Boston are the best. Memories of snowy winters are cast aside for warm, breezy summer afternoons, without the oppressive heat and humidity of mid-summer in the Mid-Atlantic. Most days, it’s about 10˚ F cooler compared to DC, which makes all the difference between a hot 90˚ day and a perfect 80˚. (Or the difference between an unbearable 100˚ July afternoon and a merely 90˚ one.)

The historic Fenway Park

The historic Fenway Park

4th of July fireworks with the Boston Pops

4th of July fireworks

 Posted by at 7:15 pm