Silicon Valley

Written by Erica Yingling

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While QUEST’s “Doing Business in China” trip is quickly gaining esteem among current and prospective students alike, the program has added one more traveling class to the curriculum for members to rave about. This past month was QUEST’s pilot trip to Silicon Valley, where Program Director Kylie King and Academic Director Dr. Jeffrey Herrmann led a new course: “Special Topics in Operations Management; Design and Innovation in Silicon Valley.” The course consisted of site visits to 13 firms, which included small start-ups to well-established companies and some that were in-between. Each student was assigned to write a dossier, give a brief presentation about one of the site visits, and communicate with a company contact in preparation for the trip. Similar to all QUEST classes, students were also encouraged to have fun! Outside of the classroom, they were given the opportunity to explore San Francisco and attend alumni dinners among other events, such as the live broadcasting of ABC7 News.

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As mentioned earlier, the course took on 13 site visits in the span of one week! Why visit so many companies when most information is available on the Internet? The site visits played a fundamental role in students understanding and ability to compare design processes of each. At every site visit, students were prompted to ask the speakers questions and gain insight from internal company viewpoints – an aspect that is lost during strict classroom teaching. QUEST Alumnus Jason Gates (Q16), founder of Compology, even walked students though the first iteration of his hardware product to his most recent iteration. Currently, local waste management facilities install and use it in combination with his service to help optimize their waste pick-up schedules. It was exciting to visit start-ups like this one, and then see a company like Salesforce, which manages tens of thousands of customers. We also spoke to one of our alumni, Bryan Huang (Q18), who is now a software engineer at Redfin. Redfin is an emerging real estate company that runs an Internet platform to support its network of real estate agents. When asked “How do you think students can benefit from courses like QUEST’s trip to Silicon Valley?” he responded with “students can get a firsthand insight into the culture and operations of start-up companies that might not be available on the East Coast.”

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Not only was this an exciting opportunity to visit Fortune 500 companies or see the city; it was a great bonding experience between leaders and members of the QUEST community. During down time, everyone was able to engage in conversations over dinners and brunches, whether they were at the hotel, the local Sushirrito, or Ghirardelli Square.
Several nights, students stayed in to play games like Bananagrams (thanks Debi) with Dr. Herrmann and Kylie. The class also gave some students a chance to visit their friends at nearby universities, like Berkeley and Stanford. As a student on this trip, I realized how much the QUEST program emphasizes a balance between academics and having a tight-knit community.

Lastly, this trip would not have been possible without Kylie and Dr. Herrmann. We appreciate all of the time it took to organize the site visits and the course curriculum. We also thank our Teaching Assistants Kenny Lopez and Max Cooper for helping with the transportation and planning of this trip.

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