By Kara Sherrer
Every year before Mod III starts in January, the Vanderbilt Business Career Management Center (CMC) plans a Tech Trek to the West Coast to introduce students to some of the biggest companies in tech before recruiting really heats up in the spring. This year, students and staff visited eight different companies in San Francisco: Google, Box, OneMedical, AutoDesk, Workday, Xoom, Salesforce, and Airbnb.
Below, three MBAs explain why they chose to attend the Tech Trek this year and how they found the experience valuable.
Ashish Gupta (MBA’19)
I wanted to gain a deeper understanding of the broader tech industry and life in the Bay Area, which is why I decided to go on the Tech Trek. Since I will be joining Amazon full-time as an Operations Manager upon graduation, I thought this understanding would help to prepare me for my next role in the Pathways Leadership Development Program. The trek was very insightful for me as it gave me the opportunity to understand the various nuances of the tech landscape, learn about the culture of some of the leading organizations, and establish more connections in the tech space.
Through the trek, my classmates and I got the chance to learn first-hand from industry leaders about how their firm created value and catered to a different market using a unique combination of scale, speed, and tech skills. Furthermore, interactions with several Owen alums at these organizations helped us to dive deep into their roles as well as their organization’s working style and values. These alumni went out of their way to create a safe space for us, which helped my classmates to ask direct questions about recruiting, work-life balance, and career planning/progression. We were also offered office tours of every organization we visited, making the whole experience more enjoyable and memorable!
I would highly recommend the Tech Trek to any Owen student wanting to go into the tech industry. It not only helps you build meaningful connections and learn more about the tech industry, but also helps in evaluating your fit at some of the leading firms. —Ashish Gupta
Shanah Gaskill (MBA’20)
My bags were packed, my boarding pass was issued — it was officially time to head toward San Francisco for the Tech Trek. As I sat in the airport with a handful of classmates, I was a bit unsure of what to expect. I had previously worked in tech so a lot of questions were running through my head. I was wondering things like: would I find this trip valuable? Would the trip be an opportunity to network with alumni? What would I learn about tech? Regardless of the answers, I did know one thing…I was excited.
During day one of the visit, my mind was quickly put at ease. Not only was the trip valuable for networking purposes, I was learning way more than I could have imagined. Here are some of my personal take-aways:
Company culture can be felt. During the interview process, companies often speak to their “unique” culture as a selling point. It’s one thing to hear about it — it’s another thing to feel it. At each of the stops on the trip, company culture was immediately apparent. Whether it was through smiling faces at check-in or dining in the buzzing lunchroom, being able to experience these cultures allowed me to better envision day-to-day life at the offices and in the city.
Tech touches everything. The trip really opened my eyes to the wide variety of industries that tech touches. We visited companies focused on healthcare, software, financial services, and more—really showing me that tech touches nearly every single industry. Without the Owen network connecting us to such a wide range of companies, I wouldn’t have been able to broaden my interpretation of tech’s offerings.
Time outside of the classroom is important. Getting outside of Owen with my classmates was one of the best parts of the trek. While traveling to San Francisco, I was able to spend time with classmates that I don’t regularly interact with. Having a couple of days with a new group of peers helped build lasting relationships, which is something I deeply appreciate. —Shanah Gaskill
Max Alsgaard-Miller (MBA’20)
The Tech Trek was a wonderful opportunity to experience Silicon Valley’s culture firsthand, and the trip helped me build relationships with companies where I am interested in interning over the summer. The intimacy of the Owen network was apparent from how excited the alumni were that we were visiting. They took time out of their day to give us office tours and share candid insights about company culture and the recruiting process. Some even brought in colleagues who worked in a variety of roles around the company to ensure everyone’s questions were answered.
Emily Anderson and Courtney Fain from the Career Management Center exceeded my expectations both in the variety of companies they selected for us to visit and the travel coordination during the trip. Dean Johnson also provided us with valuable insights into the technology sector both before and during the trek. His Closing Bell at the end of the trek was the perfect opportunity to debrief on the trip and make some new connections.
Another benefit of the trip was getting to know all the current Owen students who are interested in working in technology. We now have regular conversations about the industry and trade notes on which internships sound interesting. I highly recommend that Owen students interested in working in the technology field be a part of the Tech Trek. —Max Alsgaard-Miller