Wednesday, February 15, 2012

East Meets West - Tech Trek 2012

To say that Tech Trek West was one of the highlights of my MBA experience would be an understatement. Twenty-four full-time and part-time MBA students ended their winter break early this year to hop between Seattle, Palo Alto, and San Francisco to visit twenty companies in five days. Exhilarating and exhausting all the same time, this course put us in front of senior level executives, receiving master class level educations at some of the world's most interesting companies. From members of the Fortune 500 list to start-ups and venture capital firms, we certainly felt the pulse of Silicon Valley. 

Learning at Nintendo
While you can read about many of these companies (i.e. Starbucks, Facebook, Amazon, and Zynga) in case studies offered by the Harvard Business Review, there is really nothing like experiencing their cultures head-on. And in case, you're wondering, everything they say about Google's culture is true. Gourmet meals three times a day. Free lattes every 115 feet.  Hair stylists and masseuses at your beckon call. Laundry and dry cleaning services everyday. Ironically, a company like Google, known for its forward thinking and revolutionary technology, has provided its employees with what I essentially like to call the June Cleaver of work experiences. Short of a string of pearls and a "Yes, dear" every once in a while, the 'businessman' hasn't lived this good since he came home to find a Wally and the Beav 'messing around' before dinner. All kidding aside, while West Coast companies certainly know how to care for their employees, it appears to be worth it as these firms are attracting some of the brightest, most creative and entrepreneurial individuals in the field. Now, all they have to do is replace those small bicycles with Segways and you can sign me up tomorrow.

While I could write for days on the knowledge I've obtained through these visits (and believe me when I say that I have to complete the deliverables for this course), I will spare you the pain and include just a few highlights from the trip.

  • Meeting with the Social/Digital Marketing Team at Starbucks Headquarters. Nobody does it better than Starbucks (and they put together a mean gift bag, too). We also were able to test out their blonde roast days before it's official launch.
  • A master class with Phil Schiller, SVP of Worldwide Marketing and BC alum, at Apple, Inc. just days before he launched Apple's education project in New York City.
  • An informative presentation and intimate dinner with Tallwood Capital partner George Pavlov at Nolas in Palo Alto.
  • Getting my inner Michael Chiarello on in Napa at Round Pond and Schramsberg. While the clock said 9 AM California time, it was definitely 5 PM somewhere in the world.
Lastly, I would like to leave you with a few fun photos taken throughout the week. I assure you, the week was not all fun and games - but much of the action that occurred behind closed doors around executive conference tables remains as proprietary as Equinix's undisclosed location.  

Checking out the giant screen at the Experience Music Project in Seattle

Group shot at the EMP
Jamming with Michelle and William at the EMP

Space Needle - Staring back at Martin Crane  (an allusion to "Here's Looking at You", Frasier, Season 1, Episode 5 - check it out!)
Having a beer at a Starbucks?! Say what?

Group photo at Facebook. 'Like it' if you dare.
Suited up for my meeting at Intel. Business casual as usual.

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