It’s become an annual event. Nearly two-dozen Michigan Tech students spend a week in California’s Bay Area learning about companies, culture, and all things California. Selected from a competitive pool of almost 120 applicants, these 20 engineering and business students have a self-identified desire to learn more about what it means to be an entrepreneur, and what better place to see what it’s all about than in Silicon Valley. Supported by gifts from alums Rick Berquist and Tom Porter, and organized and supported by the School of Business and Economics, and the Center for Entrepreneurism in the Pavlis Honors College – these students spent the week at Meraki/ Cisco, Autodesk, Porter Vineyard, Netflix, Apple, Ford, Brocade, and Clari as well as recent Michigan Tech alumni startup companies Skymind and Handshake. Facebook not only provided an afternoon of tours and discussion, but also hosted a student, corporate and alumni networking event on-site to wrap up the week. But don’t take our word for how successful and impactful the week was – read what our students had to say.
“The anticipation for this trip made it difficult to focus in the weeks prior to leaving. I was so excited, mostly because of the things I had heard from students who had previously gone on the trip. Everyone I have talked to that has been a part of this trip in previous years has had nothing but positive comments and it seriously seemed like their mindset moving into careers had changed as a result of the trip. The time finally came.”
Monday – March 7
Meraki / Cisco
Meraki definitely set the bar high for several days. We were shown around the workspaces and then had a Q&A with two engineers and an HR representative, which was fantastic. Meraki definitely came off as a 21st century, Silicon Valley company. What was even more unique was that the MTU graduate who spoke with us was a previous Team Leader for the Oculus-ASR Nanosatellite project that I am now the Project Manager for at Michigan Tech. Talk about networking!
Day 1 showed the variety of startups competing in the same space. From all ends of the spectrum, we viewed well-known leaders optimizing business models in a wide market to growing business accelerating growth over traditional models by leveraging open-source collaboration. Autodesk, an established leader in innovative engineering and design software showed the structure of Shanghai Tower, biomechanics of Nike shoes, and special effects and skin overlays of James Cameron’s Avatar were each accomplished using from the tools AutoDesk offers. As an added bonus, 3D printed projects, a driving simulation, and even interactive science fair project entertained us as we browsed the ever-changing gallery.
Rising in the space of deep learning intelligence is Michigan Tech alum Adam Gibson of SkyMind, navigating the chaos collaborating in an open-source software project for sales in analytics while managing a team worldwide. Inspired by the Terminator’s Skynet, his presence began on Youtube in Houghton, Michigan, testing different projects until they were both profitable and scalable. Now as a collaborator in university research, the intrigue of Fortune 500 companies, and joining in at the top-tier incubator Y Combinator, Adam has been doing much more than expected in building the presence of Skymind.
Skymind was something else completely. Adam Gibson left Michigan Tech, moved to Silicon Valley with a couple thousand dollars and a one-way plane ticket, and is now one of the world leaders in his field. His very small startup is based inside of Galvanize, a host for startups and big companies alike who need workspace and a collaborative, innovative environment. Adam took us up to the roof of his building and showed us an incredible view of San Francisco, while telling us that he will do everything in his power to get us all to move out to the Bay Area – an unbelievable gesture.