As a San Francisco Bay Area native, I never imagined that I would travel 500 miles as part of a school trip to visit companies in my own neighborhood. But that’s exactly what I did last month. With the help of Rady Graduate Career Connections, I was able to enter the doors of small and big-name companies, giving me one of my most memorable and rewarding MBA experiences at the Rady School thus far.
Just a week before the Big Game (Super Bowl 2016), 60 fellow students and I traveled to the Bay Area to visit over 20 companies as part of the annual Rady School Bay Area Trek. Currently in the process of seeking out summer internships and full-time positions, we had the chance to network with executives and Rady alumni, while learning about their company cultures and hiring practices. To customize our experience based on our career goals, we selected from a list of companies categorized into four different industry tracks– Consumer Products, Technology, Biotechnology and Finance.
With an interest in branding and customer insight, I visited Zynga, Hewlett Packard, Google, and Cisco Systems. My visits to these four companies gave me a view into the growing and transforming impact they have in the Bay Area and afar.
Zynga, San Francisco
My day started with a drive over the Bay Bridge to visit Zynga, located next to AT&T Park and a few miles away from the hustle and bustle of downtown San Francisco. Representative of their mobile social games, the Zynga office exemplified fun and collaboration. Surrounded by colorful art, flashy lights, foosball machines, and company-provided food, it was no surprise to me that Zynga teammates can find the inspiration to advance and transform the gaming industry.
Rady alumnus, Matt Penfield, VP of consumer insights, spoke about his career path and the culture and professional opportunities at Zynga. Since the mobile gaming industry is constantly changing and dependent on consumers’ fickle interests, his role is crucial in helping the company stay on “top of the game.” I was thoroughly impressed to learn how he has applied his Rady curriculum and collaboration experiences to his job– as well as how he can get any work done when surrounded by so many addicting games.
Hewlett Packard, Palo Alto
After grabbing lunch in the Financial District with a fellow trekker, we made our way down south to Hewlett Packard. With a recent division in the company structure, their corporate campus went through a transformation as well, which bridges new modern design with the original offices of William Hewlett and David Packard. The other visitors and I learned how the company’s openness to new ideas and collaboration has remained with the company since day one. Even though HP has become such a large and global corporation, alumni Aron Tremble, Robin Clough, and Peter Butler explained how their ideas impact the company.
Like kids in a toy store, we had the chance to check out their newer products, such as their 3D computer monitors and touch-screen counter tops (like in the secret agent movies!).
Alumni Bay Area Reception, San Francisco
As the day winded down, we made our way to the Alumni Bay Area Reception, held at the Boudin Bakery Museum in San Francisco, to network with classmates and other alumni who have continued their post-Rady careers in the Bay Area. It was refreshing to hear about their incredible experiences and receive career tips in such a relaxed and honest manner. The Rady alumni are consistently active and willing to offer help– a significant benefit of a relatively small, but quickly growing group.
Google, Mountain View
The morning after the Alumni Reception, I drove down with a couple of classmates to visit the infamous Google campus. Coming in, I had high expectations of the Google headquarters and it turned out to be more than I imagined. Yes, there are cool bicycles, video games, and complimentary food and drinks prepared by in-house chefs, but more importantly, there is an energy among the employees that can’t be replicated. It is a combination of high intelligence, hard work, innovation and initiative.
There are several Google office buildings surrounding the main campus that house departments many people don’t know exist. Rady alumnus Saleem Van Groenou works in the satellite and mapping department where he develops new ways to utilize Google’s mapping technology for social good. For example, with a focus on sustainability, he is part of a project that monitors illegal fishing boats in Southeast Asia. He explained how each department is like a startup within a corporation. And with any startup, there is constant change and ambiguity that requires flexibility and creativity. The innovations that emerge from Google projects are what advances Google’s contribution to the world.
Cisco Systems, San Jose
A couple hours later, we headed over to Cisco Systems in San Jose where we were welcomed by their college recruiting team and alumnus Andrew Chappell. Over a company-provided box lunch, they gave us an overview of what products and services they provide. Before the visit, I only knew of Cisco’s phones and network equipment, so I was impressed to learn about the global impact they have in connecting people and how they have reinvented how people do business. After the informational introduction and a Q&A session, we went on a tour of their lab where they test out their sound and network products for quality assurance in state-of-the-art soundproof rooms (so quiet that they were deafening!) and chambers that simulate elevation and temperatures. The tour was definitely a highlight of the company visits.
As I think about life after Rady, I know that I will return home to the Bay Area to continue my career. The Rady School Bay Area Trek has given me the opportunity to learn not only about the company cultures and hiring procedures, but how the companies have contributed to society. Without the Trek, I wouldn’t have made the connections and gained the insights that are invaluable as I seek full-time opportunities. It has been an enlightening experience I will never forget.
Danny Huynh (’16) is a second year full-time MBA student concentrating in marketing and brand development at the UC San Diego Rady School of Management. He is the Vice President of Marketing for the Rady School Student Board 2015-2016 and a Rady School Ambassador.