At 3 p.m. on Fridays, employees at LinkedIn’s San Francisco headquarters step away from their keyboards and gather on the 17th floor terrace to enjoy each other’s company. They mingle with colleagues in different departments. They savor a drink or some snacks. And they soak up the glimmer and bustle of the SoMa neighborhood below. Doesn’t sound too bad, eh?
In late October, Rady School students had the opportunity to immerse themselves in LinkedIn’s culture (and others) during the Bay Area Trek organized by Rady’s Career Management Center. Over the course of two days, Rady students (primarily MBA students, but also those in other master’s programs) visited LinkedIn, Facebook, KLA, Komodo Health, Salesforce, AirBNB, Flex and Intel, touring the state-of-the-art office spaces, asking questions of the working professionals—many of whom are UC San Diego or Rady alum—and getting a clearer picture of where their degree from Rady School of Management can take them.
We caught up with two students who attended—Ping Gu and Sitong Liu (MFin ’20) to ask them about their most memorable moments and why they encourage more Rady students to make the trip.
Which companies did you visit and why did you select them?
Gu: I visited Facebook and LinkedIn. I saw the big names and I didn’t think too much! I knew I wanted to go visit these companies.
Liu: I went to LinkedIn, Komodo and KLA. I was exciting to learn about them all. They offered a broad range of experiences. I was curious to know what kind of career advice they would give us.
What left the biggest impression on you from these visits?
Gu: At LinkedIn, all three speakers were UC San Diego alum. They were so supportive of us and said they see Rady growing very fast. Eric Darwin (Head of Corporate Development) shared his story of transitioning from investment banking to working at Salesforce and now doing mergers and acquisitions at LinkedIn. It painted a picture for us of how we can navigate our own careers. After the session, we got a tour of the building. Because it was Friday, we also got to join in on their regular happy hour on the 17th floor. That was so cool! People from every floor of the building came up to join.
Liu: I did not know what to expect from Komodo, because they are a small firm, but they ended up being my favorite part of the trip! They have about 200 employees. There were three presenters—two were remote who are based in New York. They shared what it was like to move from a big company to a startup, and then grow in the new role from startup to small company. The employees were all very open. We had a short tour of their office and got to spend most of the time asking questions, even common interview questions, such as how to respond to “Tell me about yourself,” or what kind of opportunities I could be looking for based on my interests. One of their presenters, Brice, who is Head of Engineering, is also involved with recruiting, so he had a lot of great insight to share. I asked the question, “What can I do if I don’t like coding but I do like analytical work?” Brice followed up after the visit with a thoughtful email response to that question and it has really helped me in my career planning.
What interactions did you have with Rady alum during the Trek?
Gu: On Thursday night, there was an alumni mixer at Atwater Tavern in San Francisco. Dean Ordóñez was there too! I got to meet a lot of Rady alum working in the Bay Area. Some alum even drove from San Jose—almost two hours with traffic—just to come to the event. I talked to Jessica from KLA about Rady life and how much she loved it. I also met Jessica’s classmate Chiara (18). She’s doing consulting for the nonprofit sector and she told me about some really exciting job opportunities. In that moment I realized how networking can work for everyone. She said they needed someone with an accounting background. I studied finance and accounting as an undergraduate. Sometimes you don’t expect too much from just talking, but that is the magic of networking!
All of the alum shared an appreciation for Rady. They love Rady. They love San Diego. And they know what to expect from Rady graduates. They all showed a willingness to help one another.
Liu: At KLA, three employees—two who are Rady alum—made themselves available for a Q&A session. They offered us great advice about how to negotiate with a supplier. During their presentation, they showed us this video, The Monkey Business Illusion, to demonstrate that if you focus too much on one thing during negotiations, you end up ignoring some really important aspects of the transaction.
What did you gain from going on the Bay Area Trek?
Gu: The company visits allow you to not only learn what these employers do, but then you get to explore what you want to do and what direction you want to go after graduation. At LinkedIn, for example, each speaker had a different route getting to where they are today. Nobody had a typical path. Hearing about their processes and how they made it work opened my mind to what kind of career path I can pursue in the future. If you don’t go on a trip like this, you’ll never get to hear those stories. And if you weren’t attracted by the big company names alone, it’s also a great opportunity to meet Rady alumni and students from other departments.
Liu: Don’t underestimate what you can get out of visiting a small company, or a startup! [On the Trek], you really get to know the companies on a deep level. You can build personal connections with some of the presenters. This is a rare opportunity to take these tours. When you read online about what companies are like or what the culture is, the answer comes for a PR department, or maybe someone outside of the people who are doing the actual work that interests you. On the Bay Area Trek, you get to meet them. You get an authentic answer.