Business students are lining up to take class trips to Silicon Valley. This is an opportunity for Ivy students to learn from, and network with, some of the top business minds in and around San Francisco, California. Silicon Valley, as the area is known, is home to many of the world’s most famous companies, including Apple, Cisco, Google, HP, Intel, Netflix, Facebook, Tesla Motors, and Oracle.
“At the Ivy College of Business, we believe students benefit from a mix of educational opportunities, both inside the classroom and out in the real world,” said Raisbeck Endowed Dean David Spalding.
“Taking students to Silicon Valley is an eye-opening experience. Our faculty arrange for students to see behind the curtain, to learn what makes a company tick, and they help them network with people who could be future employers or colleagues. This type of travel provides an edge for our students so they are prepared for success upon graduation.”
The college offers a variety of travel experiences for students, including several undergraduate classes taught in Italy, Chile, China, and Ireland, to name a few. However, a class trip within the United States can be just as exciting and meaningful.
For the past two years, MBA students have traveled to Silicon Valley with Sam DeMarie, associate professor of management and Jim Summers, associate professor of management who holds the Max S. Wortman, Jr. Professorship in Management.
The trips included business tours in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and Napa Valley.
“As we thought about this in the planning stages, we realized there’s a big difference in the way business is done in the Midwest, or in Iowa, and the way it’s done in the Silicon Valley and San Francisco area,” DeMarie said.
“The culture is different; the assumptions they make are different. We have more connections to companies there because it’s in the United States, and we have alumni working in a lot of these companies. We knew we could provide a high quality experience for our students to see what is going on in this area that is so well known for technology, startups, innovation, and an exciting business model.”
Ivy MBA students enjoyed an inside look into several iconic Silicon Valley businesses, including Tesla, Autodesk, Twitter, Oracle, and Accenture. They also enjoyed a visit to a winery where they learned the challenges of that booming industry.
“It’s just a cool place to visit,” DeMarie said.
MBA student Nick Sloan said he learned a lot from the experience.
“The best information I learned was the importance of collaborating with others and how useful the Agile process can be,” Sloan said. Agile is a project management methodology, often used for software development.
“It was typical not to find any cubicles in office spaces and the layouts of the desks encouraged collaboration,” Sloan said. “I can take what I learned and attempt to apply the methods to my team. In my past work experience, I haven’t had the opportunity to use the Agile software development process and with more and more companies adopting that methodology,
I think I’ll be using it eventually, so knowing a little bit about it should be helpful.”
Emily Foegen also attended and said the experience will definitely help her in her career. “I will use the information I learned to recognize the differences in company cultures as I move forward in my career,” she said. “Culture is a major influence in someone’s employee experience and will be something I prioritize as I consider future career moves.”
For Foegen, a favorite business tour was Autodesk.
“I enjoyed walking through their gallery to see the different ways their software has influenced the world. They had a great panel of Iowa State alumni who shared how their Cyclone experience has contributed to their success.”
Students on the trip were surprised to learn how many Iowa State graduates work in the San Francisco area and work in some of the most famous companies in the world, DeMarie said.
There are currently more than 3,700 Iowa State alumni living in the San Francisco area, according to the Iowa State University Alumni Association.
“On our first trip in 2016, we had an afternoon at Facebook, hosted by an ISU grad, and it was an amazing facility and really interesting to learn what they do. The culture there is very open. It’s not as secretive as people expected it to be,” said DeMarie.
The learning opportunities on these trips were not limited to students, said Summers.
“One of the big things I didn’t realize going into this was how their culture embraces failure. It’s seen as a good thing, because you took a risk. You learn from failure. When you fail around here, you almost get a red mark for it, whereas there, they expect you to fail. That was a big cultural difference.”
It was also important to have current students connect with Iowa State alumni who are doing extremely well in the companies they visited, said Summers.
“Many of our alumni hold VP titles that allowed access and networking opportunities – opportunities that would not be afforded to them in Iowa. Our hope is to build stronger ties to our successful alumni network across the U.S. and world.”
Whether students were touring Facebook or Twitter, Summers said it was powerful to see how the MBA students reacted to the alumni they met. “They learned that these people are the same as us. They are laid back. They work hard, play hard. Their companies take care of them. One of the lead recruiters was actively recruiting one of our students because he asked some really good questions. That’s something they may not get anywhere else.”