This March, students from Happy Valley visited Silicon Valley for an alternate spring break experience with some of San Francisco’s top technology companies to broaden their awareness of future internship and career opportunities.
The eight Penn State students, all freshmen studying at The College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST), were hosted by the college to engage IST students early in their studies and help them make well-informed decisions about their futures.
During the three-day trip to San Francisco, students visited companies such as Weebly, Salesforce, Twitter, Google and LinkedIn, and networked with local serial entrepreneur and Penn State graduate Fred Rosenweig.
Immersing themselves in the work culture of West Coast technology and startup companies and hearing what those companies look for in new hires were primary objectives of the trip, and experiences that were well-received by the students.
“Visiting the campuses, meeting employees and asking them questions about their work and their IST background helped me gain valuable knowledge about the modern technology workforce,” said one student, Mihir Marathe, who grew up in the Bay Area but had never visited a tech company prior to this trip. “This is why the trip was so inspiring; after seeing so many Penn State IST graduates doing so well in the professional world, it gave me a sense that I was in the right place and the right major to secure a successful future.”
The students spent two full days touring the business offices and campuses of some of technology’s most innovative companies. They received tours, engaged in discussions and asked plenty of questions of CEOs and employees at Weebly, a website creation startup; Salesforce, specializing in Internet-accessible customer relationship management (CRM) platforms; and tech giants Twitter, LinkedIn and Google, where the students ate lunch in the employee cafeteria.
The group also dined with Silicon Valley executive Fred Rosenweig, who engaged the students with his thoughts on becoming successful in the modern technology workforce, how startups work and the necessity of internships, said Marathe.
The message that students received from all of the professionals who spoke to them was overwhelmingly clear, according to Zoe Meyer, interim director of the Office of Career Solutions and Corporate Engagement, and one of three chaperones on the trip. What it takes to successfully score an internship or job in Silicon Valley, Meyer said the students learned, is the ability to engage in projects and activities outside of the classroom to build skills and demonstrate the passion and drive to stand out from the crowd.
Meyer said that plans for future trips will be discussed after a debrief with the students, chaperones and IST’s dean, Andrew Sears, so that they can determine what the students gained from the trip and augment possible future alternate spring break trips to make them even more successful.
“Currently in IST, there’s a trend toward getting students interested in startups. This trip is just one way to get students connected with such companies and increase their awareness right from the start,” said Meyer, who was instrumental in planning the inaugural trip. “I think our visit to San Francisco successfully fulfilled our mission to engage students and challenge their perspectives.”
The eight students who spent part of their spring break in Silicon Valley all agree that they learned valuable lessons that can be applied to their future as IST students, employees and entrepreneurs.
“The most valuable thing I learned on this trip to the West Coast is that you can never be 100 percent prepared for a career in technology, said student Lauren Senese, who says she now wants to head west to immerse herself in the birthplace of tech culture. “Now I know to constantly seek out creative solutions, stay curious and continue to learn. I feel a deeper motivation to be successful and prepare myself for the future.”