Final Notes on the Experience of a Lifetime

56d94e78ff5efd85921c458d0a417af3Oops I haven’t posted in a while! Getting adjusted to life back on campus! Now that I have had some time to reflect upon the amazing past month, here is a post dedicated to my priceless takeaways I gained. Before I begin though, I would just like to take a moment to thank all of the companies that so graciously hosted us. I am sure that all of the CEOs, Presidents, software developers, etc. had tons of other more productive tasks they could have been conquering and they took an hour or so to make us feel so welcome and open their minds to us. It takes a great person to be able to speak with those who are less experienced than you at an equal level, a skill a lot of people don’t have, and every single person we met with nailed that ability.

This post is dedicated to my favorite thing in the world and the main lesson that I learned from the trip: PASSION. Is it cliche to say I am passionate about passion? I don’t care if it is. I found that throughout the trip one of the biggest joys was hearing how much the people loved what they were doing. Sure some of them were making a boatload of money from it, but most either hadn’t or weren’t (and in reality a lot of people don’t so keep in mind we went to the successful companies). They didn’t care. Dave Maltz at Microsoft particularly sticks out to me. I had literally no idea what he was talking about in terms of data centers (I think that is what they are called…), but he glowed when my more skilled classmates asked him questions about it. I couldn’t help but smile, everyone couldn’t. I learned to be my own Dave Maltz, immersing myself into what I love. Is that so complicated?? I feel like it is going to be, and must be because so many people don’t do it. Why is this? I think it has a lot to do with money. I was talking about my trip to someone here on campus and I was telling him/her about my realization that money doesn’t matter, just do what you love. His/her response was, “You’re a better person than me. I want the money.” This made me truly sad. I never want to think that, but alas I am a naive college student and the world is at my fingertips.

My second big take away has actually caused me to made a lot of immediate changes here at Luther. So I have been very wishy washy with what minor I want to pair with Communication Studies so I finally made the decision to simply do concentrations in Computer Science, Business, and Art/Graphic Design. After this trip, I got the feeling that you shouldn’t be an okay programmer, you have to be a really good one to actually apply those skills in the working world. When I was studying Computer Science I loved saying I was studying Computer Science because I felt very ahead of the game and respected. But when i was honest with myself, I would never want to actually do any computer science work when I graduate. That is NOT my area of expertise. I love people, want to be around them, learn from them, and integrate them into my world of thought. Those qualities are in computer science don’t get me wrong as computers are built for the benefit of mankind at the core, but not quite a literally as I crave. I discovered that I can still learn about computer technology and software and see the beauty in it without having to study it. Hence, remove Computer Science from my concentrations. Now my passions can be emphasized elsewhere.

Those are my two view changing epiphanies that I got from the trip! So many other wonderful pieces of advice were gained but I don’t want to become redundant of my previous posts. Thanks for reading!

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Doing Business LA Style: Part 2/Last Day!

Our last day of meetings!!! I can’t believe how fast the time has gone. Today we met with one of the founders of the app, Capsule, a group event centered application that allows the photos taken by the people at an event to be shared with everyone at the event right after you snap the picture. The target all events, but their primary market is weddings (they discovered this by listening to their data) and team up with websites such as the knot.com. I think this is an absolutely brilliant idea, and my group even made our own Capsule event after we met with him! I think that Capsule would be a very fun and exciting product to market, and I would very much like to work with a product such as Capsule one day. This was a little bit of a quicker meeting, but here are a few pieces of advice that we got from the co-founder:

1. Things aren’t fun once they get political.
2. Don’t be overzealous about how successful you are going to be,
3. Never be cocky.
4. Don’t be scared to admit you are wrong.
5. LinkedIn is amazing!
6. Sometimes don’t go directly to the consumer—rather through the sponsor.
7. It doesn’t make sense to start a business with the intention of being acquired. You will fail.

Last, but not least we visited Fullscreen which works with YouTubers and advertising. Their company is full of so many different components: talent agency, advertising consultants, programmers, salespeople…really all kinds of opportunities at Fullscreen and in a growing industry. They help people with very popular channels basically get paid for being great at what they do (people who are usually undiscovered) through working with the companies that Fullscreen is partners with. They also help video creators connect with other video creators because collaboration leads to more viewers and more money. It is kind of like their own personal social network, which I thought was unique. And yes, Fullscreen is in charge of those pesky ads in front of YouTube videos, something I’m not a fan of (I am such a hypocrite being interested in advertising!), but I think they are doing their best to try and think of alternatives to interruption advertising. The offices were so beautiful and pretty hipster at times haha, but I loved it. Also, the offices are on an old movie filming lot, where The Wizard of Oz was filmed actually! Arrested Development was even filmed there recently. It was pretty ironic that the day we went to Fullscreen, it was their third anniversary so they were having a big party after our meeting that they invited us to, so this doubled as a celebration of the end of our trip! There I met with a wonderful guy named Tony who is a talent scout for Fullscreen and helps advise these video makers on their journey to success. What an amazing job! Everyone was so welcoming at Fullscreen and it really was a great end to our trip. Another place I would be ecstatic to intern at! Who knows what lies ahead! Thanks Fullscreen!

Doing Business LA Style: Part 1

The Starlight Express has brought us to LA! This past train ride was a lot more beautiful than our last one, as it was during the day and right by the coast. Being on this trip, surrounded by rapidly changing technology and money oriented businesses, it is easy to get caught up and forget about this breathtaking, natural world we are shuffling about on very mindlessly at times. This particularly spoke to me as we rode along the coast, the waves crashing against each other because that’s what they do, no programming, no incentive, no reason, just because. It is a beautiful thing. We are surrounded by numbers and material things, wanting and needing at every moment and I think we tend to forget what we really are, just organisms lucky enough to be alive, to have the intellectual capacity to even do these things. It was very refreshing to think about this as I watched the waves crash against the shore.

We are staying in some very cute cottages in Santa Monica, all to ourselves thank goodness. I miss being in a house. Thursday started our meetings once again. The company we visited was Coloft, a shared workplace for people to come and work on their individual projects, a place of like-minded people. I provides a collaborative environment for people just starting out. We met with one of the Co-Founders who had some wonderful advice for us and told us about how he got his start. Personally, I think the shared workplace is a wonderful idea and I could even see myself opening something like that one day. What is appealing to me is the ability to meet so many people who are passionate and be involved with their passions. Imagine all of the things you would learn from so many different people. Coloft is pretty tech oriented so I might want it to be open to anything, but who knows. My head is swimming with ideas from this trip. If there is one thing I have learned, it is that the future is full of possibilities. I may think I know what I want to do right now, but I will never be able to plan everything. Here are some words of wisdom that we got from one of the founders of Coloft:

1. If you feel like there is risk, you are not doing what you are supposed to be doing.
2. Your best move is the one that allows you to make more good moves.
3. Calling yourself an idea person doesn’t mean anything. You have to EXECUTE.
4. Entrepreneurs try too hard to solve their own problems. Solve other peoples’ problems, learn about it, and go from there.
5. You don’t have to be in Silicon Valley to create something.
6. The loudest people aren’t the smartest…a lot of people are all about the social media fame. What does that really mean??
7. You can always “get in” if you really want to.
8. Most people don’t know a lot, they just have the hunger to succeed.
9. Always stay suspicious about your past assumptions.
10. You can choose to paint by numbers and take the safe route, or you can have a blank canvas and create a masterpiece. (<3)
11. False=You developers can get good jobs at startups.
12. Don’t learn a skill set just because you think you have to.
13. Be humble.
14. Learn to deal with failure (I need to work on this).
15. NEVER MARRY A BRAND.
16. Don’t focus on developing a network, build relationships.
17. Pray for competition, it will make you better than your ever imagined.
18. The only thing that everyone has an equal amount of is time.
19. You don’t buy a Mac because it is a better computer, you buy it because it is a Mac. (Rhetoric)

Thanks for having us Coloft!

Doing Business Palo Alto Style

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSportvision

Ever wonder how the 1st and 10 line gets onto the football field when you watch your favorite college or NFL team? Well today we found out! Today we went to Sportvision, a company that creates virtual reality in sports. Their company is a crazy blend of physics, mathematics, computer science, and statistics, doing some amazing things in the world of sports and data tracking. I know the most about football so that is what I tuned into the most, but they work with almost any sports organization you can think of, their team even earned an Emmy! The future of Sportvision is all about creating more useful products and gathering more and more data…basically the more data the better! The director that we met with said that that is the best part of the job, coming across challenges and getting something out of it. He said it also isn’t bad traveling the world to create something new for people and watching lots of sports… a great job he said to have when you are right out of college and not sure what to do with your life. Thanks Sportvision for having us! I’ll think of all your hard work every time I watch a football game from now on!

Fenwick & West

I’ll be honest, law doesn’t intrigue me at all. At least I thought it didn’t before I met with Fenwick & West. We met with a bunch of litigators who focus in patent law and it was actually extremely interesting. To start, they gave us the gist of what patents are and the work they do with them. Patents are jargon-filled, dry, legal documents that represent an idea generally enough so that someone can’t infringe on it and get away with it, but narrow enough that it doesn’t infringe on any “prior art.” It is just like any other piece of property, it can be sold and is can be licensed. Also, they can be used a a shield or a sword. This brings us to the topic of patent trolls, who use patents as a sword basically for an easy pay out from big name companies who don’t want to waste money on tons of legal fees, draining cash from the innovators. Patent trolls take early patents and use them against the innovators. I like to think of Fenwick & West as the vigilantes of the patent troll world, defending the big companies from the bottom feeders. What I kept think about was how can these patent trolls get away with this?? There are many details of it, but the basis is that the patent itself is not the invention, just a way to explain it. Also, patent trolls know that only about 5% of patent infringement accusations actually go to trial. I certainly hope that one day measures are taken to stop these patent trolls! Thank you for having us Fenwick & West!

Palo Alto Adventures

StanfordWe are here in beautiful Palo Alto! On Saturday we all got some much needed extra time to sleep and then we decided to go to Stanford. We walked and took a route that brought us through some residential areas. Even though it’s winter, the yards were covered with greenery and there were even some homes that had the green vines covering the brick (it reminded me of one of my favorite childhood shows, Madeline!). One house we walked past looked exactly like a cottage hidden away in the forest, like it could be included in a ride at Disneyland! (By the way, I am obsessed with Disney, one of my dreams being to work for their creative agency, Yellow Shoes–what a clever name!). After about an hour, we made it to Stanford. The campus wasn’t busy at all for a Saturday afternoon, it actually seemed full of tourists. But, nevertheless, the campus was just as beautiful. Our sore feet prevented us from touring the entirety of the campus, but we got a chance to see some very old, intricate buildings and some very modern science buildings. It is no wonder that so many great things come from this campus…I felt motivated and I don’t even attend there!

MB9MB5Because we had Martin Luther King Day off, we had the chance to go to Monterey Bay Aquarium on Monday! Although I have a fear of fish, I have no problem looking at them through a very thick piece of glass, I actually found myself loving being immersed in this other world. The ocean really is the closest thing we have to a whole new world, full of oddities, visual spectacles, vibrant colors, and scary creatures. At Monterey, I felt like I was getting a sneak peak into that world. First, we went to look at the otters. Talk about cuties. They swim around on their backs on loop with their little paws content in front of them, every once and a while dunking their heads back into the water. I could have watched them all day, but alas, more of the dream world was to be seen.

sam_0401

Next we ventured over to look at a bunch of different exhibits of various sea creatures from sand fish to coral to octopus. The experience that left me speechless was when we went to the million gallon tank. I stood right up to the glass and saw hammerhead sharks, a sea turtle, a school of tuna, and some sting rays. With some very calming music in the background, I was immersed into this strange and inviting world. As we moved on, we saw the jellyfish! I will never get over how intriguing these things are and at the same time scary, imagining them tangled in my legs.

The highlight of the day? I now have a little baby otter stuffed animal friend named Opie. I sleep with it every night.

The Googlers

GoogleToday was the day, the almighty Google. It was everything that you expect it to be and probably more. Everywhere you go there is either the color red, green, yellow, or blue, people of every size and shape walking around or riding around on Google bikes, a quirky Android statue, a slide, basically anything Googley. It felt more like a college campus then a company where some of the most innovative technologies are created. To start, we met up with a Luther alum who works at Google. We walked in and saw a kitchen full of every drink you can imagine, a wall covered in Nurf guns, a fireman’s pole, and a bunch of comfy and colorful couches. It seemed like a playground. We got acquainted and started talking and asking questions. I kinda went into this tour with no specific questions in mind as horrible as it seems, but I really just wanted to see what it was like (if it lived up to its expectations) and go from there. We were actually very fortunate to meet with some recruiters for Google, two very nice women who were very personable and answered some questions that I have had for a while but never had the chance to ask, for instance, how do I convey my personality via LinkedIn or my resume and not get lost among all of the other applicants that have similar structured applications? We got some great information from them like never pretend to know how to do something just to impress someone because it will bite you in the butt and to be yourself in an interview, that’s what people want. I was very grateful for their advice and it was inspiring to hear that sometimes you have to apply to a place multiple times before you get the job (that’s what they had to do even!). After our chats, we went to walk around the campus and went to a place called The Garage where employees have their 20% time. This is time for employees to work on their personal projects alone or with a group. So many innovations come from this time, including Gmail!

The Google Caf

The Google Caf

After that we went to the infamous Google cafeteria. The food was alright, but not at all the ambrosia-like food I was expecting based on what others said. It was very nest to see all of the options they had though! Afterwards, we had the chance to walk around a bit more and take some more pictures and went back to our original location to hear more speakers. One of our speakers was from Google X which works on the top secret projects of the future, for example Google Glass. Our topic of conversation? Self driving cars. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sold on it (and I am all for innovative technology of the future). The self driving car is well intended, made for people with disabilities who can’t get around. But that didn’t sound like the sole long term goal of the car. He talked as if there would be whole fleets of self driving cars in cities to take you from A to B, maybe eventually eliminating the need for personal cars all together. All I could picture were dirty public transportation vehicles that were controlled by who knows who. Also, they acted as if cars are simply a way to get from A to B, while I believe cars are an extension of yourself. I look forward to buying a very nice Escalade one day, taking family trips in it, watching in the rearview mirror as my kids play. Cars are like second homes and are extensions of ourselves and who we are in this world, they cannot replaced by a fleet. As I said, self driving cars will be very useful to some, but I think the expansion of them would be a money making intended project on Google’s part.

A Vintage Google Bike!

A Vintage Google Bike!

Since I’m being honest, Google was different than I expected it to be. At times, I felt “over branded” to, overwhelmed by the Googlelyness of it all. Don’t get me wrong, I can see how some people would love that and there is no denying that Google treats its employees like gods with all of their benefits and chill work environment (at least where we saw), but I kinda felt like I was in Googleland as opposed to Google’s company headquarters. Granted, I think our tour guides were putting their best foot forward thinking that’s what young college students such as ourselves wanted to see the Android statues, the Google store, and things along those lines (shout out to our hosts for being so gracious by the way!). And a lot of my fellow classmates were eating it up of course, but I wanted to talk about the future of Google, how they were going to compete with others and improve themselves as they have some very amazing competitors that have just as much going for them as Google does. All of these amazing things happen at Google, I didn’t really care about the Android statues. Like I said, I’m speaking for myself and I think a lot of young people my age would have loved to have seen what I saw so I am very very grateful. Google was a very eye opening experience and informing!

Thank You San Francisco!

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Lombard Street- San Francisco

Just a quick note as we begin our departure from San Francisco. San Francisco has been so beautiful and full of opportunity. When you are here you feel really like you are at the center of the universe of the future. Every person you walk by on the street looks like they are in the middle of working on something great, and the thing is, most of them probably are. The one moment when I felt the most speechless was at the top of Lombard Street. You could see the whole city, the lights, the ocean, the beauty. It was spectacular. I realized how much of the world is out there that I have so much left to see, to learn about. Those sparkling lights act as the twinkling hopes of my future, my opportunities. The road may be “zig zaggy” (pun intended), but I’m ready.

Doing Business San Fran Style: Part 5

Hummer Winbland

Today we went to see an almighty venture capitalist, Hummer Winbland, which invests mostly in software companies. Since we have been going mostly to companies that need the VC’s, it was very interesting to see the other side of things. We met with Ann Winbland who actually founded the company. She was very welcoming and offered us some very good coffee and pastries so that was a definite plus! As a marketing person sometimes overwhelmed by all of the technology, Ann did a great job at giving us some marketing advice and takeaways after finding out what I was interested in. Thaks so much Ann! Here are some words of wisdom from the very accomplished Ann Winbland:
1. We are no longer building products. We are building things around our customers.
2. Once again, consumers need to get value out of big data.
3. When pitching a business, know your customers, how you reach them, stick with them, and expand on them.
4. Whenever you have that “Oh Shit” moment in your life, find the opportunity in it. Solve the problem and have fun doing it!
5. A product needs to close a gap in the market, be based on the consumer so it can change with them, and have a great intellectual base.

Off to Google tomorrow! SO EXCITED.

Doing Business San Fran Style: Part 4

bizo_logo

As an avid Google Adwords user, I never even considered how business suppliers advertise to other businesses in need, thank goodness Bizo did. Bizo is a company that provides a marketing platform to help support global brands both big and small reach a targeted demographic, putting ads mostly on business sites. They work more with client and account management as well. Big Data is a huge part of this business so I loved hearing about how they used it and where they thought it was going, as someone who loves the future of Big Data. I know there are a lot of skeptics, but I see Big Data as a way for people to really get what they want out of advertising and even further, understand how people work on the business side. I would highly recommend reading the book, Big Data by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and  Kenneth Cukier, which shows the leaps and bounds that big data can cause in our world. We are cluttered by data and that is so often looked at as a downfall, but there is so much opportunity within it. I was curious if they thought that personalized advertising was the solution to interruptive advertising that haunts consumers. They thought that it was definitely a step forward and it was there to help the consumer, not harm them. 

During this presentation, I made a connection actually to the Golidlocks Enigma of the Universe (which describes how the universe is unexplainably “just right” for life), that I studied in Science & Religion. Advertising works very similarly to work on the consumer, creating a Goldilocks Enigma of Advertising. Little knobs must be fine tuned to stick with a consumer. You can’t send too many ads their way, so that they get annoyed, but you can’t not target them enough so that they forget about you. You have to have the perfect quality. Plus, you have to know what they want, but also what they don’t know they want yet. So many little things act as a Tipping Point for success (Malcolm Gladwell).

Doing Business San Fran Style: Part 3

DSC07537Another great company that I didn’t expect to fall in love with was Strava. Strava is Swedish “to strive” and its business reflects that idea. This startup is a social network for athletes, a way for athletes to connect, challenge their friends, and track their progress. Now I am not an athlete at all, I run when I can but usually get winded after one mile, but Strava’s headquarters made me want to become an athlete. As soon as we walked in the building (a very clean and crisp place), there was a sign that read “Today I will run what you will not, so that tomorrow I will run what you cannot.” This quote really spoke to me and tied in beautifully with the company itself. We were introduced to one of the founders and current President, Michael Horvath. He was so outgoing and welcoming,  just like most of our hosts, but his passion was palpable. He was obviously an athlete, but he had a real devotion to Strava and its goals, very admirable. The culture of this business was also so cool, there is no other way to describe it. A lot of people were dressed in workout clothes (surprise, surprise), sitting on Yoga balls, putting their bikes away in their personal bike storage, or running up to take a shower in the office after getting back form a run.  The corporate culture was so reflective of the product, blending the workers’ lives with their work. This is a major trend I see in the companies that we visited. More and more, they want their employees to want to come to work, blending their lives with their work, as opposed to separating them, making them work against each other. Hours are variable and vacation is unlimited (granted a lot of them don’t use it because they are so dedicated). Horvath brought this up in the meeting and I have been an advocate for it ever since I watched an RSA Animate on it, people aren’t motivated by money, but by purpose. I think the modern workplace is beginning to adapt this. After the tour, we sat down on some indoor bleachers (yes, bleachers…I felt like I was back at a football game) and started to talk. Here are a few other bits of advice from Michael:
1. Decide what you want to do  and find a corporate culture that fits that.
2. Don’t get your MBA, just go out and start something.
3. Good things happen when you choose not to do something.
4. There are no risks if you love what you are doing.
5. If you start a business, think about your corporate culture before it even starts.
6. Think about who is really your customer.

Thanks so much for having us Strava! I now have the motivation to go run!