On March 10th, over two dozen engineering and business students left the snowy campus of Michigan Tech behind them and spent their Spring Break not in Cancun, but in the Bay Area of California. They were not armed with suntan lotion, but instead with notebooks and iPads; learning the insides of Silicon Valley companies.
Selected from a pool of over 50 applicants, first-year to PhD students competed in an elevator pitch event to earn a spot on the 3rd annual Silicon Valley Spring Break Experience sponsored by Brocade Communications. The school of business organizes the competition and hosts the event, while the office of corporate development orchestrates the week of tours and experiences with industry. Many of this year's visits were complimented by the dean of the college of engineering, the dean of the school of business, the department chair of electrical and computer engineering, and the vice president of advancement.
The group started the week in downtown San Francisco, touring design and animation powerhouse Autodesk; touring their gallery and learning about technology, innovation, and career paths with young Autodesk engineers, HR, and engineering managers including alum Rob Fjerstad. Napa Valley was next, and alum Tom Porter's son Tim led the group on a technical tour of the operation, discussed the history, marketing approach, and topped the visit off with a technical tasting of a dozen iterations of the same grape varietal. Japanese technology giant Kyocera gave an overview of technology, and engineering managers discussed how globalization and localization affect their day to day communication and strategy.
The group moved south to San Jose and kicked off the second half of the week with a walking tour of Google's Mountain View campus with alumna Danielle VanDyke and a strategy discussion with a member from Google's executive 'special ops' team. Tesla Motors, in an atypical gesture, opened their entire manufacturing plant in Fremont up to the group who watched every part of the operation from metal stamping to final roll-out. Cisco showcased their TelePresence technology through lab tours and a multi-room, multimedia Q&A with an engineering executive, Michigan Tech faculty, and alum Faisal Haq. And finally, trip sponsor Brocade Communications spent nearly a half-day with the students, staff, and faculty at their San Jose headquarters. Alum and Brocade board chairman Dave House briefed the group, and an executive panel discussion was moderated by Dr. Worek, dean of the college of engineering. Students interacted with key representatives from engineering, corporate affairs, sales, and women in networking. A tour of Brocade’s labs followed, and a networking social in their executive briefing facility capped off the afternoon as students distributed resumes and talked about women in engineering and professional social networking.
There was no rest for the weary however, and the army of students, staff and faculty joined local alumni at a 60 person event at The Tech Museum of Innovation. Dave House hosted wine tastings and pours from the House Family Winery while students shared their week’s stories with alumni who in turn shared their own adventures and advice.