Hello readers! Amidst the speakers and site visits, you might have been wondering: what’s the typical day like at Duke in Silicon Valley? I’m here to answer from my own experiences and hopefully will provide a peek into our lives here.
Our days start off fairly early. My roommate Shadi and I are usually awake by 7:30am in our Oakwood apartment in Mountain View – an early rise that might not be typical of every student here! But over breakfast, we like to spend an hour discussing the case readings assigned for that day in preparation for class.
A shuttle picks us up at 9am and drops us off at Apple University in Cupertino. Apple’s corporate offices are dispersed all over the city, so we’re about 10 minutes away from Apple HQ. Apple University is where the company holds classes to train its executives, and we are grateful to them for allowing us to use one of their classrooms every morning. Some of us grab a quick drink from the company coffee shop before the start of class.
Although class is two hours long, it truly flies by – and this is coming from someone who struggles with 75 minute lectures at Duke! Part of the reason why is that the class is incredibly interactive (seriously – half of our grade is based on participation), consisting of back-and-forth debates among us and our professor, Matt Christensen. One student usually provides a summary of the cases to get us started, and over the course of class Matt makes ample use of the floor-to-ceiling whiteboards to document all our ideas and draw out diagrams. One of my favorite aspects of class is that everyone comes from a different academic background, and thus are able to contribute diverse perspectives to the discussion. Sometimes it feels like we’re in an actual board meeting, trying to determine our company’s next decision!
At least once a week, we have guest speakers come to our classroom right after class ends at 11:30. On these days, lunch is provided by Apple. On the day of the first speaker, much to our surprise, one of our program directors, Amy, simply opened the sliding whiteboard and behind it in a cabinet were plates of food!
Our speakers are usually Duke alumni or have some affiliation with Duke, UNC, or Wake Forest. We’ve received some amazing advice and insights from them in just an hour-long conversation.
After the speakers or guest visits, we’re back at our apartments by around 3pm. Afternoons are spent reading by the pool, going to the gym or grabbing a meal at nearby Castro St. Of course, the weather is nearly perfect every day and allows for socializing and relaxing.
One evening, we hosted a potluck dinner at our apartment complex and invited several alumni as well as our professor Matt to attend. Each of the twenty of us contributed an item to the meal, and we ended up with a great variety of foods (my apartment contributed guacamole, bean salad, and chocolate-covered strawberries) and included a grill-out by the pool! It was great to have casual conversations with our guests outside of formal networking events, and to just bond as a group more. This was one of the events that we organized entirely on our own, and I’m proud of our group for making it a success.
And there you have it – a snapshot of a day in Silicon Valley.
Janvi Shah, Duke University ’15
* Note: all the above photos were taken with Instagram, the company that is the subject of my term paper for this course.