Oh the places you’ll go, and the people you’ll meet…

Duke in Silicon Valley is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in my time at Duke. As a rising senior, I am so grateful for the opportunities and guidance this program provides as starting my career becomes more of a reality. The lessons we learn in class, the speakers who share their knowledge with us, and the on-site visits we have are all an integral part in our forming a better picture of what we would like to do after our college experiences. I want to take this time to highlight some of the incredible companies we’ve visited and the people we’ve met along the way, as these visits have provided us with invaluable insight into how some of the most successful companies in the world are run, maintained, and experienced by their employees. The ability to get an inside look into companies such as Apple, LinkedIn and Fackebook, whose products we use daily (and multiple times a day at that) is an incredible opportunity we would not have been able to experience otherwise.

Apple

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To start off, we have the unbelievable experience of having our class discussions at the remarkable Apple University building in Cupertino. From the second we walked in the door we were able to grasp a sense of the Apple Company culture. The buildings were simple and modern with lots of open spaces, white walls, and glass elements. It brought with it a feel of sophistication and elegance that is the essence of Apple’s product design. The rooms are conducive for discussion with a round table architecture that allows everyone to see and get involved. Being that this is where Apple employees learn about the different products and processes of the company, this open and transparent environment makes sense.

We were also fortunate enough to be able to visit Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, in his office at headquarters. Eddy is an exceptional speaker who discussed true innovation and how Apple approaches product development in a way that transforms the way we do things in a manner we never even imagined. This is different to the “jobs” centered approach for disruptive innovation we’ve discussed in class; thus, allowing us to see how different companies handle similar tasks. Eddy also talked about his career path at Apple and how his experience as a manager allowed him to be involved in a lot of different projects, an undertaking that he has enjoyed immensely over the years.

LinkedIn

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Another incredible company we had the privilege of visiting early on in the program was LinkedIn. As we’re continually urged to capitalize on the benefits of networking, the LinkedIn visit was a great way to see inside a company that facilitates this practice in our lives. As we approach finding internships and getting jobs, the Duke network and products like LinkedIn are great tools to facilitate these relationships. It was particularly interesting to see how a company addresses this need in a way that turns a profit.

At LinkedIn we were fortunate enough to meet with Alison Dorsey, a Duke alum who is working on Social Impact management at LinkedIn. This was an incredible opportunity to see how these growing companies are looking to give back and make a social impact using their resources and influence. Ms. Dorsey also highlighted her career path from starting in the start up community in Durham and the Research Triangle to coming to work for LinkedIn in the Bay Area. She highlighted the pros and cons of working in both, RTP and San Francisco, as well as small vs. big companies which added some useful insight into decisions we will have to make in the future.

Facebook

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For many of us Facebook is the product we use most in our lives. It was an incredible experience to visit its headquarters and see how the company is run. The atmosphere we encountered from the second we walked in the door demonstrated the young, fun, and creative culture Facebook fosters. The strong correlation between the environment and Facebook’s product development was clearly evident. This link between culture, values, and products was then stressed again when we met with Lori Goler and Greg Badros.

Lori and Greg both spoke about Facebook’s culture and how this leads to innovation within the company. They also highlighted the social impact Facebook hoped to have by connecting the people of the world together to do great things. This was evidently a key priority of Facebook, guiding their processes and business models. Seeing how these different aspects of the business are integrated at Facebook headquarters helped us to better understand the mission of Facebook and how in influences the decisions and changes they make to the site in order to achieve these goals.

All in all, the places we’ve been and the people we’ve met on this program have been incredible experiences. They’ve provided us with a ton of insight into some of the most successful companies in the world- an invaluable resource we dare not waste. Now, our goal is to employ these insights into ideas of our own, testing the principles and lessons we’ve learned in our own entrepreneurial endeavors.

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