by Matthew Chambers
After a busy morning of class and working diligently on our respective research papers, the group reconvened in the lobby of a sleek, glass building across from the Palo Alto train station. Upon entering through the large double doors, we were all immediately struck by the high vaulted ceilings, which rose above an assortment of tables and chairs, scattered throughout the space. After the last few students trickled in behind us, two figures stepped out from around a corner and walked toward the group. Hanna, who graduated from Duke this past spring and Dwight, a current rising junior at UNC, introduced themselves and split our class into two smaller groups, leading us into two different elevators at one end of the lobby. As the doors closed, my group comically waved goodbye to the other class members and up we went to the fourth floor.
The thick metal doors slid open and we stepped out into a truly extraordinary space. It looked like someone had taken a standard office layout and converted it into a modern art gallery. Countless surfaces sported large flat screens, displaying a variety of schedules and schematics, floor-to-ceiling panes of glass divided the expansive area into different conference rooms, and the brightly painted walls jumped out at us as we walked by. Dwight led our group past what looked like an in-house Whole Foods: shelves upon shelves of iced drinks and snacks lined the walls. Only after several prompts, we sheepishly helped ourselves to something small and continued to follow Dwight through the maze of rooms and hallways, all the while listening to a commentary on the world of strategic customer analytics.
Many of us knew of Survey Monkey only through encountering their random assortment of short questionnaires, often utilized by fellow classmates at Duke. However, Dwight was quick to explain that Survey Monkey was much more than that. Their new initiative, referred to as the Audience team, was dedicated to gathering customer feedback and lead qualification through extensive research and assembling it into a report, which would then be used by clients as a way to gauge potential customer interest in their new products. By using the analytics that the audience team had collected, companies would have the ability to pick one promising idea out of the many they’d brainstormed, versus picking several and spending much more money on having all of them developed for fear that they’d picked the wrong idea.
After we’d exhausted our questions and listened to Dwight’s explanation of how he’d landed his internship, we were brought down to the second floor for a brief glimpse of the Survey Monkey recreation room. If the ultra-high tech office space wasn’t enough to get me hooked, the full size drum kit, as well as foosball, Ping-Pong, and billiard tables definitely did the job. I couldn’t help but laugh as Dwight’s boss walked by, on his way to a “business meeting.” I don’t know if it was the Ping-Pong paddle in his hand or the fact that he was followed by three others holding paddles, but I was highly dubious that a PowerPoint was the subject of their discussion.
We were then whisked back to the elevators, where Dwight pressed the “R” button and up we went, to the best floor of them all. When the doors opened, we were hit by the direct glare of the afternoon sun, bathing the entire level in a yellow glow. As we all filed out, we realized that we had stepped out onto the roof of the building, which had been equipped with patio chairs, umbrellas and a full-size stone bar. There, we found the other group sitting with Hanna, who was busy fielding questions regarding her own career path, in addition to her general experience working for Survey Monkey.
For the last 15 minutes of the visit, we listened to Dwight and Hanna speak of the importance of networking while in the valley. As Hanna put it, “It’s extremely difficult to land a job in Silicon Valley if you don’t know anyone at the business; network as much as you can. Knowing at least one person will go a long way.” I definitely took those words to heart when we walked out of the office and back to the train station a few minutes later. Our time in California, although short, has already helped us make many invaluable connections with a variety of different people. Only a week and a half left until we go our separate ways but we’ll make the most of it. You stay classy, Survey Monkey.