By Aditya Srinivasan
In characteristic fashion, the last week of Duke in Silicon Valley has been just as exhausting as the previous four. But I’m not complaining.
The Duke Innovation and Entrepreneurship program was somehow able to organize the most action-packed, memorable, challenging, inspirational, and perception-changing month I have ever had. From site visits to rapid prototyping, from hikes with alumni to cold-calling manufacturers, and from incubators to the Googleplex the program has been a turbulent journey in the shoes of the giants of Silicon Valley.
We visited big companies and small companies, for-profits and non-profits, technology leaders and volunteer corporations. We learned about interviewing and iteration, fundraising and strategy, intellectual property and cultural fit. We talked to software engineers and data scientists, product managers and business analysts, CEOs and CTOs. We covered every inch of the Silicon Valley, from San Jose to San Francisco, in an incredible immersive experience that I will never forget.
And that’s exactly what made the program so great: the level of involvement I felt as a result of being in the trenches. Our incredible professor, Dr. Jeremy Petranka, emphasized learning by doing as opposed to learning by analyzing. For example, when we learned about the process of innovation, Dr. J (or J, as some of his students addressed him) made us apply our knowledge by innovating concepts for an actual product. By the end of the week, all 23 students had developed ideas and prototypes for games, which were played during class. The benefits of performing case studies pales in comparison to the level of learning achieved through this immersive style of learning. This propagated throughout the duration of the program, culminating in a final project that had students giving supply chain configuration recommendations to real company strategists, from the company Slack Lifestyle USA. After the final recommendations were given, Dr. J told us all how delighted the management team was with our suggestions, indicating that they might actually be taken into consideration and put into action. This was an incredible feeling, a true validation of the degree to which the students absorbed and applied the knowledge we learned.
Looking back at these last five weeks, I can safely say I learned more than I ever hoped to. I grew my character, not just my knowledge, and made connections that will last beyond the end of the program. Most importantly, I am instilled with an eagerness to invent and create, to build and develop, in the hopes to one day conquer a piece of territory in the ever-evolving landscape that is Silicon Valley.