By Ali Frank
I have nothing negative to say about my 5 weeks spent on Duke in Silicon Valley. To start, I feel so grateful to have been exposed to the innovation, talent, creativity, and genius available in the Bay Area. Nuggets of lessons learned from successful speakers, classes I found mulling over late at night, companies I imagined myself excitedly entering one day in the future, and foods I found myself wanting to eat again and again and again made the experience nothing short of amazing.
The most consistent part of our time here, our class Building and Sustaining a Successful Enterprise, was incomparable. I have always loved learning in the general sense of enjoying obtaining new information. However, in my academic career thus far, I have rarely felt as pulled to, intrigued by, and excited by a class each day. Our professor was an instrumental means to which I found enjoyment from our course. His passion for teaching was almost palpable and his wealth of knowledge was seemingly unending. A particular favorite class of mine was Dr. J’s leadership-based class. We learned about varying leadership strategies and effective ways to lead individuals. Most importantly, however, we learned that everyone has the capability to lead by playing into their strengths.
Another essential part of our time here on DSV were the guest speakers and sight visits. A favorite visit of mine was to Intuit on one of the first days of the program. We first listened to a few senior executives speak about their journeys and experiences at intuit. We then performed a rapid prototyping exercise, whose purpose was to create a product that solved the problem of managing and saving finances to prepare for disaster. My group, with the guidance of a senior HR Intuit employee, created a mobile application that automatically added small amounts of money to an emergency fund via either a percentage of weekly income or by rounding up to each whole dollar spent. We then heard from a panel of young Intuit employees about their journeys and current roles at Intuit.
A significant part of my DSV experience were my independent adventures in the Silicon Valley and Bay Areas. Some of the trips some of my DSV classmates and I went on were hiking the Stanford dish trail, going to Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay for a day, and driving to the Marin Headlands lookout to view the whole San Francisco Bay and Golden Gate Bridge. My personal favorite day was going into San Francisco with my apartment to Chestnut and Union Street. We initially went to an incredible salad place (my favorite food!) called Blue Barn, and then did a little bit of shopping and wandering around on Chestnut Street. While in a store, a local came up to us and told us about the annual Union Street Festival nearby. We strolled over to Union Street and happened upon a massive street fair– with great snacks, jewelry, clothing, accessories, among other things. We then walked over to Dolores Park and grabbed a delicious coffee before heading home to Mountain View to spend the night with our classmates. All in all, it was a perfect day filled with relaxed wandering, interesting products, and friends alike.
The balance between an incredibly engaging class, experienced and thoughtful guest speakers and visits, and the freedom to explore all of the beautiful and fun aspects the Bay Area has to offer made DSV one of the most enjoyable periods of my life thus far. Not to mention, the kind and organized staff consisting of Kathie, Kevin, and Chelsea all helped plan DSV and ensure everything ran smoothly.