It feels as though it was just yesterday that we were meeting each other, making our first trip to Safeway, and touring the Plug and Play Tech Center where we would have class for the next month. We were in awe, curious, and invigorated by Mountain View’s beautiful and homey scenery and by the remarkable list of companies we were scheduled to visit. In fact, even after a month of exploring the area, learning about sustaining a successful enterprise, and being exposed to technology we did not know existed, we remain in awe, curious, and very invigorated. Silicon Valley is home to more than just “innovation”. It is a global hub where people who want to change and improve human life can join their thoughts and collaborate to spark something incredible. What has become more and more clear to me is that this modern technological revolution has barely even begun. As we came to understand at our visit to Google on Monday, the future is not only about maintaining businesses, but about thinking in “10X mode” to better experiences for everyone.
The last week of our Silicon Valley marathon included demos at ABB’s fascinating robot laboratory, an informative lunch at Canaan Partners, a compelling presentation and tour of Google’s Mountain View headquarters, networking and learning valuable skills at LinkedIn, and having inspiring conversation with the partners of Freestyle Capital. It was a perfect mix for our last week, spanning topics from robotics to venture capital and companies with 4 employees to over 85,000. If I could sum up our experience in three words, it would be innovation, passion, and people.
- The action or process of making changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.
Innovation is an action or process. It is current, continuous, and growing as I sit here writing. The companies we have met with have emphasized that while they are aware of their pasts and the present, they are always looking forward. They want to figure out ways to provide convenience, opportunity, safety, and enjoyment in all of our lives and are doing so in ways that I could never imagine. Carbon is using 3D printing, an already novel concept, to allow humans to customize dental models and shoes for optimal fit, plus many other applications. Zume Pizza harnesses artificial intelligence to make predictions for speedily cooking and delivering yummy pizza, and I am staying tuned to see what will be next. Google started with a search engine, expanded to allowing us to become friends with the rooms in our households, and is now using helium balloons to provide internet access to rural areas. I originally thought that I was only going to learn about past success stories, but I have been overjoyed to realize that we still have so much to explore.
pas·sion |ˈpaSHən| noun
- Strong and barely controllable emotion.
Being passionate is contagious. I have been so uplifted in listening to our speakers enthusiastically share what motivates them and how their journeys have shaped their careers. It is so truly empowering to me that our speakers each have such diverse interests and stories, yet they all revolve around a common mission to improve quality of life for humankind. Whether it be volunteering in third-world countries, redefining women’s lingerie, 3D printing from a chemistry standpoint, designing electric cars, building robotic security guards, analyzing big data, or delivering groceries to homes, I am looking forward to similarly finding a way to utilize my passions to assist others.
- Human beings in general or considered collectively.
The beauty of people lies in the power of unique individuals communicating and working collectively. While robots are becoming very intelligent and capable, people are what make all of this possible, and that is something that can never change. Everyone who I have been able to meet, with many thanks to generous Duke alumni plus so many more, has eagerly welcomed our group of 25 students into their workspaces and openly shared their experiences, mistakes, values, and goals. I am grateful to have been able to witness the mutual admiration among colleagues within the culture of many companies, as that is something that cannot simply be taught. Especially at Freestyle Capital and Canaan Partners recently, I loved watching our speakers interact in a way that exemplified how much respect and appreciation they had for each other’s complementary talents.
In the beginning of our program, I was excited to be surrounded by peers who had different majors than me but were also interested in innovation and entrepreneurship. Other than learning about alternate approaches to a common theme, looking back, I had not yet recognized the true value of such diversity. Now, as we have bonded over the past four weeks, I can look at these peers and confidently state that I would be thrilled to have the chance to work with any of them. Our creative engineers, computer science wizards, economics and finance geniuses, talented linguists and psychologists, Blockchain experts, and public policy enthusiasts are going to make an extraordinary team, and I am forever grateful to have connected with them.
To my peers and to Silicon Valley, see you very soon.
Camaren Dayton is a rising sophomore studying Mechanical Engineering, Visual Arts, and Innovation and Entrepreneurship. She is interested in combining these fields to use design as a means of empowering and encouraging others. At Duke, she is the Marketing and Outreach Director for FEMMES (Females Engaging in More Math, Science, and Engineering is a club connecting Duke volunteers with local elementary schools to lead STEM activities for girls) and will be a studio manager at Duke’s Arts Annex this year. She enjoys running, hiking with friends and family, going to farmer’s markets, and reading the Skimm.