Duke in Silicon Valley Week 2 Blog July 2015

By Mary Ziemba

We have recently wrapped up our second week here in the Valley. As we continue our progress in the program, my classmates and I are settling into the morning routine—the 8:15 bus pickup, Professor Christensen’s ‘cold call’ at the beginning of class—that is punctuated by more varied activities each afternoon.
After Monday’s class and a quick grocery run, we attended a workshop at the apartment complex: Understanding Yourself and Your Story. Kevin Hoch, managing director of education for the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative, directed the afternoon’s program. He guided our understanding of our individual results of the Myers-Briggs type indicator (MBTI). Kevin talked me through my results—ENFP—and what kinds of jobs are best-suited to my personality: ones in which I design and create, rather than execute routine tasks. Kevin’s vast knowledge of the MBTI helped many of my classmates and me understand ourselves more clearly and translate our newfound understanding to our academic, professional, and personal lives.

We visited companies on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of this week—PayPal, Google, and Dropbox, respectively. The campus was stunning—the modern mirrored glass building was bathed in California sunshine and bordered with greenery and fresh flowers.

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Our host was Mr. Steve Fusco (Trinity ’98), who serves as PayPal’s Vice president and general manager of North American Distribution. He spoke about his need to develop innovative strategies for PayPal, given their various services and their role in the growing online and mobile payment market. He also spent a good portion of our time imparting the wisdom one can only get with years of life and career experience. Mr. Fusco participated in ROTC at Duke and had a subsequent career in the Marines, and the lesson he learned in this experience was simple yet profound: “Hold yourself accountable to creating value. Don’t find comfort behind a barrier between action and result.” His professional life had been driven by a desire to account for his actions, to see that his actions have well-informed, tangible results. To me, his advice was meaningful on both professional and personal levels, not only feeding an entrepreneurial spirit but also providing direction in college, an exciting yet uncertain time in students’ lives.

The following afternoon, the group visited Google’s campus in Mountain View. The famously nontraditional and secretive company lived up to expectations: we saw colleagues holding meetings on walks outdoors rather than in conference rooms, employees riding colorful bicycles, provided “nap pods” for tired workers, gadget-y games like virtual air hockey, and a mural of Google doodles.

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Gopi Kallayil, Chief Evangelist for Brand Marketing, hosted our group in the early afternoon, sharing Google’s innovation philosophy with us—a real treat, considering Google is among the world’s most innovative companies. The tenets were simple and powerful. We saw them manifest in various Google products; to name a few, “Launch and iterate” illustrated by Google’s practice of implementing user feedback to a beta product, and “Innovation comes from anywhere” illustrated by a doctor who made a suicide prevention hotline the top result for the search term “suicide”.

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Following Mr. Kallayil’s presentation, we were taken on tours by Duke alums working at Google. Although company regulations prohibited the group from seeing some of the campus, I felt the tour was a valuable insight into life and work at the tech giant. Google’s very nontraditional environment provided an interesting contrast to those of other tech companies we had visited.

We visited Dropbox headquarters in San Francisco for our final visit of the week on Thursday. The modern, industrial, urban building set it apart from the more suburban campuses we visited.

We started our visit with lunch in the company cafeteria. It truly rivaled a meal that might be served at a high-end restaurant:

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Our host, Adam Cue, was both welcoming and informative. Only about four years older than us students, Adam related to us very well. Adam recounted his story to us: he founded the successful email mobile application Mailbox as an undergraduate, sold his company to Dropbox, worked on the application within the company, and progressed to a management position.

I enjoyed our conversation with Adam for his fearless, thoughtful, and confident view of entrepreneurship. For me, seeing a Duke graduate find success so soon after graduation helped me realize the achievability of an entrepreneurial venture. I find that I am sometimes intimidated by entrepreneurship because of outside pressures to take a more traditional job, but Adam’s confidence helped me become more comfortable with the idea of myself as a startup founder or early-stage employee.

After our rewarding and exhausting week, we were glad to have the weekend to relax and spend time in the Mountain View area. On Saturday, I went hiking with a smaller group of students within the program and another Dukie interning in the Bay Area. On a nearly perfect California afternoon, we enjoyed the views from Stanford Dish recreation area in Palo Alto.

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As the week went on, the value of the Duke in Silicon Valley program became more and more clear to me. Kevin Hoch, Professor Christensen, Dr. Kim, our TA Botir, and each of our site hosts have showed us how much they care that we benefit from the program. I’m graciously looking forward to gaining even more insight as I continue through the program.

Duke in Silicon Valley 3.0: Week 1 Recap

By Grant Kelly

Hello! Greetings from Silicon Valley!
The first five days of our thirty-two day program have been extremely exciting. Between all of the class sessions, team building exercises, and site visits, we have been kept very busy, to say the least. In the last five days we’ve zip-lined through some scraggly trees and walked across some tightropes as part of a team building exercise, commuted across the valley in several exhilarating buses, visited and explored the campus at Stanford University in Palo Alto, attended our first three classes, where our preparation skills where challenged by our professor, Matt Christensen, listened to two wonderful guest speakers, Varish Goyal, and Shea Tate-Di Donna, and traveled to Apple’s famous campus, where we met with Apple senior vice president, Eddy Cue. We have done far too much in the last four days to fit in a single blog post, so I will focus on the highlights of the trip so far.

The program started out strong with a team building exercise on Tuesday, organized around a ropes course, which was apparently in viewing distance of the Golden Gate Bridge (everything was obscured by the fog), due to the fact that the course was located in the Golden Gate Recreation Area. With the goal of initiating team bonding, the day was filled with lots of problem solving activities, with an emphasis on climbing, balancing, and holding onto ropes for dear life. One notable activity was titled “double trouble”, where pairs of students would gracefully wobble across a wire that was suspended almost 20 feet in the air, to the general amazement of their audience of peers, who would stand mesmerized, waiting in anticipation as the pair would attempt to climb over and/or around one another, often with minimal success. Luckily for us, fashionable harnesses were a required part of this challenge. The activities forced us to quickly become comfortable with each other, and set the tone for the level of teamwork and collaboration we were to be expected of for the duration of the program.

While feet, legs, shoes, and trains are sometimes utilized, the primary transportation tool employed by the Duke in Silicon Valley program is the humble bus, which arrives at every morning at a time no later than 8:15 am, taking us from our Mountain View apartment complex to Stanford’s Palo Alto campus, a riveting 45 minute journey where we race the Cal Train, which runs parallel to our route. Students often use this time to review the assigned case studies in order to be extra prepared before class.

Unexpectedly, one of my favorite things we do on the program is go to class. Our professor, Matt Christensen, has adapted a Harvard Business School course, created by his father, for our program. He begins each class by randomly selecting one lucky student, who is tasked with summarizing one of the case studies assigned for reading the night before. The cases, which are selected to emphasize overarching concepts taught in the course, cover a remarkably wide variety of topics, with ultrasound equipment, steel production, electronic parts distribution, low fat butter alternatives, and plastic molding serving as just a few examples. As class progresses, more and more of us participate, with class usually ending in an electrifying debate.

Sometimes, we get to augment the usual class experience with a guest speaker. Our first guest speaker was Duke alumni Shea Tate-Di Donna, Founder and CEO of Zana, a virtual incubator for aspiring entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. In the same way Levis provided the tools early California miners needed to do their jobs during the original gold rush, Zana aspires to provide entrepreneurs with the resources they need in order to learn how to effectively build a new business. The company provides video lectures from successful professionals from various parts of the technology industry, creating a valuable level of insight unique to the service. It was tremendously inspiring to hear the story of her career path, and recognize the concepts of growth and management in her company that we have been learning about in class.

Our second speaker was Varish Goyal, president of Vintners Distributors Inc., a company which owns over 100 California gas stations and convenient stores. One of the most exciting projects at Vinters Distributors is their LOOP store. With slick designs, improved store layouts, and enough fresh food to rival a miniature Whole Foods, this was not your average gas station convenient store. After his talk, we actually were able to hop on one of our trusty busses and visit two of his LOOP stores. I was struck by the level of detail behind every element in the store. For example, long shelves were eliminated in favor of smaller kiosks in order to increase the number of end caps (the part of the shelf a consumer sees before entering an isle) in the stores in order to increase potential sales. It was also encouraging to see how connected Varish was with each and every one of his stores. When we arrived at our first LOOP location of the day, the cashier at the store recognized Varish right away, and he did not need to present any form of identification before showing us around his store. It was unbelievably cool to have such an interactive learning experience with an industry expert.

Our first sight visit was our trip to Apple. Despite some last minute cancellations, we arrived at a lesser known portion of the Apple campus and were quickly ushered into a large conference room, whose stylish chairs and table looked like they would have been right at home one of the nearby Apple stores. To our surprise, we were greeted by the administrative assistant of Eddy Cue, who informed us that Eddy would be in right away. Mr. Cue, who is SVP of Apple’s internet software and services, was incredibly generous with his time, allowing us to ask him questions for almost two hours. Overall, it was a sensational experience, and provided a lot of insight into how a such a large and iconic company like Apple is run.

To finish up the week, a smaller subset of the Duke in Silicon Valley group visited the city of San Francisco for the Fourth of July holiday, an outing generously planned at a moment’s notice by our fearless program leader, Professor Grace Kim. The day was filled with lots of fun and sightseeing, where the group traveled by foot from the Cal train station up and down monstrous hills, through China town, past Lombard Street, all the way to famous piers to watch the fireworks. Along the way, we stopped to take plenty of pictures, and grab lots of food, including some apple fritters and bubble tea. It was a great chance to take a break from all of our school work and explore one of America’s great cities as tourists. And despite the fact that San Francisco might not be the best location for fireworks (all of the fireworks exploded into the fog over the bay), spending the holiday in the city was a terrific experience.

Overall, the first week has been jam packed with a ridiculous number of events and activities, and while it has all been a lot of fun, we have been kept busy with all the work, learning a lot along the way. It is very uplifting to see how generous everyone has been with their time and mentorship, and has only made us more excited for the weeks to come.

Apple Site Visit

By Jonathan Stern
Our visit to Apple on Thursday afternoon was wonderful, and I’ll get to that shortly, but the drive over is worth recounting too. We took Interstate 280 to get there, a highway flanked on both sides by spectacular foothills, some imposing and totally covered by California firs, others tamer with sparser tree cover, instead clothed in shaggy brown grass. I’m glad I wasn’t at the wheel, for the beauty was arresting, and it doubtlessly would have had me swerving madly and dangerously about. The drive took about twenty minutes.

Upon entering Apple’s lobby, I grew instantly curious about the cardboard cutout of the Beatles that stood against the front wall. Was it there as a political innuendo promoting the ideals of 1960s counterculture, or less suggestively, was it merely a symbol of delight that after nearly a decade, Apple had finally succeeded in bringing the Beatles to iTunes? The former intrigues me. But if I’m being honest, it’s probably a case of undue suspicion.

We were then led from the lobby into a rather spacious conference room. The wooden table at its center was alive with cookies and SmartWater. I was informed afterwards that SmartWater is actually a variant of traditional H2O. I don’t know why we need variants of water—I don’t have a clue in the world. Even more perplexing, the next day while at a convenience store called Loop, a few kids on the program spied, and decided to drink, a type of “water” that due to one ingredient or another was black. Different strokes for different folks, I suppose.

Now, back to Apple. Shortly after we took our seats, Eddy Cue entered and took his at the head of the table. His position: Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services—essentially, he runs Apple Music, iTunes Store, App Store, Apple Pay, and more. He has worked at the company for twenty-seven years, purportedly “bleeds Apple,” and when asked about Walter Isaacson’s biography on Steve Jobs, downright lambasted it.

He left open to questions most of the two hours that he was so generous to afford.

I remarked near the end—perhaps impertinently, though I hope it wasn’t construed as such—that I am not convinced that advancements in technology always bring about “progress.” Jolted by developments in modern evolutionism (which paints nature as indifferent and directionless rather than as progressive) and the bloody wars of the twentieth century, most theorists retreated long ago from the belief that the nature of the world is progressive and that humanity—along with, and on account of this progressive nature of the world—is also moving in an inevitable direction of “progress.” As C. S. Lewis observed in his essay “Our English Syllabus,” “civilization is a rarity, attained with difficulty and easily lost. The normal state of humanity is barbarism.”

Apple’s position as one of the largest companies in the world implies the unique ability to influence the trajectory of humanity. Hence my question to Mr. Cue: in light of the directionless nature of the world, is Apple mindfully taking steps to ensure that this trajectory is not one that ends up being injurious to civilization? His response was a bit meandering, but ultimately I liked it very much. He got to the point of things when he mentioned their environmental initiative aimed at protecting the habitability of the earth from any threats that could be posed, directly or indirectly, by improvements in technology.

A wonderful experience at one of the finest companies in the world.

The Last Day of DSV

by Caleb Ellis

While formal schooling inevitably has an end, an education does not. Learning, practicing, and growing are all parts of our intellectual socialization. Gaining knowledge allows us to be better at our day jobs, more interesting at dinner parties, and, in many ways, better people.

Duke in Silicon Valley certainly did that. I can confidently say that I know more than I did a month ago, and that that knowledge will help me when I join the workforce, and perhaps more quickly, when I next attend a dinner party. Yet, our final class with Professor Christensen had much more to do with the kind of people we’re capable of being, rather than the capability of the people we’ll become.

Before speaking more broadly, Professor Christensen asked us to identify how some of the models we studied in class could be applied to our personal lives. Tools such as emergent and deliberate strategies or modularity and interdependence were designed for the business world, yet asking us to apply them to our own lives was hardly a mandate to “treat yourself like a business.”

Rather, it represented one of those rare moments in which you could see your education enabling you to become a better person. Every day, people wake up wishing they were healthier, happier, or more passionate about what they’re doing, and answering those questions is tough. What Professor Christensen was able to articulate so clearly was that the process of asking and struggling with those questions themselves is what ultimately culminates in an answer.

Professor Christensen wasn’t the first person to tell me that the little things matter, or that life only gets more complicated over time. However, his lecture was the first time I recognized someone who not only grappled those considerations, but identified and altered the processes they could control to reach the outcome they wanted.

Making an acquisition or launching a new product requires you to call on the skills and knowledge you possess to make an informed decision. The same thing goes for life, and in more ways than I think any of the participants could have expected, Duke in Silicon Valley brought that to the forefront.

For the past month, we’ve had a unique opportunity to enhance our education through study and experience. We’ve chewed over case studies, launched inquisitions at corporate panels, and worked tirelessly to wrap our heads around disruptive innovation.  It’s been an incredible opportunity to grow as students and, almost unbelievably, soon-to be employees. More surprisingly, however, has been the incredible opportunity to grow as people. The program offered us no shortage of role models, from our Professor Matt Christensen, to our advisors Kimberly Jenkins and Amy Unell, to the speakers and companies who graciously shared their time with us. Ultimately, this program testifies to their success in partnering education with life, and, more specifically, their success in passing it on to nineteen aspiring students.

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Netflix Site Visit

by Kitt Rosenfield

We arrived at Netflix’s Los Gatos campus, a series of beautiful Spanish-style buildings topped with red clay tiles that blend into the picturesque California backdrop, early in the afternoon on Monday. This was to be our final site visit, capping off a whirlwind tour of some of the country’s most innovative companies that call Silicon Valley home.

We entered the lobby and were invited to help ourselves to some fresh movie theater popcorn while we browsed books detailing the greatest movies of the past century and admired posters of the company’s greatest successes: Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, and the latest season of Arrested Development, to name a few.

We were greeted by Netflix’s Brand Manager, Duke’s very own Blair Josephs. Ms. Josephs, who develops the company’s marketing strategies for both the Netflix brand and individual content, was joined by North American Director of Marketing Megan Imbres. Ms. Josephs and Ms. Imbres explained the transformation of Netflix’s marketing strategies from basic “Buy Now!” ads that built subscriber base to more lifestyle-focused ads. They also introduced us to some of Netflix’s most successful campaigns, including a series of TV ads produced for the Canadian market that were later brought to American television (see below for Netflix “Pep Talk” commercial) in addition to a series of minimal movie poster print ads that ran in Canadian publications.

Ms. Josephs was then joined by Cynthia Chang, a member of the company’s marketing team, who answered questions about how Netflix comes up with their ad campaigns and how those campaigns come to fruition. We were able to really get a sense of how Netflix and companies in general market and advertise themselves and how those decisions significantly affect a company’s success.

At the crossroads of entertainment and technology, Netflix has transformed the aging entertainment industry. It was incredibly interesting to see the passion and innovation that goes on behind the scenes at such a company, and it will be just as interesting to see where that passion and innovation leads the company in the future. Now when does season 3 of House of Cards premiere?

eBay Site Visit

by Dhrumil Patel

After arriving at the wrong eBay campus (South campus – which seemed really cool as well), my group arrived at the North campus to meet the rest of the DSV kids. Initially, this campus looked incredibly high-tech and modern.

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Upon entering we were all given name badges and we were greeted by Sadey Kindt, the University Recruiting Coordinator, and Beth Axelrod, the SVP of Human Resources. They debriefed us on the afternoon eBay Inc planned for us. The events were going to be a Q&A by Ms. Axelrod, a presentation by Peter Wade, and a tour of the PayPal showcase (incredibly cool!).

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Once the group was ready to go, we were lead to this presentation room which contained three large screens and a flat screen. Ms. Axelrod explained her role at eBay inc and her path to her current position. She also discussed eBay’s hiring process for senior roles and what she looks for in eBay’s candidates.  After a Q&A learning more about her and the company’s structure, she handed us over to the next speaker.

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Peter Wade, originally from England, serves as the Director of Finance. Before he began, he expressed his sincere interest our program and how he was up-to-date with our blog (his prior research into our program was amazing). The way he spoke to us and allowed us to ask questions attested to his engagement with us and his humility. He initially worked as a consultant, but decided he wanted a different path. After considering his options, he decided to work for eBay (which was much smaller then). He made the decision because he loved the service (he is avid user of eBay – find him!) and he loved the company’s mission. Thereafter, he explained how eBay was born and the changes ever since. He asked us what came to mind when we thought about eBay. Almost all of us claimed: a site where people auction off goods and buy used goods. However, those two actions are actually a minority of its business today. eBay is actually comparable to an online mall. You can shop for goods of all kinds, provided by name-brand retailers and private retailers who use eBay’s platform.  He discussed eBay inc. through the lens of disruption and highlighted how eBay scaled its service and moments where it incorrectly executed plans to expand. He also discussed eBay’s acquisitions, such as PayPal and Braintree, and why eBay acquired those companies. His presentation provided a wonderful insight into the company and their plans to move forward (very thorough and awesome!)

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Finally, Michael and Eric, our showcase tour guides, escorted us from our seats to the entrance of their showcase. Not only did they explain that the products and service we would see were already live in select locations, but also we could take pictures and ask questions (they were ready to pose for pictures as well). After giving us a slight intro on PayPal’s work with a local mall with interactive window shopping, they opened the massive door leading into the showcase.

(Drum roll please!)

The showcase was beautifully designed and separated into stations. Each station mimicked a real life scenario and they integrated a corresponding PayPal service to show the interaction. The first station was highlighted by Eric (he is hilarious and loves to joke on himself). The scenario involved both the business and customer side. Acting as both, Eric explained how PayPal can allow a customer to check-in, update their check, and eventually pay with the PayPal seamlessly. The business can see that Eric has checked in, it can view his part purchasing history, offer specials, and enhance the experience for Eric.

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Michael (equally as hilarious) who discussed the original eBay platform and the upgrades they made. He used the scenario of browsing the service, discovering recommendations from friends, and viewing product through the lens of an online-store. The experience focused the user with the seller so they user could also browse the sellers other products (analogous to shopping at a specific storefront).

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The next two stations focused in on grocery checkouts and explaining how PayPal worked in terms of returns. Mike and Eric bounced off of one another as they explained how PayPal can essentially build your receipt as you select and scan barcodes at grocery stores. Once you finish you can pay your groceries with one swipe and display the online receipt on your way out. Moreover, let’s say Michael bought a bag of banana chips (they actually had them on display!) but decided he didn’t want them. He can return them without worry on his or the vendor’s behalf. PayPal, if linked directly to your bank account or card, actually serves as a wall. Your information never leaves them into the hands of the vendor. Instead, PayPal temporarily pays for you until the transaction is approved on both ends. If it is not, you receive your money back (as in the case of a refund).

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Overall, eBay inc (not eBay!) was one of the best site visits of our program. The team was very open about their roles and the company (and hilarious). We were all thankful for the opportunity to learn so much about eBay inc and have the privilege to see the showcase and meet upper-level employees.

eBay inc. is doing some great things so be on the look out!

Google Site Visit

by Peter Kann

As an avid fan of all things Google, this site visit was by far my most anticipated, but I don’t think any of us were prepared for what we saw upon entering the Googleplex, the core of Google’s massive headquarters in Mountain View.  Giant steel shark fins came out of the sidewalks, flowers and trees covered the lawns between buildings, and the buildings themselves varied from standard brick offices to works of modern art.  Every space was different due to Google’s strategy of buying existing building complexes rather than building more of their own, which reflected the diversity of groups within the company.  Despite this, every area maintained the quirky, geeky vibe that we associate with Google.  A T-rex skeleton adorned with lawn flamingos stands in the center of the main quad, and models of spacecraft and superheroes fill the lobbies of the offices.  Even the classic Google colors (blue, green, yellow, and red) are present everywhere, from the umbrella over the outdoor tables to the Google bikes, which had become famous within our class.

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A few of us were lucky enough to come early to the Googleplex and have lunch with a Brown student who was working there.  Bryan had met him through utter coincidence on the CalTrain, and he was kind enough to host us in the afternoon.  Lunch was especially busy, as every Thursday Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin put on the TGIF event which catalogues the week’s achievements and sets the course for the following week.  This event is unfortunately very exclusive, and it brought in a lot of Googlers who lengthened the lines in the cafeteria, but it was worth the wait.  The food was incredible and from every corner of the globe, and we all were encouraged to sit outside and enjoy the California weather while we ate.

After we left lunch, we joined the group at the registration desk to get our visitor badges and meet our tour guide.  We all gathered inside beneath a collection of lights hanging on strings that worked together to create moving 3D patterns, which was a little too entertaining for some of us.  We also noticed that in addition to the elevator, there was a slide that connected the second floor to the first, just one example of the fantastical environment that employees live in every day.  After getting situated we were introduced to our guide Mackenzie Thomas, a graduate from UNC (for which she was quickly forgiven) who works in Product Marketing at Google.

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She took us farther into the building into an auditorium where we met with a panel of Duke alums working in various divisions within Google, even one currently in Texas who spoke with us via Google Hangouts.  Their experiences in their journeys to their currents positions were all very different, which made our conversation a very helpful one for a lot of us.  For those of us in the program without a technical or engineering background, it could be discouraging to go on site visits and hear about all of the programming or design skills that the employees need to have, and as a Biology major there were definitely many times when I felt out of place.  But as the Googlers began to tell us about their lives leading up to their careers with the tech giant, it became clear that no matter what your background is, there are opportunities everywhere.  If there were Psychology majors working at Google, anything was possible.  This came as a huge relief to a lot of us, myself included.

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We then began our formal tour of campus, with Mackenzie showing us the grounds and taking us inside the main building at the center of the campus.  The headquarters was equipped with swimming pools, volleyball courts, and fitness centers, making it seem more like a college campus than a corporate complex.  Furthering the college vibe, there were bulletin boards covered with flyers advertising Google events, such as employee a cappella concerts.  Inside the buildings the quirkiness of the campus intensified, with doors hanging from hinges in the walls and a full scale replica of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipOne hanging from the ceiling.  We even got to see the first server that the Google search engine ever ran on, which sat at the top of a staircase behind an unassuming plaque.  Downstairs there was a series of connected screens that gave a 270 degree view into Google Earth, and after learning the surprisingly difficult controls we naturally we used them to fly down to Duke’s campus for a 3D rendered view of the Chapel.  It was a technological wonderland at Google, one that seemed to emphasize fun and creativity just as much as it valued hard work and perseverance.

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Our visit ended with an obligatory trip to the company store, where I bought more shirts than I should have, and a series of photo shoots on the colorful Google bikes.  We had met a lot of great alums working with the company, many of whom I hope to keep in contact with, and we came away with a sense that Google was a much more well-rounded company than we had expected it to be in terms of the positions that it offered.  This visit also taught me that any career path is open to you, no matter what your background is, it just may look a little different depending on your passions and skills.  Google was certainly an excellent host to us and I feel that we all came away with a better understanding of what it meant to work at one of the most influential companies in the world.

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Apple Site Visit

by Ethan Levine

We finally made it: the Mecca of the tech world. Even if you had no one told you beforehand what company was headquartered at 1 Infinity Loop, I’m sure you could guess which company it was just by the look of the smooth, sleek, and imposing building and the atmosphere it created. While not our only major visit during DSV, our time at Apple did feel like a consummation of sorts.

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Our visit started, oddly enough, at the Apple company store. Anything and everything Apple could be found there. iPods, iPads, and iAccessories were only the tip of the iceberg. Beats headphones, Jawbones watches, and Mophie batteries were among the myriad electronic goodies that Apple stocked, while Apple shirts, hats, beanies, mugs, pens, and various other paraphernalia could be found there as well. It was a nice first stop on our Apple visit.

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However, the real meat of the site visit was still yet to come. When we left the store, we were led through the main entrance of the headquarters and towards a nicely sized conference and presentation room. The room was adorned with nothing other than a few pictures of Apple products on the wall, a true testament to Apple’s commitment to minimalism and its products. We filed in, picked up a water bottle and a cookie, and took our seats around the u-shaped table, waiting for Duke alum and Apple SVP Eddy Cue, the true purpose of our visit, to arrive.

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Soon enough, the door opened and in entered, not Mr. Cue, but his assistant who informed us that, “He’ll be a little late. He’s in a meeting with Tim.” That got a laugh from most of us, realizing that, if you checked Eddy’s meeting schedule, it would have had Duke in Silicon Valley following Apple CEO Tim Cook. Not bad company to be in.

Not long after that though, Eddy came in. He was friendly, open, and a good speaker. He also just came back from a trip to New York and had a few complaints about the hotel he stayed at. While telling us about his trip, though, he snuck in his first lesson: notice the little, everyday things that annoy you. From those mild inconveniences come the greatest innovations. I guess if necessity is the mother of invention, mild infuriation is the mother of innovation.

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He went on to tell us about his career path, starting at a tech firm in North Carolina and later moving to the Valley to work for Apple. While at Apple, he remembered being asked to manage the call center, something he had no experience doing. He could have taken the easy road and passed on the offer. Instead, he seized the opportunity and took the job. From this experience, he taught us accept opportunities to learn new things. While his first meeting as the call center manager was overwhelming, he soon learned all the workings of the call center and, later, was able to apply what he learned there to other sections of Apple.

Above all, he told us to not be afraid of taking risks, a common sentiment in the Valley. While at times it can be simpler and less stressful to take the easy road, it is really only through taking risks that you can accomplish anything. This is perhaps the most important lesson we could have learned.

While talking with Eddy Cue was amazing, our time, unfortunately, had to come to an end. We thanked him and we followed him as he made his way out. Though our visit had come to an end, our visit to the tech cathedral was one that would not be soon forgotten.

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DSV Video Filming

by Sid Gopinath

We have a pretty cool video in the works for all of you blog viewers. On the afternoon of Monday, July 21, after an incredible life coaching session with Patty Leeper, all of the DSV students packed into cars and drove over to LinkedIn headquarters.

Filming 2LinkedIn had graciously allowed us to use a space in one of their buildings to film a series of interviews with DSV students, faculty members, and alumni. When we arrived, we realized how lucky we truly were. The company had opened up the entire cafeteria and lounge area to us, as well as a dedicated space to film everything. So, for the students who weren’t filming or being filmed, there were plenty of ping pong and foosball games to be played, in addition to plenty of food to be eaten and work to be done.filming 7

The students working on the video were guided away from the noise of the lounge area and to our dedicated filming space. Amy Unell had also brought in her friend, documentary filmmaker Rebekah Fergusson, to help with the shoot. Within moments of setting our bags down, we realized we were in the hands of a true professional. Rebekah guided us through the shoot in the calmest and most efficient manner. She had brought along lights and professional microphones, which helped us really nail the interviews. Whether it was suggestions for questions or patient guidance through the filming process, Rebekah was always there to help us. Without her, this video would look very different and not nearly as professional and crisp!

filming 3After rearranging the furniture, Rebekah and Matt Chambers set up their cameras for the interviews. Over the next four hours, Shannon Beckham interviewed twenty-two people involved with the program. Occasionally, I would toss in a follow-up question or two. We had several people who rotated in and out typing out “soundbites” from each interview. These soundbites would be used later in the editing process to choose the best segments of each interview.

Filming 1We had been allotted three hours to complete the filming. But, because we are all enamored with this program, everyone had a lot to say about it. Some comments overlapped (everyone seems to think Matt Christensen is “intimidating and tall” when they first met him), while others were fantastically unique (Ben Peters shared with us his hope that George Bush Sr. and Matt Christensen meet one day to compare their unique sock collections).

filming 4Overall, thanks to the enthusiasm and flexibility of everybody involved, we captured a great series of interviews. Once again, a special thanks to Rebekah Ferguson for taking time out of her busy day to help with this student video. Over the next few weeks, we will be editing and polishing it. And it will be awesome.

LinkedIn Site Visit

by Regan Fiascone

If there’s one way a company can win us over, it’s with free food. LinkedIn got off on the right foot when they opened up their headquarters to us on Monday night to film a video documentary about DSV. We were able to hangout in their lounge area and eat dinner at their cafeteria while taking turns getting interviewed and filmed. The lounge was filled with snacks, game tables, and seating areas, and we easily made ourselves comfortable. It felt like we were getting a true “day in the life” type of view of the company. The environment was casual and friendly, and lots of people stuck around after work to mingle and enjoy dinner together.

LinkedIn 2On Wednesday afternoon, we made our return for an official visit and were again greeted with free food. Their cafeteria is set up similarly to a college dining hall with many options for employees. Once we’d explored and gathered our lunch of choice, we headed to a separate building in the LinkedIn complex for our presentation. We heard from two Duke alums and one past DSV participant, Courtney Sanford, who all worked for the nonprofit segment of the company, LinkedIn for Good. They told us about their career journeys so far and how they ended up where they are now.

LinkedInPerhaps the most valuable part of the visit was when Courtney walked us through the so-called “LinkedIn Etiquette.” All of us are relatively new users, so we were in desperate need of some guidance as far as do’s and don’t’s. This wasn’t like deciding whether to friend someone on Facebook; LinkedIn is a professional platform and learning how to navigate it appropriately can be a challenge. Besides tips about who to connect with and how, we were shown some of the search features to find people in specific companies or narrow by other fields, such as Duke alumni.

One fact that really stuck out was that 70% of all jobs are found through networking. After spending this month in the valley, I truly believe that. Almost every company we’ve visited has emphasized the value of making and maintaining connections so that you can stand out when applying for a job. LinkedIn is an amazing tool for doing just that. Immediately following the visit, we all rushed home to update our profiles, make new connections, and for some, create accounts for the first time.

Want to know more? Connect with the DSVer’s on LinkedIn!