Choosing to Go to San Francisco Over Going Abroad
“It’s an odd thing, but anyone who disappears is said to be seen in San Francisco.”– Oscar Wilde
Emily Jones participated in the Semester in San Francisco Ugrad Program during Spring 2016:
>> Why did you choose Babson SF?
About six months previously, I received a call from a very close friend and he told me that I had to get to San Francisco because everything was happening here (tech bubble and the amount of VC money being poured into young entrepreneurs), and he wasn’t sure how long it would last. This put San Francisco into the back of my mind, and it was not until my original study-abroad trip (to Turkey) got cancelled due to political instability in that region that I began to seriously think about San Francisco again. The cancellation of the Turkey program turned out to be a blessing for me personally because as a result I applied for the San Francisco program, which has turned out to be the greatest learning experience in my three years so far at Babson. I was at a stage in my life where I just needed to get away and think about the direction I wanted to move forward in.
>> Did you work during the SF program, and if so, what did you do?
I had the amazing and unique opportunity to both attend a full course load at Babson’s San Francisco program, and a full-time internship with Tesla Motors. At Tesla my role was a supply-chain management intern. My scope of work was a split between analytics and supply-chain management. Previously I had worked at SpaceX in a completely supply-chain management role, but at Tesla, I focused on creating metrics and dashboards that would better the efficiency around raw materials in our global supply chain.
>> Why did you choose Tesla Motors for your spring semester internship?
It is very important to me that I believe in what my employer is doing and that what we are doing is something important — not just pushing money from one place to another place. I like to work for companies that hope to change the world, and I believe business students are essential for helping companies with noble missions to scale and create efficiencies in order to get there. I fell in love with what I researched and saw firsthand about the work culture of Elon Musk’s companies (Space X and Tesla), and the overall can-do attitude of the employees. While I found my Tesla experience extremely demanding and different from my internship with SpaceX, both organizations shared many of the same core values.
>> What have you learned from working at Tesla? What are your key takeaways?
For me at least, I learned that I need to find a purpose to what I am doing and align myself with a company that I believe is changing the world in some exciting or important way. Never stay at a job that you feel that you’re contributing towards “band-aid” fixes. Instead, work at a place where your function helps to push towards permanent and fundamental shifts in the company’s trajectory. This mindset will keep you motivated at work and give you better peace of mind. Another more specific take-away for me came from my manager. He told me always to place the money implication right up front in the subject line of the email. For example, “Extrusion scrap, $10M opportunity” will get someone’s attention higher up in the organization more effectively than other less quantitative business subject-line headings. There are a ton more takeaways I am happy to share with any student interested in asking about my experience.
>> What advice do you have for someone looking to work at Tesla?
Tesla Motors receives thousands of applications for intern opportunities each year. So, in order to standout in the stack of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, you have to show your value as not only a business student, but as one with an engineering mindset. Being able to communicate with engineers effectively is critically important. It can’t be accomplished simply by taking an engineering class at Olin. Most of my internship peers at Tesla were all engineering majors and they were able to apply their engineering education to cost management. So having a fundamental understanding of basic science and physics is helpful to set you apart. I did not pay any attention in my science classes at Babson, to be honest, and that was a huge mistake. Take classes online, play MinutePhysics in the background, date engineers, but having a basic understanding of science will help you exponentially if you plan to work in the Bay area with a tech company.
>> What were your favorite place(s) in San Francisco and things you did for fun?
I have an extended list but at the top of my list I would say: Sutro Baths, Dolores Park on a Sunday, Hayes Valley, Stanford, DeYoung Museum, MoMa
>> What were some of your major takeaways as a participant of the Babson SF program?
“Aut inveniam viam aut faciam” or “I shall either find a way or make one” is my favorite saying of all time, and it becomes my mental approach to surviving a full-time academic program combined with a 40-hour+ / week internship in San Francisco. I adopted the mindset that I have the ability to do anything and have the resources to find the greatest team, with people who compliment my skill-set. It’s not like Babson, where you are somewhat isolated to a smaller area, you are in the center of everything and meeting people is so accessible.
In my personal opinion, Babson ironically pushes a lot of students towards big corporations, and perhaps does not give quite the same emphasis on promoting the value of seeking out smaller, more start-up sorts of internship opportunities. It was the San Francisco program that made me see the high-risk and high-reward mentality that was ever-present in the Bay. It was Babson’s San Francisco program that gave me the courage to leave opportunities at numerous big corporations and instead pursue an opportunity at a small 11-person technology startup, which gave me the opportunity to work directly with the CEO of the company.
The other takeaway I had from the SF program is my appreciation for the liberal arts. I came to Babson, with zero appreciation of anything that was not directly focused on business. SF gave me an appreciation for liberal arts, because at the core of everything, liberal arts are what allows for someone to connect to another human being. You are a more interesting and well-rounded person by having a background knowledge in things that are not just business. And you need this more well-rounded exposure in a city like SF. The SF curriculum is incredibly interesting, because half of it is pushing you towards this “fast money” mentality that is seen all over Silicon Valley and perpetuated by “techies.”, But the other half is about appreciating the arts and the culture that are slowly being overshadowed by the “techies”. So your “Babson” mindset is often confused and at a weird middle-state where you want to be in both worlds.
>> Any advice for someone who will be participating in the San Francisco program?
As I write this, I am in St. Petersburg, Russia, up to my ears in another Babson cohort program (their BRIC program). And these two cohort programs could not be more different in terms of experience and focus from regular campus life on the Babson campus. First take in the freedom of being alone. At Babson’s main campus, you are surrounded by people who have known you, have preconceived notions of your abilities. In these cohort programs like the SF program you have a level of freedom you can’t find in a regular campus program. If this appeals to you, take this freedom as an opportunity to meet people who are not in your discipline. The best way to learn is from those around you, and SF may be the first time in your college career, where those who surround you are not business majors. A lot of my cohort found it hard to meet new people. I had the advantage of a work-life so I think I met people mainly through going to different events, going to the Thursday night series in the Asian Art Museum, joining the running club, or going to Make School. There are many opportunities to meet people, but if you only stay within the bubble of the cohort of 14 people that you came with, you’ll leave the same person you came as.
While the academic experience in the SF program is absolutely on par with the quality of the overall Babson education on the main campus, that’s not, to my mind, the key reason to consider the SF program. A key part of SF that makes it a unique learning experience is truly because of the out of the class excursions and the amazing city that is San Francisco. The plays you will see, and the tours that you go on give you SUCH a deep appreciation for the city you are in. Take full advantage of them, and have some fun. And yes, don’t blow off your courses. I’m just saying don’t just focus on your school work to the exclusion of the cultural immersion of being in one of the greatest cities in the world.
I challenge you to spend as many afternoons as possible outside, exploring what the city has to offer. San Francisco is one of the best cities for public transportation. You can get down to Stanford in 45 minutes, and to Oakland in an hour. You can Uber anywhere in the city for less than $5, and you should take full advantage of that. The excuse of “I don’t have a car” is not applicable here, and I believe the best way to know a city is through its public transportation. Get a BART card. While I believe Babson will give you a MUNI card, the BART is a lot more reliable and will get you more places. Invest in one.
>> Anything else you would like to share?
The last thing that I wanted to mention was my gratitude for all the professors and coordinators that allow for San Francisco program to exist. It is not easy to find housing on a non-continuous basis for 15 students and I am incredible grateful to the Babson administration who believe that this program is life-changing for students. Lastly, I would like to give a huge shout-out to Professor Cohen, who took a chance on me and who believed that hands-on-learning in an internship can be as beneficial as in-class learning and supported me when I pleaded my case to be allowed to do a full-time internship while going to the SF program full-time. I believe that for those students who are willing to be open to San Francisco, they in turn will receive a truly life-changing experience. I know I did.
Emily Jones ’17 | Strategic Management & Global Business Management | Ejones6@babson.edu