What is it like to visit Silicon Valley for the first time?
5 days, 28 Companies, 17 Students
So here i am weeks after my Spring Break in Silicon Valley trip, but all my experiences are still afresh in my mind. I don’t say it the clichéd way but it was in real a ‘life changing’ experience for me and I am sure for all other 16 people who went on this trip.
Oh, much has been said of the good, the bad, and the weird of this little strip of land.
Today, mainstream media blows kisses at this so-called “cradle of innovation,” writes scripts about its mad geniuses, shuffling savants, and douchebag leaders.
So we packed our bags to decipher the jargons of Silicon Valley.
Valley is full of Hustlers (THE Go-Getters)
Well its not everyday that you start your day with Googlers at their very office and end it at the Twitter HQ eating Fro- Yo at their beautiful terrace. To have that opportunity to meet such genuine and remarkable people, people working toward similar goals and using creative and innovative means to get there, was truly special.
You can sense it when the idea of two people combining talents to do something greater than each could individually accomplish creates a kind of energy that amplifies as the conversation continues. You can see it in the eager look of a person as he utters those words, hey, I’ve got a new idea…
Of course the best idea will win.
Of course this problem can be solved.
Of course you can do it.
The best part is these people won’t judge you on the basis of your thoughts, but they will appreciate your spirit of even trying to think out of box and continuously challenging your capabilities to push harder and harder to get there.
What if you fail, you fail all the time, you won’t make it until you succeed but the fact that you get up and thrive in the environment to get yourself out there is what matters.
I felt that energy every moment i talked to people, every time that talked about the work they do, i can see the passion in their efforts they make everyday and how focused they are.
We met soo many people, listening to all these stories about their background, their struggle and how they persistently pursued their passion that led them there, a stage where they enjoy what they do on daily basis. I remember listening to an SU alum at Bugcrowd, his story to land up in Silicon Valley with no tech background in his degree but the amount of work he put in to go after what he want to go after, how he used to wake up every morning apply to like 50 jobs, equip himself with technical knowledge to gain expertise. It inspires you when you listen to these stories, these people who come from the same place as we are right now and rings an alarm at the top of your head (ting!!) its time to get yourself out there and start early to work towards what you are passionate about.
I have never met so many helpful strangers: Culture and the People of Valley
One of the biggest competitive advantages of the Valley is its culture and that’s the best thing I that stood out for me. People tend to obsess over the optimal way to maximize both individual and collective output by focusing their efforts on the right things.
I think the energy of the place gets you.
The fact that these people don’t know you doesn’t matter to them. They want to talk to you and are more than welcome to strike a conversation with them.
I remember the Alumni Event we had where a lot of SU alums came up to meet us and socialize, to be frank i was a little nervous to talk to all these people, i mean c’mon they were people like Strategy Head of Google, not a thing that happens everyday. I was nervous but trust me the moment i started talking to them, they made me soo comfortable that it felt like i was talking to someone i know already. They extend help to help you in any way possible, they don’t have to right? but they do and that’s the best part, they want to help you be successful and if they can contribute to it, they are more than happy to do so.
People think, breathe and live startups
So i have watched Silicon Valley series on HBO (one of my favorite), well i have been watching it for long now, and not even been at the Valley even once, i had these pre-thoughts in minds, whatever i gathered watching the movies or this show or tech crunch disrupts, i had a premonition in the mind of how competitive it would be in the Valley where everyone is soo talented, how difficult it would be for this pool of people to win and run to the top. But my prospective changed when i talked to people there — so — they don’t compete with each other, they help each other and coordinate to be a part of their success. This is how Valley survives.
Well I have to share this, so I go to this start up on my trip, probably like 2–3 rooms big and i meet the most influential people in my life. So I start talking and the another second i come to know the guy worked at Apple for 8 years and left it and joined this startup, not to even mention going through a massive pay cutoff. I am trying to digest everything and i am like ‘wait what ?’ how did that happen. He soon shared his story of landing there, met the founder through a friend and they talked for about 7 hours straight at a cafe, bouncing ideas, creating a vision to take the idea higher and they together can see it happen with their skills combined. So he leaves his job and just start working on the idea with him. It sounded soo simple for him. But for me, a boy who always dreams about working for a company like Apple (i mean why not :P) , that marked the end of our day, we had a nice dinner and came back home but i can’t get this thought out of my mind that why would someone being soo comfortable in his space and enjoying the work that he does take such a big step. Believe me i had this thought all the remaining days, but things cleared out to me slowly and slowly as the days past and i met all these founders, tech nerds, creators.
And I believe in this now — Sometimes somewhere you meet people and they change your life, change the way you think, change the way you treat life.
Everyday usually on the way back home, all of us used to be much quite, not just because we were tired but because all this experience and meetings were changing each one of in some or the other way, some were focusing their making us realize things related to our career and choices we have to make in life.
I think the experiences we had be clear of what we actually want to do in life.
Silicon Valley & CNY
I am talking about ostensible differences between coast to coast cultures. for one, some individuals would say people in the west coast are more laid back than those in the east coast. this may be due to the weather, the beach, Hollywood, tech creativity in Silicon Valley, and the scenery. on the other hand, others would say those in the east coast are more intellectual and highly-cultured, thanks to Broadway, sophistication and fashion in NYC, wall street, government and politics in the white house, ivy league, etc.
So our task was to see the Silicon Valley companies and cultures through the lens of talent acquisition, customer acquisition and capital acquisition and bring back the knowledge to Syracuse.
If you’ve never seen something happen to someone you know, human nature is to think it will never happen. Funny thing is, once it happens just once then everyone wants to get in on it and try to do it again. This is what is so special about Silicon Valley — they have the appetite and experience for the greater risk associated with businesses or any tech idea.
I doubt it’s “easy” in Silicon Valley, but that may be the only place where investors have the experience and appetite. I think Central New York has a lot of elements that exist or eventually blooming as that in Silicon Valley. Just the fact they NY is always seen as the Financial City with all the banking firms taking over the limelight of the city but the startup scene is increasing. With all this entrepreneurial programs in the Universities like our very SU, students get more inclined towards entrepreneurship and to kick start their ideas.
Connecting the Dots: Putting it all Together
I would say ….
There is nothing better than the unabashed optimism of Silicon Valley, bottled with fizz, shaken vigorously, and unleashed. You can taste it at a big company like Twitter and Google or under the radar startup places, when these people talk to you and describes the future everyone is building towards, it is so clear and enticing you wish you had a magic remote control to fast-forward time.
I spent a week meeting folks at the top of their game in these amazing companies. And that’s what they were people. Thinking about it, in reality they have the same fears, passions, skills and ambitions as us.
I say not to a tonne of things but even then I’m awful at saying yes to too many things. A lot of the people in the Bay Area had a single minded driven focus. I’m not sure how you instilL that kind of focus but it’s something a lot of people locally lack and I lacked far atmost.
Confidence is something I’ve always been lacking. I’d still consider myself a pretty shy person to approach someone to strike a conversation. The trip to Silicon Valley opened my eyes to how much I still need to improve.
My confidence and attitude is a personal weakness but it’s also a wider problem if I want to thrive in the kind of culture i see myself delving into one day. We’re self deprecating and too quick to put ourselves down. It’s not in our psyche to be be brash, self promotional and have that optimism.
In the Valley, everyone was just so ballzy. You want to find something out? Ask the question. You want to get a meeting with someone? Just ask the question. You need help? Just reach out.
Now I’m adopting an attitude of ‘just do it’. This alone is maybe the biggest thing I’ve taken away from my SBinSV trip.
I am in touch with many SU Alumni I met at the Valley and they are always ready to extend help whenever I need. This one week spend in the Valley has soo much impact in my life that I can never forget the moments I spend there and lessons I learned that I carry on for life.
The more time I spent in this silver of tech, more I learned to embrace vulnerability; find support; stay curious.