Life Changing Experience in Silicon Valley

In November, I had the amazing opportunity to visit San Francisco and tour some of the biggest tech headquarters in the world. This all started in March with a challenge we did for Airbnb at TKS. Weeks of hard work for this challenge turned into an experience that would completely alter the way I think about life as a whole as well as what the future looks like for me! We spent 3 days, visiting amazing companies including Google, Facebook, Twitter, Airbnb, Uber, Coinbase, Adobe, Khosla Ventures and August Capital.

Our first stop was the Thiel Foundation. The Thiel Foundation gives $100,000 to young people who want to build innovative technologies. This was an amazing experience because I was able to meet young people who had a similar mindset to myself. One of my key takeaways from this experience was to create feedback loops and to consistently reflect on what I am working on and how to improve myself. I learned a lot through this experience as the Thiel fellows were able to provide advice that closely related to the path that many of us were beginning to take.

Thanks to Allyson and the Thiel Fellows for the awesome experience!

Our next stop was Airbnb. As soon as I walked into this office, my opinion of how a company’s office looked completely changed. Airbnb’s office created the atmosphere where employees loved working there everyday. Airbnb provided everything the employees needed throughout the day to help boost productivity and to keep their employees happy. We talked with Lubna, who worked in Airbnb’s Disaster Response Team. We talked about our recommendations and how they could be applied to Airbnb’s refugee program. We met with Aaron Zifkin who helped put together this whole trip for us and gave us a tour of Airbnb Office. At the end of the tour, there was one last surprise! We got to meet the Co-Founder of Airbnb, Joe Gebbia. After hearing his story about how Airbnb started, it was mind-blowing to see how much Airbnb has grown since it was founded.

At Uber, I had the chance to meet Mike Del Balso and Logan Jeya, both product managers at Uber. They talked about their experiences in different companies such as Google, Microsoft and Magic Leap. It was really interesting to hear how both of them had explored so many innovative spaces in a short amount of time. We talked about some of the awesome things that Uber is working on and had a lot of casual conversations about life in general. It was a great experience to learn more about a fast growing company and the people who are bringing the product together.

At Coinbase, we met Tanooj Luthra who was really knowledgeable in the cryptocurrency space. Coinbase is a digital currency exchange for cryptocurrencies. This experience sparked my interest in the cryptocurrency space. We talked about some of the cool stuff that Coinbase was working on, how bitcoin works, the blockchain, exchanges, wallets and much more. Overall, it was an awesome experience and I learned a lot about cryptocurrency and the blockchain.

The Twitter Office was another spectacular workspace. Tommy Moffat and I got a tour with Jade Loyzaga, a Software Engineer at Twitter. We had 2 on 1 discussions with different employees at Twitter and talked about the future of Twitter, how it was started, what they were working on and how their API’s can be used for creative applications. It was amazing to get their perspectives and learn more about Twitter and how the entire platform comes together.

Thanks to Rabiah Damji for organizing this experience!

Ross, our tour guide at Adobe, talked to us about some of the amazing things Adobe is working on. One of the highlights of this conversation for me was Adobe Dimension. Adobe Dimension is a 3D Compositing tool which is used for graphic designers to combine 2D Images with 3D Objects. This is a product that is still a work in progress but already has some amazing features. A feature that really made this platform valuable is cloud rendering. 3D Rendering usually takes a very long time based on how big a file is. Cloud rendering allows this to be done in significantly less time using the power of the cloud. Overall, this was a great experience to learn about Adobe’s work in the 3D Space and its applications for the VR and AR industries.

We got a tour around Berkeley and also got to see a cyclotron, a type of particle accelerator in which charged particles accelerate along a circular path! We got a tour of the cyclotron and it was mind-blowing to see all the amazing things going on inside the accelerator. We got to learn about the science behind a cyclotron, its applications and how accessible it is to researchers. This showed me some of the amazing things that you can do at universities and I learned a lot about the science behind a particle accelerator.

Alkarim Nasser, our tour guide at Facebook showed us around one of the most impressive headquarters we had seen on the trip. Imagine an office workspace, a huge shopping mall and amusement park in one. Even better, everything inside the Facebook campus is completely free! We had an awesome time talking to Alkarim about his experience in product management. I learned a lot from Mark Ashman, a Software Engineer at Oculus and talked to him about what’s new and upcoming in the VR industry. Overall, it was really cool to see the awesome workspace that was almost like a “mini-city” and experience how it was like to work at Facebook!

At Google, Jie Zheng helped organize a tour of the Google Campus and also a panel with employees at Google. Google’s campus really showed me how workspaces can be more than cubicles and board rooms. Yanling Chen and I got to meet and have a conversation with Neal Wu, a Software Engineer at Google Brain. I got some of his thoughts on VR/AR and we also talked about Artificial Intelligence and its implications on the future. Neal was really smart and knew a lot about many fields and was a pleasure to talk to. I got to meet a lot of employees working at Google and learned about how the company functioned and what type of skillsets are required to work at a company like Google.

At Khosla Ventures, we got to meet Sven Strohband, Partner and CTO at Khosla Ventures. I got an opportunity to talk to him about a project I am working on (WaypointAR) and got his insights and thoughts about my project and the VR/AR industry. I learned about what venture capitalists look for in a company and tips on how to optimize for success.

At August Capital, we met David Hornik, a General Partner. We had the opportunity to share our ideas and projects with him. We had a lot of discussions about emerging technology industries such as Artificial Intelligence, VR/AR, Cryptocurrency and more. We also learned about how venture capitals work and what they look for in an idea or company.

Our last stop in San Francisco was Stanford. We got to walk around the university and check out the various departments. The campus was very different than how I imagined a university would be structured. It was a great experience to be exposed to Stanford’s campus at my age and changed my perspective on how universities work and what I was thinking about my post-secondary education.

Key Takeaways from this experience:

Get the most possible value from every experience. Time is the most valuable currency we use. Make the best use of every opportunity that is presented to you. This is my first major experience and I can use what I learned to get the most possible value from future experiences.

Stay Hungry. There is so much knowledge out there and you can never learn too much. This trip showed me how much more I have to learn and all the knowledge that’s out there. I have just touched upon the field I’m passionate about and I have so much more to learn.

Develop a rigorous definition of impact. Know your intentions and what’s the end goal you’re trying to reach. I have discovered where my passion lies but am still in the process of defining my impact and end goal. It’s important to define concrete and concise goals and to consistently work towards them.

Thanks to Navid Nathoo and Nadeem Nathoo for organizing this amazing experience!