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Trekking Through a High-Tech Region

During one exhilarating day in Silicon Valley, Michael Dick (MBA ‘13) visited the gleaming campus of Hewlett-Packard Co. and mingled with employees at LinkedIn Corp., the social networking giant whose offices boasted a tennis table, music room and other playful touches. He also toured Medallia Inc., a customer-satisfaction software company where offices were decorated to reflect the organization’s international workforce.

At a clip of two to three company visits a day, he and other Tepper School of Business students on the West Coast Career Trek of the Business & Technology Club also sampled the culture at high-tech icons such as Google (pictured), Yahoo Inc., eBay Inc. and Microsoft Corp.

“I felt like a kid in the toy store,” Dick said. “I am so passionate about tech companies. I would have never had the opportunity to see all those companies.”

He returned to the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University more determined than ever to work in Silicon Valley, preferably at a small startup, and energized about job prospects. “There are so many startups that are looking for talent,” he said.

Stephen Rakas, executive director of the Career Opportunities Center at the Tepper School, also sensed optimism from recruiters. “This year was amazing,” he said. “There was an increase in MBA recruiting. I haven’t seen that vibe out there in several years.”

The West Coast trek from Jan. 4-13 attracted a large group of students. Thirty-five aspiring MBAs went on the first leg to Seattle while about 50 students visited companies in the Bay Area. In between, members of the Wine Club toured a Napa Valley vineyard. "It was very professional, with two or three companies a day, but there were still opportunities for sightseeing," said Nikhil Jain (MBA '12), who headed a team of five student planners.

While on the trek, Dick had the opportunity to interview onsite for an internship he had applied for months ago, an added bonus. The trek enabled him to fine tune his career aspirations far more effectively than talking to off-campus recruiters. "It was interesting to see how much of a company's culture you can sense by just walking in the building, without even talking to anyone," Dick said. "You get a real sense of whether you want to work there."

One Tepper alum rolled out the red carpet when the students visited Microsoft's Seattle-area headquarters. Steven Novick (MBA '10), now a program manager at the software giant, led visitors on a tour of Microsoft's Home of the Future to show them how technological advances might transform life as we know it.

"It was great to visit companies where the hosts were former trek organizers," Rakas said.

At Boeing, students also watched the assembly of a "Dreamliner" 787, the company’s much-touted new aircraft, from the plant floor up. At Google, students toured the Mountain View campus and met with a group of alumni who shared their perspectives on working for the tech giant. Google also hosted interviews during the trek, as well as an evening Alumni event featuring (BS ’90) Jonathan Kaplan, who discussed Carnegie Mellon’s Open Field Entrepreneurs Fund.

Also making the rounds in Silicon Valley were 24 students in the Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Club, more than half from the Tepper School. From Jan. 9 to 11, they attended panel discussions and met with entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.

They toured the San Francisco headquarters of ModCloth, the fast-growing online vintage-inspired clothing retailer. Eric Koger (MBA ‘07) talked to them about the company he and his wife Susan Gregg Koger started in their Carnegie Mellon University dorm room. Amanda Fox, assistant director of the Donald H. Jones Center for Entrepreneurship, said Koger outlined the pitch he will make for the next round of funding.

At Tesla Motors, the red-hot Palo Alto maker of electric cars, students received an hour-long tour led by Deepak Ahuja (MBA ‘93), the chief financial officer, who showed them prototypes and the production facility.

Ray Lane, chairman of the Carnegie Mellon University board and partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, talked to students about global trends and opportunities.

Jeff Mataya (MBA ‘12) also came home from the three-day trek filled with the possibilities. “Anywhere else in the country, people talk about economic uncertainty. In certain parts of the Silicon Valley, it’s booming. You realize there is so much opportunity out there.”

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