By Ayush Singhal, Akash Veershetty, and Karthik Raju, Babson MBA students and Affinity Scholars
It is no surprise that technology has penetrated our lives, to the extent that it knows us better than we do ourselves. Technology is the new religion and Silicon Valley is the Mecca. Firm believers of this statement and looking to pursue a career in technology upon graduation, we could not let go of the opportunity to meet and learn from the industry experts at the Babson Connect in San Francisco. Company treks to Airbnb, Adobe, Facebook and Google were the icing on the cake. These treks helped us to experience the work culture in the Silicon Valley, witness disruption in technology and build connections in the Valley.
Heading from Boston to San Francisco, from an insistence on formality to a culture of free-to-be-me, on day one of our trip, the first thing we noticed was that most of us were over dressed!
It is said that our ideas about who we are and how we should feel are shaped by our local environment. At Airbnb, they take this notion quite literally. Airbnb’s San Francisco office is made of countless number of conferences or work units, each uniquely designed to represent their actual listings around the globe. The thought is to make their employees feel closer to their customers and work. Adobe, on the other hand has its office in the Baker-Hamilton building, a historic landmark in downtown San Francisco. We were surprised to see the diversity in the pool of talent at Adobe, which had all kinds, right from street artists to software engineers. After a long flight, two company treks it was time for the Babson Connect.
The Babson Connect in Babson’s SF campus was an enthralling experience where we got to hear from French entrepreneur and blogger Loïc Le Meur. Of the many life lessons that Loic spoke about, the most interesting piece was the importance of timing. This was apparent from his venture on a video application that was 9 years ahead of it’s time. We also met alumni and current students and were delighted to see the diversity in the crowd. There were individuals working at startups and tech giants as well as entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.
The next day we moved towards south of the Bay area to visit Facebook (Mountain View), which has a wider and more open campus with space for almost everything. “Here at Facebook, no problem is someone else’s problem” described Babson Alum Pete Fleming when asked about the company’s work culture. However large Facebook may be, the entrepreneurial spirit is ubiquitous. This was evident when the employees we spoke to described their typical work day where they arrive at work not having a set of tasks or being told by someone what needs to be done but are given the autonomy to do what is best for the company. This high degree of autonomy gives employees the freedom to be highly creative and take risks, thus leading to innovation, an imperative need in the technology industry that is constantly being disrupted. The employees choose the projects to work on and most of the projects are driven by ambiguity. A tolerance for ambiguity is a key ingredient for any entrepreneur and all our learnings in Babson about Entrepreneurial Thought and Action were clearly visible in the major tech companies of the silicon valley which reinforced our belief that entrepreneurship isn’t about just starting a business but it is also what makes large organizations thrive and be sustainable. Another aspect that stood out in the office space was that all the roofs and flooring in the workspaces were left unfinished which signifies that at Facebook, your work is never finished and there is always something that needs to be done.
Our final trek was to Google, the hub for innovation and disruption. As we were walking around the campus, we noticed a few employees who were working on product development walking around the campus asking people to use the product and for their feedback. We realized the importance of feedback, repetitive iterations and market testing that goes into developing a product. We have seen on innumerable occasions in the past excellent products that fail simply because users cannot comprehend how to use the product which is a result of product managers not knowing the customers pain points or simply because they did not ask for feedback. Another common theme we saw in Google as we did in other companies is the high degree of autonomy and ambiguity that employees work and thrive in. We can safely say that there is indeed a paradigm shift in the way large organizations are constantly trying to function like start-ups and the results are there for everyone to see.
“It was great to show the Babson MBAs around Google! I am always impressed with the caliber of questions that come out of sessions like this, from brainstorming potential next projects, to understanding how different roles can work together in unique ways, it is clear the entrepreneurial mindset runs deep.” -Jon Morgan, Product Manager at Google, Babson MBA Class of 2014
At the end of the trip, we got a better understanding of how entrepreneurial spirit can successfully run large organizations. Life lessons from Loïc Le Meur about timing and how people invest in the team and not in the product were eye opening. We got much more than what we expected from the trip. This would not have been possible without Graduate CCD and Graduate Affinity Scholarship. Thank you for organizing this!