IESE Meets the Valley (IMTV) is one of the most popular career treks at IESE taking place over Easter. This year is no exception, with the MBA students visiting a host of new companies. Jean Benchimol (MBA Class of 2019) gives a detailed account of his memorable week in Silicon Valley.
8:30, Blue Bottle Coffee, 66 Mint St. This is where and when everything began. Great building, fabulous lobby, amazing view. Even better than that, was our host, David Hadley, MBA 2015, currently working at AppDirect. While it took some of us a while to truly understand what AppDirect does, which David confessed that took him two months to get the full picture, we could see the benefits of the tool, their strategy, their structure, and, best of all, David´s passion for working there and in San Francisco. Our next visit was to Zillow, a real estate startup, that has 12 brands working in their umbrella. We were greeted by six amazing people, from engineers to HR. From them, we got to know a lot about how Zillow are aiming to become the US´s largest real estate portal, by linking real estate agents with buyers and sellers, and even granting mortgages.
From Zillow, to Y Combinator, which is one of the biggest startup incubators, where many startups and unicorns are born and raised, such as Dropbox and Airbnb. Their methodology is simple: 3 months’ work, advice from the best in the field, a check for 7% of equity. Of course, the opportunities are there and the risks are huge, but, if you have an idea, they are looking for their next unicorn. We ended the day with the best dinner at Dropbox, one business day after their IPO. What great timing! Their office has everything you can imagine in a tech company – not just a regular ping-pong table and the terrace with San Francisco´s Financial District amazing view but also a gym, karaoke room and even Michelin Start restaurants. Dropbox is also currently putting the spotlight on women in business, and showcasing their own female workers. It was admirable to see this in top organization. As Dropbox´s essence and business mission is sharing and collaborating, our host, Nicole Obst, MBA 2013, clearly embodies that spirit by giving back to the IESE community and being our guide for the day. Nicole had the privilege to grow Dropbox from a staff of 5 to more then 100 in one year after she graduated from her IESE MBA, and is now leading teams in SF. It was reassuring for us students to see the possibility of a successful transition to the tech industry.
Having no time to sightsee, next morning was dedicated to design thinking: we visited InVision App at a WeWork collaborative workplace, and Propelland, at their office. At the afternoon we went to Splunk, where Robb Bittner, MBA 1998, hosted us with a fun presentation, explaining how he deals with Big Data, and how Splunk is transforming the way their clients operate. The day ended at General Catalyst, where we could understand better how a VC works.
Wednesday was the busiest day: some of us visited Slack and got the opportunity to meet Josh Wills, the third “most wanted” developer in the Valley, and got the opportunity to discuss how management deals with innovations and people. After that we had a healthy lunch at Omada Health, where Adrian James, Omada´s Co-founder, led us through their best practices and taught us how big corporations can save money by simply taking care of employee´s health.
From there, straight to Asana. Ana Binder, MBA 2005, walked us through their office. Surprisingly, they have a “policy” of a no-meeting Wednesday (the meeting rooms were packed, by the way). One curiosity: since Asana´s mission is collaboration, the meeting room´s names are all collaborative words / terms, such as: Hugs, Rock, Paper, Scissors, Human Pyramid. Ana explained to us her career trajectory (even how she took a flight to Barcelona in order to get admitted in IESE), her role of human development in Asana, and gave us tips on how to get a job in the Valley after the MBA.
Later on, we took the train to Palo Alto, to Stanford. While impressed by the campus, we were most impressed by Pitch Johnson, one of the pioneers in Venture Capital, former professor at Stanford and former member of IESE´s board. Pitch welcomed us with his sympathy and humility, wanting to know every one of us, and listening to his life story was amazing.
Thursday was a thrilling day. We started by taking a bus, this time to Mountainview, Google´s HQ. We felt like children at Toys R Us, playing with the interactive floor, riding G-bikes, shopping at Google´s Store, and taking pictures with Android´s doll. Our hosts were David Riphagen, Simeon Lipner and Vicki Amin, all IESE alums, and our conversations were mainly centered around their careers, what interesting jobs they have, their work-life balance, and how similar Google is to the movie “The Interns”. It is amazing to see how Google prioritize their collaborator´s well-being, to provide the best environment to work. Next, Samsung Next, Samsung´s “startup” branch, that develops, and even acquires other tech companies to constantly innovate. We ended the day with the alumni panel, which was led by Danielle Francis, MBA 2018 and IMTV organizer, having Elie El Khoury, Ben Chehebar (founder of Compology), Ernie Borhan (VP of Lending Club) and Charmaine Hung (product TPM at Occulus) as panelists, talking about the new tech trends. It was incredible to see IESE´s reach in the US, and how IESE almus are proud to have studied in IESE, seeing the value of their education.
What a week, full of so many great companies, people, inspirational conversations, and the whole San Francisco and Silicon Valley experience. We already started planning next year´s trek. Hope you can join us!
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