Innovation and New Technologies in Silicon Valley
March 18-22, 2019. San Francisco – CEIBS MBAs recently travelled to the San Francisco area as part of their Silicon Valley over-seas module. The trip allowed students to enjoy some of the sights and sounds of the city before settling in for what was to be a jam packed week of lectures and company visits hosted by the University of San Francisco (USF).
Day 1: An introduction to the Valley and hearing from the founder of The North Face
Classes started bright and early Monday morning. Battling jetlag and clasping strong cups of coffee, students were taken on a whirlwind tour of the history of Silicon Valley by USF’s Rebecca Tower beginning with the origins of the Valley and stories of how early immigrants to the region – including 300,000 prospectors – sought out riches during the California Gold Rush in the 19th Century.
The afternoon session then switched gears, providing the group with an overview of the venture capital landscape of Silicon Valley. USF Professor Mark Cannice led the discussion and shared thoughts on how the way that it embraces disruptive ideas that have the potential to transform industries makes the Valley so unique. Moreover, this yearning for disruption, combined with a ready acceptance of failure among investors, helps explain what sets Silicon Valley apart from the rest of the world.
MBAs were also delighted to hear from The North Face founder Hap Klopp, who inspired the group by sharing his personal journey of being a successful entrepreneur. During his presentation, he reinforced the importance of finding the right partners and of discovering what you are passionate about and then pursuing it relentlessly. He also noted how important it is not to tell people what to do, but instead to find good people and empower them to make decisions.
The day also included a visit to Founders Space, who provided an overview of how companies have been able to use the infrastructure they provide to achieve success in the Valley. The first day closed with an entertaining meal hosted by USF and an opportunity for students to network with their USF hosts in a more relaxed setting.
Day 2: Growth solves all problems and visiting Autodesk
The second day opened with an excellent presentation from Steven Yarger, who shared with MBAs the Silicon Valley mantra of ‘Growth Solves All Problems.’ The discussion, however, moved beyond this to focus on the different stages of company growth, and how quite often companies require different skills and resources depending on which stage of the growth cycle they find themselves in. His analysis focused heavily on how the goals, operational structure, and nature of teams need to change over time.
A key insight from the discussion – and something that was repeated again and again over the course of the week – was the importance of repeatedly trying out new ideas. This process of testing and generating immediate feedback provided a way for companies to rapidly learn through testing new ideas and generating rapid feedback on the quality of their ideas.
Laurent Sellier then shared his experience as a product manager and provided insight into the work a product manager does. He also explained how his experiences at Amazon, Twitter, and currently Intuit have helped him develop an understanding of how to successfully build products that consumers love and keep coming back to.
The group was then treated to a visit of Autodesk, where they were able to see first-hand how the company uses its expertise to design incredible structures. This was followed by a visit to Obscura Digital, where participants were able to observe and experience an immersive experience and were treated to a visual bonanza of some of Obscura’s previous projects.
Day 3: Feedback from Facebook and the importance of writing your own job description
Crossing the half way point of the week, the group was already able to develop a solid understanding of the Silicon Valley landscape and understand the roles available in the Valley.
The third day in the Valley started off with a bang, as Facebook’s Gery Gutnik shared his experience of how many start-ups fail and encouraged participants to engage in a robust discussion on the Valley. He also provided an overview of how companies that constantly focus on customers and continuously reinvent themselves are the ones that end up being successful.
The afternoon brought a chance for some of the MBAs to walk around San Francisco, explore some of the working areas of leading tech giants, and experience some of the shared working spaces used by leading tech giants.
The final session of the day brought in Capital One futurist Alida Draudt, who encouraged students to think in radically different ways and to focus on imagining new realities through questioning some of the assumptions they hold true today. One great take-away from the session was around the importance of people writing their own job description – as it is highly likely the dream job you want is one you will have to create for yourself.
Day 4: Why Silicon Valley is the cradle of innovation
As the end of the week drew closer, the day began with a session from Jonathan Reichental, who shared the history of innovation in the Valley and helped put some today’s innovations in their historical perspective. He also offered his perspective on some emerging trends that will define the future and gave students a wonderful example of smart traffic management systems in action to illustrate his central analysis around how technology will help define the future.
The afternoon session brought the group together with Jonathan Littman, a thought leader in innovation and the author of several books. Jonathan helped students focus their minds around the types of roles they want to pursue in the future and encouraged them to get out of their comfort zone and to focus on developing their expertise and breadth of knowledge. Students eventually ended up outdoors, participating in lots of fun group activities before the day wrapped up.
Day 5: How Intel are embracing cloud computing and AI
The final day took CEIBS MBAs to USF’s San Jose campus, including a lecture on the key tenets of project management, as well as a visit to Intel’s campus, where they were able to hear in great detail Intel’s efforts in the areas of AI and cloud computing, to name just a few.
The week concluded with presentations from CEIBS MBA teams, who shared their key learnings and insights for what was a thoroughly insightful and enjoyable week in Silicon Valley.