Each year in December, Darden First Year students work closely with recruiters to plan Job Treks — company visits and networking opportunities — in regions around the world.
This year, students traveled to Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Washington, D.C., Denver, Houston, Minneapolis, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong. They visited the headquarters of Google, Microsoft, Bain, BCG, Nordstrom, Coach, DaVita, Target, General Mills, Kimberly-Clark and various other top companies.
Helena Kim, a Darden First Year, was one of the student coordinators for the West Coast Tech Trek. In the following post, she discusses her experiences visiting companies in Silicon Valley, San Francisco and Seattle.
“With Google topping the list of the most desirable MBA employers for seven years in a row, students’ interest in the technology sphere is higher than ever. Coming from a B2B IT firm in Asia Pacific and Silicon Valley prior to Darden and currently recruiting for tech industry, I’d like to share my experience at Darden regarding west coast tech recruiting.
In December, a group of 45 students, including myself, spent a week traveling across northern California and the Pacific Northwest to visit several companies in the technology industry.
The companies we visited were (in alphabetical order):
- Silicon Valley: eBay, Electronic Arts, Google, Groupon, LinkedIn, Netflix, Yahoo!
- San Francisco: Dropbox, Jawbone, Splunk, Thumbtack
- Seattle: Amazon, Expedia, Microsoft, Tableau
Darden alumni from those companies also hosted happy hours in Palo Alto, San Francisco and Seattle, giving students the opportunity to network with them in a more informal environment.
Each job trek is entirely student-led, meaning that it is the student trek leader’s responsibility to contact and coordinate with company representatives. This opportunity gives trek leaders great exposure to the company of their interest. I was a co-leader of the Seattle part and got to work directly with recruiters throughout the fall semester.
For each visit, companies offered various activities including:
- A corporate presentation
- Tour of company facilities (which included cool cafeterias. We ate a lot.)
- Q&A with alumni panels
- Small group discussion based on functional interest
- Mini-case prep workshop
- Networking sessions
Not only do these activities sound great, they also offer tons of benefits, which include:
A great start to off-Grounds tech recruiting
Most of west coast tech firms (especially the ones in California) don’t begin recruiting cycle until late January to even March and April, depending on company’s hiring policy. Internship headcounts are posted on ad-hoc basis, so establishing network in your target company is crucial to stay on top of the game. For companies that we couldn’t visit, we had alumni in the area who came out to the happy hour.
Indicating strong interest to companies recruiting on Grounds
Both Amazon and Microsoft actively recruit on Grounds, and large portion of students compete for the interview list. Attending a trek is both a time and financial commitment — great ways to indicate your interest in next networking call, email and your cover letter!
Comparing different corporate cultures and finding your true fit
Visiting a company in person can help you find answers to questions you normally wouldn’t ask. What is the dress code? Not all west coast tech companies let their employees wear rugged jeans and t-shirts to work. What is that company-specific jargon that you don’t understand but every presenter repeats? Maybe you thought you knew the company well based on your impression of their website, but your gut feeling speaks differently now.
Some companies and positions explicitly prefer candidates with an engineering background, while other companies embrace those with different skillsets and a strong passion for what technology can do. Some companies have well-established programs for MBAs, while other companies don’t — you have to build your own career trajectory.
While you are able to glean some of this information from conversations with recruiters and through sessions on Grounds, there are several benefits to seeing the corporate environment in person, giving you the chance to assess cultural fit firsthand.
Exploring the city
Can you see yourself living in the place where your target company is located? I’d never been to Seattle before, and I wanted to make sure that I could live through Seattle’s misty winter (then get rewarded with the most beautiful summer on this planet). I checked out a bunch of recommended coffee places, pubs, restaurants and museums. I went out to not only Darden events, but also my undergraduate alumni networking event to see if I liked Seattle’s cultural vibe.
Everyone has different criteria on their ideal location, and job treks allow you to explore your options firsthand. Many international students who had never been on the west coast attended this trip, which was a great experience for them, professionally and personally. Last not but least — as much as we love Charlottesville, it’s great to escape the cold and sport your favorite shorts in 80°F (27°C) December weather.
Learning that the technology industry is not for you
Organizing a job trek requires a huge time commitment, especially in the middle of finals and resume drops, but the feedback I received from one of the attendees made all the effort totally worth it. This person seriously considered his experiences at the company visits and made the educated decision not to pursue technology, at least for this year’s internship recruiting. Knowing what you want is great and helps you focus. Knowing what you don’t want saves you lots of energy and time — and eventually leads to better results.
Aside from the job trek, ample resources for west coast tech recruiting are provided through Darden’s Career Development Center, our alumni network, the Darden Technology Club and the Second Years who have interned at various tech companies. I am also happy to answer additional questions — you can reach me at KimJ15@darden.virginia.edu.”
Class of 2015