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Columbia MBAs Soak Up The West Coast Way

Columbia Business School MBA students on their 2016 swing through West Coast companies

DIFFERENT KINDS OF FACE TIME 

The trek is constantly evolving, Resnick says, just as the business and tech landscapes are constantly shifting. A big change implemented this year, de Vries says, is a series of four informal, role-based dinners with professionals.

“On the trek there’s only so much time for a company visit, and there are so many students in the room,” de Vries says. “In order to connect on a more personal level, we facilitated four dinners around product, marketing and sales, business development, and business operations. Learning more about their day-to-day work and personal lives was amazing. We heard feedback of this session being the most enjoyable session of the week for students, so this and similar-type sessions would be worth doing during future editions.”

Amrinder Chawla, Class of 2018, says he and other organizers have done a “stellar” job in implementing the dinners and other aspects of the trek, which he says has “more than lived up to expectations.”

“The only thing I would change would maybe be to schedule the trek a few days after New Year’s eve,” Chawla says, “as some people at these companies aren’t back from winter break. However, having said that, doing the trek in this week has also allowed us to get far more face time with the executives and teams at these companies than we would have if we were visiting during busier periods.”

‘REAL DIFFERENCES IN THE CULTURE’

Amrinder Chawla

Chawla says he has been genuinely surprised by the value tech companies place in MBA students and how MBAs proliferate across different functional areas in each. “Going into the trek,” he says, “I was under the assumption that most MBAs at tech companies are broadly bucketed into two categories: those with technical, engineering backgrounds who work on product and those with non-technical, engineering backgrounds who work in sales. It has been quite refreshing to see the wide variety of opportunities that MBA students like myself can pursue outside these two categories.”

That’s in keeping with what Resnick calls the main goal of the trek. “The whole reason for this trip,” she says, “is really about education and about understanding what’s happening here so students can be conversant in what’s happening here, how maybe this ecosystem is different than the East Coast, because there is such a huge tech scene there now and that’s really exciting and students have options, and a lot of the companies that started here now have major offices in the East.”

Resnick mentions a dinner earlier in the week with 95 alumni of Columbia Business School, held at a WeWork space in the Mission district of San Francisco. “The key is also building the network, and so last night with all these alumni that was really crucial in terms of students really getting the real deal,” she says.

“So what is it really like to work at these companies? There are real differences in the culture, and it’s those relationships that will be important for them securing things that are outside of the local market.”

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