A little over a week ago I organized and co-led Columbia’s Silicon Valley Trip. This was the school’s 13th year heading west to explore career opportunities. We had 40+ students that visited 14 companies over 3 jam packed days. This year’s lineup was pretty spectacular. Here is a recap of the highlights.

Day 1

Tech trek:

  • Zynga: We spoke with product managers from both FarmVille and FishVille, and heard from their university recruiting team. Bing Gordon from Kleiner Perkins (and from Zynga’s board) made a guest appearance near the end to give some career advice and thoughts on how to be a rockstar in our next job.
  • Meebo: CEO and Co-founder Seth Sternberg shared his stories of trial and error in launching Meebo. We had a number of students thinking of starting their own companies after graduation, and Seth’s advice was to keep it simple and get some traction before pursuing funding and before dropping out of b-school (as he did at Stanford).
  • Adobe: CFO, Mark Garrett, addressed a large group of students (Columbia, Duke, Wharton, USC) in their auditorium, followed by a panel of employees who recently finished b-school. One was a CBS alum, Brad Arkin, who works on security. I assume he’s pretty swamped right now with these cyber attacks from China.

Green trek:

  • IDEO & Blue Skye: I didn’t attend these visits, but heard they were great.

The day 1 evening event:

We had an alumni reception at the Autodesk Gallery at One Market Street in San Francisco. Professor Jonathan Knee stopped by to give some remarks and to promote his new book, The Curse of the Mogul. We had somewhere around 40-50 alumni show up, which made for a great evening. When I was applying to Columbia one factor that convinced me to attend is that the Bay Area is the second largest source of alumni for the school (with NYC being first of course) – or at least that’s what the admissions office told me.

Day 2

Tech trek:

  • Yahoo: We were hosted by the university recruiting team and spoke with a panel of employees (mostly Columbia alumni) from different groups within Yahoo. This included Ron Sandel (CBS ‘05), who helped me setup the visit. One big surprise was that we saw co-founders Jerry Yang and David Filo and experienced a 4.2 earthquake all within about an hour’s time.
  • VMWare: I was surprised by how beautiful their campus is on the corner of Hillview and Foothill expressway in Palo Alto. We had a chance to speak with their partnerships group, product management, marketing, and corporate development. VMWare seems to be in a good position as companies continue to shift towards cloud computing.
  • Google: My friend and former colleague Nick Corman (CBS ‘05) helped to setup a campus tour and alumni panel at Google. When I was talking to Nick about setting this up, I was surprised to find that there are approximately a dozen Columbia Business School alumni in Google’s Mountain View office and about a dozen in their New York City office.

Green trek:

  • Khosla Ventures and Bloom Energy: Again, I didn’t attend these visits, but heard they were really good.

The day 2 evening event:
Gina and Dan from Columbia’s career management center helped organize an alumni center capital panel at the Sheraton in Palo Alto. This included Dylan Steeg from Intel Capital, Oleg Kaganovich from DFJ Frontier, and Maneesh Sagar from Visium. It was a fun and lively discussion, followed by dinner at NOLAs in Palo Alto.

Day 3

  • Facebook (tech trek): I didn’t attend this, as I went to Tesla. However, I helped to set it up and know that the speakers discussed Facebook’s monetization efforts.
  • Tesla Motors (green trek): We met with a group from Tesla’s Finance and Sales group in their Menlo Park showroom. It was cool getting to check out the Roadster and hearing about the Model S.
  • eBay: Of all the companies we visited eBay seemed to be buzzing with the most energy. We had an alumni panel with people from product management, product marketing, and corporate development.
  • Apple: The first speaker at Apple was a woman from Apple’s new internal “Apple University” effort. They recently hired the dean of Yale’s business school to develop the curriculum and are looking for summer interns to help develop content for the program. We also heard from people in product marketing and finance, and they let us take advantage of their company discount at their very own Apple Store.