Why These Schools Are Trying To Elbow Their Way Into Silicon Valley

Dropbox SWAG. Photo by Nathan Allen

‘FREE FOOD’ AND ‘WEARING JEANS’ ARE PERKS FOR STUDENTS

Driving the current increase in tech interest among business students comes down to culture and familiarity, Bugno says. Current college students were in elementary school when Facebook was launched, Bugno points out. “They have been living with this their whole adolescent lives,” she says. “I think they just see that this is the future and they want to be on the cutting edge and want to be involved in things that are going to change the world. And they see technology as an area to do that.”

Plus, the laid-back culture helps.

“They know about the culture and that they still work really hard and are still surrounded by very smart people doing big things,” Bugno says. “But they’re able to wear jeans and they have free food provided to them and all of those little perks that have become Silicon Valley.”

Ronak Pipaliya, a junior at Kenan-Flagler had never been to California before last March’s spring break trip. Originally from Atlanta, Pipaliya says most of his preconceived notions of what the Bay Area might be like were based on what he had seen on HBO’s Silicon Valley. Some people he had talked to prior to the trip said the hyperbolized show was still based in some truths.

“It was surprising to see that it wasn’t exactly like that,” Pipaliya says. “People really cared about everything they were working with. I was also surprised to see how passionate everyone was about the impact product are having beyond profits.”

That evaluation is something Bugno says they encourage. In between visits, students and career services staff members are having conversations about the tours. One thing in particular current students noticed that previous generations have not, Bugno says, is where executives and managers are physically located. “Are they on the same floor as their employees or are they in the penthouse offices or even off site,” Bugno says. “Even if the students are at the bottom of the totem pole, they want to have access to those higher up than them. They want to be listened to.”

NARROWING DOWN A CAREER PATH

Above all, Bugno says a successful trip means students feel closer to a career path — whether that leads through Silicon Valley or not.

“Whether a student comes out of the trip and says this is exactly what they want to do or this is what they don’t want to do, I view that as equally successful,” Bugno says.

Compared to consulting or banking treks, though, Bugno says none of the students she talked to totally wrote off pursuing a career in tech on the West Coast.

“I left not wanting to rule out the Bay Area as somewhere I would like to work,” says Claudia Opper, a freshman at North Carolina. Opper, a North Carolina-native says she fell in love with San Francisco’s Mission District and the way she sees tech as a way to improve the lives of others. “There are some cool projects these companies are doing that are closing divides and giving access to people,” she says, noting the trip has “elevated” her interest in the West Coast and the industry.

For Pipaliya, who will be interning at Bank of America this summer, he’s also open but hesitant to leave banking.

“One thing I was looking for was after banking was could I see myself working in Silicon Valley? And I definitely think I could if I chose to do that.”

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