Career Trek Students Get a Taste of Silicon Valley
By Anna Fiorentino
January 2014 • CoolStuff
“I decided to go on the Trek to see the inner workings of startups and former startups—in particular those related to clean energy,” says Master of Engineering Management (MEM) student Brennon Costello who went on Thayer School’s “Career Trek” in December. This annual tour of companies now employing alumni in San Francisco and Silicon Valley introduces Dartmouth engineering students to potential jobs, internships, networking opportunities, events and new technologies.
Costello, who among other things got to see Tesla Motors' production line in action, dreams of someday working for Tesla in an electrical engineering role or in product management. “The trip reminded me that I don’t want to stray far from engineering in my career. It also confirmed that the business skills I’m learning in the MEM program are valuable to companies including, but not limited to, startups.”
The group returned with a taste of what it’s like to work in this West Coast technology hub, which houses an active group of Dartmouth alumni. Fourteen Thayer students, from ABs to PhDs, learned about working in organizations ranging from startups to Fortune 500 companies in a breadth of industries. Led and selected by Thayer School Career Services, the students attended both alumni events and company tours.
“We were able to visit eight companies over three days and also hosted an alumni career panel and dinner,” says Director of Career Services Jennifer St. Laurence, who also does recruiting. St. Laurence says there has been no shortage of companies looking for Dartmouth engineering talent. Students appreciated seeing the physical space of each company and the challenges alumni are facing so they can imagine working there too.
“On campus you always hear how strong the Thayer connection is. It’s times like the Career Trek that you actually are able to experience it,” says Sarah Streit, Associate Director of Career Services, who also attended this year’s Trek.
Newcomers to the Career Trek this year were BRD Motorcycles, EnerNOC, Facebook, ForSight VISION5 and Mary Davidge Associates. Returning companies included IDEO, Triple Ring Technologies and of course Tesla Motors, where an abundance of vertical integration offers students the chance to see a variety of manufacturing processes, from metal stamping to plastic molding. Tesla has been part of the Career Trek from the get-go, now employing seven Thayer alumni including Director of Vehicle Purchasing Peter Hasenkamp D’98, Th’99. Hasenkamp only wishes Thayer had offered the Career Trek program sooner.
“When I was a student going through Thayer, I would have benefited from exposure to direct manufacturing,” says Hasenkamp. “So much of what an engineer does in actual industry is design for manufacturing. It is important to have a deep understanding of how real-world manufacturing processes influence the engineering of parts.”
The Career Trek was initiated three years ago by a Dartmouth alumnus (who asked to remain anonymous) to lure more Thayer students to Silicon Valley. Seven students have since followed leads from the Career Trek to opportunities that include an internship at Cordis, graduate school at Stanford University, positions at area startups, and a consulting opportunity.
“The trip taught me that I’m willing to be flexible with the role I play in a company if the work environment is stimulating and engaging,” says Costello. “It gave me a better sense of the variety of work environments available. Now it’s clear to me that a good work environment is an important factor in choosing a job.”
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