Over fall break 12 enterprising Grinnellians toured Silicon Valley, hosted by alumni working in the heart of high-tech innovation.
The students competed for positions on the trip, a pilot project originally suggested by students and coordinated by Arlene Holmes, assistant director of alumni relations for career development programs.
The trip is designed to provide opportunities for the students to further their personal career goals. “In addition to meeting Bay Area Grinnellians, the students will learn about entrepreneurship from alumni investors and business leaders, as well as tour businesses and non-profit agencies as guests of alumni,” Holmes says. Among other topics, “they will be learning about financing a start-up, the stages of business, and the Silicon Valley business model,” she adds.
“The purpose of this trip,” says Mark Peltz, director of career development, “is perfectly suited to students who have already identified the general areas they want to pursue, but are exploring ways to join their talents, strengths, and interests together into a satisfying career. It gives them an opportunity to get an insider’s look into leading companies and a chance to talk to industry players.”
The alumni hosting and teaching the students represent 50 years of successful Grinnellians, with graduates from each decade from the ’60s to the Class of 2012. They offer experience and expertise in a range of professional careers, including technical, educational, financial, management, administrative, and investing roles.
Not surprisingly, many of the students who applied for the trip are majoring in computer science, but the group also includes students with majors in the humanities and social sciences. For instance, Corina Varlan ’14, a political science major, is fascinated by the intersection between technology and politics, an area she has first-hand experience in due to internships with the vice president of state public policy and government relations at Verizon and with the permanent mission of Romania to the United Nations. “I have witnessed what a great bearing politics has in our use of technology and how technology is revolutionizing so many aspects of our lives such that the policymakers simply cannot ignore it,” she says.
As the students learn more about the opportunities available to them, “they will hopefully return with more crystalized ideas of what they want to do. For many of them, we hope, the next step will be a deeper commitment to a specific area — in an internship, for example, or through full-time work,” says Peltz. Grinnell alumni and the Career Development Office stand ready to help them.
See photos from their earlier travels on Facebook.