Kai Wesleyan Takes on Silicon Valley [Friday]

Friday's reflections are written by:  Aidan Martinez '17, Alex Garcia '17, Amy Zhang '15, Paticha Areepipatkul '18, Korkid (Krid) Akepanidtaworn '18, Mia Deng '17. Students visited QuestBridge, Facebook, VMware, CharePoint, and the d.School.

Aidan’s Reflection [QuestBridge]

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I am a Quest Scholar, a former liaison, and an upcoming summer intern, so this was a very special stop for me. I know this organization from the top to bottom and really thought this would benefit our trip to Silicon Valley. When Alex asked if it would be possible to stop by QuestBridge I worked immediately to set it up. The stop was important not only because the founders are important social entrepreneurs, but also because many people still don’t know about the important work QuestBridge does.

I do a lot of work on class back at Wes and creating awareness is an important step forward in talking about class issues. I really appreciated that this wasn’t a “here is how we help poor kids” session, but rather a “here is how we reach out to those who need the most help.” I know that Wesleyan relies a lot on Quest to diversify their applicant pool, not only in terms of low-income, but also in regards to geography. Quite a few Quest Scholars on campus are from the deep south, the midwest, the southwest, and the north west, which is different from the typical New England/New York majority that makes up the class. Kai works to diversify the entrepreneurial field and by learning about how an organization like Quest goes across the country to find the diamonds in the rough, we’ve been inspired to create the right tools and programs to serve Kai’s mission.

Alex’s Reflection [Facebook]

Alex is a member of the class of 2017 from San Diego, CA majoring in Political Economy in the College of East Asian Studies. He's a founding member of WeStudee, and education startup in Hartford, and the Co-President of Kai Entrepreneurship Wesleyan. 

After Questbridge we went on to see Lisa Sy and Ling Ke ‘13 who are two recent Wesleyan alums working at Facebook. A designer and engineer duo respectively, they excitedly showed us around the Facebook campus while catching up on Wes campus news and culture. We did a lot of walking. Facebook Headquarters is a sprawling campus with big open spaces and a very light and cartoonish design scheme. As we walked through campus it felt very warm and familiar, as if I had been there many times before. And as I would soon discover, it was partly because I have. Disney imagineers designed Facebook HQ, Ling explained, so as we walked along Facebook’s version of main street USA it was understandable that I couldn’t help but be reminded of my childhood visits to the “happiest place on earth.”

Lined up on the sides of the street are restaurants, little refreshment stands, gym equipment, print studios, and of course work spaces. Even more impressive is that they are all completely free and available to employees and guests. One Wesleyan student remarked “it was capitalism at it’s finest,” as it was making the campus an irresistible place to be, thus keeping employees working longer. And I’d have to say I too would be prone to accidentally working long hours there—the campus seemed like everything but a workplace!

    We continued going from one iconic Facebook stop to another. Lisa and I were both surprised at how professionally Ling was leading the tour, and after our joking he went on to disclose that he looked at the Facebook “How to Give a Tour” wiki site before we came. So with that wiki knowledge fresh in his mind, he went into the history and intricacies of the Facebook campus and it’s culture with Lisa nicely complementing the facts with her own anecdotes. From working on design at Facebook to her transition from Wesleyan to working life in the Bay area, Lisa, an American Studies major, is a living example of how beautifully a humanities background can fit into tech.

It excited me that creativity and the “can-do” attitude didn’t have to die in college, even at big corporations like Facebook. This stop really helped dispel my notions of corporate blandness and Lisa and Ling really are great examples of recent graduates fitting right into the tech scene!

Amy’s Reflection [ChargePoint, D-School]

Amy Zhang is a senior double majoring in anthropology and environmental studies. Originally from Hong Kong, she's interested in creative ways to get involved with social and political issues, from writing to tech. On campus, she is the co editor-in-chief of Stethoscope Press, Wesleyan's student run publishing press. 

In front of a tesla model s.

In front of a tesla model s.

In high school, I watched “Who Killed the Electric Car?”, a documentary on the demise of the electric car in California in the late 1990s after a short stint of popularity. Hearing about ChargePoint’s work of supplying electric car charging stations was a great follow up to that. Michael DiNucci, the Senior Vice President of Sales,  explained how ChargePoint sells stations to businesses and big stores, and how they are unveiling new home charging stations. He brought up some interesting thoughts on trends and the speed of innovation--is Facebook going to be dead by the time our generation reaches parenting age? In 1989, cell phones were huge and bulky, but now everyone has a tiny and sleek one--is that where EV cars are going? I left the meeting with a hopeful feeling in that such a strong company is building an infrastructure for a less car polluting future.

    Our tour of Stanford Design School broadened my thoughts on how design thinking can work. As we were lead around the awesome facilities by Ade Mabogunje, the Associate Director,  we walked into a group of students doing improv. I was surprised to see this in a design school, where I thought people would be on their computers or prototyping. But Ade explained that in order to figure out all design possibilities, people had to be in tune with their bodies, and what better way is there to imagine the future with new products in it than to act them out? It really got me thinking about how I can create environments that make me think outside the box. We also did a fun mini design exercise--Ade gave each of us a piece of aluminum foil and asked us to make an object for a loved one, in two minutes. It was interesting to see the spectrum of ways in which we interpreted our objects, from ties to teapots--we were all designers for that short time!

Paticha's Reflection  [Facebook, VM Ware] 

Paticha is a member of the class of 2018 from Thailand, Bangkok majoring in Psychology and Economics. She is also a founding member of WeStudee, a study partnering application. 

Today we visited two companies with almost opposite culture and vibes. Visiting Facebook HQ feels like going to a college campus because of the interaction between people there and how the place is structured. We are told that the designers of the campus are from the same team that designed Disney World, so there is a comedic twist to the place. There is a strong vibe of always learning here, emphasizing on growth in each individual. One thing that struck me was that at Facebook there is no such thing as fixed desk hours. The company measures the success of employees by how much they learn and the impact they’ve created for the company. I really like this concept because, just like college, there are rooms for creativity as well as mistakes. I think this is a great way to grow as an individual and as a community as a whole.

Another place we visited was VMware. It has a more organizational structure of their workspace with huge offices and a gym. Their company emphasis is on sustainability; there was green space everywhere I looked. They also hosted events for the community based on nature and green space landscaping, giving the impression of love-the-earth vibe.

Krid’s Reflection [VM Ware, ChargePoint]

Krid is a member of the class of 2018 from Bangkok, Thailand planning to major in Economics and Mathematics. 

Another day of excitement has come. After having toured Facebook, we went to VM Ware, a U.S. software company that provides cloud and virtualization software and services. Jeff Goodall is really friendly and very welcoming, leading our team to browse around the company and telling us opportunities the company provided for young and talented individuals. He also gets to take a selfie with us after the company tour finishes! 

We then proceeded to ChargePoint, an electric vehicle (EV) charging network with over 20,900 locations all over America. Michael DiNucci, brother of David DiNucci (Box.com), gives us valuable advice on how to choose our future career and how to be successful in interviewing. I was amazed when he told us that he started an Ice-Cream business right after graduating from college. He has always believed in what he is passionate in and what he is capable of. In addition, he also shared with us his experiences from interviewing at his first job, and what we should think and do when it comes to interviewing. It was such a pleasure to meet both entrepreneurs! Not only did we experience how the real working environment in top companies are like, but we also got tips and word-of-advice that will be very useful both in academic and career settings.  

Mia’s Reflection [d.School]

Mia is a member of the class of 2017 from Beijing, China majoring in Computer Science and Psychology. She is a Kai Fellow and co-teaches the student forum "Innovation Through Design Thinking" 

As one part of Kai’s initiatives, I have been co-teaching a student forum on Human-Centered Design with two other students. (our website: www.wesdesignthinking.tumblr.com) Meeting Ade and visiting the d.school have taken my understanding of ‘human-centered design’ to another level.

First, Ade took us on a tour in the d.school building - most arrangements here are deliberate and psychological for nurturing design ideas. For instance, the wall of the faculty office is glass because transparency creates a sense of accessibility. Walking into the center of where designing happens, we see an abundance of white boards, markers, post-its, and all sorts of prototyping materials. Ade explained that a sense of abundance makes people more generous, on top of fostering a more creative state of mind. We also see students at the d.school using drama as one of the role-play techniques under the prototype phase. According to Ade, drama is a great way to engineer human cognitions and mimic future.

After the tour ended, I couldn’t help myself from asking questions and speaking to Ade. He was a mechanical engineering student in Nigeria and now in his position as associate director of the d.School, is a mentor of many design-thinkers. What I really liked what that he really values the importance of cultural understanding and empathy with the self before empathizing with others. Talking to him made me reflect about my own student forum. I think my biggest take-away is that design thinking is not some knowledge that you can immediately implement after learning about it - it’s a type of mentality and awareness which makes designers fearless about failures, and to focus on self perception before starting to design for others.