When considering where to go on an MBA Technology Trek, Seattle was a no-brainer.
It wasn’t just that the city is home to some of the world’s leading technology companies, but Seattle has successfully created a technology innovation ecosystem — one that spawned many of the past few year’s largest tech IPOs. It is the philosophy of not resting on one’s laurels that has created longevity in Seattle’s companies, and provided important lessons for MBA students. My goal on a recent MIT Sloan Technology Trek was to understand the strategies, cultures, and goals that have propelled Seattle companies’ long-term success.
I recently joined 25 of my MIT classmates on an MIT Sloan Technology Trek to Seattle.
Technology is a hot area at MIT Sloan — 26 percent of the graduating class last year went into high technology jobs — so technology treks are very popular.
They are an important tool for students to learn about company cultures. However, we’re not just looking at how many hours we’ll work or how comfortable the lifestyle is. We want to feel like we’re making an impact on others in real ways, and we want to know that our MBA education is truly adding value at the organization.
Treks are a unique opportunity to ask questions and learn from employees, who are frequently alumni.
In addition to learning more about the roles of MBA grads, I also wanted to see if I could deal with Seattle’s climate. Growing up in India and living in New England for the last nine years, I knew that the Northwest would be quite different.
Even before coming to Seattle for the first time on MIT Sloan’s Tech Trek, I had a feeling that I’d like this place. I’d heard how it’s laid back and outdoorsy. Yeah, rainy weather, but I’d also heard how friendly everyone is. Having just returned from our visit, I can say that the city lived up to its reputation. I really liked the vibe.
We visited three big tech companies on our visit: Amazon, Microsoft and Groupon. They had all given formal presentations on MIT’s campus and are always in the news, so we were all pretty well-informed about them. Visiting on their home turf, however, gave us a unique opportunity to observe and experience their culture, get a feel for the environment, and ask more probing questions. We also visited the venture capital firm Madrona Venture Group, which hosted a startup panel discussion.
During my recent visit to Seattle with MIT Sloan’s Technology Club, the city impressed me as a vibrant, outdoorsy town with a dynamic technological ecosystem. And man, do Seattleites love their teams.
As a native of Boston — a city famous for its rabid sports culture — I have to hand it to Seattle, whose fans regularly cause earthquakes by cheering for their football team. (According to seismologists, Seahawks fans shook the ground under CenturyLink Field during the recent playoff game against the New Orleans Saints, causing the second Seattle fan-generated earthquake in three years.) Respect.
Fervent fans aside, what I found most striking about the city was its entrepreneurial spirit. Sure, I knew about the creative work done by Seattle’s blue chip behemoths: Microsoft and Amazon. But I hadn’t appreciated the city’s thriving startup culture.
Having grown up in Portland, I didn’t really think anything would come as much of a surprise during my career trek to Seattle with MIT Sloan’s Tech Club. After all, I had visited Seattle many times with my family over the years.
While some of my classmates were shocked at things like the weather (yes, the sun does shine here), the silent traffic (no horns!), and the abundance of coffee shops, I knew to expect these things.
Philip Simko is a first-year student in MIT Sloan’s MBA program and vice president of treks for MIT Sloan’s High Tech Club. He is currently working as an intern at Wellframe in Boston, and is interested in working in the high-tech field