On 8 March, 35 students from Diploma in Financial Informatics (DFI) travelled to San Francisco, California for an enterprise immersion program. The objective of this trip was for students to be immersed in American culture and learn about entrepreneurship. Now San Francisco may not ring any bells, but the bay area of SF is also known as Silicon Valley, the valley of entrepreneurship and innovation. Organised by our lecturers, the trip lasted a total of 21 days.
The trip's learning environment was very different from SP's. In Silicon Valley, we were encouraged to boldly ask questions when in doubt. Initially, while we were still clinging on to the "When teacher speaks, no one else does" culture, the professor gave hints and prompts to get us talking. This type of learning was not only encouraged by that one professor, but by every other individual who spoke to us. And if there was one takeaway everyone would definitely remember, it was the fact that dumb questions don't exist in America. That was the learning culture.
Conducting lectures were not only confined to a classroom setting. Some were delivered in briefing rooms, conference halls, private dining rooms, and sometimes during the bus ride. These places were provided by universities such as Stanford, Berkeley, and University of California San Francisco (UCSF). Some lessons were delivered on a flipchart. Some were demonstrated on a blackboard with chalk. It was a very different learning experience.
Genentech Hall of UCSF
Berkeley Faculty Club
We were also given the opportunity to experience the corporate cultures of different companies. Some places visited are the Apple store in Palo Alto, where we got exclusive access to corporate briefing rooms within the stores, a tour led by fantastic Apple staff, and a hands-on experience on the latest products.
Another visit definitely worth sharing is Google, also known to be the best company to work for. We immersed ourselves in the environment and culture of the Googleplex (Google’s headquarters) in Mountain View, where we had a detailed tour around the campus and also the opportunity to meddle with some products, like Chromebook and Google Earth. Also within the Googleplex were Android lawn statues (I had to Google search for this official name), where there were large plastic statues of desserts on display. They are based on the different versions of Android system. Just taking pictures of the statues allowed us to learn more about the previous versions of Android, like Cupcake and Donut.
”There, that’s SP’s stadium!”
Other companies we visited are Cisco, Oracle, Motiv, nestGSV, Plug N Play, Citibank, Fenwick & West, and Facebook.
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One of Citibank’s branches
Citigroup Center in the financial district of Palo Alto
”So, that’s what I do at Plug n Play.”
Oracle’s café. They must serve good coffee!
Business students having a “conference” using Cisco’s telepresence system.
There was time for sight-seeing too. Throughout the trip, we visited many attractions like Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Palace of the Fine Arts, and Yosemite National Park. The time of visit to the Golden Gate Bridge was perfect as there were clear skies and sunny weather, ensuring full visibility of the whole bridge. It was a rare moment, as the weather constantly changed in San Francisco. Sometimes, fog covered the lower half of the bridge, leaving the image of a “floating” bridge.
Golden Gate Bridge with the perfect weather
Fisherman’s Wharf was a popular attraction with a unique history. We spent an evening there, enjoying the weather, admiring the beautiful sights, buying souvenirs, and of course, eating the seafood. For most of us, it was our first time indulging in the famous Dungeness Crabs.
Pier 39 of Fisherman’s Wharf
The Palace of the Fine Arts was a hot spot for photo taking, as the palace had amazing architecture (What’s left of it anyway). It was a place of serenity. Walking around the palace brought peace and calmness to one’s self.
The dome of the Palace of the Fine Arts
The trip to Yosemite Park was a very memorable one. Not only was it remembered for its breath-taking views and natural environment, the 4 hour bus ride was just as memorable. We spent more time travelling than sight-seeing on that day. However, the trip was worth the long wait. Yosemite Park was simply fascinating. The waterfalls, the animals, the cool air, the pure water; it was nature at its best.
Actually, shopping was also an objective of the trip, but it was secondary. Still, everyone had a rewarding shopping experience. Some malls visited were Stanford Mall, Great Mall, and Livermore.
Strategic planning of our shopping route at Livermore
In a short span of 3 weeks, we have gained a deeper understanding of entrepreneurship and innovation. We have experienced the US culture. We have become more independent and mature. We are a step closer to being world-ready.
Contributed by Ng Jian Zhi, DFI Year 3 Student