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Innovation first-hand

June 20, 2017

Exciting field trip to Silicon Valley

A five-day field trip to San Francisco provided 18 participants with an opportunity to experience a dynamic market first-hand. In the course of their visit to the famous Silicon Valley, they not only interacted with innovative IT trailblazers but also broadened their horizons and made new professional contacts. The field trip brought together Professional MBA students, Global Executive MBA students, and alumni - a first at the WU Executive Academy, and one that made for an exciting mix of backgrounds.

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Students in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. Photo: Maksym Lukianov

The birthplace of Google, Facebook, Tesla and Apple

Former start-ups such as Google, Facebook, Adobe, Tesla and Apple have one thing in common: They were all incubated in the same geographical region. Silicon Valley, which is often said to be the place where the future is happening, is one of the world's most important IT and high-tech hot spots. Roughly two thirds of all the venture capital in the US goes to this region on the outskirts of San Francisco.

The 18 participants in the Student Residency to San Francisco, which took place from May 7 to May 12, 2017, had the unique opportunity to experience the center of the IT industry for themselves and interact with experts from start-ups that are shaping our digital world. “The trip enabled me to immerse myself in the US economy and gain a better understanding of both the mindset of the local entrepreneurship community and the differences that exist between California and Europe,” says Dmitry Zharnikov, a student of the WU Executive Academy's Professional MBA Entrepreneurship & Innovation.

A cable car in San Francisco
A cable car in San Francisco. Photo: Natalia Zlodyreva

Visiting Google & Co

Residencies and company visits around the globe are an important part of the training provided by the WU Executive Academy. The field trip to San Francisco brought together students and alumni not only of the Global Executive MBA but also of the following Professional MBA specializations: Project Management, Marketing & Sales, Entrepreneurship & Innovation, and Finance.

During the five-day trip, the participants received a lot of exciting theoretical input. Among other things, they attended seminars on “Big Data & The Future Technology Trend” or “Project Management & Agile Management” at San Francisco State University. But the main purpose of the residency was to provide them with an opportunity to experience the business realities in Silicon Valley for themselves and to interact with the innovators there. The group visited several companies, including Skype (Microsoft), Genentech, a biotechnology corporation and DocuSign—a start-up that could revolutionize office work and was ranked 6th by the Wall Street Journal on its list of 5,900 “Next Big Things”. An undoubted highlight of the trip was the visit to Google's San Francisco Campus, during which the participants had the opportunity to compare notes with program and product managers of the group.

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The Skype logo in San Francisco. Photo: Natalia Zlodyreva

An experience that ignites the mind

“I found the trip incredibly valuable. We met people who afforded us first-hand insights into the business and cultural environments they are working in. Engaging in an open exchange of views and ideas with representatives of major companies such as Google, DocuSign or Skype was a particularly intriguing and exciting experience that has greatly helped me in reflecting on the extent to which I fit into this forward-looking world,” says Professional MBA student Natalia Balashova.

Robert Schwögelhofer, a student of the Professional MBA Entrepreneurship & Innovation, was also impressed with the trip: “It has been a great personal experience being to San Francisco and feeling the sparkling about Silicon Valley. This is a very special place, with a very special ecosystem. I really enjoyed this trip a lot!”

As diverse as possible

“Silicon Valley can in many respects serve as a role model for the European market,” says Prof. Barbara Stöttinger, Dean of the WU Executive Academy. “For one thing, the companies are very aware of the responsibility they have towards society in general. For another, the cultural environment there is one in which it goes without saying that diversity—be it in terms of gender, cultural or academic background—is highly conducive to innovation. This is a philosophy with great potential that the WU Executive Academy is also firmly committed to. Not for nothing do we place special emphasis on ensuring that our classes are as international and as diverse in nature as possible.”

Bringing together 12 nations, five degree programs and a variety of industries ranging from IT & telecommunications to banking and consulting to PR and transport, the field trip group itself provided the 18 participants with plenty of opportunity to broaden their horizons and make new contacts.

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