A trip to San Francisco with Founders4Schools

This is a guest blog by Ellie Stevenson, a student from Notre Dame High School in Scotland, who recently visited Silicon Valley after winning the Founders4Schools Appathon competition. Ellie and her team mates thought of the winning app idea Smart Wardrobe.
Day 1 – Monday 8th June
Upon the day of flying to the West Coast, we were ecstatic. We knew that no one in our school, area or country could have such an amazing opportunity such as this. After the long flight, we instantly felt the heat of the place and couldn’t wait to get to our hotel. We met the three of the Cambridge university students; Joseph, Ben and Patrick. Evgeny was due to meet us on the last day as he had end of year examinations. We also met Iria, our host from Founders4School. Having a reunion since the November awards giving was great and a chance to get to not only experience the sheer brilliance we were about to see but also get to know our university students better.
Day 2 – Tuesday 9th June
Waking up with the full effects of jetlag, we went to our first company, Square. It was very impressive as a start-up and its main objective was to keep up to date with payment methods with the square product. They offered a Coding Camp for girls to learn how to code which is a vital skill in the tech world which we found very helpful. With only visiting one of the many companies in Silicon Valley, I already realised how much companies value innovation and constantly changing their product to better suit the people using them. One of the things that struck me as being very impressive was the framed bits of scribbly scrap paper with their original ideas of Square. They took great pride in showing the idea and initial prototypes which changed into the great company that they have today. It isn’t just a rumour; companies love innovation and take great pride in it. 
We then visited Facebook which in one word was surreal. Stepping out of the greeting point into the huge campus I couldn’t believe what they had to offer. An arcade, spa, restaurants and clothing shops in your offices may sound strange to most people in Britain but was welcomed there as something that should always be there. Mainly for convenience, the employees did not have to pay for food. Facebook was inspiring in the fact they had local replicas in their campus like painting their bridges connecting buildings red, paying homage to the great ‘Golden Bridge.’
They describe themselves as the ‘hacking company’ and not in the way you would think. Hacking to the Facebook community is really just taking apart what you have and seeing it as a way to improve what you already have. Full of inspiring people, Facebook was everything you would think it was and then a bit more. There were so many employees. And they were all so happy with the company and you could tell how much they loved working there. All of the employees talked of ‘Mark’ as a friend compared to one of their bosses.
Arriving to Tesla was a different experience entirely. Straight away we realised the sheer size of the factory and the many charging stations they had in the car park. We were shown a white Model S car and how it charged. Right down to a single battery cell we were shown the metal under body to the full car’s completion. Going around on a red buggy, we were shown each stage and the impressive robots that only help with 10% of the production line as a whole but were of great convenience to the company. We actually got to see them in action making a car right in front of us which was amazing. 
Day 3 – Wednesday 10th June
Waking up on the Wednesday was quite a challenge as we had decided to get up before sunrise and hike up the Stanford Dish Trail and see the sunrise. Ironically, it rained that day when California had been having one of the worst droughts spanning two years. We all laughed and claimed we had brung the rain from Scotland to San Francisco. The hike was beautiful yet tiring so we were relived to get back into the car and drive to LinkedIn. 
I was very surprised at how much I enjoyed LinkedIn.  Aaron showed us around their offices which was literally surrounded by Google buildings as they shared the same complex. They also had an arcade and a huge catering facility and had the same cool workplace vibe. We talked to a panel of employees, with 4 of them only being there for 2 weeks on their summer internship programme.  I was impressed of how much knowledge they had of the company and where it was heading having only had 2 weeks of experience. They came from very different backgrounds and college or university degrees yet all shared the same passion to improve their product. One of the best things about Silicon Valley is that they value each member of their team to help with the overall product with not a lot of experience which was awesome for the internship programme. Interestingly, many people in Silicon Valley switch from job to job. Staying at LinkedIn for two years was considered to be a long term role, whereas in Britain many people stay in the same post in their workplace until they retire. 
Finally, we went to Google. They had the famous bikes to ride from campus to campus as their workplace really was that big. They had an 8 man bike which one person would steer and seven would pedal  and as our employee, Hai Hong,  who showed us around called it the conference bike. It was funny to think of a conference were one person had all the power to steer them wherever they wished to go. The employees were all so happy in the sense they were really happy to help with anything and were all so caring and also loved there work environment.  The place was amazing with the people in it and I really understood how Google was such a huge success in not only being a powerful search engine but a huge community in Silicon Valley and certainly beyond. 
Day 4 – Thursday 11th June
We finally realised how quick the visit was drawing to a close and how we had to indure the flight home. PayPal was a nice environment to be in where they answered all the questions they had and explained what their tech company was really all about. They too had an amazing internship programme with many opportunities’ to travel globally. They had a clear vision to help payment become simpler for everyone.  
Our final place to visit was Edmodo, an amazing education start-up which helped teachers, parents and pupils alike to connect after school and to further enhance their learning experience. The employees all really have a passion for education and to help where they can.  It was very emotional to say goodbye to Iria and the university students who we grew close to during the trip. I have took so much from this and i would like to thank Silicon Valley comes to the UK for it. After seeing everything I really want to come back and work there for good as it is so amazing and something I am very interested in. I will remember this experience forever. 

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