This is a guest blog by Claire Higgins, a student from Notre Dame High School in Scotland, who recently visited Silicon Valley after winning the Founders4Schools Appathon competition. Claire and her team mates thought of the winning app idea Smart Wardrobe.
Monday morning rolled around after much anticipation and excitement about the trip. The 4:30 morning wake up was a tiring but welcome experience as we were buzzing about going to California. We were all incredibly excited for the trip despite the fact that some of us had already been to the States- the west coast was unfamiliar ground to all of us. The fifteen hours’ worth of traveling felt longer than we had expected, probably because we just wanted to get to San Francisco as soon as possible. When we eventually arrived and collected what luggage we had, we went to meet Iria from founders4school and the Cambridge University team; Ben, Joseph and Patrick. The Cambridge teams 4th member was still finishing is first set of exams and so was meeting us on the Wednesday night. We got to see different parts of San Francisco which was amazing as none of us had ever visited the city. We went shopping and walked down to Fisherman’s Warf where we could see Alcatraz across the water. We were all exhausted and extremely jetlagged by the end of the day, and so we were relieved when we got back to our hotel rooms.
On Tuesday we attempted to wake up at 7:45. When we were ready, our driver Jason drove us to our first company, Square. We were very excited despite our tiredness. In Square, we had an amazing breakfast- which was also free! Our tour guide, Megan, was an employee who has been working at Square for just over a year. She and a current intern showed us around the amazing offices before taking us to a conference room to talk to another two square employees. They told us the story of how square started and how much more advanced the UK are in payment methods as in the US you still have to swipe your credit/debit card and sign the receipt. They spoke to us about their goals, which is to have everyone paying bills on their smartphones with their product.
Then, we went to the wonderful world of Facebook. First, we were taken onto campus by two engineers who showed us all the options we had for lunch, which (like Square) was unbelievably free! We sat down and spoke to them about what they do at Facebook and what it’s like to work at such a big, well known company. We also went to the Facebook shop to buy some souvenirs. Then, we were shown around the campus by another Facebook employee who also told us what the main offices and teams were and what they do. We were particularly surprised about how the Employees didn’t have any set working hours, as long as they were working on something and were making an impact, which we soon found out was the way most companies worked.
Our final tour of the day was tesla where we were told the history of the company, how the tesla car is made and even got a picture inside one! We were given a tour of the factory and were told what each machines job was. None of us had ever been to a car manufacturer’s factory before and so found it incredibly interesting to see how the cars were built.
By the end of the day, we were all very tired, so after a quick mean at a close by pizzeria, were glad to go to bed.
On Wednesday, we had to wake up at 5:30 to go on the Stanford Dish trail. From 06:30 to 07:50 we walked the 4.6 mile trail before heading to LinkedIn.
Our tour guide, Aaron, who works in the marketing side of the company, took us to breakfast, where the food choices were endless. After breakfast, he gave us a tour of the offices and games room before taking us into a conference room to talk to current employees and interns. They spoke to us about what they like about the company, what their job is at the company and how their job makes an impact. We found this extremely helpful as it gave us a better idea of what careers we may or may not want to pursue when we’re older.
After LinkedIn, we walked down the street to Google. At Google, we had lunch with 2 employees who told us all about their job and department at Google. We were also told about how voice recognition works and how they feel it’s becoming a bigger part of today’s society. We were shown around the visitors centre and told a bit more about Google (its history etc.) before going back to the hotel for a few hours free time.
On Wednesday night we all went bowling before meeting Evgeny, which was fun. Once he arrived we went to a BBQ type restaurant, before heading back to the hotel.
On Thursday, we went to Paypal and Edmodo. We were all tired and dreading the long flight home later that day.
At Paypal, we were shown around the campus by two employees. We also spoke to them in a large conference room about the advantages of working at Paypal, what each group of people do and their own personal life’s history. It was interesting to learn how each team work differently from each other.
After Paypal we went to Edmodo where we had lunch. We were then brought into a conference room where we spoke about our idea before learning about Edmodo and what each person’s role is in the company. The university team had to leave early as they were going on a road trip to LA to visit other places such as SpaceX, which they had organised themselves. When they left, we got a tour of the offices.
After Edmodo, we had to say goodbye to Iria as she was going back to San Francisco for a few days. We were driven back to the airport where we began to make our way back home.
We all arrived back home on the Friday afternoon at around 2:30 UK time and we were extremely excited to tell our friends and family all about the incredible experience.
Going to California really gave me an idea about what I want to do when I’m older. I’ve always thought about doing engineering, and this has helped me narrow down what types I may want to do as a job when I leave school. I really loved going to all the companies as it’s a once in a lifetime experience, and I know that I was really lucky to get the opportunity to go. It’s also shown me how different businesses are in the UK, as in Silicon Valley it’s all very casual and chill. When I was there I never felt unwelcome and everyone who we met made it easy to feel comfortable in such a big place. I really did love the trip and want to thank Appathon for giving us the opportunity to go.