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Buckeye Trek 2018: Buckeyes in the Bay Area

Photo of Mitchell Giese in San Francisco, CAMitchell Giese, Computer Science and Engineering student

This week’s blog features Mitchell Giese, a third year Computer Science and Engineering student graduating in December 2019. Over fall break, Mitchell was selected to attend the annual Buckeye Trek event in San Francisco, CA area. Buckeye Trek is an initiative to send some of the best and brightest CSE students from Ohio State to Silicon Valley to soak up the environment of innovation and entrepreneurship. On this year’s Buckeye Trek, Mitchell and other students visited a total of 12 companies including:

  • Clockwise
  • Riviera
  • Lyft
  • Twitter
  • Microsoft
  • Box
  • Facebook
  • Intel
  • Percolate
  • Quid
  • Zendesk
  • Google

A typical company visit included a tour of their office space, an info session with university recruiting, Q&A with a panel of current employees, and networking time.

Based on your visits, what do tech companies in the Bay area look for in candidates?

Most of the companies we visited expressed that they were more interested in your ability to solve problems than your knowledge of specific languages or their technology stack. They are looking for doers, candidates who find problems and figure out how they can use technology to solve them. They want to see hackathons and personal projects on your resume, and stuff like a personal website or active github with recent commits doesn’t hurt. To be successful in interviews, they recommended reviewing algorithms and data structures, but more importantly doing practice problems. Candidates who stood out to them had been grinding problems on LeetCode and doing mock technical interviews.

Can you share your thoughts on the Bay area culture?

Personally, I loved the culture in the Bay area, and found it to be very different from the traditional Midwest environment. The biggest difference I noted was the tolerance for risk. People in the valley weren’t afraid to leave their stagnant but stable jobs to pursue something newer or bigger. They weren’t afraid to start something from scratch or explore uncharted problems. I would attribute this aspect of the culture to the fact that the Bay area is dense with talent and opportunities. You are surrounded by other talented individuals that make taking on new challenges not just possible but very rewarding.  I found that people moved faster out there as well. With such a concentrated wealth of knowledge things seemed possible that would be nearly impossible elsewhere. I felt the most secure I ever have about job opportunities while I was out there and was fully confident I could make an impact on the future of technology. Ultimately, I came home feeling that going anywhere else is just selling myself short on really investing in the rapidly growing culture of technology innovation.

What was the best advice you received during this experience?

The best advice I received during this experience was reiterated time and time again by alumni. “The hardest part is getting over the hump,” they would say. “Find a way to get yourself out to the Bay Area, don’t shy away from the risk, and you will find yourself building connections and making an impact.” There is a culture difference, a price difference, and a big risk difference in moving across the country, but if you can do so you unlock a new world of opportunities and your potential for growth and success skyrockets. The sooner you can get out to the West coast, the easier the transition will be.

How has trek changed your perspective with your job search?

Like most kids who have grown up in Ohio or the Midwest, I knew about Silicon Valley, but had never visited the area. It was always some abstract concept to me of what a city built on technology and innovation would look like. It wasn’t until this trip that the Valley became a reality. I came home from the trip more driven than ever to make an impact with the work I do, and I believe the best way for me to do that is by working in the San Francisco area. I am determined to get back out to the Bay Area at some point and highly recommend anyone who has the opportunity take advantage of it.

The Buckeye Trek is made possible by generous donors and alumni; and is a collaboration between College of Engineering Alumni Office and Engineering Career Services. Applications open in September 2019 for next year’s Trek.

"Just try new things. Don't be afraid. Step out of your comfort zones and explore." - Michelle Obama

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