By Morgan Albrecht ’17
Three days, nine companies, 12 Scripps students, and one incredible experience: From August 5 to 7, Scripps College’s Career Planning & Resources (CP&R) team hosted its first-ever career exploration and networking trip to San Francisco to meet with companies and alumnae in the technology industry. Called the Bay Area Tech Trek, the trip connected current students with Scripps alumnae who work at innovative tech firms Anaplan, Eventbrite, Facebook, Medallia, NextDoor, Pinterest, Spongecell, Twilio, and Uber. Visiting three companies each day, the students explored what careers in technology might look like, gained advice from professionals in the industry, and networked with successful Scripps graduates.
In total, 14 Scripps alumnae participated in the tech trek, with representatives from the Class of 1992 through 2015. Rachael Bratlien, CP&R assistant director, says the alumnae participation was one of the most valuable parts of the trip, as they demonstrate a desire to support students, from networking, to career advice, to introductions.
“The alums involved modeled the amazing network of Scripps alumnae who are out there and willing to help our students,” says Bratlien.
Each company visit began with a tour, led by an alumna, of the organization’s office. Students then participated in a group discussion with the alumna and employees from various departments about their work. Anaplan, a company that provides businesses with planning and modeling platforms for finance, sales, and operations, invited the students to join in an interactive case study, where they brainstormed ways to approach and solve a multitude of problems a company might face, including marketing and internal structure.
The opportunity to get a sense of each company’s environment and meet important players within the business was invaluable to Katherine Goree ’16. “Visiting the companies in person was a good way to get a feel for the work culture and get your foot in the door,” she says.
Fellow trekker Isabella Levin ’17 agrees. “It was such a great experience engaging first hand with Scripps alumnae, touring the office spaces, and speaking with employees in the fields within tech.”
CP&R conducted pre- and post-visit surveys with the networking trip participants to determine how to plan future trips to best serve Scripps students. One hundred percent of respondents reported the Bay Area Tech Trek exceeded their expectations, provided them an opportunity to network, and gave them a better understanding of the qualifications and skills required to find a job in tech or a start-up. Additionally, students surveyed indicated the experience made future opportunities in the technology industry seem more accessible. “I learned you don’t have to come from an engineering or computer science background to thrive in tech,” says Levin, “and there are tons of business development opportunities in other aspects of this industry.”
Participants in the excursion say the trip opened their eyes to the benefits of a liberal arts education. Amanda Maheras ’17 says, “I really appreciated learning how each alumna’s Scripps education directly translated to the roles and responsibilities within the position. I learned the most important skills and characteristics for success include the ability to think critically and problem-solve, possess an ambitious, ‘get-it-done’ attitude, have an enthusiasm for learning, and have a flexible, adaptive personality.”
As someone who regularly advises a diverse group of Scripps students on their future career plans, Bratlien shares similar thoughts about the power of a liberal arts degree: “I believe what makes Scripps students particularly appealing to tech companies is their critical thinking, hard work, and willingness and ability to think broadly about the intersection of multiple contexts.”
Tech companies are expressing a desire to hire liberal arts graduates for the reasons Bratlien outlines. In a recent article in The Washington Post, “Tech Companies Are Hiring More Liberal-Arts Majors than You Think,” author Brian Fung reports “liberal arts graduates joined the ranks of tech companies at a faster clip in the past few years than their engineering and computer-science counterparts,” with approximately 2 in 5 graduates now working at Internet or software companies.
Take the case of Stephanie Simon ’10, a self-designed political psychology major. Simon founded Murmur, a tech startup, with another Scripps alumna, Julia Jackson ’10; the company’s app helps people find good local area restaurants. Simon was also an award-winning strategist for Fortune 500 companies, and has been featured on a list of top 35 brilliant web app designers. Simon says her time and education at Scripps prepared her for entering the tech world.
“Scripps teaches you how to think critically,” says Simon, “and being able to analyze a problem from different viewpoints and challenge existing solutions is really important when working on a tech product.”
Simon offers the following advice to any current Scripps students interested in pursuing a career in the technology industry: “Start coding. Take an intro to CS class. Go to a hackathon (CHIMEhack is a great one to start off). Start building stuff.” Further advice from Simon demonstrates the support available from the Scripps alumna network.
“Start connecting with alums before you graduate,” adds Simon. “There’s a great Scripps Women in Technology group on Facebook, and LinkedIn is good for finding people you might want to talk to. Send emails, make coffee dates—people are usually happy to talk about what they do.”
The trip was a resounding success, as the Scripps students grew their networks, explored potential career opportunities, and learned how their time at Scripps is preparing them for life after college. Given this, Bratlien hopes to “expand the Career Exploration and Networking Trek program to include multiple visits a year to cities and industries of interests to students.”
The next excursion is tentatively being planned for spring break of 2016. To stay up-to-date on CP&R events, follow them on Facebook.