CMC’s new Silicon Valley Program (SVP) finished a successful first semester in the fall of 2012. The program included eighteen students—fourteen from CMC and four from Pomona. The first class consisted of all juniors with a “smattering of majors,” according to Steve Siegel, the program director. “There is really a good cross-section of majors. We had maybe six or seven students with Economics as a primary major, with mathematics, computer science, PPE, and many other disciplines represented,” Siegel said.
Similar to CMC’s longstanding semester program in Washington, D.C., the SVP required students to take two classes, participate in a full time internship, and write a research paper. (CMC counts both the internship and research paper as a credit, while Pomona does not currently give credit for the internship.) Unlike the D.C. program, the SVP holds classes on Saturdays. This past semester, students took Industrial Organization with Professor Darren Filson and Marketing and Innovation with Professor Constance Rossum. Students received credit in Economics for both classes.
The professors flew up every other weekend to teach, so students had each class for seven hours on alternating Saturdays. Google hosted the CMC classes on the first floor of one of its buildings. “They also allow us to drink their soft drinks and we use their kitchen space for the lunches we bring in,” Siegel said. “Google has been a fantastic partner for all of this.”
Roxanne Fries ’14 noted how informative and engaging the classes were. Fries worked at a medical device start-up company and felt that her classes often mirrored her work. “One of my main projects was to research Avinger’s competitors to compile an industry landscape, a task that I felt Professor Filson’s class totally prepared me for. Innovations in Marketing was really interesting because Professor Rossum, through her guest speaker selections, allowed us to explore the intricacies of other companies with history in the Silicon Valley. These included Apple, Zappos, and Google.”
However, Evan Casey ’14 felt the classes could have been better and would benefit from focusing on computer science. The timing and length of the classes definitely took its toll on students. “There’s nothing better than seven hours of class on a Saturday after working a full work week,” Casey added jokingly.
Yet the geographical layout of Silicon Valley makes Saturday classes necessary. “I think it worked fine,” Siegel said. “It’s never a huge success when you have a class on Saturday. The students all showed up, they all participated well… We only do Saturdays because of the geographical challenges of Silicon Valley. Last semester and again this semester we have students working in San Francisco, which is a good 35 miles away from our classroom setting.”
While some students interned in San Francisco, all of them lived in corporate apartments in Mountain View. Franklin said the apartments helped make the program great. ”One aspect of the program I thought was awesome was our apartments. Unlike the D.C. program, all of the students lived in the same complex, and on top of it, our apartments were incredibly nice.”
Siegel said the program has allowed four students with internships in San Francisco to find their own housing closer to their work this semester. Siegel noted that this flexibility may or may not continue in future years.
Of the eighteen students on the program last semester, seventeen of them had paid internships. This semester, ten out of the eleven students on the program have paid internships. All of the CMC students received credit for their internships, and whether or not they were paid depended on the company.
Since students spent 40 or more hours a week working, a good or bad internship could make or break the program. “The internships are among the keys to this program,” Siegel said. Students last semester overwhelmingly enjoyed their internships.
Joe Newbry ’14 interned at Zynga as a product manager working on FarmVille. “As a product manager, I worked with programmers, U.I. designers, artists, producers, and quality assurance people to get new features shipped on budget and on time. My most rewarding project was a Christmas Holiday Feature, which allowed players to send gifts, such as cows, sheep, decorations, etc., to each other.”
Fries worked for Avinger, a medical device start-up that develops intravascular catheters that treat peripheral artery disease. The company flew her to Fort Wayne, Indiana, so she could “watch peripheral atherectomy procedures performed with their newest marketable catheter, the Ocelot.” The company also gave her the opportunity “to accompany them to the Vascular InterVentional Association (VIVA) conference in Las Vegas so that I could help them facilitate product feedback sessions with physicians and demonstrate devices in their booth.”
“It has the same casual and fun office environment that is typical of a Silicon Valley start-up. While I was there, I was able to plan a Halloween party, a holiday party, and a food drive,” said Fries.
Franklin interned in the accounting and finance department of Travelzoo, an online travel deal website. While most of his job consisted of using an accounting program through Excel, he also brainstormed a marketing idea for his company that he ended up pitching to the CEO, CFO, and CMO.
After spending several weeks pitching his idea to various people around the office and receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback, Franklin took his plan one step further. “I still thought I had a great idea, so I mustered up the courage to ask the CFO of Travelzoo if I could take him out to lunch. This was one of the crazier moves I made all semester, but he accepted my offer.”
Franklin pitched his idea to the CFO a week later. “We sat down, and what started as a fifteen-minute pitch turned into an hour and a half discussion of how this idea needs to be implemented ASAP and how I was going to lead the charge. I was literally in shock. The CFO then set me up in a meeting with the CEO, the CMO, and himself to talk about this idea. All of the C-level executives loved my idea and wanted me to get it off the ground.”
Franklin is currently working from Claremont to help Travelzoo implement his marketing idea.
Professor Rossum will no longer be able to teach her class next year, so Siegel and Professor Brock Blomberg (who helped teach Rossum’s course with her) are looking for someone to take her spot. “We are excited about the prospect of adding a new course to the mix,” Siegel said.
Additionally, Siegel hopes to have an equal number of students interested in the fall and spring semesters. “I really do hope that we will build up a group of students who want to study in the spring as well as the fall, and that will even out the numbers. My target is between eighteen and twenty students a semester.”
For those interested in applying to the program for next fall, there is an info session on CMC’s campus on Wednesday, February 13, from 7-8 p.m. in Roberts North. The deadline to apply is February 18 at midnight.