Ever since my passion for technology and entrepreneurship started, Silicon Valley has become my dream place to visit. I always wonder, how could a place of 47 square miles, less than 0.000001% of the world’s land size, create some of the most influential tech companies in the world?
During this spring break, I had the chance to visit and learn from some of the fastest-growing startups, disruptive tech giants, and influential venture capital firms around Silicon Valley. I would like to share some personal insights, or as I call them golden nuggets from the epicenter of technology that is beneficial for college students.
1. Make mistakes and fail
Unlike any part of the world, failure is celebrated in Silicon Valley. A successful VC told us during the trip: “Put yourself in a position where if you fail, you fall forward.” Transform failure into something educational, learn and gain throughout the process. Through this iterative process, you want to be analytical and humble enough to identify what went wrong and why.
Take some time to start a project that you believe could benefit the world, take that class that intrigued you or challenges yourself in improving your weakness. As the worst thing that could only happen is that you discover a way that does not work. What is there to lose as a student anyway?
Yet many college students never go to networking events. College students should treat networking as a weekly or, even better, a daily routine. Join a networking group in your area or look for networking event from the university and websites like Meetup. Networking is an art, so build bridges, not one-way streets.
Occasionally follow up after the event, and offer help WITHOUT expecting anything in return. Build a network of like-minded people that you could give and receive help from.
Many companies in San Francisco Bay have referral programs. You never know if the person you met in a random event would be the one who presents you a cool opportunity.
As cliché as it sounds, passion is the key to success. Passion is seen as an asset in Silicon Valley as it is the fuel that power of determination, hard work, and creativity that make great things possible.
College is the best time to explore and find one’s passion. Find time out of class to volunteer for an organization, join a club or build a project. Once you found your passion, build a wealth of knowledge around it, and create a summer project around that craft.
If you share the passion of technology as I do, consider taking online courses during your spare time, joining research projects or building your own projects based on what you have learned in school because I have no doubt that passion is what got me hired in United Shore, the #1 wholesale mortgage lender in United State, for an internship this summer!
Twelve years ago, a Bronco, Kevin Khaw, took the bold move of putting down everything he had in the Midwest and drove 3 days to Silicon Valley without a job offer of any sort. However, he persisted and managed to build a successful career across different Google businesses now. How did he do it you might ask? He Hustled his way to his dream job by pursuing his passion.
Hustling is about working smart instead of hard. A hustler is smart enough to know where they should best spend their time to achieve results and optimize their life accordingly.
College students should start fostering the hustling mentality by not only fail forward, establish smart networks and be passionate for their craft, but constantly strive to challenge the status quo.
In a short period of time, he turned from a web developer to manage a few development teams in a fast-growing startup, Shipt. In part because he observed other engineers on what they did and learned from their experiences. Often times, a mentor has been in your shoes and would be able to provide you advice or direction for your problem.
Look for a mentor that you think you could learn from and that you could contribute to their work or life. Mentoring is a two-way street. Be the person who not only receives but give. During periods of uncertainty, mentors are able to shed light by providing insights and past experiences that could help you make a better decision.
If you were to ask my 15 years old self. I would never imagine myself walking along the street of San Francisco Bay or even visiting 11 companies with total valuation upwards of 1 trillion dollars.
I could already see the differences by implementing these golden nuggets into my life. I believe applying these strategies would help you differentiate yourself from other students and propel you to be the best version of yourself.
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