Hornets Swarm Silicon Valley

Kalamazoo College’s winter break lasts almost seven weeks, an ideal time for students to engage in one of several career immersion experiences sponsored by K’s Center for Career and Professional Development. One of these is K to the Bay, made possible by the generosity and initiative of K alum Brad O’Neill ’93, former senior vice president of SurveyMonkey and CEO and co-founder of a new startup, Depot Global Inc. The four-day program sends students to San Francisco to explore potential careers and network with Silicon Valley executives. K senior Elyse Tuennerman was one of the lucky students who participated this past winter break.

Students taking a photo in front of the Google building
Elyse taking a selfie in front of the Google headquarters.

As an anthropology and sociology major with a concentration in public policy and urban affairs, Elyse initially did not think she should apply.

“I thought that it was more of a technology-based program that I wouldn’t necessarily be considered for, but I met Brad [O’Neill] at the Career Summit last year and he encouraged me to apply,” she said. “A lot of the companies that groups have met with in the past and that we met with this year are either smart city- or Internet of things-based, which relate to my interests. I also talked to some people who had done it in the past and figured I might as well apply.”

And she’s glad that she did! K to the Bay provides the opportunity for Kalamazoo College students to interact with entrepreneurs and CEOs of major companies in the Bay Area and potentially jump-start their life after K.

“We got to meet with executives from Apple and Google as well as lawyers from Twitter, Facebook, and Square,” Elyse said.

Two students on bicycles in front of the Google headquarters
Elyse (right) and another “K to the Bay” participant taking a ride around the Google Headquarters in Silicon Valley, California.

The application process is very thorough for this life-changing career opportunity.

“We submitted a written application and then we had an interview with Chuck Stull, who was the academic advisor, and Valerie Miller from the Center for Career and Professional Development,” Elyse said. “And then after we were accepted, we had five training information sessions where we learned about Silicon Valley, and we prepared by doing research on the people that we would meet.”

After a month of preparation, Elyse, along with five other K students, found themselves on a flight to San Francisco.

“It was a really wonderful networking experience. It was great to get to spend a lot of meaningful time with both K alumni and executives in Silicon Valley,” Elyse said. “It was cool to get to visit office spaces and really see what life is like in these companies, which I think made it different than your standard networking event.”

Getting to meet alumni Val Cole ’83, former senior executive at Apple and now a consultant and philanthropist, was a highlight for her.

“My favorite part was getting to meet alumni like Brad [O’Neill] and Val Cole because they had so many interesting stories about their time at K and their paths  to where they are now,” she said. “It was really exciting to get to hear their stories and how much they love K.”

When asked what she felt was the value of programs like K to the Bay, Elyse said, “I think that it is a really amazing way to show students how far your K connections can go and how far alumni are spread. It can really help you get a sense of what life is like in a particular career or in a particular city and really get hands-on networking experience.”

For more information about the K to the Bay program, please visit the Center for Career and Professional Development website.

Interview conducted by Savannah Kinchen ’18