Bowdoin Student Techies Go West for Spring Break

West Trek participants, and some alumni, at Google

Forty Bowdoin students — from across class years, majors, and backgrounds — trekked to California over spring break to explore career opportunities in technology. Now in its second year, the West Trek, a Bowdoin Career Planning program, was expanded this year to allow twice as many students to participate.

West Trek is designed to put students who would not otherwise be exposed to California’s tech culture in contact with graduates working for innovative companies, from Airbnb and Pinterest to Facebook and Google.

“With nearly three-fourths of the students coming from the first-year and sophomore classes, this exposure will help people see the connections between the skills they acquire at Bowdoin and their utility in the real-world job market,” said trip organizer Todd Herrmann ’85 and an associate director with Bowdoin Career Planning. “The trip gives students the opportunity to learn, firsthand, why a liberal arts education from Bowdoin opens doors in all sectors of the tech industry.”

Besides visiting businesses, the students attended a networking event with young alumni and heard a panel on the “Future of Tech,” with Orrick Chairman Mitch Zuklie ’91, Trustee Dave Brown ’79, and Carrie Fanlo ’97 of Forrester Research.

Rachel Kennedy ’16 and Kote Mushegian ’17, who attended last year’s West Trek as students, both mentioned the value of the Trek when they began searching for jobs. Kennedy, who works for Comfy in Oakland said, “Last year I met an alum [at the networking event] that led me to my first job. I will gladly return that favor anytime a Bowdoin student or alum asks about my job.”

On the last day of the trip, Bowdoin students were invited to schedule individual workplace visits with alumni they had met earlier. These visits allowed students to check out companies that weren’t on the Trek itinerary.

West Trek 2017, By The Numbers:

  • Participants, by class year: Six seniors, five juniors, sixteen sophomores, thirteen first-years
  • Participants, by major: Seventeen dual majors, thirteen computer science, ten government and legal studies, six economics, five math, one physics, one gender & women’s studies, one history, one English, one hispanic studies. (Of these, some first-years noted ‘intended’ majors.)
  • Financial Aid: Students on financial aid (23 of the 40 participants) had their trip expenses covered 100 percent

Places visited, alumni visited:
San Francisco and Silicon Valley

  • Airbnb – Lindsay Pettingill ’02, David Willner ’06, Sarah Hardy ’02
  • Pinterest — Annie Tsang ’01, Charlotte Willner ’06, Becky Stoneman ’14
  • Okta – Jon Todd ’05, Wils Dawson ’13, Dan Zeller ’15, Daniel Navarro ’16, Peter Yaworsky ’14
  • Uber — Jill Schweitzer ’06, Sawyer Bowman ’15, Jessica Brooks ’07, Jerrick Hoang ’15, Chris Thoms ’03
  • Facebook, Isabelle Albi ’13, Liza Boles ’12
  • Google – Leah Hughes ’11, Adrian Rodriguez ’14, Duncan Taylor ’14, Mike Daoust ’92, Adit Basheer ’11, Ben Freedman ’09
  • Apple – Phil Schiller P’17, Megan Maher ’16
  • Collective Health – Sophie Alpert ’13, Shauna Kashyap ’05

Quotes from participants:

Brian Bristol ’19 (who now has an internship at Pinterest for a sophomore coding program for diversity candidates)
“I just wanted to thank you for such a wonderful trip, it was eye opening and inspiring to experience and witness the technology culture in San Francisco. I hope this trip continues in the future for other students to take advantage of because I feel as though it could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for particular students.”

Alex Weinberger ’19
I’m sitting in the airport trying to distill my feelings about this past couple days out west. Few I’ve ever done have equalled the influence this trip had one me — it reshaped my thinking about my career path, my intellectual interests, and my fundamental beliefs about how I want to spend my life. The practical outcomes of the trip are incredible: we gained a ton of knowledge about careers in SF and met a bunch of people who can help us pursue those careers. More importantly, though, for me at least, listening to all these bright, successful people talk through their stories forced me to be conscious about what I think makes a fulfilling job and life.”

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