February 22, 2024
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Unlocking opportunities: Binghamton students discover pathways in Silicon Valley

The CONNECT program empowers students for future career success and exposes them to the world of tech innovation in Silicon Valley

Students attended an Employer Trek to the Googleplex, the corporate headquarters of Google in Mountain View, Calif. Students attended an Employer Trek to the Googleplex, the corporate headquarters of Google in Mountain View, Calif.
Students attended an Employer Trek to the Googleplex, the corporate headquarters of Google in Mountain View, Calif. Image Credit: Julia Sullivan.

A group of 30 Binghamton University students embarked on a career development trip to Silicon Valley through the multi-city CONNECT program from May 15 to 19. This immersive program offered an opportunity for students to explore the dynamic hub of technological innovation and entrepreneurship. Students enjoyed exclusive access to employer offices, gaining valuable firsthand insights into the operations of globally renowned companies, including NVIDIA, Cisco, Handshake, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Tesla and Google. The visit opened doors for students to build connections in Silicon Valley, explore the possibility of living and working in the area and learn about recruiting and employment in their industries of interest.

The CONNECT program is a collaboration between the Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development and the Office of Alumni Engagement. By combining the talents and resources of both offices, the program organizers are able to tap into Binghamton’s extensive alumni network and leverage it to support the career development of students. The Silicon Valley branch of the program started in 2019 and took a hiatus due to COVID restrictions, but the 2023 restart indicates that there is strong interest from students, employers and alumni to continue.

Program organizers are committed to ensuring that costs associated with traveling to the west coast are not a barrier for student participation. The Office of Alumni Engagement provided substantial financial support and sponsored four nights in a hotel, transportation to each trek and a $600 airfare voucher for each attending student. By eliminating financial barriers, the CONNECT program enables all students to take full advantage of the invaluable networking and learning opportunities available, ultimately enhancing their future career prospects.

The Fleishman Career Center organized the trip and secured the Employer Treks that students attended with each of the participating organizations. Each Trek was unique, but most included an office tour, recruiting presentation, panel discussion with current employees and networking opportunities. Students of all majors and class years are welcome to apply for this program, and the strategic selection and organization of the Treks ensures there will be something of interest for everyone attending. The Treks to Google, NVIDIA, Cisco and Tesla were hosted by alumni, which gave students a clear picture of how they could go from being a Binghamton University student to an employee at the organization. It also allowed the Trek hosts to provide tailored advice on translating Binghamton experiences to career opportunities in Silicon Valley.

“[Silicon Valley CONNECT] was an amazing opportunity that gave me the chance to explore numerous cutting-edge companies and expand my network on the vibrant west coast,” said Jonah Poueriet-Santana, a senior economics student who participated in the program. “I am immensely grateful for the knowledge and inspiration gained from these visits.”

For students, the opportunity to visit employer offices in person and learn about the day-to-day operations of each organization is invaluable. There is no better way to explore careers and gauge interest in different industries. Students also leave each Employer Trek with new connections and exclusive insights into the companies, which is helpful for submitting job and internship applications later on.

The Office of Alumni Engagement hosted a Networking Night on Wednesday, May 17, that brought together alumni living in the San Francisco Bay Area and current students. This was an additional networking opportunity for students and allowed alumni on the west coast an opportunity to reconnect with their alma mater. Most of the alumni Employer Trek hosts were available for this event as well. The structure of the networking event allowed for longer one-on-one conversations, giving students more time to ask questions and connect.

“This was such an incredible opportunity to make some connections with people that I never would’ve been able to otherwise,” said Aiesha Ayub, a senior studying political science. “So many doors are open for me now because of this program, and when I am an alumna, I will be giving back and helping other students just like they helped me. Because of this trip, I realized that I do have what it takes to work at a place like Google and even made some possible connections.”

The CONNECT team also set aside dedicated time for students to go sightseeing and immerse themselves in local culture. The group visited the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and Alcatraz Island, all at no additional cost to students. These additional experiences were important for students to better understand the Bay Area and assess if they could picture themselves living there someday.

After the trip, the Fleishman Career Center is available to support students as they work to maintain their new connections and follow up on possible career opportunities at the participating organizations. Students (regardless of whether or not they participated in this program) can make a virtual appointment with a career consultant throughout the summer to talk through networking strategies, job and internship applications and more.

The CONNECT program equips students with industry knowledge and connections to propel their future career success. As they return to campus, these students have a renewed sense of purpose, a network of connections and a wealth of knowledge that will shape their future careers and experiences. The Silicon Valley CONNECT program provides students with a roadmap for how they can achieve their desired career paths and empowers them to take the next steps to do so.

Posted in: Campus News