Reflections from Two Summers with Stanford's Technology & Entpreneurship Programs
I was lucky enough to take part in both inaugural Summer Engineering and Technology Study Tours, in the summer of 2013 and 2014. As a two term veteran of the nascent Stanford program, I feel especially proud to have participated in the journey and to have come away with life-long friends, inspiring mentors, and diverse global lessons. In fact, my trip to India this last summer to study business, technology and entrepreneurship with SETS was single-handedly one of the most influential experiences I had during my time at Stanford University.
When I walked away from my first Stanford trip to China in 2013, I wrote a short piece about some of the salient things I learned. Now, reflecting on my second adventure, this time to India, I’ve realized that SETS was much more a journey than a singular trip – one filled with foundational learning in technology, business, culture, global communications and, most importantly, deep personal growth.
What did I get out of the experience, exactly? Why was SETS so life-changing? Well, for a number of reasons. Here’s just a few…
There is no substitute for hands on experience in developing countries. You gain intangible understanding of people and human nature by throwing yourself into a place half a world away.
The relationships you make with your peers on the trip are invaluable – I found some of my closest friends at Stanford who will remain with me for the rest of my life. More importantly, you bond not only through cultural immersion, but through intense intellectual discovery. Nothing quite compares to friends made in this context.
You get to meet real entrepeneurs and executives who speak about the business landscape with genuine perspective. This goes far beyond anything that can be learned in a textbook or a seminar. These leaders have lived and breathed business in the developing world and have powerful stories to share that can help guide in making impact. These interactions also serve to connect students with lasting mentors and opportunities to return and both live & work in Asia. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at some of the great companies we got to visit last year:
- General Electric Global Research
- InfoSys Consulting
- Embrace – which was actually a product of Stanford Extreme!
- Microsoft Ventures
- Zipdial – recently acquired by Twitter for $40M.
- Philips Lighting Innovation Center
- IIT Delhi
- The Unique Authentication Authority of India – home of the incredible Aadhaar authentication process.
- The Times Internet Division
The challenges of developing countries comes into focus: Poverty, infrastructure, education, a risiing middle class, political strife, and growing civil rights for women, minorities, and the underserved. It was difficult to walk through the crowded streets of cities like Beijing and Bangalore, feel the development occuring, and not take notice of the stark contrasts.
When I came back from China, I felt changed. Then, again over a year later, going to India with the same program and the same goals, I also came away feeling like a different person than when I had taken off from California.
My experiences with SETS gave me an unwavering sense of global perspective – I really felt like I had tasted the nuances of life in different countries where socio-economic challenges are so greatly at odds with those of the US. The interactions with local business leaders demonstrated how entrpreneurship functions in a context outside of Silicon Valley and I feel better prepared than ever to pursue a career beyond US borders.
Lastly, I realized how similar I was to so many others around the world. I fell in love with countries of the East, the opportunities that exist there, and the people that make these locations so incredible.
If you’re a Stanford student you can and should become involved in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This might be the best chance you’ll ever get to explore an incredible side of the world. Learn more here.