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Buckeye gifts help students explore west coast tech

Buckeye Trek students outside of Facebook headquartersA trip to California’s Bay Area gave senior Stephen Wu the compass he needed to follow his dream of working in the west coast’s vibrant tech industry. Had it not been for the generosity of other Buckeyes, his dream might never have taken flight.

Wu was one of eight students chosen to participate in the college’s second Buckeye Trek in the fall of 2017. Open to computer science and engineering undergraduates, students were competitively selected to spend two days soaking up Silicon Valley’s thriving tech culture. Coordinated by Engineering Career Services, students visited a total of nine companies, giving them an inside look at everything from small startups to larger established companies like Facebook.

The program offers a unique learning experience for Ohio State students, said Olivia Cotton, assistant director of young alumni and student engagement, who accompanied the group on the trip. Often the connections made turn into an internship or mentor-mentee relationship.

“It also fosters career exploration,” added Cotton. “A few students came into the experience with interest in one specific company or area of engineering, but left falling in love with a completely different one. Most importantly, it gives them an idea of what the tech culture is like in the Bay Area. Could they see themselves there?”

For Wu, that answer was a resounding “yes.” The trip opened his eyes to opportunities he didn’t know existed.

“The trip helped me realize the diversity of opportunities in the tech field. You’ll drive down a street in Silicon Valley and see dozens of billboards advertising tech companies that focus on cloud computing or data warehousing or stuff that the average person might never think about,” he said. “And you’ll see that entrepreneurs, engineers and designers are tackling every problem you could think of—addressing big problems like education disparity or maximizing work productivity or even ideas like on-demand ice cream delivery.”

Organizers say an experience like this would be impossible without alumni and donor support. This installment of Buckeye Trek featured several companies with scarlet and gray connections—with alumni hosts at Facebook, Chegg, Clockwise and Riviera Partners. Contributions to the College of Engineering’s Priority Fund covered expenses, allowing students to participate regardless of finances and make industry connections that will benefit their future careers.

“I think the trip helped me be more ambitious and push harder for a west coast tech internship,” said Wu. “The company representatives gave great advice about preparing for tech careers; they prioritized making the trip valuable and informative rather than just discussing the company and trying to recruit us.”

Plans to expand the trip’s impact are underway. Goals include increasing the diversity of companies represented and the pool of student recruits. Organizers also hope to increase alumni involvement by adding more alumni-affiliated companies to the itinerary and hosting a networking event during the trip.

Wu is now well on his way to landing the tech career of his dreams. Following an internship with Amazon in Seattle, he’ll spend fall semester on a co-op at Facebook. After he graduates in 2019, Wu plans to head west where many fellow Buckeye engineers have also flocked.

“It would be fantastic to see more Buckeyes breaking out into west coast tech careers and I think programs like the Buckeye Trek help accomplish that,” he said.

by Meggie Biss, College of Engineering Communications | biss.11@osu.edu