Obviously, there are plenty of companies around Silicon Valley. Some are incredibly impressive and some can seem quite boring, but that is all in the eye of the beholder. During Spring Break in Silicon Valley, I was sometimes too focused on how tired I was and how irrelevant a company’s job offerings were to me. I was not focused enough on the reasons that we were visiting the company. Aruba and Cisco are strong, cool, global companies but I was unimpressed with their presentations because they were not “fun” or “sexy,” but what does that even mean? Is it worse? Should that affect my application decisions?

Exposure to the Work Life

There were times when I was wowed and times when I was not. The issue here is that our point of contact for each company was our only insight into the average worker’s lives, but a particular individual shouldn’t hold so much representation for an entire company. Unfortunately, this is the only way to do it. I had the same experience looking at colleges. So much of my decision was based off of the tour guide and the experience they showed to me.

5 students from Spring Break in Silicon Valley standing on a hiking path overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Some of the students who attended SBinSV 2019.

Too Quick to Judge?

It is too easy to make generalizations based off of particulars, and we must recognize that. To summarize and draw broad conclusions from under 2 hours at Aruba, Workday, IDEO, Google, or Phantom Auto is a surefire way to be misinformed. We must all supplement our knowledge from the company visits with an understanding of actual roles within that company. This isn’t easy but it is why we do the briefs but they are not all encompassing. Still, there is no way anyone could possibly understand what it is like to live a day in the life at any company. One cannot accurately base an understanding for workplace culture on vibes although this is our best and only approach outside of genuine job reviews.

There are myriad opportunities at any company and real experience is the only way to truly get the gist of that day in the life. Did I know what would happen to me as a student at Syracuse when I applied? No. Everything I thought I knew about life at a place of higher education was incorrect and misjudged. So why would any of my guesses about life at EY vs Google be any different?

Impressions from Companies

There are three key impressions one can get from a company. These three categories are turned off, wowed, or feel neutral. IDEO blew my socks off but what if I spoke to a more IT oriented employee? Would I feel the same way? Probably not. Glassdoor can tell you more about a company than any of these sales pitches. But rational decision making is always trumped by first impressions and vibes.

Spring Break in Silicon Valley students traveling with iSchool Professor Jenny Stromer-Galley

Spring Break in Silicon Valley students traveling with iSchool Professor Jenny Stromer-Galley

Seeing it For Myself

Still, the data they choose to share and the people they choose to represent them can say a lot about the company. Regarding facts, Density impressed me with the fact that they have a 98% retention rate. That’s cold hard truth. Also, an impression of the creator of a company can tell you about aspects of the company they created.

No matter where you are, there is something great about the place that brought them some level of success and there is something you could learn from working there. I came away from this trip with a more open mind regarding the relative nature of general company quality.