HackCville goes West

University organization visits startups in California

This past spring break a group of 24 University students travelled to San Francisco to visit and tour different startup companies.

“We toured a bunch of startups, both smaller and larger in Silicon Valley and in the San Francisco area to see what startup companies are like from really small companies up to larger companies, like Google and Pinterest, to get an idea of the culture,” third-year Engineering student Kate Donovan said.

The program, run by HackCville, split the students into two “tracks” and visited different companies.

“All of these startup trips are very helpful because they give you an idea of what is out there because it’s really different just hearing about the companies and then seeing them and getting to talk to them about it,” Donovan said.

The program leaders reached out to University alumni who work in startup companies in the Silicon Valley area and asked them to host the groups for a tour.

“The person who toured us at Google was a University alumnus and it was so interesting and helpful to see where people have ended up after graduation,” Donovan said.

Stefanie Van Rafelghem, a fourth-year Engineering student and special events manager for HackCville, became involved with the startup programs her second year when she went on their trip to New York City.

“I learned a lot from that trip and found out that you don’t have to be a particular major or year to be an entrepreneur and [find] a business or something that you’re passionate about,” Rafelghem said. “That was a really cool experience and being able to go out and see people pursuing their passions was eye opening.”

The companies the groups visited varied in both size and in industry, spanning from small ten person startups to large organizations such as Google and LinkedIn, Rafelghem said.

“A lot of the companies were really open to questions because you can get a better sense of what they did,” Rafelghem said. “The variety of the companies was really good because it was interesting just to see how broad that area is in the technology industry.”

The trip also included a brunch with over 60 University alumni on the first day they arrived in San Francisco.

“We got to talk to them are hear their stories, like what they majored in and how they ended up in San Francisco because they all took different paths to get there,” Donovan said. “Just to see what you can do after school was really cool.”

This particular trip was HackCville’s first venture to the west coast and included extended involvement from the students and student leaders.

“I think the experience was really good for networking because even if the people I met aren’t working in fields that I’m interested in it was still really cool to talk with them and connect with them on Linkedin,” Donovan said.

Students were surprised to find that many of the companies accepted casual attire and some of the larger ones featured recreational areas like volleyball courts.

“Everyone in all the companies we went to were in jeans and a t-shirt pretty much — it was crazy how relaxed it was,” Donovan said. “One company we went to play Frisbee every Tuesday afternoon and everyone just goes out and plays.”

The students were selected for the trip through an application process and were ultimately split between technology and non-technology students.

“The variety of students on the trip is a goal of the HackCville startup trip because we want to show that it takes all sorts of people to run a start up,” Rafelghem said.

Before heading on one of the startup trips, HackCville hosts an event for the students to help them prepare for the program.

“We have a pre-trip event that helps them how to learn how to build up a good resume and how to build up a good LinkedIn profile and how to reach out to companies in a professional way,” Rafelghem said. “We do a lot of career building events at HackCville regularly.”

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