By Guo Xiang on 02 AUG 2014
One month after coming back from NUS Overseas College in California, I was asked to share on my experience in Silicon Valley at the Engineering freshmen orientation talk. During my one year stint in the valley, I worked as a web developer for Love With Food, a monthly box subscription service for all natural or organic snacks. Being in a technical role, my experience will be skewed towards the technical end, but I do believe that my experiences will also apply to the different roles across the board. Having benefited so much from the programme, I hope that the three reasons which I have provided below will inspire more NUS students to apply for the NUS Overseas College programme.
1. Learning new skills
Although my major is in Mechanical Engineering, I was hired as a web developer by Love With Food, where I picked up Ruby, the programming language, and Ruby on Rails, the web development framework written in Ruby. With a year of actual work experience, I became a competent web developer and have started making open source contributions to Ruby on Rails. The most important part of my one year internship came from the mentorship which I had received. While I might have been able to pick up new skills by onself, what I found was that being able to apply my skills immediately in the real world context enabled me to understand what I was learning better and faster. At Love With Food, I did not feel like I was treated as an intern, but like a full time employee. The one year experience has also allowed me to specialized based on my interest rather than just scraping the surface like most three months internship.
2. Being at the forefront of emerging technology
During my time in Silicon Valley, I was exposed to many new products and technologies which would have seen foreign to me if I was to be in Singapore at that time. When the Google Glass was released, I was lucky enough to be chosen during the limited release phase to purchase the glass directly from Google at their office. However, I did return my Google Glass a month later for reasons which I wrote in this other blog post.
As a web developer, many new frameworks and technologies often make their start in Silicon Valley where majority of the large tech companies are located. For instance, I was fortunate enough to meet and find out more about the latest development for EmberJS, a new frontend web development framework, by one of the EmberJS's creator at one of the monthly meetups held at Yahoo.
I had the chance to try out the above 'self cleaning fish tank' in my office which ended up killing 3 betta and 1 sucker fish.
3. Exchange is part of the package
On top of doing a one year internship, I was required to take three entrepreneurship courses at Stanford University which NUS Overseas College Silicon Valley partners with. In Entrepreneur Thought Leadership, I got to hear first hand from entrepreneurs such as Scott Harrison and Cyriac Roeding about their startup story. In Global Entrepreneur Marketing, I worked on a marketing project with Stanford students where we helped a startup with its marketing efforts. In New Venture Creation, I learnt about Pretotyping and the various steps involved in preparing a pitch to investors. I attended events such as ASVEN where I got to meet and interact with many aspiring entrepreneurs. ASVEN was also the place where I met a product manager from Google which I eventually invited as a judge for my New Venture Creation pitch.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Traveling is part of the package too.
If you wish to join the NUS Overseas College programme
For the non-technical students, there are plenty of non-technical roles required in Silicon Valley such as designers and analysts in venture capitalist firms. Therefore, do not be deterred from applying for the NUS Overseas College Silicon Valley programme even if you do not wish to take up a technical role.
As school and work took up most of my time, most of my learning took place at work. Therefore, I urge you to be diligent in finding out what you really want to learn and pick a company or industry which you think will help you achieve your goals. If you are not sure, feel free to reach out to the relevant NUS Overseas College's programme director and I am sure that they will be more than happy to help you.