'Learning to learn' in tech: Students spend spring break in Silicon Valley

Katie LaMarca
April 03, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Eight freshmen in the College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) recently traveled to San Francisco as part of the college’s annual Alternative Spring Break program. The weeklong trip provided an opportunity for students early in their IST careers to explore different companies in the tech industry and gain exposure to corporate culture in various professional settings.

Initiated in 2016, the college-sponsored program helps students grow through out-of-class experiences and exposes them to professional opportunities. After completing an application and interview process, students were selected for the trip, where they networked with and learned from well-known leaders in the technology industry.

Students toured Cloudera, Drive.Al, Juniper, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Reddit and Weebly. At each stop, they met with company executives and explored the region to understand what it’s like to work in Silicon Valley.

Brianne Lippert, assistant coordinator of corporate engagement in IST, and David Hozza, lecturer of information sciences and technology, accompanied the students on the trip to provide additional perspective and enhance the experience.

On the trip, students learned the value of building a professional network early and of taking advantage of opportunities that could result from a connection, especially one that arises from the Penn State community.

“Many of the company representatives that met with the students shared stories about how it was a Penn State connection that brought them into the company, and another Penn State connection that brought them to the west coast,” said Lippert. “Leveraging the University’s alumni network helped to open doors for them.”

Lippert added that a recurring theme stressed to the students throughout the trip was learning how to learn. With the ever-changing world of technology, you have to stay current to remain relevant, she said.

“It was so helpful for my own perspective of the industry and made the whole corporate environment a lot less intimidating than it had seemed from the outside,” said trip participant Jackson Mills, who plans to major in cybersecurity analytics and operations.

Concluded Lippert, “The companies stressed the importance of always seeking out more information, taking the time and initiative to learn more before asking for help, and to always be open to new experiences that will help you gain additional skills.”

Last Updated April 04, 2018