DSV Week Three: Innovation is Everywhere

Brendan Quinlan/ June 18, 2019/ Uncategorized

Week three of Duke in Silicon Valley found our group of innovators and entrepreneurs visiting companies around the Bay Area, learning about tech companies, ranging from Uber and LinkedIn, to industries like venture capital. In addition, we continued to be mesmerized by Professor Salman Azar and the way in which he allows us to learn through his entrepreneurial experiences and the successes and failures behind them. A large theme that has continually been brought up is the question, “Is failure or success more beneficial?” Through our discussions with Prof. Azar and the speakers at our site visits, we have learned that there truly is not a distinct answer, but that there are benefits to both. We were also able to have breakfast with Duke alum Ron Ludwig and his wife, Carrie, and were able to hear about their own experiences in the industry.

On Tuesday, we visited Uber, where we spoke to Matt Alston, an Associate Product Manager who graduated from Duke in 2017, and Matthew Mengerink, Vice President of Core Infrastructure Engineering. In our discussions, we learned a great amount about product management and its unique features at Uber. We were also fortunate enough to learn about Matthew Mengerink’s path to Uber and his daily responsibilities at such a large and innovative company. Speaking with Matt, we gained insight into the benefits of working at such a large company in comparison to a start up and how his role has been affected. After our visit to Uber, we became intrigued by all the products that we would be able to work on if we were lucky enough to work at Uber.

On our final stop of the day, we visited LinkedIn and met with an array of former Duke students. LinkedInSpeaking to Kara, Alex, Raven, Pranshu, Logan, and Dhru allowed us to dig deep into their experiences in innovation and why they chose LinkedIn. This group were extremely authentic  – even to the point where we found out that Dhru owns more than 90 pairs of shoes! The roles of this group ranged from data science to product strategy and business operations, allowing each of us to gain a greater understanding of our passions. Through our tour of LinkedIn, we appreciated the sense of community there and how every worker came up to us excited to hear about our stories and why we were there. All in all, the opportunity to tour and speak to former Duke students from LinkedIn was phenomenal and truly encapsulated innovation in the workplace.

Overall, the information that we learn from speakers, site visits, and Professor Azhar has continued to be extraordinary as we gain an abundance of knowledge, thanks to being in Silicon Valley. The immersion of living in the Valley continues to be remarkable in how there is innovation at every moment in time. The room for innovation is only increasing and thanks to DSV, we are realizing how we will be able to enhance the world.


Nick is a rising sophomore pursuing a major in Electrical and Computer Engineering, Computer Science, and a certificate in Innovation & Entrepreneurship. During his first year, Nick was involved in Special Olympics, the Investment Club, and intramural sports. He chose to participate in the Duke in Silicon Valley program in order to speak to professionals in the technology industry and venture out to the beautiful west coast. In his free time, he loves to play basketball, read, and hang out with friends. He is interested in technology, entrepreneurship, and data science, searching for a career that can combine all three into his own company.

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