Duke in Silicon Valley: Eye-Opening & Exciting

Kevin Hoch/ May 21, 2021/ 2021

The first week of the summer 2021 Duke in Silicon Valley has been eye-opening and exciting. From networking with DSV alumni, chatting with representatives of the Duke Career Center and Duke Engineering, to interactive sessions with unique and inspiring speakers, we all have gotten a sneak peek into and gained a foundational understanding of the mindsets, skills, and resilience necessary to be an innovator.

On the first day, we had the opportunity to learn about the role of the REWS team at Google and the kinds of work that they do in developing a better workplace for employees through a presentation by Betsy Rives, a member of the team. During our time with Betsy, we gained insight into the applications of the “job to be done” concept (did you know that we sent rockets to space decades before we had wheels on our luggage?) and truly understood the importance of avoiding assumptions and asking questions when we are trying to grow our empathy and understand the needs and behaviors of the people for whom we are designing. If we don’t encourage people to tell stories and ask questions even when we think we know the answer, we may misunderstand our stakeholders and prevent ourselves from developing accurate empathy. After our second day workshop with Greg Victory, the Fannie Mitchell Executive Director of the Duke Career Center, we learned how valuable it can be to determine our core values and how they can be broken down in ways that create patterns and connections, the process of which is facilitated through mind maps. The following day we had the opportunity to interview, network with, and talk to over twenty DSV alumni who all have fascinating and unique jobs in fields that they are passionate about. For me, it was the moment when I realized that through this program, I can gain so many important skills that will be applicable no matter which career path I choose and that there are endless possibilities for how I can apply my passions.

The following week, we started day four with the amazing opportunity to chat with Robert Chesnut, whose book, Intentional Integrity, we had read, and Jillian Manus, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist who also seeks to empower women and help all disenfranchised groups. Through these conversations, we were exposed to new ideas about how integrity in workplaces can shape the future and how values that we each hold can be applied to business. Day five was an exciting day, with three guests coming to speak and work with us. Karis Boyd-Sinkler, the Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for Duke Engineering, guided us through a case pertaining to how to promote diversity in a company through changes in the recruitment process and company culture. Tom Byers, Faculty Director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, and Blake Byers of Byers Capital spoke to us about what it meant to be a good startup and founder and how investors can determine the potential success of a company. On Wednesday, Clay Maxwell, Managing Partner of Peer Insight PX Venture Studio, walked us through a client case that he had worked on, offering us invaluable insight into the design process of empathizing, brainstorming, testing assumptions, and finally creating a business. On Day 7, Mackenzie Drazan, founder and CEO of MiResource, came to speak to us about the challenges and steps of ideating, creating, and funding, giving us the unique perspective of a recent Duke graduate who has successfully founded her own company.

Throughout all of our classes and readings, we have gained a deeper understanding into the process of innovation, first being able to tease stories out of potential stakeholders and creating general personas then using that data to synthesize the biggest problems to consider for future steps.
Everything that we learn from speakers, readings, and Professor Amato in a way that feels as though we are immersed in the Silicon Valley environment despite being on Zoom gives us amazing insight into the world of innovation. We all want to change the world, and this time in DSV has taken us multiple steps closer to understanding how we can do so.

Dilys WangDilys is a rising sophomore at Duke University pursuing a double major in Computer Science and Economics. At Duke, she is an investment analyst of the Duke Impact Investing Group, Community Service Director and Vice-President Elect of Duke Rotaract, member and upcoming Membership Chair of Business Oriented Women, highly competitive member of the debate team, and member of Delta Sigma Pi Business Fraternity. In her free time, Dilys enjoys traveling, volunteering, and playing the piano and saxophone. Working closely with many founders through her role as an analyst has introduced her to the world of entrepreneurship and innovation, an understanding she seeks to develop through her engagement in the Duke in Silicon Valley program. Dilys has always found problem-solving and collaboration to be an amazing basis for Innovation and is excited to gain further insight into how to ideate, launch, and expand a successful venture in Silicon Valley.

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