With Duke in Silicon Valley, We are Constantly Discovering

Kevin Hoch/ May 22, 2022/ 2022

Duke in Silicon Valley LogoSite visits across the Bay Area, renowned speakers, classes with esteemed Professor Amato, insightful alumni interviews, conversations with motivated peers. With Duke in Silicon Valley, we are constantly discovering, and, like a sponge, I am absorbing what I hear, see, and experience.

Recently, we were fortunate to connect with Kelly Hirano, Director of Engineering for DevInfra at Meta. A fascinating and astute storyteller, he conveyed the vast wisdom he has gained throughout his career. Immediately following our interaction with him, I began thinking about why his words resonated so strongly with me. For each phase of his journey, he expressed what he gleaned from his bosses and coworkers about life, about leadership, and about learning.

For me, the bite-sized lessons he shared were particularly effective. They were digestible, memorable, and enlightening. As I reflect on my first two weeks of the Duke in Silicon Valley program, I aim to document my essential takeaways from each class in the style that Kelly did—in purposeful soundbites.

  • Day 1: Establishing psychological safety is crucial to fostering productive teamwork experiences. Then, participants will feel comfortable and included which leads to risk-taking, vulnerability, and effective collaboration.
  • Day 2: Empathy allows us to connect to our users and understand their true needs.
  • Day 3: When conducting customer interviews, we want to evoke responses that reveal not only the things people do but also how they feel. These feelings indicate emotional connections and allow us to uncover opportunities for improvement.
  • Day 4: The goal of an interview is to elicit stories. Achieve this with broad asks and follow-up “why” questions.
  • Day 5: Entrepreneurship is about thinking beyond “what is,” escaping the bounds and limitations of current solutions.
  • Day 6: The resources one has control over as a founder include time as well as financial, human, and social capital.
  • Day 7: Consider the advice shared with you…and take it with a grain of salt.
  • Day 8: When negotiating, be curious. Aim to understand your negotiating partner’s interests and collaborate to find a solution that brings the most benefit to both parties.
  • Day 9: Product-market fit is achieved when the product offering profitably meets target customers’ needs.

The strategy of formulating concise ideas from a bounty of information appears repeatedly throughout the design thinking process. After engaging in customer discovery, we encapsulate interview content into fundamental quotes and insights. In class, we create sticky notes to convey main concepts with our peers. Curating daily takeaways has been an exercise in contemplation and synthesis, extracting key nuggets from the knowledge we have acquired over the past two weeks. As I step into my full potential as a thoughtful design thinker, collaborator, and leader, I intend to hone these skills and reference these lessons to help shape my future and remind me of my immersive and revelatory Duke in Silicon Valley experience.

Liza GoldstoneA member of the Class of 2025, Liza Goldstone is studying to become a mechanical engineer. She aims to devise assistive technologies that increase accessibility, particularly for those who are often underrepresented during product development. Key to her creation approach will be including intended users in each stage of the design process.

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