MIT Sloan Tech Trek Benefits From Ol’ Fashioned Face Time

They may need regular Facebook fixes and are literally joined at the hip to their smart phones, but some MIT Sloan School of Management MBAs see big added value in using the good old-fashioned personal touch as they embark on job-hunting, network-building “Tech Treks” to Seattle, Silicon Valley, and Boston this month.

“Social networks facilitate connections, but when deciding where you may begin your career, there’s no replacement for face-to-face meetings and conversations,” says Michael Smouha, a native of Montreal who will join about 30 classmates on this week’s Trek to Silicon Valley to meet with MIT Sloan alumni and officials at firms such as eBay, Intel, LinkedIn, Symantec, Facebook, and Google.

Other MBA Sloan students will visit technology and other companies in the Boston and Seattle areas during the January Treks that have become an annual MIT Sloan event, the school shared in a statement.

“Although a simple contact can be gained from an online search or a social media connection, the connections that we make during our treks have the potential to be much more powerful,” says Margaret Draughon, who grew up in Milwaukee and is participating in all three trips.

“It’s a way to meet people in the industry and have a chance to hear their perspective on the roles or companies first hand. Most importantly, our trek gives the participants the chance to see these cities and companies in person and attempt to answer the question, ‘Do I fit here?'”

While today’s employers assume that job applicants are fully savvy in social media, they “are also increasingly looking for people who are comfortable with ambiguity and who can navigate through ups and downs,” says Konstantina Georgaki, who is from Greece and is participating in the Boston trek, which will include stops at companies such as Nokia, Zipcar, and Akamai.

“Being technologically savvy is almost a given, so firms are now looking for more evidence of creativity and innovation. The question is not if you can follow the curve, but if you can invent the next one.”

Would-be employers are also seeking changing skill sets, says Boston-native Kousha Bautista-Saeyan, who is joining the Trek in Boston, which is “a hotbed for lots of startups. The business landscape always evolves. Where tech is concerned, big data and analytics seem like the next big trends. The more versed job-seekers are in those skills, the more luck they may have on the job market.”

That job market may also be improving, say several Trekkers. “While economic recovery may still be a ways off, recruitment on campus is back to previous levels,” adds Bautista-Saeyan. “I’m confident that we will all find jobs as long as we put the effort in to get what we want.”

For Smouha, who co-founded a pop culture portal called Velvetpanda at the age of 16, the Treks offer ways to learn not only about employers, but places. “I want to find out what the culture is like in a tech hub such as Silicon Valley, and whether I can see myself living there for the long haul. But for someone with little exposure to big tech, it seems like Google is Nirvana for the creative, entrepreneurial type. Any company that produces self-driving cars is one I need to seriously consider as a career choice.”

While the Trekkers will visit major players such as Google, they will also meet MIT Sloan alumni and others at lesser-known companies and in different business sectors. “I feel that in a short span of time I will get exposure to everything from gaming and e-commerce to cloud computing and enterprise services,” says Draughon.

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