Day 1: Get the vans. Don’t forget Li!
Patrick and I rented out the 12-person vans picked up trekkers from the airport in two waves. As second wave lead, I was responsible for driving bunch of people, including Li, to our hotel. I picked up a group of trekkers and made sure we MiaoMiao Li on board. We left for hotel Parmini and shortly after, Li Zhang texted Withers: “Where are you guys??” Note to self: we have two Li’s! Better to get these goofs out the way early, right?
As we pulled up to hotel Parmini, it became clear the image they portrayed online was … aspirational! We will be roughing it for the next few nights at the Parmini. Our trek is starting to feel more like a leadership venture. Two-in-one?! Works for me!
Day 2: Facebook Disney’s it up and the Nut House Cinges
Our first stop was Facebook, and at first glance, I was pretty bummed. We were greeted with a bland external facade that looked like some sort of graduate student apartment complex. Once we crossed through security doors though, it felt like we had entered a Zuckerberg-inspired Disney World (it turns out Facebook did hire Disney consultants to design their campus). Facebookers travelled between eye-popping buildings on company bikes; the free food, drinks, and ice cream flowed throughout the campus. There was even a free arcade! While the campus definitely was someplace I want to be, I’m not sure I could actually get any work done.
Next we stopped by Apple, which unfortunately hadn’t yet moved to the Infinite Loop. Nonetheless, it was still cool to see this tech juggernaut’s customer- and design-centric culture in person. Box would be our last stop of the day. Free food was everywhere, and instead of taking the stairs, we got to ride a slide down to the front door!
After dinner, a few of us ventured to a local dive aptly named Antonio’s Nut House — think peanut shells everywhere — where we randomly ran into my old high school classmate and current GSB, Scott; small world! Today was Scott’s birthday, so we obviously had to get him a birthday drink. It was at this point that Scott introduced us to the wonderful world of Cinge – the tequila equivalent of Fireball. We’ll have to make Cinge a thing back in Philly.
Day 3: Trekkers bike and bullride
We kicked the day off with a trip to the Googleplex in Mountain View. While it exuded considerable Googliness, the campus’ creative layout and ever-present food gave it a feel like Facebook’s, but on a 10x scale with over 50+ buildings sprawled throughout.
After lunch, we headed over to Google’s significantly smaller neighbor LinkedIn, which was so close that Xoogler Zinnia took a small group of trekkers over by Google bike — yes, bikes are lying around for free here too. While LinkedIn didn’t have the custom-built campus that Google did, they did place ping pong tables and arcade games throughout the campus. We stopped by EBay and Paypal before heading back to our home base.
Withers committed us to a evening mixer with a Columbia Business School trek group at a nearby bar that featured one-way bathroom mirrors, and more importantly, a mechanical bull. We challenged the CBS trekkers to a friendly bull riding contest, but these MBAs feared the competition. A bunch of us still rode, and I’m pretty sure Withers has a back-up career in rodeo if this whole tech thing doesn’t work out!
Day 4: Meeting the original trekker and parting ways
My van led the way on our final day in the Bay Area and I may have pushed it a little harder than Patrick — let’s just say the difference in gas costs were significant and the phrase “speed demon” made it to our GroupMe. Our first stop was Walmart E-commerce — who knew they would have such a strong tech-startup vibe?!
We crossed the street to Youtube where Ben Choy, a Wharton alum and tech trek founder, welcomed us. We didn’t see the whole office (I’ve heard they have an indoor slide too!) but YouTube was cool – they operated separately from the Googleplex and had a more startup feel.
Finally, we drove up to Yelp’s SF headquarters, where they operate out of 26-floor neo-gothic office building. While the building’s exterior appeared conservative, their offices were anything but that, sporting a wall-of-fame with goofy vanity photos and a huge gong for top salespeople. Sadly, after Yelp I parted with the trek crew heading to Seattle.
The company visits were great, but the real highlight of the trip was bonding with my fellow trekkers. We have so many memories from this west coast odyssey, from sliding at Box, to impromptu Nut House venturing, to Bull riding with the best. Oh, and I’ll never mix my Li’s up again! Huge shout out to our organizers Annie, John, Ro and Stephanie for making it happen!!