Bowdoin students mean business.
Forty-four students, led by Bowdoin Career Planning advisors Todd Herrmann ’85 and Sean Sullivan ’08, left early last Friday morning for Career Planning’s second annual BizTech Trek. Over the course of the whirlwind day, the group toured five companies in Boston to gain exposure to opportunities in technology, business or entrepreneurial fields.
“Last year we put interns and/or full-time employees at all of the businesses we visited on the BizTech Trek and started new direct recruiting relationships with all of the firms,” Herrmann said. “So far this year, all of the BizTech Trek firms have begun cultivating candidates for positions within their firms.”
The group first met up at EMC, a provider of IT storage hardware solutions, with Sean Marsh ’95 of Point Judith Capital, who organized and conceived the idea for both this year and last year’s trek, and Dave Brown ’79. Kevin Petrie ’95, EMC’s manager of business intelligence and worldwide data warehousing, led the students into the building and began his presentation by informing his audience that the universe consists of about 1.8 zettabytes of data, or roughly 112 billion fully-loaded 16GB iPads. Petrie discussed the possibilities of working with big data and described the institutional culture of a company with over 50,000 employees worldwide. New EMC employees highlighted the importance of a global mindset in a company that has gone or is looking to go global.
The group trekked on to Eze Castle Software to meet with a panel of alumni at the company. Pete Adams ’95 coined Eze a “middle-aged company” of medium size at around 450 employees, while Josh Zimmerman ’11 likened his role at Eze to a “Swiss-army knife job.” At a smaller company, Zimmerman explained, all hands go on deck to do whatever needs getting done, noting that his coworkers invest in helping him to grow in whatever task he undertakes. Eze was an addition to this year’s trek.
Robby Bitting ’11 met the group next at the MassChallenge building with its expansive views over Boston Harbor. Bitting, the company’s marketing curator, gave a tour of the floor, a space that emanated as much potential as the startups that inhabited it, before beginning the information session. Citing the rich startup ecosystem of Boston, Bitting explained how MassChallenge supports its startups and chooses its grand prize winners. The company recently awarded $400K to Rallypoint, a networking service for U.S. military members, at its award ceremony on October 23. Entrepreneurship is not necessarily synonymous with technology, Bitting said, but rather connotes innovative ways of doing things differently.
Bitting and President and Founder of MassChallenge Akhil Nigam took turns speaking before three startup companies took the floor to pitch. The speakers concurred that starting a company is hard, but that now is one of the golden ages of innovation, as the cost to start has gone down from past years and the way that startups are built has changed. The key to the success of entrepreneurs, they affirmed, requires an understanding of a problem, a passionate team and 100% commitment in order to attract sponsors.
Jeremy Segal ’92, Vice President of Corporate Development for Akamai, greeted the group next with baked goods and T-shirts, pushing forward the message that “in a hyper-connected world, you must master trends of cloud, media, mobile, while overcoming security threats.” Akamai claims 20-30 percent of the world’s internet traffic.
After making it successfully to EMC Software, Eze Castle, Mass Challenge and Akamai, the group finally landed at HubSpot. Students stared over a railing into the massive courtyard inside the building before meeting Hartley Brody ’12 who, together with his coworker, walked the group through HubSpot’s culture and philosophy. Brody, a product engineer and inbound marketing expert at HubSpot, cited an intense spirit of innovation and a “get your s__t done” policy. HubSpot is one of the 40 fastest growing companies in the U.S. with a unique company culture. (Employees tiptoed into the room during the presentation to collect beer out of the beer fridge.)
Romeo Ibanez ’15, co-founder of the Bowdoin Entrepreneurship Club, considered the juxtaposition between large and small companies to be the most valuable aspect of the tour: “A lot of people tend to think that a small company really is just a mini version of some large multinational company, but … you can see a huge difference in culture as well as the type of people that each institution attracts,” he said. Ibanez and quite a few members of the Entrepreneurship Club attended the trip.
Herrmann cited this broad cross-section as strategic: “This year’s BizTech Trek gave students exposure to a broad cross-section of businesses in the Tech industry so that they can better conceive of a place in which they can contribute to the firms as an intern or full-time employee.”
The fast-paced day ended at Hubspot with an alumni reception and panel featuring Brody, Bitting, Adams, Petrie, Brown and Jordan L. Fliegel ’08.
Marsh concluded the day with a screening of Brody’s “Gangham Style” Parody on the entrepreneurial note of “Do it; own it.”
Story and photos by Melissa Wiley ’13