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US Study Tour: Palo Alto/San Francisco

Posted July 5, 2017.

US Study Tour: Palo Alto/San Francisco

The flights from Melbourne to San Francisco via Sydney were, thankfully, uneventful as was our cruise down the US 101 highway from the airport to our hotel in Palo Alto. Despite our lengthy travels, it was still Wednesday and we were determined to make the most of the day. We quickly refreshed in our rooms and headed to Stanford. We w alked through the main campus ‘quad’, grabbed some lunch and a notebook for our visits before heading to the Stanford Athletics precinct. David Parker (DP) is a brilliant person to travel with – he convinced Bob, who manages the facility, to take us into the stadium and share his enthusiasm and passion for all things Stanford! A great experience… We then wandered through the Aquatic Centre around the training fields to the tennis facilities. We then visited our good friends at Tesla and McLaren before deciding our weary crew could do with a quick dip in the hotel pool before dinner.

Tomorrow, we promised, would be a huge day…

We won’t name names, but two ‘senior’ male students overslept… It took some serious banging on their door and the assistance of housekeeping to rouse them! Nonetheless, we managed to get to Google on time for our meeting with Josh Micich, a Senior Engineer and St Patrick’s Old Collegian, and Dave Abouav, a Product Manager for GSuite, who has been our main contact at Google since 2009. The mission of Google is to “Organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” And… there’s plenty of information – Google searches 3 million queries per second! Not to mention all the other Google products! There were some fantastic questions from our budding engineers as well as plenty of curiosity from those eager to pursue Psychology and Law – the diversity of career opportunities at Google is extraordinary. We spent 3.5 hours with these very senior executives – their generosity and their passion for their work is inspiring.

Next stop, Stanford’s Graduate Business School to meet with George Foster, The Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Management. His insightful discussion with the students about corporate and individual ‘brand’ – what enhances one and what can tarnish one, gave us all plenty to think about. Then we went across campus to the Li Ka Shing Learning and Knowledge Centre in the Stanford Medical Precinct to meet with Kegan Moneghetti (2001). Kegan is working on several significant projects, one of which is with Google, researching and endeavouring to detect early the signs of heart failure. Kegan’s messages to the students certainly resonated with many: there are multiple pathways to your goals – always remain focussed but remain flexible and open to opportunities.

If Thursday was big, then Friday was equally so. We began with a drive south to San Jose to eBay. Laura Chambers (Peile, 1995), Vice President of Consumer to Consumer, was at a conference in Colorado that day, but had arranged for us to spend time with her Chief of Staff, Jen Lamorena, and other members of her team, Kevin and Rachel. It was fascinating to have a tour of the eBay spaces as well as spend time with Kevin, who is a passionate advocate of the eBay brand, reputation and culture. A wonderful lunch in the eBay staff area completed an incredibly rewarding morning.

The 4th of July holiday weekend loomed and we were meeting Laura Chambers, her husband, Adam, and their gorgeous daughters, Zoe and Penny, on their yacht at St Francis’ Yacht Club for dinner, so we headed back into San Francisco via a quick visit to Apple. The generosity of all those with whom we meet and learn from never ceases to astound. The Chambers family hosted dinner for us on their 60-foot launch – an absolute delight and greatly appreciated. Owen made a special presentation to them of a burgee (flag) on behalf of the Ballarat Yacht Club. What a memorable day!

The weekend in San Francisco was ‘self-guided’ as, with it being the Independence Day long weekend, we did not plan visits. We stayed at HI Fisherman’s Wharf which put us close to lots of places we wanted to explore. We took the cable car into Union Square and then the BART across to UC Berkeley where we spent some time strolling the beautiful campus. The next day, we cycled across the Golden Gate Bridge and down into Sausalito. From there, we became two groups. One group went to Oracle Arena, the stadium of the 2017 NBA champions, Golden State Warriors, for a guided tour. The other group explored Lombard Street, the Painted Ladies, visited (albeit briefly) the California Academy of Sciences as well as Astrid’s choice for the afternoon – the Palace of Fine Arts…absolutely extraordinary. We regrouped at the Tipsy Pig for dinner before heading back for a (reasonably) early night.

A huge weekend to end of West Coast phase of the US Study Tour! Next stop New York City!