David KoserIn March 2019, the A.C. Nielsen Center for Marketing Research teamed with the Center for Brand and Product Management to visit technology companies in the Seattle area for the Spring Break Technology Trip. We visited Expedia, Zillow, Microsoft, Amazon, and Starbucks. The University of Wisconsin in general and the A.C. Nielsen Center in particular has alumni or External Advisory Board (EAB) members at each company, which allowed for a personalized experience. Each company allowed us to ask questions to a panel of current employees about their career paths and experiences at their respective employer. These discussions gave us insights into the company cultures and the skills we would need to develop to work there.

Seattle Zillow

Each company’s facilities were impressive, with downtown views of Seattle and fabulous interiors. I have heard about the culture at technology companies for years and it was a great experience to see them firsthand. Zillow offered candy from their unlimited bulk candy station and showed us their many break rooms, some with a maker’s space or musical instruments for employees to clear their minds. Zillow also showed us the thought process behind Zillow Offers, a new feature that allows consumers to sell their homes directly to Zillow instead of through a realtor.

The Microsoft visit gave us extensive time with A.C. Nielsen Center EAB member Barry Jennings. He discussed the evolution of his career in the technology industry and his experiences at a diverse array of companies. He also showed us around the company store and museum. After our time with Barry, a qualitative researcher had us test a new interview technique using our cell phones. We recorded videos of us answering various questions and then gave her feedback on the technique. 

Students speaking with EAB member Barry Jennings at Microsoft

Alumni at Amazon showed us the consumer-oriented PR/FAQ strategy. In order to keep the end-goal of every project in mind, they start with a preliminary PR/FAQ listing proposed features and how they benefit the consumer. This allows teams to scratch projects that may not offer competitive benefits early in the process, instead of after product design or offering. We found this to be a very enlightening concept and applicable to our projects as well. After our meetings with current employees, we attended a networking session at Amazon, attended by UW alumni across Seattle. 

Seattle Microsoft

Students and alumni at a networking event at Amazon

I have always wanted to live in Seattle, and this trip gave me first-hand experience with potential employers. Each company was involved in an industry that I am passionate about, whether it be travel, coffee, real-estate, or consumer technology. Overall, it was an enlightening trip and a highlight of my MBA experience.