Jean WangDuring Spring Break last month, I joined my fellow MBA Badgers in a trip to Seattle, Washington. The purpose of the trip is to explore various companies and to connect with the Badger alumni in Seattle. In four days, we visited five companies, including Expedia, Zillow, Microsoft, Amazon and Starbucks. We had a lot of learning, bonding and fun. Here are my three key takeaways from the trip:

1. Seattle has a vibrant tech scene.
Duh! But it was all the more impressive to experience it firsthand. Several companies that we visited shared their stories of expansion with new, larger corporate campuses and/or aggressive hiring plans in greater Seattle. Every other person we met would tell us that they moved to Seattle from somewhere else rather recently in pursuit of great opportunities. Everyone seemed to have friends working in other big tech firms in town. The impression couldn’t get more vivid than the sheer prevalence of tech workers (as signaled by their company badges) walking in the city center during the weekday rush hour.

 

Seattle Zillow

 

2. Each company has a unique culture.
The companies we visited are in different industries and are of various lifecycles. The youngest is the 16-year-old Zillow and the oldest is the 48-year-old Starbucks. It was expected yet still interesting to notice the different cultures, dynamics and styles among these companies. For example, Expedia emphasizes global integration for both products and organizational structure. Zillow resorts to their startup root to continuously propel fast growth. Microsoft values problem-solving, collaboration, structure and agility. Amazon is all about customer obsession, manifested by its drive to get to the bottom of customers’ problems and its unique design of the product development process called “working backwards”. Starbucks regards itself as a “40-year-old startup” that innovates with both heart and mind. 

Seattle Microsoft

3. The Badger network goes a long way.
All the way to the Pacific Northwest! Each company visit was made possible by our amazing Badger alumni, friends and board members. They went above and beyond to make the trip a huge success. They brought in VP’s to shed light on high-level strategies, set up great panels to share career advice, and coordinated a Badger Happy Hour event to introduce us to business Badgers in Seattle. Upon learning that I will move to Seattle after graduation, many alumni immediately provided incredibly useful tips and insights. Not really surprised, but I once again felt very grateful for my great Badger network!