Tripped Out

MIBDrug references, aren't I hilarious. Actually, I am really talking about my trip to Washington DC on Friday (which is no longer yesterday). IST (my major and college) runs a trip to some metropolitan area for a day to see technology companies in action, but its really just as much about promoting our students and college to potential employers. I enjoyed my first trip freshman year and had a great time when I went on another trip in the fall, so I didn't pass this one up. Our day started at 3:30am when we boarded our bus in State College and didn't end till close to 10pm. Over the course of the day we saw VeriSign, CSC, and Blackboard. Here are some thoughts and lessons learned:

VeriSign

VeriSign is a fairly successful company that manages the DNS servers for .com and .net, as well as providing communications and security solutions. They are based in Mountain View, CA but we saw their office in Dulles, VA. I think they weren't really sure what to do with us, so they showed some promotional tapes and took as around their facilities. I was amused when they said they wanted to be "the GE of the 21st century", since I am going to be working for the GE this summer. They work out of a couple office buildings called Lakeside, named for an artificial lake that they all share. Apparently the lake is only for decoration, as there were plenty of warnings of what you could not do in it. Their offices seemed fitting of a dot-com type company, with lots of cubicles and most employees still strolling in around 10am. They also appear to have a cult-like admiration of their CEO Stratton Sclavos, who has an awesome name. They also has a TGI Fridays and Olive Garden right next door – reminding me of Office Space. Frankly, I was half asleep by the time we got to VeriSign so I can't remember much else than that.

Computer Science Corporation

Computer Science Corporation (CSC) is a company with such an unassuming name, I didn't really recognize. I remember now that my cousin actually has done some internships with them in the past. Anyway, they are apparently a large global consulting/outsourcing firm that does a bunch of giant contracts for the US Government. They also treated us great and gave some great presentations.

They started by explaining how relevant our IST curriculum was to their work (a change from the usual talks where we are sucking up to them). Then Lem Lasher, VP of Innovation, teleconferenced in from Paris to talk to us. I thought it would be a sort of novelty hello and welcome, but he actually gave a 15-minute presentation (Powerpoint and all!) about the changing nature of innovation. He noted up till the 19th century innovation was a personal achievement, in the 20th century it became a group/corporate one, and today we were seeing innovation becoming a global phenomenon that everyone contributes to and benefits from. Pretty neat stuff.

Next they had a marketing director talk about branding, which seemed like an odd choice for technology students. Basically he took us through how they construct their brand, how it changes, and what all is involved. It was actually very interesting and got me thinking about how I could use it in my projects. Then they had managers and recent Penn State grads talk about their work. Basically all these projects involved millions or billions of dollars and many times the new hires played important roles in these projects.

They ended by taking us up to their executive dining room for a lunch. Our table became a students only table by accident, including myself, Rob, and Cat. An amusing part of the trip were the bathroom breaks. Everywhere we went we were being fed and given stuff to drink, so bathroom usage got to be pretty heavy. The demographics of the trip were heavily male (only 4 female students by my count, which is a shame) there were actually lines for the men's room. Not an everyday phenomena. Anyway the lunch was nice and CSC sent us on our way with a free "Team CSC" backpack. Apparently their racing team is #1 in the world and they're expecting their guy to win the Tour de France with Lance retired.

Washington Mall

We drove all this way to be in DC and we only got 45-minutes to walk the mall, a major downside in my book. Our gang ended up going to the Washington Monument and the WWII Memorial. There are picture available on Flickr. We were amused with ourselves since we were the only tourists wearing business professional. Apparently it was the first time my Collegian cohort Chris Bajgier had ever been in DC and seen the sights. It was nice while it lasted, but I wish we could have seen more.

Blackboard

Blackboard has appeared a number times IST's career fairs, which I always thought was odd because Penn State does not use their academic suite of e-learning software. I only recently realized that Blackboard is also responsible for the card readers and cash registers which are used extensively around our campus. Anyway, they were really nice and talked to us about different parts of their business. Their customer support manager explained how he built their service from the ground up after the company experienced rapid growth. They also showed off their e-learning software, which looked similar to ANGEL but nicer. 

Then they had recent college grads show us around their offices and talk about their jobs. Apparently a lot of the new hires do consulting work, traveling to campuses and doing custom installations of the Blackboard software for their clients. Their offices are in downtown DC, which I thought was pretty cool. The offices themselves were pretty nice and you could tell it was a growing company with a unique, college-like culture. I could have seen myself working there.

So that was the Washington trip in a nutshell. The trip could have been better, but I think it was worthwhile. I'm really behind in sleep now though – perhaps late night blogging isn't the best solution. Tomorrow I'll talk about today's event – a leadership event hosted by GE. Good night. 

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