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Trekking out West with Adrienne Zak, MBA '18

Posted by Adrienne Zak, MBA '18 | April 24, 2017

I first learned about TechTrek, run by Professor John Gallaugher, when I attended BC Business Days last spring. Since I had only ever worked for non-profits and didn’t know a lot about start-ups or tech, I was drawn by this high-octane experience of visiting 20 companies in 5 days on the West Coast. My college internships were for non-profit organizations, and since then, I had worked at a homeless shelter, a food bank, and a national early education organization. I knew TechTrek was an experience that I would get a lot of value out of, and it was part of the reason I was so excited to commit to BC soon thereafter.

bc-techtrekGraduate BC TechTrek West includes months of work leading up to the trip experience. This isn’t a relaxing trip to California – and that is made clear from Day 1. With a partner, I was responsible for researching and prepping my classmates for our trip to Starbucks headquarters in Seattle. We designed a fifteen-minute presentation and assigned articles for our peers to read in preparation for our Starbucks visit. We watched each other’s presentations, reviewed each other’s articles, and prepared ourselves to maximize our experiences and to ask meaningful questions.


On our first day in Seattle, skies were clear and we were all excited to be there. It was my first trip to Washington State, and I loved exploring Pike’s Place Market and getting to know my fellow Trekkers. We even checked out the very first Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room, and sipped on Reserve coffee before our big trip to headquarters the next day.

Monday morning started with a trip to Nintendo. This was conveniently timed as the day followed the release of the Switch, Nintendo’s newest gaming console! We were hosted by Danny Orihuela, BC MBA '08 and current Product Marketing Manager at Nintendo. We all had the opportunity to play Zelda on Danny's Switch and ask him questions about his time at Nintendo, where he has been working since receiving his MBA. Danny also walked us through Nintendo’s approach to pricing—a fantastic real-life application for those of us who had taken courses on pricing at BC. At each company we visited, we were hosted by at least one fellow BC Eagle  – including up to ten alumni at Facebook.


Next, we stopped at Xbox and Amazon before making our way to Starbucks. On the bus, my partner and I briefed our classmates on the important elements of Starbucks’ digital strategy. Upon arrival, we were greeted by several BC Eagles and friends, including one who led us to a coffee tasting before diving into the presentations. We heard from members of the global loyalty team, a design director, and a manager of mobile order and pay. As an avid user of the Starbucks app myself, it was interesting to learn more about the design intentionality behind the features, and particularly, the ways in which they plan to grow and develop in the future.

Leaving Starbucks, we headed to the airport to fly to San Francisco, where we spent two nights in Palo Alto – visiting Apple, GE Ventures, WePay, Google, ThredUp, and more. At Apple, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller, a BC ’82 alum and current BC Board of Trustees member, led us in a rousing conversation about Apple’s history, strategic decisions, and future. We talked about everything from retail decisions, to their upcoming campus, and even privacy issues. Lastly, the week was capped off with a trip out to Napa! After a jam-packed and educational week – lovingly referred to as a firehose of knowledge – we had an amazing time enjoying the scenery and wine at Round Pond Winery, also operated by a BC MBA alumnus!

This summer, I'm excited to be interning at Dell Technologies in a marketing role and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to apply the lessons learned on B2B positioning, cloud technology, and applications to the real world. While I can’t say for sure where my career will take me, learning about technology and start-ups was a fascinating way to spend spring break. If you're interested in learning more about the trip, check out the #BCTechTrek hashtag on Twitter– we tweeted back and forth with each other, and with many of our hosts!


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