Over February break, while most students went back to their hometowns, 13 Brandeis students ventured into the Silicon Valley area — a worldwide hub of innovation and high technology. 

These students are part of the Brandeis Entrepreneurship and Tech Association, which aims to create a more entrepreneurial community, increase the ability of students to learn about how to become entrepreneurs, open up avenues for them to meet people who are working with a startup spheres and help students get recruited for jobs after college.

It was chief operating officer Sarah Baskin ’26 and chief marketing officer Emily Wohlgemuth ’26 who brought the BETA dream of going to Silicon Valley to fruition. 

“The idea was originally from the founder of BETA. It was always his idea, but then Sarah and I were put in charge of making it come to life,” Wohlgemuth said. Starting in September, Wohlgemuth and Baskin reached out to alumni through LinkedIn, alumni relations, the International Business School and the Hiatt Career Center. 

The trip was primarily free, the club’s budget covering flight and lodging expenses with only a few out-of-pocket food expenses. 

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“One of the goals that Emily and I had for the trip from the onset is that we wanted to be as accessible to people as possible. A lot of people who could 100% afford all the aspects of this trip, they would have access to so many other networking opportunities and already have these connections existing. We wanted to open up this opportunity to people who potentially wouldn’t have those connections already, the resources, and we wanted them to have these sort of life-changing experiences,” Baskin said.

Jia Zheng ’26 is a double major in Business and Psychology who joined BETA last semester. Zheng joined BETA in hopes of getting a feel for different fields and industries in the business world. 

Zheng explained, “From my perspective, [being] first-generation in my family … and being on this trip was really impactful for me. I was able to visit a place on the opposite side of the country, which is really transformative.” She added, “Having expertise and advice from the professionals was really helpful because it really made me think outside the box.” 

Being in Silicon Valley allowed Zheng to realize that she best thrived in the city, where she could continue to feel motivated. 

Regarding initial expectations of the trip, Zheng mentioned that she did not know most of the people in the traveling cohort and simply looked to have some fun and develop her professional skills. Zheng commented, “I wanted the trip to be a challenge for my personal growth, in terms of having soft skills, speaking  and talking to other people, visiting companies and getting a feel of how it is.”  

Baskin mentioned that as a planner of the trip, her biggest expectation was, “for everyone to just have a good time, to get everything that they could out of the trip, to really make connections with the alums [they] had lined up and potentially see what field they would go into, perhaps be inspired by a field they hadn’t put much thought into previously.”

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As a personal goal, Baskin was highly interested in the companies that matched with her own personal interests and talking with others that focused on things that she wanted to do. She emphasized that her personal goals were secondary and that she wanted to prioritize the experiences that everyone had and make sure that the trip would go smoothly. 

Agreeing with Baskin, Wohlgemuth stated, “I always made sure to check-in with people individually, that they were enjoying it and that they were actually getting stuff out of the experience,” having planned the trip’s itinerary according to the students’ common interests such as product management. 

“I would say that we succeeded in that,” Wohlgemuth reflected.

Zheng made unforgettable connections with many throughout her Silicon Valley visit, such as a senior manager at Google, Yiran Li. The manager she was able to connect with was also an international student, to which Zheng added, “It made me feel really connected because we are of similar backgrounds, I was able to connect with her via LinkedIn. It was a really big help.” 

Wohlgemuth enjoyed connecting with other Brandeis alumni such as Tina Snow, who is currently working at Google: “That was definitely a highlight for me. We were really happy to get a visit that was all women in the panel discussion, that brought a really integral perspective to all that we were doing there while in Silicon Valley.”

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For Baskin, the most memorable company visit was Adobe, where students were able to speak to not only alumni but current employees, playing games with them, getting their questions answered and networking. 

BETA members were also able to meet Adam Cheyer ’88, co-founder of Siri, during their Airbnb visit. Zheng noted that she appreciated how humble and down-to-earth Cheyer was: “That is not something you really get when you hear from executives, and it was really heartwarming.”

One of the fondest memories for everyone on the trip was a serendipitous visit to the Golden Gate Bridge, where members took pictures and enjoyed their last day in San Francisco. 

Reflecting on their experience of the five-day trip, Wohlgemuth said that the most surprising thing was that “at the end of the day, after visiting out all of these companies and successful people, the things I got most out of in the trip were from the other people who were there with us, people from Brandeis I had never met before.”

Baskin shared that she learned a lot in terms of career paths and how different they can look: “There is no one path, there are so many ways to get the career that you want.” Wolgemuth also appreciated this insight from the trip, feeling less pressure on the question of “what you are doing now as to what follows after.” Echoing these statements, Zheng remarked, “You don’t really know where life is going to take you. You might meet someone who will change your life.”

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