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Networking 101 for Swiss Students in Silicon Valley
In February 2015, a group of 12 students traveled to the San Francisco Bay Area—and to swissnex San Francisco—for a two-week immersion into the entrepreneurship ambience of the region. What they found was an open environment all about making connections.
The students, from the School of Applied Sciences and Engineering of the Canton de Vaud (HEIG-VD), are enrolled in a 15-week Innovation Management course at their campus in Yverdon-les-Bains, Switzerland.
Their course is taught in English and challenges the young minds to apply their knowledge to real industry problems. The Silicon Valley trip was their final exam, of sorts. And their task: Develop skills and put their theoretical lessons into practice.
Throughout the trip, the students documented their experiences through pictures and videos on a blog. And at the end of their stay they each had to pitch a startup idea based on current ETH and EPFL research and real-world problems.
The pitches ranged from a special paint that could help reduce water waste by directing streams of runoff into a reservoir, to a 3D virtual tailor that could calculate the perfect fit for your body proportions.
swissnex San Francisco acted as a nexus for the class and a place for the students to gather, learn, and network the Silicon Valley way.
To give the group and their professor, Vincenzo Pallotta, the opportunity to experience the local spirit, swissnex organized a vibrant event for the class around the sudsy topic of the Science of Beer, focused on brewing, yeast production, and the beer industry.
Invited to attend were the HEIG-VD students and special guests, including contacts in the swissnex network with a background at a Swiss university or university of applied science.
To promote networking, swissnex San Francisco organized #connectthedots, an interactive game between newcomers and long-term residents to the Bay Area—they had to find each other, take a photo, and post it online with the hashtag.
“You always hear that networking is important, but you never understand it until you experience it properly,” explains Florian Ramseyer, a mechanical engineering student at HEIG-VD.
“If one day I come here at swissnex, I know that I’ll never get lost, because here you get so many connections with universities, companies, people… this is very encouraging!” explains another student, Nelsia Hermann.