Swiss Alumni Mix it Up

By Louise Roux, University of Geneva local alumni chapter representative, May 2010 – December 2010

Two engineers exchange business cards. Speaking in Swiss German, they discuss the Bay Area job market. A young man interrupts to ask how long they’ve been in California and whether or not they like it. Across the room, in French, an alumna of the University of Geneva (UNIGE) explains why she chose that school to a man who studied at the University of Basel. Beside them, another group remembers the good times at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).

It’s Thursday, November 11, 2010, and I’m wading through a sea of Swiss university alumni living in the Bay Area all attending a networking reception held just for them at swissnex San Francisco. The evening brings a welcome opportunity to see old friends, make new acquaintances, and form lasting professional relationships.

Before the current eating and drinking and near roar from some fifty alumni networking and mingling, however, five alumni from different Swiss universities spoke about the careers they built here in California.

Despite varied backgrounds, speakers Alok Menghrajani (EPFL, 2005), who works for Facebook; Barbara Dravec (University of Zurich, 2005), who owns an international marketing and communication company, Rotradis; Dominique Grau (UNIGE, 1982), of Agilent Technologies; Raffael Marty, (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, 2002), who launched the cloud computing start-up Loggly; and Hugo Rohner (University of St-Gallen, 2000), who works for the Swiss Kudelski group in California, all had some things in common.

The audience clearly related—with both agony and humor—as presenters joked about their visa hassles and challenges shedding their usually reserved nature to fit into the more socially forward US workforce.

Speaker Barbara Dravec’s ice-breaking game worked well to warm up the crowd, judging by the laughter, intense conversation, and rabid exchange of business cards going on around me during the reception.

As I get ready to head home to Switzerland after six months in the US, and as I pass on the duties of leading the local University of Geneva alumni chapter, I can’t help but reflect on the importance of this moment. All these people from so many different schools, all with diverse interests and unique lives and careers—they’ve come together because they share a special bond with Switzerland and have the opportunity to exchange stories and connect.

Who knows where it will lead. I’m just happy to be a part of it. swissnex truly offers a unique way to bring our shared interests together under one roof and provides the possibility for unexpected outcomes.


Click on image to see more pictures of the event on flickr.