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East Meets West

A group of computer science students travelled across the country for a week-long tour of some of the top tech firms in Silicon Valley, returning with a new perspective on technology, corporate culture and career opportunities in the epicenter of high-tech innovation and development.

The Fred DeMatteis School of Engineering and Applied Science Hofstra in Silicon Valley Program

The Fred DeMatteis School of Engineering and Applied Science Hofstra in Silicon Valley programis designed to give computer science students an inside look into top tier West Coast technology companies and to learn from and network with industry professionals.

The program, which took place during the winter break, included tours of seven global tech giants:  Gigamon (cybersecurity) Apple (consumer electronics), Facebook (social networking), Sofi (finance) ILM (industrial lighting), EFI (digital imaging), and Sony (digital entertainment).

“This program was designed to provide an immersive experience for our talented students to explore northern California and gain insight into the inner workings of several tech companies involved in pushing boundaries of technology,” Dean Sina Rabbany said.

 Thirty-four students applied to participate in the program, and the top five candidates received full travel scholarships ($1,500) from Facebook. 

Assistant Professor of Computer Science Jianchen Shan chaperoned the group.

“The Silicon Valley program helps to bridge the gap between academia and industry,” Dr. Shan said.  “Visiting companies from various areas and talking to real-world engineers, gave our students the opportunity to explore their passions and to eventually choose an ideal career path.”

Computer science major Tyrone Harmon ’20 dreams of working on the West Coast as a computer engineer after graduation.

“The West Coast's computer science industry is exploding, and getting a job sometimes comes down to having the correct network,” Harmon said.   “Living on the East Coast makes it a little more difficult to secure a position in that market, because many times, they aren't meeting face to face with students on the East Coast.  So, when I learned about the trip, I knew that this would be something I absolutely needed to do!”

Throughout the week, management teams and engineers at the seven companies gave students an overview of their job responsibilities, career advice and – in some cases – behind-the-scene tours of their facilities. 

Gigamon, a networking and security company based in Santa Clara, was one of the first stops on the tour.  Students had a rare opportunity to tour the Security Operations Center (SOC) where the company monitors and protects classified data.  Following the tour, professionals from Gigamon’s Human Resources department individually reviewed student resumes and selected nine students from the group to interview with Gigamon executives for summer internships and full-time positions. 

Hofstra in Silicon Valley

At Fremont-based EFI, newly appointed CEO William D. Muir invited students to observe a morning meeting where company software developers meet to synchronize activities, discuss challenges and create a plan for the day ahead.  Following presentations from management teams, the group toured the high-performance computing systems that EFI uses to print everything from signage and packaging to textiles and ceramic tiles.

The week also included a visit to Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park.   Stephanie Siteman, information security program and operations manager, along with Facebook security engineers, hosted an information session during which they discussed strategies for students to develop cyber skills and gain project experience that will make them more competitive in the workplace.   

“I was amazed by Facebook’s a diverse and creative corporate culture and their commitment to workplace optimization,” Harmon said.  “No one parks their own cars, food is ‘grab and go’ and employees can see a doctor or even get a massage right at their desk.”

At Sony in San Mateo, Hofstra alum Eric Lempel ’95, senior vice president of marketing and head of PlayStation Network, shared highlights from his 20-year career.

“I hope the students walked away with a better understanding of where they can go with their careers as well as the virtually limitless possibilities available to them today,” Lempel said.   “I imagine the exposure to real-world scenarios, challenges and the explanation of roles within various organizations were enlightening to the students and hopefully got them thinking about their personal goals and interests in new ways.”   

For Anthony Minerva ’19, a computer science major concentrating in Mobile/Web Engineering with a Minor in LGBTQ+ Studies, networking was the highlight of the trip.

 “It was amazing getting to talk to industry professionals and see what lessons from classes and my degree program will carry over to the ‘real world’,” Minerva said.

Hofstra in Silicon Valley

The trip also included meeting with executives and touring ILM (Industrial Light and Magic), the company behind film production for Marvel Studios and Star Wars and meeting data scientists at Sofi (Social Finance), an online personal finance company that provides student loan refinancing, mortgages and personal loans.

“The n Silicon Valley program has been a resounding success,” said Computer Science Department Chair Krishnan Pillaipakkamnatt. “We are grateful to all the companies who hosted our students, and especially Facebook that financially supported the travel and stay of 5 of the 13 students who undertook the trip.”

For Computer Science and English major Ashanti Davis ’19, the program offered a new perspective on her career plans after graduation.

“This trip definitely opened my mind to the possibility of moving to San Francisco one day soon,” Davis said. “One thing that was obvious at every single company we visited was that they are all vitally interested in growth and expansion and computer science jobs are very real and numerous in Silicon Valley. And apparently, the weather's always nice there too."

Student at Facebook