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Jet lag vanished, students were excited and chatty about the day ahead. For one of our students, arriving at Stanford University was a dream come true. So much so, if we had offered to leave her there, she would have gladly stayed – though I’m not sure her Mum would have been so happy.

Stanford is set amongst orderly, landscaped gardens, surrounded by beautiful trees and wide walkways. Bicycles were everywhere and was the popular mode of transport around the vast campus. The buildings were modern and architecturally pleasing, though our guides referred to one of the buildings as ‘the Hamster Cage’. On closer inspection, I could see where they were coming from.

After a short tour of some of the science campus, we enjoyed a panel session. We heard the stories of study and career pathways from six Graduate, Postgraduate and Doctoral students all studying a wide range of sciences and all in different stages of their careers. There were so many take-away messages for the students, but here are a few key ones that got many of them thinking.

  1. Don’t use the word failure. Reframe it to think about what you can take away from the process, my hypothesis didn’t work, but I learned a lot from that, that didn’t work so what can I do differently tomorrow to make it work?
  2. Find value in yourself, don’t get hung up with what other people expect of you. Be gentle with yourself, treat yourself like your best friend. Our panel said they would tell their High School selves to worry less, trust themselves more, go with the big leap – things generally work out. Give it a shot. Take opportunities, put yourself out there. Don’t worry how it’s going to work out.
  3. Everything you do is a useful experience, so it’s okay to change your mind, nothing is wasted.

As we sat in the room, we could almost hear the girls’ minds ticking over as they considered all the advice they were given. For some, it provided the clarity they needed in the next stage of their thinking and future planning process which, for us as leaders, was exciting to see.

Microsoft

I think the girls would support me in saying that the canteen at Microsoft was amazing. It was so incredible, that I couldn’t resist taking a video of it, despite looking like a dorky tourist! The girls looked like they were possums caught in headlights as they wandered around the selection of food and drink choices. Every taste and dietary requirement were catered for. In fact, the head of catering came to give us a welcome and to let us know if there was anything they could do for us!                                                                           

Once lunch was over and we checked out the bathroom which included a shower, toothbrushes, hair ties, and hand cream we had a walking tour through a small part of the building and offices spaces, stopping in one of the breakout spaces to fill up with snacks and lollies. The food seemed never ending. These spaces were interesting. A group of musicians were practising in a space that had theatre style benches for a small audience to observe.

Some of the office space we saw had small glass cubicles where an individual sat in complete silence while they worked, opening out onto break out spaces where the walls were used as whiteboards. I spent years teaching my children not to draw on walls and here it was encouraged!

Other spaces had open plan workstations where employees sat, each wearing a large set of headphones. I asked if they were noise cancelling headphones but learnt that most worked listening to music.

Each lift and lobby were painted in one of the colours of the Microsoft logo so were bright and friendly. We finished up at the Garage Project. This was a creative space or “maker space” as they called it. Here staff could develop their own projects, both work and non-work related. They could explore any of their crazy ideas maybe as a hobby that might eventually lead to a product or another job within Microsoft. On a whiteboard on the wall, someone had written “Instead of asking why, we must ask why not.”

Here the students had lots of fun with the HoloLens which has enormous life changing implications for the health sector and design and building sector. Today for us, we interacted with an ancient crocodile and dinosaur. It was so much fun! Mixed reality they call it. I can now say I have experienced it first-hand. Our students also got to observe in the advanced maker space where a laser cut a MDF shape to take home as a token of their visit. What interested me was one of the guys sharing with us said he thought he wanted to be a game designer. One day he heard someone speak who he thought had the coolest job ever, so he went and spoke to him. He told him he wanted his job and as a result of that conversation, got a job with Microsoft! A great example of putting yourself out there and taking a risk. A fantastic lesson for the students.

NVIDA – The era of AAA – Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality and Autonomous Driving

You may be wondering what the name NVIDA stands for. We asked our host Dr John Hu, this question and he didn’t know, so Emily, one of our students who had researched it, explained it to him. NV stands for New Version and Nvidia is the word Invidia, which is Latin for envy. Envy and vision are closely tied in mythology.  

We were in their new building. They have only been there a year. It is made up of triangles which Dr John explained as their DNA. “The triangle is the simplest shape in computing.”

We heard how computer power is so good now that we can create a reality that is better than real, which made me wonder then, is it real? But what would I know? Machines are learning faster than us and will be superior to us. The students heard that the application of AI will have the biggest impact on our lives and already on certain perspectives AI has reached the capability of humans.

An autonomous car was on display and the students sat in it. Malaya was all ready to drive off. In two years’, they will be ready commercially, but the regulatory process could be 10 years away. The big question is who will be liable if anything goes wrong?

In a time where the physical mixes with the digital world, Dr John’s advice for the students is to learn the fundamentals of math and science but learning capability is fundamental. Most students will be working in jobs that don’t yet exist, so an ability to learn is a key skill in tomorrow’s world.

 

Day 3 in Silicon Valley

 
 
 
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