Prodeko Goes USA 2015 – a unique study experience
Every two or three years Prodeko has traditionally arranged “long excursions”, a couple of weeks’ long study trips usually overseas, and this year’s destination was USA. The trip itself lasted about three weeks starting in mid-August, whereas the entire project lasted almost half a year including a course, group assignments for partner companies, practical arrangements of the trip and a whole lot of organizing. 18 Prodeko students from freshman to 6th year participated in the project.The theme of the project was entrepreneurship and the purpose was to learn about entrepreneurial mindset both in startups and large corporations.
The initiative started already in late fall by getting in exceptional partner companies that made the entire project possible. The project team arranged also an entrepreneurship-themed course in spring. The course, which was open for all IEM students and gathered nearly 40 participants, consisted of six sessions with guest lecturers from companies and workshops on the topic after every lecture. After the course the project team had a couple of company visits in Finland and towards summer all groups started working on practical assignments with our partner companies, including i.e. Microsoft, Finnair, Nokia and McKinsey & Company. The assignments were done in groups of three, and all of them tackled real problems in the companies and hence gave students invaluable working experience!
The actual trip started on August 14th in New York. After NYC the team flew first to Seattle, then San Francisco and then drove down the West Coast through Silicon Valley and Los Angeles, finally ending up in Las Vegas.
Everything from large, world-class companies and top academia…
In New York the project team had an honour to visit Columbia University to meet Edmund Phelps, a Nobel Laureate of economics, and learn about the concept called mass flourishing, which makes countries prosper through grassroots innovation. In Seattle the project team spent a day in Microsoft Redmond campus and also visited Boeing to see their airplane manufacturing hall, the largest building in the world by volume! In Silicon Valley the team had a tour at Google campus and also paid a visit at Nokia’s Silicon Valley Innovation Center. In San Francisco the team got familiar with a not so well-known side of McKinsey & Company, their research arm called McKinsey Global Institute.
…to the fast world of startups and innovations
In addition to large corporation visits the project team was able to get excellent insights on several topics from smaller Finnish companies like Reaktor, Idean, Kiosked and (not so small) Supercell. The entrepreneurship-themed trip also included a visit in a startup co-working space Galvanize and a startup accelerator called 500 Startups where the team also met an IEM alumni, Nelli Lähteenmäki, whose firm Fifth Corner had been accepted to the fall patch of 500 Startups. Besides company visits the trip also included an interesting Rapid Innovation- themed workshop at Stanford University, hosted by Timo Nyberg from DIEM and Mark Nelson from Stanford. In San Francisco the team had a dinner with HUT alumni Mårten Mickos who had invited Jutta Urpilainen, former Minister of Finance of Finland, to eat and share thoughts with us.
The travellers naturally had some free time too and mandatory group photos were taken at Statue of Liberty, Golden Gate Bridge, Hollywood sign and Grand Canyon, to mention but a few. Everywhere the team went they draw attention with teekkari hats, and a concept called excuhalko (a log with Prodeko plackard attached by company excursion host) was a good way to cause positive confusion in the end of every company visit, too.
After all the USA project taught the students a lot about not just how different companies work but also how things like job market and government regulation differ from Finland. The workforce mobility was huge and especially in Silicon Valley you could just leave a company today and start working in another company tomorrow. Putting up an own company also seemed to be quite easy and failing was totally acceptable, like just a natural outcome of trying different things. The team also learned a lot about organizing a complex project, something that many of us don’t do every day. The whole project was definitely a study project like no other, something you can’t get by just reading books at school: international exposure, work experience and an unforgettable trip in great company!
If you’re interested to learn more about our trip, read our journey blog at http://prodekogoesusa.blogspot.fi/