Fresh Grad: The Silicon Valley Experience With Sumi

In this Fresh Grad segment, we talk to some recent grads successfully employed in Silicon Valley about their experiences here, and finally ask them the million dollar question: What could startups do better to attract fresh grads?

Deepti Vinodkumar, MS Stem Cell Biology ’13 – University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, has been working at leading regenerative medicine company SanBio for close to 2 years now. As an undergrad in India, life sciences research internships at Reliance Life Sciences, Sankara Nethralaya (non-profit ophthalmic care), and Central Leather Research Institute contributed towards her passion for research. The main reasons she is in the Bay Area is for the big research opportunities provided by none other than the thriving startup culture here, and the vast yet closely-knit Indian community, providing a piece of home. Apart from this, she says, the Indian community here ensures a good market for her handmade terracotta jewelry. Now that she has a presence among the Indian community, we’re sure it’s only a matter of time until everyone else picks up on the ethnic jewelry fad!

Deepti - Currently works at biotech startup SanBio

Deepti – Currently works at regenerative medicine company SanBio

The pleasant weather in the Bay Area, of course, is worth a mention. Ashwin Shanker, MS Electrical Engineering ’14 – Penn State, and Balakrishnan M.B., MS Electrical Engineering ’14 – Vanderbilt University, couldn’t agree more.

Balakrishnan is a software engineer working on health and wellness apps at Kaiser Permanente. An avid swimmer who has represented India internationally, he feels that the Bay Area has the most conducive weather for outdoor swimming. Also, he raves about its happening salsa and capoeira scene, both of which he picked up during grad school in Tennessee. So while the Bay Area has an undeniable vibrancy and energy associated with it, its booming tech scene was his main attraction. Applying his tech knowledge to healthcare problems seemed like a worthwhile prospect, given that his parents are both doctors back in India.

Bala - Currently works on healthcare apps at Kaiser Permanente

Bala – Currently works on healthcare apps at Kaiser Permanente

A data scientist at Jurispect, a SaaS provider for legal companies, Ashwin is equally happy to be in sunny California. The weather here gives him much more of a chance to pursue his hobbies of hiking and tennis compared to Philadelphia, where he previously worked for a short period. He went on to say that the job scope for a fresh grad in the Bay Area is much more than in other tech hubs across the US. He credits its startup culture for this, where due to company size, each member is consistently given a large and possibly, diverse, amount of responsibilities. One of the few data scientists in his company, he was immediately assigned to a challenging yet interesting problem on joining and is learning– and contributing– a lot.

Suneesh Kaul, Operations Research ’14 – UC Berkeley, agrees with Ashwin on Bay Area’s unique value proposition for fresh grads. Though he works for a semiconductor giant here and not a startup, he was easily noticed for his enthusiasm and hard work, gaining more responsibilities and earning the flexibility to choose his projects. Moreover, being a business process analyst in the Bay Area as opposed to the east coast’s finance hub is different. Coming in from an engineering background, Suneesh was looking for a role that combined his interests in industrial engineering (which is what led to his MS in Berkeley in the first place), product management, and tech. Importantly, while a similar role in the east coast would require years of prior experience in the finance industry, this one welcomed fresh grads. Overall, this was clearly the perfect fit.

Suneesh - Currently works at leading Bay Area semiconductor company

Suneesh – Currently works at leading Bay Area semiconductor company

And now, the crucial question Bay Area’s startups are asking: What can we do better to rope in young, enthusiastic new grads?

Better university relations. Since new grads are just leaving school, Balakrishnan says, the best way to reach out to them would be to have a solid presence at school career fairs and to conduct periodic info sessions. This is especially important for startups that don’t have much of an industry presence yet. Companies like Lunchcruit that offer job seekers the opportunity to connect with companies (over free lunch, in Lunchcruit’s case!) could have specific outreach to universities; many students would appreciate a free lunch and the chance to be sold on an interesting startup idea. Catch ’em young, as we might say!

Give fresh minds the opportunity to work on complex, real-world problems. Recent grads offer a fresh, and sometimes, out-of-the-box perspective when looking at real-world problems. So sometimes, lack of experience can be a good thing, according to Ashwin and Suneesh.

The chance to make a difference. Deepti has always wanted to make a difference in the lives of the disease-affected, and SanBio offered her just that, even as a grad fresh out of school.

The next question in all of our minds is, “What can fresh grads do to successfully grab that startup opportunity?” Stay tuned for my next article!



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