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NTU EEE inaugural Technological Study Trip to San Francisco, USA for students


A group of NTU EEE & IEM students were given the rare opportunity of embarking on an exclusive all-expenses paid trip to the United States in December last year! The 10-day Technological Study Trip to San Francisco from 10-21 December 2017 included several visits to industry, Silicon Valley and university campuses. Students visited Google, Intel, Apple, Yahoo, Tesla, Stanford University, UC Berkeley, etc, as well as sightseeing the attractions of San Francisco.

We find out more from 4 participants, Ms Sandra Teo (Year 2, IEM), Mr Prawira Genestonlia (Year 2, EEE), Ms Stella Gracia (Year 1, EEE) and Mr Dong Weien (Year 2, EEE) about their experiences and insights!

 Click here for more photos!

How did you learn about the trip?

Sandra: There was a selection process, and it was through an interview, where we discussed our views on doing outreach for NTU EEE and the various ideas we have to help promote the School outside of NTU.

Prawira: This is the first time NTU EEE offers this trip. Thus, it was a closed-invitation for an interview. I was invited by the Outreach team as I have been helping out with outreach activities since I joined NTU EEE. There was then a selection process by the Outreach staff and Assistant Chair (Outreach) Prof Gwee Bah Hwee, screening our background and what we can offer.

Stella: After the Outreach team approached me to share about this exciting trip, they asked if I would be interested in going, as part of an “Outreach Committee”. I did not have any second thoughts – my answer was an absolute yes! It was then followed by an interview session with Prof Gwee where I expressed my interest further.

Weien: The team from the Outreach office contacted some of us and asked us if we could help with some events, to outreach to industries and students. After an interview with the team and Prof Gwee, I was selected to pioneer this trip, together with 13 other fellow NTU EEE undergraduates. The fourteen of us then also formed an outreach committee for NTU EEE!

What were some of the highlights for you of the trip?

Sandra: The few highlights of the trip were the visits to MNCs and meeting the EEE engineers there. I personally felt that the visits to Apple and Google were the best and most insightful as we had discussions with the engineers and got to know more about their job scopes, the required skills needed, and the efforts made by the engineers to be where they are now career-wise.

Other than the several school campus and company visits, the recreational activities for us during the trip were really chill and enjoyable as we got to tour and visit famous attractions in San Francisco.

Prawira: Definitely visiting Google and Apple, and interacting with the engineers. It showed me how small the world is and the technologies that we are all using are actually engineered by a small group of people! So, we ourselves have the ability to make a difference in the world too!

Stella: I truly enjoyed our visits to different universities, MNCs and start-ups! We met many passionate yet humble students from different prestigious universities like Stanford University and UC Berkeley, Engineers who are doing their dream jobs in companies like Apple and Google, as well as entrepreneurs who are working their hearts out for things they truly care about. During my visits to the universities, besides immersing myself in the beauty of their compounds, I was encouraged by how students there are much more open to risks and failures when pursuing what they truly care about, which set them apart from other students.

When I had the chance to visit the many dynamic companies and interacted with the engineers, I witnessed a whole different level of hard work and dedication. Working in companies like Google and Apple surely may be an immensely competitive journey, yet I was inspired by how every single engineer I met were so ready to share their tips and also highlighted how their daily journey involve a huge part of giving back to where they come from.

Weien: We visited several MNCs headquartered in Silicon Valley. While the visits had all been very inspiring, our experiences in Intel and Apple gave me a strong impression. In Intel, researchers presented to us some research projects and technologies. I was intrigued by a project where an LCD non-touch screen can be converted to a touch screen by simply attaching a sensor to the powerline and analysing the electromagnetic interferences amplified by human touch. I did not truly realise until then that EEE technologies make it possible to upgrade existing devices in such a simple fashion. Good engineering skills and knowledge thus not only produce high-tech connected devices, but also enable convenient integration of old devices into the network, offering an efficient way to scale up the network of Internet of Things.

At Apple’s Cupertino headquarters, we had a casual chatting session with some Apple engineers. I found out that while the engineers at these top technology companies are definitely outstanding, their level of professional profile is in no way out of reach for us. Many of them allowed time for their experiences and skillsets to grow and did not settle on a static level of expertise. As said by one of the engineers, “You should have a goal and try to achieve it. If you fail, just do something else to continue building up your experience, and then try again.”

Would you recommend other students to apply for this trip in future? Why or why not?

Sandra: I would recommend students to apply for this trip as it allows one to see beyond Singapore, and what the world can offer to EEE/IEM students.
As an IEM student myself, I learnt valuable lessons from the schools and companies visits where we could apply back in Singapore. It was really insightful and eye-opening to me where I got to know more about the overseas opportunities an EEE graduate could have.

However, students who are interested to apply for the trip will have to be committed to the “Outreach Committee” as we are the ones who will share our experiences with the fresh graduates or the JC students. The Outreach Committee also gives us opportunities to take up leadership positions and different roles for outreach events.

Prawira: Yes, I do highly recommend it. It is a valuable experience that we can’t get even if we go to Silicon Valley ourselves, we definitely can’t have similar experiences! It is a great opportunity for networking as well as many of the engineers there told us to follow them on their LinkedIn profiles and they would follow back.

Stella: Absolutely yes! I would recommend everyone to grab this valuable opportunity, especially in the first two years of your journey in NTU EEE. This trip is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity where you can expose yourself to the unique university cultures, pamper your eyes with the awe-inspiring university compounds, learn more about how different MNCs and start-ups operate as well as their cultures and the opportunities they offer, and most importantly, establish connections with students from prestigious universities and engineers who are doing their dream jobs – all at one go! I truly enjoyed every single moment of the trip learning more about these things and I believe you will too.

Weien: This trip is great for any would-be engineers to gain exposure and have a better understanding of the cutting-edge technologies. Silicon Valley is an energetic, dynamic, yet mercilessly competitive environment. In a top-down manner, the trip gave me insights into how top MNCs are trying to maintain their stable rate of growth while at the same time, aiming to retain the risk-seeking spirits of young start-ups; how start-ups are working with the current market structures, yet secretly hope to break them one day. In a bottom-up manner, I now know more about the level of skills, creativity and passion that Silicon Valley engineers possess, and how their innovations and efforts can lead to the growth of their companies and the development of technologies in general.

After the trip, I have a clearer goal in mind of the kind of engineer or researcher I should strive to be in the future. I think this trip can be an equally enriching experience for others too!

Any other interesting facts/information to share?

Sandra: There is no contract stating that you cannot switch between companies within a certain time period. Hence, it is possible to quit today and work in another company tomorrow. However, it works both ways, which means you can be fired anytime. That’s why there are so many benefits given by the companies to retain their talented employees.

Silicon Valley is hard to enter, but once you enter a company there, you will be highly sought after by other companies as well. If a company in Silicon Valley wants you, you are talented enough for others in the industry to want you as well.

Prawira: Interns in Silicon Valley often receive better benefits overall than full-time employees! This is because they pay lower taxes while receiving about 80% of a full-time employee’s pay. Interns also have more time (less stressful work) to enjoy the company’s perks and facilities

Stella: While there are about 10 daunting interviews that aspiring Silicon Valley interns have to go through, I guess the valuable experiences awaiting them is worth all the hustle! All the application procedures for interns are available on the company’s website.

Weien: During the trip, I found that in Silicon Valley, most engineers seem to have a “relaxing” and flexible schedule. For example, both Google and Apple engineers mentioned that they could kind of choose whether to go to work during weekdays. A Yahoo project manager also said he was going to have a three-month vacation soon. However, we should not be deceived by the façade of their working regime. Most of the engineers there are highly motivated and would not exploit the lax rules. They would still get their jobs done on time. In fact, many engineers in Silicon Valley often volunteer to do more to move their projects forward. As for the Yahoo manager, he just finished an extremely intense and stressful project with his team. Based on what his team had achieved, he very well deserved the good rest! Therefore, the working culture in Silicon Valley is very dynamic and distinct. It can be flexible in schedule, but is nonetheless very intense and demanding.

Any suggestions for future such trips?

Sandra: A few suggestions I have for the trip is that maybe the companies that we visited could conduct smaller sharing sessions about their job scopes and what they look for in potential employees, instead of just showing us around the place and sharing what they had done. Also, the universities that we visited could hold more interactive sessions between us and their students to know better about the school life there.

Prawira: We could probably have learning trips as well, to local HQs like Google and Facebook, as part of the whole trip. As such, we can differentiate what Singapore’s engineers do and Silicon Valley’s engineers do.

Stella: It has been a great trip! For future trips, it will be even more beneficial if we can meet more students from the universities, and staff from the MNCs and start-ups, to have chats where we can share our experiences and network with them. I truly enjoyed the discussion and lunch we had with the engineers from Apple – more of this kind of interactions would be really valuable.

Weien: During the trip, we visited a wide range of companies and universities. We also attended several talks and events. I am quite contented with the programmes. It may be a good idea to include some research institutes on the trip itinerary. In this way, we can learn more about the frontier researches that are being conducted overseas. We can also compare corporate engineering and research to perceive the differences and links between these two fields.

Published on: 28-March-2018 ​​​​​​​​ ​​​​​​

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