What do New York City, Philadelphia, and Boston all have in common? They’re all cities on the east coast, and they also happen to be the only places I’ve ever lived, except the few months that I lived in Belgium during college.  

Despite my flair for adventure, as a born and bred New Yorker, I didn’t grow up with any desire to move across the country. After all, I love winter! I love the accents! I love the oysters! I love the east coast so much that I stuck around for 26 years, during which I attended the University of Pennsylvania and followed my passion for marketing as a brand manager at Anheuser Busch. During my first semester at HBS, I befriended many former west-coasters who proclaimed San Francisco a hotspot for interesting product marketing jobs. For the first time, I wondered what it would be like to move out west and began looking into the many HBS resources that would allow me to find out.  

Enter WesTrek. For over 20 years, the Tech Club has hosted WesTrek, a 3-day excursion during which 140 HBS students visit over 60 startups, big tech companies, and VCs across the Bay Area. We were able to build relationships with HBS alumni during company visits, small group coffee chats, and social events.  

When I first heard about WesTrek, I immediately knew I had to attend. It would also be a fantastic way for me to determine whether I could really picture myself moving there this summer, so I secured myself a spot on the trek by joining the leadership team as Community Director.  

The Companies 

Throughout WesTrek I visited eight companies, from fintech startup Wealthfront to the female-founded VC Aspect Ventures. I wandered through Airbnb’s office and marveled at the conference rooms, which were designed to look like replicas of real Airbnb listings. I participated in an intimate Q&A meeting with Allbird’s co-founder Joey Zwillenger (and his dog!) and sat down for coffee with Deeksha Hebbar, VP of Operations at Sonder. Other classmates watched 3D printers pop out cars at Zoox and mingled with robots at Samsung Next. 

During these meetings I was able to develop a better sense of what opportunities may exist for an aspiring product marketer and whether certain companies had cultures that aligned well with my values. Since most of the visits were run by HBS alums, we had access to candid perspectives about what it’s like to be in Silicon Valley post-HBS. The tech industry changes quickly, and we heard over and over how the case method - which forces us to take a firm position and make decisions with incomplete information - has contributed to alums’ success.  

The Connections

WesTrek showed me that despite not having any immediate family on the west coast, I will always have a supportive HBS family. There are over 6,000 active HBS alum in NorCal, many of whom volunteered to participate in WesTrek – whether by leading company visits, coffee chats, or attending our annual alumni mixer. I now know more than 100 more students who plan to move there after graduation. I know I will have friends who are excited to guide me around their city, tell me where to get tacos, and where to live if I head west.   

Beyond WesTrek, I know that without HBS I wouldn’t have the experience or connections to segue into a tech career in San Francisco. My first four months at HBS have pushed me so far out of my comfort zone that I don’t even know where it is anymore, but the people I’ve met here have made me feel supported the entire time. I now have no doubt that a move to San Francisco would be an easy feat given the team I’ll have around me.