PhD Tech Trek 2020

Author: Jermaine Marshall '20

Amazon A9 3

Our first day in Silicon Valley was filled with the aesthetics of tech companies and a plethora of information on their technological pursuits and each company’s specific culture. We began the day at Visa research where we listened to presentations on some problems they are tackling in relation to security and blockchain and company culture. It was very exciting to know that Visa is actually working to improve the efficiency and lower latency of cryptocurrency transactions as I did not know they had any focus on cryptocurrencies in general.  

We then drove over to Amazon A9 where we learned more about the practices and technology behind the biggest ecommerce platform in the world. We were fortunate enough to hear from engineering managers on the company’s available roles and how they have built such a strong engineering team. The presentations were in a relaxed environment which allowed us to feel comfortable asking questions. The building was also located in an old style Spanish building which was very unique and aesthetically interesting for us.  

We ended the professional day at Adobe where we listened to technical and non-technical presentations on the various challenges Adobe is working to solve as well as insights on their 3 cloud products. They also gave us more information on their company culture and we were even able to take a tour of the company. Being a former intern at Adobe myself in 2015, it was amazing to see how much the company has evolved and changed to meet consumer demand and provide creativity to the world. We also later ate at San Pedro square which has a variety of food options and is a popular tourist spot in San Jose, CA.

Our experience was extremely valuable as it gave us critical networking connections that may foster into something greater in the future and gave us insights into some of the real world technical problems these companies are facing. The technical presentations were particularly exceptional because I believe it can even give students more ideas to push their own research further which in turn can lead to a more successful academic career.  


- Jermaine Marshall '20

Doctorate, College of Engineering


We started out our jam-packed second day with a trip to Facebook. Wow, what an awesome campus! It felt like a self-contained city, full of restaurants, coffee shops, and even an arcade. Bryce Badura (Data Scientist, ND alum) was gracious enough to host us and field our inquiries into the company, giving us valuable insight into the culture. We then made our way to Exponent, where Walter Bak (Principle Engineer, ND alum) gave us the ins and outs of the company. This was followed by a tour of their lab space, which offered a very interesting firsthand look into physical research. 

 Next, we visited Google and had a walking tour hosted by Sonjay Noronha, senior product manager. His personality was great, and so was the tour! We received a lot of information about life at Google and the hiring process. We were then lucky enough to have Tim Connors, founder and CEO of Pivot North (ND alum), give us an excellent talk in which he supplied us with tons of information on future trends and great life advice. Finally, we wrapped up our day with a dinner panel, which included 8 ND alumni in many different roles. They ranged from a design engineer at Tesla to CEO/Founders of startup companies. This was a more personable experience and highly valuable in making networking connections. For anybody contemplating attending a career trek, I would highly suggest it. It was super informative and extremely rewarding!


- Kevin Manley '25

Doctorate, College of Science



At T Jermaine

Today as a part of the ND Data Science Career Trek, we had an amazing time exploring several fascinating companies and meeting a number of successful Notre Dame alumni.  After packing and checking out of our hotel, we jumped into our trusty minivans and were off to visit the Notre Dame California office. Along the way, we were able to make an impromptu detour to drive through Stanford University.  The campus was beautiful, and had a number of palm tree gardens and Spanish style lecture halls. However, there was no Gold Dome, so it was only the second prettiest campus we had ever seen. After this, we arrived at the ND office, and got to take one last view out of the windows at a panorama of a sunny day in Silicon Valley (back at ND the temperature was about 40 degrees colder!).

We then climbed up a floor to meet with the Data Science Team at AT&T Research.  They were very welcoming to us, and ushered us into a conference room where several of us (myself included) would be giving presentations on our work.  After introductions, we started presenting our work on Text Mining, Cryptography, Data Visualization, and Statistics. After each of us finished, the AT&T employees would ask us several excellent questions about our work that helped us appreciate how we might transfer our research into a corporate environment. We then broke for a delicious Mexican lunch and talked with the employees informally.  It was interesting to talk with so many experts, and this seemed like a really fun office in which to work. A number of walls were covered with post it note art of Pac Man and other videogame characters. We then heard presentations from the employees on the work they had done, and it was exciting to see how the theoretical work we were familiar with could be applied to solve practical problems.

After this we left to visit Kyndi, a groundbreaking startup founded by ND alum Ryan Welsh.  He walked us through how his team was able to build a revolutionary system for information retrieval, that had been deployed with great success to a number of high profile customers.  It was very impressive to see a demo of his technology, and learn about the challenges an entrepreneur faces building a business from scratch. Despite his success and numerous awards, Welsh was humble about his achievements, and seemed to be an ideal boss. 

After this, we left to visit Apple.  For security reasons, we weren’t able to go inside the beautiful new headquarters building, but at the visitor center, we were able to see a scale replica of the building and take a virtual reality tour using special iPads.  It was a lot of fun to see all of the different versions of current Apple products, and the visitor center gift shop had a number of items for sale exclusively at this location. After a brief tour, we met with two alumni working at Apple, and learned about the company culture and how to best prepare for an interview if we were interested in a career at the company.   They were very insightful, and told us about the many differences between the cultures at several companies, from Apple, to Google, FaceBook, and several others. After saying our goodbyes, we all went our separate ways to catch a flight home. In all, it was the perfect ending to a spectacular trip. I’d recommend it to anyone.


- Ryan Karl '25

Doctorate, College of Engineering