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Carroll School of Management

Students Describe Prof. John Gallaugher’s TechTrek West As “A Game Changer”

TechTrek West course is unbeatable

BC students in front of Google campus, CA
TechTrek West course visits the Google campus in CA.

August 31, 2011

Prof. John Gallaugher, Associate Professor of Information Systems at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College knows that the field study he hosts annually out to the West Coast is a blockbuster hit. It's called TechTrek West and Gallaugher is convinced he's offering his business students something unbeatable — something they won’t find elsewhere. “It's not an exaggeration to say the program is the best of its kind in the country.  The level of access we have to companies is unprecedented," he says.

Case in point: the 24 students accompanying Gallaugher on the week-long field study in Silicon Valley, Calif., San Francisco and Seattle, WA attended the original iPhone launch with VIP access at the keynote presented by Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs (one student even sat next to Google’s Larry Page). TechTrek visits Apple's campus every year, meeting with Boston College alumnus Phil Schiller [famed member of Apple executive team]. This year, the roughly 20 visits made by the group included time at Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft’s Xbox and Phone groups, Starbucks, Twitter, and Zynga; as well as with early-stage entrepreneurs and partners in leading venture firms. Most of the hosts are Boston College alumni, and several were formerly TechTrek students themselves.

A life changing course

Gallaugher, who is on his sixth year hosting the TechTrek West (and also runs a similar series of field visits in Boston and New York), says this is no celebrity meet and greet – TechTrek West is a course combining classroom work with field visits. Students describe the class as a “real life changer” that has given them a clear advantage in their careers.

What the students say

Courtney Scrib, ’11 graduated from the Carroll School this May with a marketing concentration. When she attended TechTrek West last January she worried that her non-technology background would hold her back. But Scrib was pleasantly surprised. “Tech Trek made me realize how human resources, finance, information technology and marketing all come together and how collaborative these industries are.” Scrib’s experiences were so significant that she was asked to pen an essay for The Boston Globe, sharing her thoughts on East/West startup culture.

Scrib adds the students see a wide range of companies – blue chip companies through to start-ups and their evolution in between. “It was fascinating. From this trip I understood how important culture is to a company. Google, for instance, has a T Rex in the middle of their campus because they want to create an environment where employees don’t think they are at work.” Scrib changed her concentration from Product and Brand Management to Marketing Informatics because of TechTrek West.

Alison Martin ’11 went to TechTrek in January 2010. Her concentration was in Competitive Service Delivery and it was because of TechTrek that she enrolled at the Carroll School.

Martin was most impressed by the group's hosts and was inspired to hear from so many successful Boston College alumni. "For me, this course was a chance to access the world's best executives."  Field visits are described as ‘master class’ sessions and Martin appreciated how candid all were regarding their jobs and actual company challenges. "This was beyond what you would get from someone in human resources."

Martin adds that the Boston College alumni network is excellent. “I learned more in a week than I learned from some other courses through an entire semester,” she says. The course also reinforced she wanted to work in the IT sector. Martin graduated in May and now works for a Boston, MA based technology start up.

A rigorous workload

However, the course is not for the weak willed. The students rise early, spend their entire day visiting companies and return to their hotel rooms late. The MBA students spend a semester researching the companies, examining their current issues and the executive hierarchy. Each student must present their findings to the class. Once they return to Boston the student must also write out a report on what the major takeaways were from their visit.

The students don't seem to mind the workload one bit however, and feel honored participating. “We all feel so grateful for all the hard work our professor put in to making our course so successful,” Scrib says. “TechTrek West changed my life.”