6 Life Lessons I Learned During Spring Break At Google: How a day in Silicon Valley changed my perspective

Written by DJ Jeffries, University Innovation Fellow from Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

This post first appeared in Odyssey on Mar 23, 2016.

When you say, “spring break,” most college students probably think martinis and tiny weeny bikinis, but my spring break was nothing like that. I had the great fortune of spending a day at Google in Mountain View, CA as a University Innovation Fellow (UIF). My break included spending time with some of the brightest and driven individuals in the country. There, we had a fantastic, inspiring and enlightening time led by University Innovation staff and fellows, in partnership with Google employees. There were so many great ideas presented and I wish I could share them all, but here are six things that applied directly to my experience as a college student.

1. Think, Act, Do Intentionally

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Walking into Google, I had no idea what to expect, except for that I’d be blown away. Needless to say, I was not disappointed. At Google, we were asked to step outside of our comfort zones and do a variety of tasks that required us to work with people that many of us had never met before. We were asked to brainstorm great, and sometimes life-changing, ideas in just a matter of minutes. We did not have time to do things without purpose. As a result, anything we thought or did needed to be intentional. In terms of life, think about things you do regularly and question them. Ask yourself do these things matter and/or what purpose do they serve?

4. Take Your Well-being Seriously

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From what I saw during my limited time at Google, as a company, they take wellbeing extremely seriously. As part of our day, we had a member of the mindfulness team come lead us in a mindfulness exercise. If Google is willing to invest money in the wellbeing (physical, mental and emotional) of their employees, you can assume that it’s pretty important. Quality work starts with you. To be a better you, you need to make a better you. Be conscious, be purposeful, and above all, take your wellbeing seriously.

5. Be Flexible

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One of the most provoking exercises for me was also one of the most simple. It was something we all know: Rock, Paper, Scissors. But there was a twist. Three-hundred students in a room played and they set out to find a single champion. They knew there’d be losers, and that was part of the twist. If you lost, you become the biggest fan of the person who won. It ended up becoming the most intense games of Rock, Paper, Scissors that I’ve ever experienced. But what was really cool was that even though the majority of us lost, we were eager to cheer for those who beat us. We wanted them to win. The life lesson there is to be flexible. Realize that your idea might not always be the winning idea but if you cheer for the person who does win, you win. And if you’re lucky, you win big!

6. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail Quickly (and Often)

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The last thing I got from Google is to not let a fear of failure control you. Be motivated by the idea that you might fail, and as a result, you’ll receive a unique opportunity to learn from it. Don’t be discouraged or fearfully cautious. Be driven by dreams and not fears. Go out and do the right thing!

 

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DJ Jeffries (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Bio)

Scholar, Innovator and Entrepreneur. Harmony above all.

Hypothesis Affirmed! Greenville, SC Ignited By Southeastern Regional Meetup

Last week, we tested and affirmed a theory. Our hypothesis was that we could bring together a group of Fellows with other college students interested in creativity, innovation and design thinking and replicate the energy of our Annual Meetup at Google and Stanford at a place far from Silicon Valley. We chose Greenville, South Carolina. Why? Because of our star University Innovation Fellows who happen to be in that region… Ben Riddle of Furman University and Bre Przestrzelski of Clemson University, and their amazingly supportive faculty sponsors Ross McClain (Department Chair, Art, Furman) and John Desjardin (Faculty, Bioengineering, Clemson).

https://www.flickr.com/photos/epicenterusa/sets/72157648089466547/player/

Ben and Bre’s work analyzing the Furman and Clemson Innovation & Entrepreneurship ecosystem informed their strategic plans to enhance that ecosystem (Furman Student Priorities, Clemson Student Priorities). They completed this work last year, over a 6-week WebEx-based program to become University Innovation Fellows and, as part of their training, flew to Google Headquarters and Stanford’s world-renowned d.school (the Hasso Plattner Design Institute). Over three days, 88 Fellows from all over the nation soaked up the innovation culture in Silicon Valley and discussed ways to lead a movement in student innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship on their campuses (March 2014 agenda, and photos). The Annual Meetup was transformative; both Ben and Bre saw the opportunity to replicate the magic and attract peers on campus.

Again, why Greenville? Program leaders, over the year that followed, discovered just how cool of a community Greenville, SC is, as both Fellows reported back the success and overwhelming support they received from institutional and community leaders. Greenville has a strong history of public-private partnership dating back to the entrepreneurial Mayor Max, under whose leadership the city attracted a major Hotel Chain and narrowed a four-lane thoroughfare into the charming downtown Main Street filled with great restaurants, culture, art and more. So, when the pair invited Epicenter and its founders, Stanford University and VentureWell, to co-facilitate design thinking and lean startup sessions with local experts, program leaders enthusiastically agreed. Thus was born the plan for the…

Southeastern Regional Meetup, Hosted by Clemson University and Furman University

SEregionalsmallEpicenter organizers, University Innovation Fellow program leaders and Fellows flew in from California, Massachusetts, Colorado, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, New York and the Virgin Islands. Fellows drove from North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia and even as far away as Michigan and Massachusetts! They were joined by 20 Furman and 20 Clemson students. All had one thing in common: a desire to learn the techniques of design thinking and lean startup, two approaches used to develop strong human-centered ideas and develop scalable business models around them. Using real-world issues from the Greenville community, students applied new-found techniques in observation, empathy, brainstorming, prototyping, customer segmentation & value proposition development.

Students developed low-resolution prototypes and articulated real opportunities to improve Greenville – a more friendly main street and redesigning the eating experience. Students learned by doing and they discovered that their entrepreneurial mindset could be honed on real-world challenges in their local community. On the flip side, community members saw students as motivated and capable individuals who bring a fresh-perspective and an open mind to arrive at highly innovative and achievable solutions to their challenges. One student openly remarked during the debrief, “I learned more this weekend than in the entire semester,” a sentiment often heard by many who first encounter hands-on and experiential learning opportunities. The mood at the reception with community and academic leaders was one you’d see at a sporting event, as evident by the Bear Ninja Cowboy video posted below. This kind of enthusiasm for learning can transform our nation’s higher education institutions. We look forward to replicating this success in Washington D.C. and at UMD on November 1st and 2nd, ringing in National Entrepreneurship Month with an invitation only Meetup for 100 University Innovation Fellows. More on that soon!

~ Humera Fasihuddin, Leader, University Innovation Fellows (on behalf of Leticia Britos Cavagnaro, Katie Dzugan & Laurie Moore)

A Big THANK YOU to our Collaborators and Supporters

We are extremely grateful to the many local community members, without whom, this past weekend would not have been possible:

Design Thinkers Group USA, especially Joel, Marc and Susan, for their tremendous efforts in co-designing and co-facilitating a two-day experiential learning experience with our colleague Leticia Britos Cavagnaro from Stanford.

John Desjarin, Clemson, for his awesome giant room-sized Business Model Canvas exercise, imparting Lean Startup skills to participants in an experiential way (and his moral support).

Ross Mclain, Furman, for forging an unprecedented partnership between a liberal arts institution and a major research university (and his moral support).

OpenWorks, for being so accommodating and allowing us to use their open work space for our activities on Friday (see agenda below).

Greenville Health System, especially to Robin, for joining us to discuss what you should never do in an interview — and making it funny.

Clemson MBA at ONE, for giving us access to their swanky new space on Main Street.

Also a special shout out to Envision SC, the Spiro Institute, Ten at the Top, SCBio and all of our additional facilitators and guests of honor.

Fellows Southeastern Regional Meetup Collaborators and Sponsors

Fellows Southeastern Regional Meetup Collaborators and Sponsors

Fellows Southeastern Regional Meetup Agenda

Fellows Southeastern Regional Meetup Agenda

A Quiet Revolution In Greenville, SC

A quiet revolution is taking hold in Greenville, SC, led by students at Clemson and Furman. Described by some as “A post recession ‘power to the people movement,” students are recognizing the gap between skills acquired at college and those needed by Google, Apple, Microsoft and other growing employers in the nation. The gap can be narrowed by hands-on and experiential learning opportunities. University Innovation Fellows have made it their mission to reach all students, across all majors, to join the movement.

Join us at the Southeastern Regional Meetup on Friday, October 3 through Sunday, October 5. And remember Fellows: we have your hotel rooms covered! You just need to get yourself there.

This event is hosted by the University Innovation Fellows in collaboration with Bre Przestrzelski of Clemson University and Ben Riddle of Furman University.

Forty lucky Clemson and Furman students will join University Innovation Fellows from across the nation in a day and a half of play that will ignite Greenville and the surrounding community.Students will participate in design thinking and lean methods on real challenges in the surrounding ecosystem that inspire their passion.

One lucky Clemson and Furman student who participates in the entire regional meetup will be invited to attend the University Innovation Fellows Annual Meetup at Google Headquarters and Stanford’s D.School in the Silicon Valley on February 19-22, 2014.

Fellows and invited guests: Register for the Southeastern Regional Meetup today!