Inspiration from Silicon Valley

Over the Easter break I spent a life-changing week at Stanford University, California. As one of forty delegates selected from across the Asia-Pacific region, I was there for an entrepreneurship summit with some of the top entrepreneurial thinkers from across the world. We attended workshops and speaker events intermingled with team preparation for a final pitch competition, all while immersing ourselves in the Stanford culture. Going in I had no idea what to expect, but it was more than I ever could have imagined.

Located right next to Silicon Valley in arguably one of the most innovative places in the world it was hard not to come away inspired. I spent a lot of time thinking about how the atmosphere in Stanford differed from Auckland, and what I could bring back with me so that I could strive for more. I think the most amazing thing I found about Stanford University was the pure and unadulterated enthusiasm that was exhibited by every single person I met. Everyone was thirsty for knowledge and experience, and this seemed to be a driving force across the campus. 

One point where I was truly hit with inspiration was listening to a talk by Gideon Yu, former Chief Financial Officer of both YouTube and Facebook and co-owner of the San Francisco 49ers (which is apparently a sports team and a big deal in the United States. And I was a disgrace to all for not knowing about it). He spoke a lot about his time working for YouTube and a question that they had asked him in his interview before he joined the company. He was asked, quite simply, “why YouTube?” He was passionate about the company, used it all the time in his day-to-day life, and stood behind everything they did, so he was a perfect fit. But this question went on to govern much of his life, and is something I really took away from his talk. It comes down to taking a step back and asking yourself why you are doing what you’re doing. If you don’t believe in your work 100% and are not completely passionate about it, then you are never going to achieve to your highest potential.

Touching down in Auckland after my time away I thought back to all the people I had met and what I had taken away from my time in Stanford. As I approach the end of my time at University I am beginning to look for jobs and reality is starting to set in. The pressure is on as friends are starting to lock in graduate positions and big companies are looming over us in careers fairs and expos. However, I now feel much more calm looking at all my options. It has taken the Summit at Stanford to show me how many amazing opportunities are out there in the world, and when trying to figure out my next step in life I know I just need to step back and ask myself that same question Gideon Yu was asked years ago: “why?”