What is the ESMT International Field Seminar?
IFS is part of our MBA program, and every year there are two different destinations for IFS. This year our class was divided into two groups – one heading to Russia and Turkey, and the other one to California, US. To be short, IFS is a valuable first hand learning experience. During IFS our “Californian” team met with entrepreneurs and executives from IDEO, Bloom Energy, Tesla Motors, Mozilla Foundation, Levi’s, Asset Management Ventures and a few more companies. Each of those companies was unique with its own practical lessons and success and failure stories, but all of them had also the common spirit of the Silicon Valley. All our visits were very interactive, with questions and answers. All the companies we visited were very open and eager to share their knowledge with us. I took lots of notes and in the future will definitely use the golden rules learnt in the Silicon Valley.
What Makes Silicon Valley Special
Why is Silicon Valley home to the most innovative companies in the world? Why do so many great start-ups with great ideas start their businesses in the Silicon Valley? Those were among the questions I and my classmates were interested in. As we found out during all the company visits, one of the things that makes Silicon Valley special is its culture. Here people love to share their ideas with others. They are not afraid of others stealing their ideas. Instead they develop and shape their ideas while sharing. One of the speakers from the companies mentioned “Idea does not worth anything without execution”. Another person from the visited companies said “It’s better to have good ideas, but awesome execution, than an awesome idea, but a poor execution”. Many people we met told us that you can just go to have a coffee in a Starbucks and meet new people there and share ideas with them. It really worked and not only in Starbucks, but in every place where you could find a group of people together (in cafes, restaurants, in public transportation etc.).
Learning from Failure
Another important feature of the culture in the Silicon Valley was the attitude to failure. As Dr. Thomas Enders from IDEO said “Failure is not an end point, failure is a source of knowledge”. Failure is not criticized in the Silicon Valley, but it is celebrated as a learning experience. This is very important to encourage people to try new things, to innovate. Uncertainty is always there, but when you know you are not going to be criticized as a complete loser when something goes wrong, you will have more courage to innovate. As one of our speakers from the companies mentioned “it is better to try and fail than not to try at all”, and that is the dominant approach to the entrepreneurship and innovation in the Silicon Valley. Unfortunately, not in all cultures in the world this kind of forgiveness exists for the entrepreneurs who fail, which is one of the explanations why the Silicon Valley in the US became a hub for innovation while many other countries are struggling to encourage innovation.
Other Lessons We Learned from Silicon Valley
Along with experiencing the Silicon Valley culture, I and my classmates learnt many other specific things about the venture capital business, internet marketing, iteration in the design process, the ability to be fast, the human factor in every major success or failure and how to think the unthinkable and innovate, innovate, innovate.
I am very happy and thankful to ESMT for giving me the opportunity with the IFS to experience and learn so many important things for my future career.
About Sona Rostomyan
Sona Rostomyan is a full-time MBA student at ESMT who was nominated as one of the Kofi Annan Fellows this year. Prior to joining ESMT as an MBA student, she started her career at one of the most rapidly growing banks in Armenia (Ameriabank CJSC) working first in the customer service department and then in the back office. She has more than four of years experience in the banking industry (including customer transactions formalization, and account management). She enjoys solving mathematical puzzles, reading books and has a passion for photography.