Student Trek Insights

We asked a few of the Spring and Fall 2017 trek participants to write about what their experience was like and a few things they learned along the way.

For more information about participating in a Career Trek or hosting a Trek group, please email Mary Flynt at


(Boston, MA) Biotech and Pharmaceutical Career Trek - Day 2

October 16th, 2017

The first company we visited today was DePuy Synthes. This particular company’s site is quite large, which allowed us to tour a lot of different aspects within the company including the manufacturing area and the cadaver labs. In the lab area we were actually able to do a small hands on activity. This activity was fun and also helped us to better understand the products made there and why the company takes time to train its staff and customers on how to use the equipment. The company also had a small panel discussion for us that included some younger employees. It was nice to see the different directions they went within the biotech field while having a technical background. Throughout the visit, multiple people in the company also explained a lot of the perks for working for a large company like Johnson & Johnson, like how they are able to create top of the line implants because they have the capital. One of the major points that stood out to me about DePuy Synthes, and because they are a Johnson & Johnson company, is that their top priority is the consumer. [Our] main guide, actually explained that putting customers first comes into play in almost every major decision that is made within the company. I thought this was a unique attribute of a company, especially one as large as Johnson & Johnson.


The second company we met with was Olympus Medical. They were very excited that Notre Dame students were interested enough in the company to come all the way to Boston to visit. The company gave us a presentation on the corporate social responsibility section of the company which focuses on giving back to employees and the local community. I think this presentation really interested us because Notre Dame has a lot of service opportunities, so it is nice to see that it is still easy to be apart of that once in industry. We toured the research labs and interacted with some of their products, which helped us better understand the main functions of each product. The last part of this visit was a panel discussion with two women who are fairly high up in the company. Both started as engineers after college and have moved over to the business side. It was very beneficial to receive advice as to how to be successful in this industry and what skills companies are looking for in new hires.


Both companies also touched on the biotech industry as a whole. Two major trends they see in the industry are that constant change and collaboration between functions. Constant change refers to both one’s individual career path and a market sector as a whole. Therefore, one needs to be adaptable and embrace the unknown in order to be successful in this industry.  In terms of collaboration, both companies expressed that in order to have a product be successful, it needs to benefit a large range of consumers. This means that there needs to be some sort of dialogue between the consumer and the design and manufacturing teams. This new concept has created a lot of new upstream marketing and training positions which engineering and science people can go into.

We concluded the day by having dinner with some of the young local alumni. It was nice to learn why young adults are drawn to Boston and what it would be like to live here. It also gave some insight into the large Notre Dame presence in Boston and how that can be beneficial for networking.

-- Heather Flynn, Class of 2019


(Chicago, IL) Sports Trek - Day 2

October 20th, 2017

The second day of the Sports Industry Trek consisted of visits to the Chicago Bulls, Chicago Blackhawks, and Wilson Sporting Goods. Although tired from our late (but exciting) night at the Blackhawks game the night before, we were easily energized by the amazing experiences this day provided us. We spent the morning at the United Center, home of the Chicago Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks. Each organization provided an opportunity to hear about their business strategies as a whole, the different interrelated departments, and to see their facilities. We had a chance to tour the arena, seeing not only their office space, but also the different team locker rooms, learning about the different processes that go into preparing for a game day. This part truly gave us a sense for how rewarding it can be working in sports.


The most valuable part of our visit, however, was getting to sit down in small groups with individuals within each organization. From the Bulls, we got to rotate through small discussion groups with Human Resources, Analytics, Marketing and Entertainment. From the Blackhawks, we had an opportunity to talk to Corporate Partnerships, Analytics, Human Resources, and Marketing. One of the major takeaways from this experience was being able to see how different sports organizations may be similar and how they differ. For example, in talking to representatives from both the Bulls and the Blackhawks marketing departments, we discovered how each team was trying to incorporate the local culture and spirit of Chicago into their brand. On the other hand, they acted differently based on the performance of their individual teams. This was another major point of learning for us on the trip. We were able to discover the interaction between the business and the team aspects of the organization. The business strategy when the team is doing well is very different from when the team is struggling. Lastly, human resources, and other Notre Dame grads provided us with helpful insight into how to transform a Notre Dame education into a successful career. The emphasized how important it was to get involved in sports on campus and participate in treks such as this. Overall our time with the Bulls and the Blackhawks gave us insight into the inner workings of the sports world.


We concluded our day at Wilson Sporting Goods, which gave us a new perspective on the sports industry. Again, we got to sit down with various members of the different business units within Wilson to discuss their jobs and how they got to where they are today.  From this experience, we gained a better understanding of the scope of the sports industry, and how a variety of different interests and skills could be applied to it. For example, we discussed the role of law in player representation, and how different sports leagues vary greatly. Wilson has a unique position in that they get to work with athletes and coaches directly across many age levels and sports. Ultimately our time at Wilson allowed us to explore new areas of the sports industry that many of us had not previously considered.


The Sports Industry Trek not only provided all of the participants a chance to explore the sports industry as a whole but also to dive deeper into a particular area of interest within the industry. Seeing how different teams and organizations function across the industry was extremely valuable to each and every one of us. I would definitely recommend this trip to anyone in the future!

-- Allison Perez, Class of 2019


(Washington, DC) Government Related Career Trek - Day 1

Monday, March 13, 2017

This morning, we straightened our ties, slipped on our heels, and headed out into the city. Since we are not an eighth grade class on field trip to the nation’s capital, we are expected to figure out how to navigate ourselves so we can get to our meetings on time. Unfortunately, due to some kerfuffles with the Metro, we showed up at Hamilton Place Strategies fifteen minutes late. While our hosts were very gracious and understanding, we learned our first lesson of the day: always plan for delays and hiccups when commuting.

However, that lesson was certainly not our last of the morning; at Hamilton, we learned about how policy consulting firms like Hamilton use quantitative analytics to disseminate information. I had never realized how valuable numbers and data could be to developing policy. In an era where “alternative facts” have become notorious, I personally appreciated seeing a non-partisan firm root itself in knowing what the facts are and work so that regular folk can understand those facts, too. The company’s culture is fairly relaxed -- our hosts wore jeans -- but the process of getting a job or (paid) internship is extremely competitive. Then again, it isn’t easy finding any work in DC at all, though we’ve met many Notre Dame alumni who prove that it isn’t impossible.

After a quick detour to get a picture in front of the White House, we headed to a beautiful building where one of DC’s oldest and most well-known think tanks, American Enterprise Institute, is housed. Their model is such that a young research assistant works under a scholar, who is an expert in a certain topic to write reports and disseminate information on particular projects. Thus, the research assistants have to “manage up,” meaning they have to develop the confidence to guide their bosses, all of them brilliant minds with illustrious degrees, in their research. In this way, we learned that interpersonal skills and the art of diplomatic persuasion are invaluable in DC.

In fact, our final stop of the day runs on the power of diplomacy -- it was, of course, the State Department. We really enjoyed speaking with five ND alums, including Joe Macmanus, the acting Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs.  He not only shared his experiences from working as a Foreign Service Officer, but also some wonderful life advice, which I believe impacted everyone in the room.  After he ran to a meeting, we spoke with the other alums, who worked in both the Foreign and Civil Services.  It was really interesting to hear their perspectives from working in a government agency, as opposed to a think tank or other private organization. While the private organizations seem to have turnover every two to three years, it seems that the government agencies have the possibility of a long-term career. We all really enjoyed not only gaining career advice, but general life advice at the State Department.

We wrapped up our day by dining at Catch 15, a lovely Italian restaurant. It was a great way to decompress from the adventures of our day, and discuss all of the things we had learned at each company. It was also a great bonding experience, and I think it really helped me appreciate everyone’s different interests. It made me realize that Washington, DC is truly a melting pot of different ideas, beliefs, and people.

-- Madeleine O’Mara (ND '18) and Julie Mardini (ND '19)


(Atlanta, GA) Data Science and Analytics - Day 2

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Our group kicked off our Pi Day celebration with a trip to SAP, a software company whose product is essentially data analytics. We started out the day with demonstrations of the way that SAP uses data to model technology for the future, like self-driving trucks and a version of the AI Alexa that can be used to get necessary information about airplanes in real-time. Then, we got to hear from several different representatives, who gave us more information about the different ways that SAP uses software to support other businesses. For example, we heard about Concur, a mobile app that lets people virtually submit their receipts for business expenses and then creates the expense report automatically, saving a significant amount of time compared to people doing that themselves.

Over lunch, we then got to hear from three recent grads of SAP’s Sales Academy, which is a six-month training program for new employees, before they take the plunge into their heavy-duty work. Many of us are interested in the software end of data analytics, so we got some information about how to break into the industry and what skills are valued. Even though I personally am not as interested in the ultra-technological aspect of data analytics, I still found the conversation rewarding, because I got to learn about how each employee made the transition from college to the working world, and the different ways they deal with the challenges in their work, which will be valuable information in no matter what field I end up.

We spent the second half of our day at GE Power, which was definitely a little confusing for all of us at first: We all have friends who are engineers, so we were familiar with GE Transport, and other more industrial facets of the company, but we weren’t sure what we were going to hear from a data analytics perspective. Lucky for us, our expectations were exceeded. A highlight of the experience for everyone was learning about how GE uses drones to take pictures of power plants, and how they use data from thermal cameras to spot anomalies that could become problems in the future. We got to see two drones, and take pictures of ourselves with a thermal camera. We even got to try on the virtual imaging headsets that GE employees scan those power plant images into, so that they can search for problems without having to ever send humans into the plant. We ended the day with a panel discussion with four recent Notre Dame grads, and got to learn about all of their different paths to working at GE. This was a really informative part of the day for me, because I don’t have a traditional engineering background, so it was exciting to hear about how each graduate’s different skillset took them to a place like GE.

After the “softer side” of data analytics we heard about yesterday, it was really interesting to learn about a much more technical side of the field today. We ended the day with another highlight of the trek—a group dinner at Waffle House!

-- Jenna Galuska, Class of 2018


(San Francisco, CA) Renewable Energy Career Trek - Day 2

Monday, March 13, 2017

I arrived in sunny San Francisco yesterday in the afternoon. The weather was perfect for Spring Break. We stayed at a beautiful location, next to Fisherman’s Wharf and the bay. Before gathering for our first dinner as a group, I had some free time to explore the area. So I decided to check out some of the piers and locals (including the sea lions). Unfortunately, I couldn’t get good picture of the sea lions [...] San Fran wouldn’t be a bad place to live (understatement). People were warm and friendly too, at least those whom I met on the Uber ride to the hotel.

The first company we visited on Monday was Recurrent Energy, a young company, that focuses on solar project development. They have done solar installation projects ranging from small residential to enormous utility scale. The ND alum at Recurrent gave us a great overview and a tutorial of the everyday work that they do, even though what they do everyday changes all the time. In addition, we also had a panel discussion with three other employees at Recurrent. Despite 3 of the 4 employees we met have engineering backgrounds, essentially all of them had delved heavily into the economics/business either through an MBA and/or the interdisciplinary nature of their work. I got a good sense of the different teams at Recurrent and their young innovative work culture. Throughout the meeting, we were able to ask questions about new solar and battery technologies, opportunities available at Recurrent, their relationship to the community, etc.

The following company we visited was a small tech startup, called Mercatus. Probably one of the coolest meetings we had. The entire meeting was with the CEO! And he was a really cool ND grad. Oh, and we were fed for free! At the beginning of the meeting the CEO and his customer success team asked us what questions we wanted answered during the meeting, and they used those questions to guide the conversation. They were extremely attentive to what we wanted to learn. They had a very insightful presentation on their mission as well as the market they are trying to service. Their product essentially boosts the decision-making efficiency of other companies and financial institutions which work on a plethora of projects. Their software allows for increased visibility of trends and project vitals that drive the decision-making processes. In other words, they found a process that could be improved and they made it more efficient. We also (casually) got a free copy of a cool book about the clean energy revolution. Definitely one of the coolest meetings of the trip.

The final meeting of the day was with THE Tesla. The meeting with the HR team was so quick I don’t really remember much from those 10 minutes. Expect for this useful statistic: Tesla is more difficult to get into than Harvard—so that’s nice to know. Coolest part was the tour. Their manufacturing plant is so huge they have their own custom trolley car and tour guide for the tour. Basically, Disney Land for Engineers and Car nerds. Not going to lie, it was pretty exhilarating to get to see these huge Japanese robots handle all the cars-to-be and flip them around like pancakes.

For dinner, we went to this Oyster place at Fisherman’s Wharf and had some scrumptious seafood. I got some fish tacos. Highly recommend. 10/10. Life without fish tacos is no life at all.

-- Juan Velazquez, Class of 2017