Our group at Facebook headquarters.

Two weeks ago, the Technology Business Group and the Green Business Club organized and led Columbia Business School's annual Silicon Valley Trip. This was the School’s 13th year heading west to explore career opportunities. We had more than 40 students on the trip and we visited 15 companies in three days. This year’s lineup was fantastic and included the following companies: Adobe, Apple, Autodesk, Bloom Energy, Blue Skye, eBay, Facebook, Google, IDEO, Khosla Ventures, Meebo, Tesla Motors, VMWare, Yahoo and Zynga.

The goal of our trip was to provide a chance for students to explore opportunities at technology and clean tech firms in the Bay Area. The company visits typically consisted of a campus tour, a talk with recruiters and either an executive speaker or a panel of employees. At many of the companies, we also had a chance to meet and speak with Columbia alumni who work there. For first-year students looking for summer internships and second-year students pursuing full-time jobs, the trip was refreshing, as it was clear that most of the companies we visited were in the process of ramping up recruitment efforts.

One interesting question that came up during our company visits, over meals, and in the car driving around the Bay Area is whether it’s better to head to a small start-up after graduation or join a larger and more established firm.

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In our first meeting at Zynga, a fast growing gaming company, their board member, Bing Gordon from Kleiner Perkins, suggested taking risks earlier in our careers to do something new and exciting. He felt that with an MBA from Columbia, you can always fall back to a job with a large established firm if the start-up doesn’t pan out. But in a meeting later that day at Adobe, CFO Mark Garrett provided an alternative perspective: He suggested going to a large company after graduation to gain industry expertise, since start-ups would always welcome someone with industry knowledge and an MBA from a great school.

After debating this question with classmates who spent time at both start-ups and large tech firms, one thing became clear: Either route can work. You should follow that path that you feel more passionate about.

We are grateful to these companies for hosting us and we thank all of our alumni who helped with planning. We also thank the Career Management Center for arranging an insightful VC panel and for partnering with our Bay Area Alumni Relations group to cohost a fun alumni reception at the Autodesk Gallery in San Francisco.

Read more about the trip on Christian’s blog, Philtered. Photo credit Bruno Orsini ’11.