How hard can it be to for everyone to make it to the Thursday kickoff event, even if it is in the center of DC on a school day? I suppose last year’s returning Co-Chair (who will remain anonymous) should have known better, based upon experience. But hope springs eternal, and free food is, as they say, free food. Fortunately, we had enough of a showing from our HBS support group so as not to embarrass the co-Chairs, which is, I suppose, a logistics lesson that all organizers must learn at one point or another.
Friday came early. 7:15 AM was the call for our breakfast with some of the local VC’s held at the Tower Club. After getting our lay of the VC land, we headed to AOL with dreams of Steve Case still in our heads. Though Steve was otherwise detained, we did meet with some of the local HBS types (no mean feat for those of you who are trying to get on with them via the HBS connection). AOL is alive, well, and, well, hiring. Our next stop was Verisign, formerly known as Network Solutions, the dot.com people. By 11:30, three stops, three plates of food, and we are already running late (coincidentally?).
As the next stop, Ciena, was my own company kill, we had to boogie. A number of VP’s would be in the area, and Ciena had been tasked to actually provide us lunch (four stops, four plates of food – the trend formally appears). Amongst the partygoers at this catered event, Pat Nettles, the CEO, was on hand to speak about the latest earnings report and to drum up support for Ciena’s internship program and full time hires.
By 1 PM we had taken our first company casualty. Due to the weather (and definitely not the chocolate chip cookies), there was no way we would be able to make our next event. Matt Fisher, flexible as ever, re-arranged the schedule and put us back on the road to meet Richard Fairbanks, the CEO of Capital One. By this point, the caravan of cars was beginning to show the wear of the day, as a couple of the vehicles made the 40 mile trip through the traffic infested beltway passages with the gas low-level alarm locked in. It took nerves of steel to get us to Richard and the plates of goodies that awaited us, but get there we did. While there, we learned one of the secrets of CEO time management, taught to us by Richard himself. With six kids he cannot dedicate the time to his golf game like he knows he should, but what he can do is have two monitors continually displaying a computer generated compilation of the fifty greatest golfers swinging on the tee. We did not press him for his handicap.
After a late dinner, we retired for the third and final day.
On Saturday we met at the White House gates, expecting W. To welcome us with open arms. There are no tourists during the winter months, said the protocol office during the period of pre-staging. Little did they know about the excitement surrounding the new presidency. After gathering up most of the group, and watching a more interesting heckler do laps around the big white building, we decided it best to make our next appointment rather than continue to page W. Using the number on his alumni database card.
Cogent Communications in Georgetown met us at 11:30. We learned more about the telecom industry, asked if Pat (see Ciena above) had been by to peddle his gear, then dug in to lunch. Helen Lee, CFO and HBS ’00, gave us her view of the industry, and then handed us a big organization chart where we could each choose a spot within Cogent (and more importantly, a cubicle). We left Cogent for our last stop, iFinance, located in the 1700 block of K street. Prestigious though the location is, these founders (and HBS grads) know the importance of a fooz ball table, and weren’t afraid to save some time for a few games at the end.
So ended DC Trek. As organizers, we think everyone enjoyed the trip, and we suspect that more than a few have leads to summer/full time employment. We just haven’t put out the poll to ask them yet.