California Coast-to-Coast

A Visit to Silicon Valley and Beyond

Twelve students embarked on a 10-day journey through San Francisco, Silicon Valley and Los Angeles in to explore selected businesses in the areas of high tech, finance and start-ups.

Through site visits and meetings with C-level executives, students had the chance to learn about business ethics and professionalism as well as explore their career interests.

Rabbi Dr. Ari Sytner, director of community initiatives at the Yeshiva University Center for the Jewish Future, who accompanied the students, found that it was “inspiring to watch our students transform as they applied the values they learned in the YU classroom to real-world tech-companies. I watched as their eyes frequently lit up as they envisioned themselves achieving the very success they observed in each of the companies we visited.”

Thanks to Ailin Elyasi ’20S, news editor for The Observer, for her observations about the experience.

You might think that a trip visiting businesses throughout the state of California would attract only Sy Syms students looking to attain a summer internship, but you would be wrong. On the YU California Coast-to-Coast Winter Experience, I met pre-law, pre-health, pre-business and undecided students all looking to enrich their knowledge of the abstract west coast business-model that has been dominating the global economy.


We visited small start-ups like Stampli and BigPanda as well as huge companies like Facebook and Google. No matter the size of the business, one feeling remained: with a great idea and extreme persistence, you can have a billion-dollar life-changing product on your hands. In Silicon Valley, everything seems possible, and that sense of possibility, along with a significant work ethic and perseverance, can lead to innovative high-tech ideas that change the world.


The feeling of the Bay Area in San Francisco was as if everyone lived in the future. When the group visited Facebook, Israeli engineers introduced their virtual reality invention to the YU group. Their products, so advanced for their times, belong in a science-fiction book. The general sentiment among CEOs’ visions and company goals was the desire to invent the tools of tomorrow. In 20 years from now, the hope is for the companies’ products to be commonplace in every home and business ; yet for right now, the effort is to grow the business to become indispensable in the global economy.


Perhaps the most inspiring part of the entire trip was the Jewish values in place. In addition, it was clear to all of us that these CEOs had plenty more to do than spend an hour introducing their companies to college students. Regardless, everyone seemed more than happy to give their time to expanding our minds about the world of business. I felt as if it was a privilege to meet each of the companies and honored to hear their expert advice.


As for the advice, the most widespread piece of advice was simply to never give up. All the CEOs we met began with a wildly different product than the one they are working on now. They call it “pivoting,” the act of adjusting goals and ideas to fit new situations. All of the successful people have had to “pivot” to advance their ideas, and doing so, with their openness to keep trying and never give up, has made them who they are.