Silicon Valley EDI Trip 2018 – Stanford d.school, LinkedIn, & Design Thinking

The 2019 EDI Fellows traveled to Silicon Valley to speak with experts about engineering, design, and innovation.  Here is Patrick McElroy to describe our second day. 

Today was filled to the brim with stuff to be doing. We had to leave the hotel at 7:00AM, and we woke up around 6:00 to eat a quick breakfast (the belgian waffles were pretty amazing). The first stop for our groggy group was the Stanford Design School – the d.school. We met with an awesome director named Humera Fasihuddin who took us around the building a little bit and describes its semi-unorthodox design. The room we were sitting in even doubled as a makerspace, with cardboard, glue, saws, and much more to help people prototype their projects. She also told us about her own project – the Innovation Fellows, who are helping bring design thinking to other schools around the world.

Our next stop was LinkedIn, which involved some interesting driving inside the parking garage. Dr. Call, not without a bit of sweat, managed to navigate through, despite the low roof, and we made our way into LinkedIn with a fully intact car. Our contact there was an extremely cool Software Engineer named Baron Roberts, who started us off with the most important part of the building – the cafeteria. After a great lunch, we went up to the “Thin Mints” meeting room, where Baron gave us a presentation about LinkedIn and, more specifically, their philosophy of “Software Craftsmanship.” We also got loaded up with LinkedIn “swag”, including a frisbee and a pop socket, and listened to a panel consisting of other LinkedIn workers. Overall, LinkedIn kept the streak going of visiting places that I would love to either work or learn at.

We were meeting our next contact in San Francisco, so we drove to the BART public metro after leaving the LinkedIn offices. The contrast between San Jose, where our hotel is, and San Francisco was pretty stark; it looked in places like a smaller, tamer version of New York. After getting only a little lost, we eventually made our way to the San Francisco State University classrooms, where we had a meeting with a professor there named Bruce Heiman. He took us through some design thinking exercises, which included making a mind map to solve problems like what we wanted to change with our own lives and how to fix the parking problem in San Francisco. He concluded with some of his personal book recommendations and encouraged us to go to the food court nearby. After getting some quality pizza and pasta there, we walked backed to the BART and took the metro to the van to return to our hotel.

While it was a busy day, it was really fun and we got to see a lot of aspects of engineering that we hadn’t before. The d.school and the San Francisco State University showed us how design thinking can be taught, while LinkedIn gave us an example of how engineering can be used more entrepreneurially.