The San Francisco Experience: A View on the Bay Area

11/11/2015

Senior Business Executive, Shane McAulay, recently returned from four weeks' work experience at Carat's San Francisco office - his reward for taking out the 2015 Carat Scholarship for the Brisbane office. Below, he shares his experiences settling into life in the famous Bay Area.

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This year I was fortunate enough to be awarded the 2015 Carat Scholarship for the Brisbane office.  The reward – four weeks' work experience in an international Carat office of my choosing. 

Anyone who has been involved in the process can tell you about the time and effort involved, and just how difficult it can be to present in a formal environment.  This was actually my second year in the competition and as a finalist in the 2014 program I gained invaluable insight into the process.

However nothing could prepare me for the toughest part… where in the world I would like to go?  Twice I had gone through the process, and twice I had thought about the possibilities.  As part of the submission process you are required to list your top 3 locations – pretty simple, I selected New York, London and Japan. 

My Travel Experience (or lack thereof)

I’m ashamed to say that I have barely travelled in or out of Australia.  My first overseas trip was to New Zealand a couple of years ago.  My wife and I were excited, we did grown-up things like visit an agent, purchase travel insurance and pack luggage.  Words cannot express the disappointment I felt when the first supermarket I entered had Tim Tams on special on a bulk end.  It was an amazing country but my expectations on the cultural differences were clearly misaligned.

So as a novice traveler, I made an effort to talk to anyone who would listen and ask their opinion on where I should go.  It didn’t take long for my list of dream locations to grow much longer than anticipated – Paris, Shanghai, Singapore – places I had never considered.  As the deadline grew closer I had to at least settle on a continent.  Even restricting it to North America there were plenty of great locations to think about and I ended up weighing up between Toronto, New York and San Francisco. 

The City by the Bay

So here I am working from the Carat San Francisco office on Howard St (there’s actually 2 San Francisco offices) and it has not disappointed. The city is amazing - there is so much to see, too many things to do and way too much food to squeeze into 4 weeks (and no Tim Tams). San Francisco has the 2nd highest population density in the US (behind New York), and the city is packed into a 7 mile x 7 mile area.  The result is one of the most busy, culturally diverse cities in the world – and you can forget trying to get a parking spot.

The influence on the Carat office is easy to see.  The office is always bustling, over 130 people are based out of one large, open floor with very few physical barriers.  Everyone is setup on laptops, hot-desking is common and it’s natural to carry your computer around the office, between desks and into meetings.  There is also a focus on reducing travel waste by utilizing teleconferences and web meetings.  In my experience there has been no need to travel so far – simply grab a meeting room and jump on a call. 

I selected San Francisco due to a number of factors but as a self-confessed technophile, the most compelling reason was its proximity* to Silicon Valley.  Since arriving I’ve heard about so many new tech startups, data platforms and audience targeting companies.  In the space of 2 weeks I’ve sat in on several on media presentations from the likes of Google & Facebook, all focused on new technology designed to assist Carat’s clients better reach consumers. 

It has been an incredible experience to meet so many new people, work in a new environment and discuss emerging technologies - and the best part?  There are 2 more exciting weeks to go – where I’ll be visiting the offices of the world’s biggest tech players, including the Twitter headquarters in San Francisco, the Googleplex in Mountain View and Facebook’s campus in Menlo Park. 

*Fun Fact: Silicon Valley is actually not that close at all - it’s approximately 40 miles away and involves a 3 hour round trip using public transport!

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