Event Highlight: Career Connections San Francisco – Technology & Entrepreneurship

On September 23-24, 2023, Global Ties San Francisco hosted Career Connections San Francisco, a two-day capacity-building and professional development seminar tailored for U.S. alumni of government-sponsored exchange programs. In partnership with Global Ties U.S. and the Office of Alumni Affairs in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, our Technology and Entrepreneurship-themed event provided an unparalleled platform for 51 ExchangeAlumni to leverage their exchange experience and skills and to build their professional and community impact.

Through hands-on sessions on personal branding, entrepreneurship, inclusivity in tech, grant writing, and variations in career pathways, alumni attendees explored how to break into tech careers and translate their international exchange experiences to success in the workplace. Career Connections San Francisco also showcased our community and cultural centers such as San Francisco’s Chinatown — the largest and oldest in the nation — through off-site visits and an evening reception.

Held in the technology and innovation hub of the nation for an impressive group of talented individuals, the Career Connections conference proved to be a nexus for innovative ideas and invaluable connections.

Agenda Overview

Saturday, September 23:

The day commenced with Diplomat in Residence for Northern and Central California Ryan M. Gliha’s illuminating session on State Department careers and lesser-known tech-focused entryways, complemented by simultaneous one-on-one resume reviews, affinity networking tables, and a professional headshot photo corner. Messaging coach Steve Smith reinvigorated attendees in his afternoon block session, Crafting a Compelling Elevator Pitch, offering attendees tips on mastering “Tell Me About Yourself” in interviews, personal elevator pitches for meaningful networking, and traditional business pitches.

As the day continued, we took a brief walk from Hotel Zelos San Francisco, our primary SoMa venue, to the Dragon Gate southern entrance to San Francisco’s Chinatown—the largest and oldest in the nation—to celebrate the San Francisco Chinatown Autumn Moon Festival. This captivating offsite visit offered a glimpse into one of our many cultures and communities, and a major component of what makes San Francisco all that it is. We concluded Day 1 with an evening reception, allowing ExchangeAlumni to mingle and unwind in advance of the next full day ahead.

Sunday, September 24:

The welcome remarks from the Office of Alumni Affairs at the U.S. Department of State and Global Ties San Francisco that set the tone for the day were further solidified with a resonating keynote address by Shay Franco-Clausen, Political and Community Entrepreneur, who highlighted the significance of networking in catalyzing change. She underscored the pivotal role organizations like Global Ties San Francisco play in forging connections that transcend geographical barriers, eloquently emphasizing how uniting diverse talents and perspectives can spark transformative global initiatives.

Shay Franco-Clausen, encapsulating the essence of networking’s transformative power and Global Ties San Francisco’s role in these efforts: “The reason why Global Ties San Francisco means a lot to me is, through these opportunities that I’ve had with the organization, I’ve been able to meet with champions from Africa, from Germany, from all over the world who have similar barriers but different outcomes and consequences. And the more that we think in global terms and work together, we can solve small things, yes – but then we also have this huge network we can rely on. I know that I’m here today because it’s leaders like Alannah who believe that. I only move the needle this big in my community, but having a relationship and networking with all of you and us sharing the superpowers that drove us here today, we can change the world.

The day unfurled into immersive career roundtables — a crowd favorite! — with Austin Ruckstuhl, Privacy and Public Policy Manager at Meta; Shay Franco-Clausen, Political and Community Entrepreneur; Venture Capitalist Vish Mishra; Nazifa Nasim, Strategic Partnerships Development Manager at Google; Snehal Pachigar, Software Engineer at LinkedIn; Angel Investor Nancy Hayes; and Shengjie Zhou, Manager of Product Platform Strategy, Planning and Analysis at Netflix. Big thanks to our invaluable speakers who engaged ExchangeAlumni in discussion on their personal career paths, the realities of the sectors they work in, strategies for entering the sector, opportunities within their fields, and other resources.

Breakout sessions soon took center stage, covering diverse mentorship, funding strategies, personal branding, and more.

Breakout Rotation #1:

  • Nazifa Nasim, Strategic Partnerships Development Manager at Google, brought attendees through an exploration of Seeking Diverse Mentors in Tech built on her own journey as a first-generation American who now works at Google.
  • Vish Mishra, Venture Director at Clearstone Venture Partners, led Finding Sponsors and Collaborators for your Business: Venture Capitalism, a session geared toward our aspiring entrepreneurs on how to find funding to support business growth.
  • Snehal Pachigar, Software Engineer at LinkedIn, delivered a passionate and incredibly well-received abbreviated workshop, How to Leverage Personal Branding to Excel in your Career.

Breakout Rotation #2:

  • Angel Investor Nancy Hayes offered an inside look into How to Prepare a Pitch Deck to show potential investors and take your business idea to the next level.
  • Jen Cohen, Fractional Chief Technology Officer and Tech Strategy Consultant, offered deep insight into Women in Tech, reflecting on mentorship and the challenges and opportunities women face in the field.
  • Daniel Patterson from the Office of Alumni Affairs at the U.S. Department of State offered general grant writing tips and highlighted ExchangeAlumni opportunities such as the Citizen Diplomacy Action Fund (CDAF).

Concluding our final day with a tie back into what brought us all together, Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) alumna and Tech in the Tenderloin co-founder Julia Beabout delivered a presentation on Entrepreneurship and Nonprofit Creation from Alumni Grant Funding. Attendees learned how she and her partner started their business and nonprofit, along with how they were able to use alumni-specific grant funding to kick off the augmented reality (AR) experience, Live at the Black Hawk. This session then included an off-site visit to see the Live at the Black Hawk experience in-person at Boeddeker Park.

Post-Event Impact & ExchangeAlumni Reflections

In a comprehensive post-event survey, alumni attendees overwhelmingly expressed that the seminar significantly aided in envisioning their pathways into tech careers, effectively translating their international exchange experiences into workplace success.

“It equipped me with connections, knowledge, and inspiration in my job search, and it was a pleasure to interact with a group of such intellectually vibrant, kind, and motivated people.” – Noah Perry (LinkedIn)

“While the trip to San Francisco from Rhode Island was by no means short, the time spent there was more than worth it. From learning about careers in Tech, attending informative sessions on entrepreneurship, and making memories with other exchange alumni, I was left with renewed inspiration and excitement for my professional future!” – Gloria Kuzmenko-Latimer (LinkedIn)

“All fired up after the Career Connections SF conference… So grateful to learn and connect with others who’ve served as cultural ambassadors around the globe. The theme of this conference was tech and entrepreneurship, which was thoroughly explored with the help of a stellar selection of speakers.” – Taiyo Scanlon-Kimura (LinkedIn)

“I have learned so much from my fellow alumni and from the panelists — from mentorship to venture capital, AI policy and entering the tech field! Can’t wait to apply it moving forward in my career search[…] On top of all that, I got to explore the San Francisco Autumn Moon Festival with my new friends!” – Jonathan Fang (LinkedIn)

Expert speaker and venture capitalist Vish Mishra commented: “It was wonderful for me to interact and share my experience with the alumni of State Department sponsored study abroad program. There was so much curiosity, eagerness excitement among the alumni to learn about technology and entrepreneurship as career options!”

Final Thoughts

This event was a testament to the collaborative spirit driving Global Ties San Francisco and our commitment to empowering individuals through people-to-people connection, knowledge sharing, networking, and leveraging diverse experiences for a collective global impact. Keynote speaker Shay Franco-Clausen’s poignant words reverberate the ethos of the event: Together, with our shared superpowers and a global network, we can change the world.

Read more about Career Connections San Francisco through the lens of our partner Global Ties U.S., written by former Global Ties San Francisco intern Karinuelle Krisdiva.