ESTEEM Trek to Chicago: January 17, 2020

Author: Kaitlin Gawkins

On Friday, January 17th the ESTEEM Class of 2020 donned suits and snow boots for the program’s annual career trek to Chicago. After an early-morning bus ride into the city, we visited the offices of McDonald’s, SRAM, Google, and Cameo, where we participated in interactive panel discussions with ND alumni and toured the facilities. Later in the evening, we met ND alumnus and successful entrepreneur, Evan Wray, at the Notre Dame Chicago campus, where he delivered a keynote speech detailing his successes and failures in entrepreneurship. Finally, a group of ESTEEM alums gathered with us for a networking reception, complete with Chicago-style pizza for dinner. 

For the first stop of the day, our group entered the golden arches of McDonalds’ Global HQ under a banner labeled ‘Hamburger University’. After being escorted upstairs through the high-tech building, we were introduced to the leadership team of McDonalds’ Global Data Analytics practice. Our session with the team, which allowed for a glimpse into the establishment of an international center of data analytics excellence, rapidly transformed into an exciting discussion of the strategy and intrapreneurial drive that helps global conglomerates adapt to the modern economy. The exciting discussion between our group and the data experts charged everyone up for the long day to come.

The next stop for the group was SRAM, a leader in the growing independent bicycle dealer market and ESTEEM capstone project sponsor. During an opening panel session, CEO, Ken Lousberg, and VP of Human Resources, Eileen Mulry, gave a few remarks. First, Ken commented on the excitement of having a group of young entrepreneurs in the building: “We are always looking for fresh eyes, so pay the ticket for your tour! If you see something that doesn’t make sense or could be done better, say something. Give us your ideas.” Shortly after, Eileen added to these comments telling the students, “If you walk away with one thing, I want you to remember these words:” 

After the panel conversation and subsequent tour at SRAM, the group was shuttled down the elevator and across the hall to visit the Google offices. Once inside, we met up with a group of Notre Dame alumni who shared their journeys from the golden dome to one of the Big Four technology companies. Many of the students agreed that the highlight of this conversation was learning about the variety of career paths that are available through the company—from advertising to data analytics to PR, no two people had a similar background or approach.

As we rode to Cameo, the group was excited to visit a successful startup in a unique industry. Upon arrival to the company, which created a video-sharing platform that connects celebrities with their fans through personalized shoutout clips, we were greeted with a buzz of music, color, and conversation. After moving into an office space, we were given an informative and interactive presentation by Jackson Jhin, an ND alumnus and former VC at Chicago Ventures and interim CFO of Cameo. Not only did he give us a history of the company, he also gave a mini lecture on venture capital followed by a VC-themed investing game, completed with Cameo-themed prizes. 

Our final stop at the Notre Dame Chicago campus was filled with conversation, networking, and an inspiring presentation on the ups and downs of entrepreneurship by Evan Wray. After an engaging conversation about product development, dealing with setbacks, and staying energized in a venture, we ended the day mingling with former ESTEEMers over a classic Chicago-style pizza dinner.