Getting to Know San Fransisco with Charlotte Iwasaki ’18

Charlotte Iwasaki is a junior from Connecticut double majoring in Computer Science and Engineering. She is an RA in Willets, a mostly freshman dorm, and is finishing up her 3rd season on the Swarthmore Club Squash team. Her sophomore year she founded a cultural club called Hapa for students that identify as mixed race and Asian or Pacific Islander, and now serves as one of the co-presidents. We reached out to talk with her about her recent trip to San Fransisco with the CIL.

You recently went on a trip to San Fransisco with the CIL to visit tech companies. What was your favorite part of the trip?

It’s difficult for me to pick my absolute favorite part of the trip. I enjoyed trying out the kitchenettes at each company and getting free stickers and socks and other swag. When we visited Google in Mountain View, we all took pictures in front of the various huge Android statues. At DFJ I got to see the largest slice of the moon on earth and an original NASA mission console, the same one used in Apollo 13.

The Google Ballpit!

But in all seriousness, one of the best parts of the CIL trip was just getting to talk with alumni. Each alum was excited to hear about our experiences and interests as well as share their own, and wanted to answer any questions that we had. I was particularly curious about navigating transitions in the job market, be it switching between companies, attending graduate school and then returning to the workforce, or moving to product management after working mainly as a software engineer. The alumni I spoke with were happy to offer any advice or insight that they could and answered my questions with great thought and honesty.

And we talked about other topics as well. At the alumni dinner we attended, I had fascinating conversations with alum about everything from dark pools in the global stock market to private elementary education. It was overall an awesome experience to be able to talk personally with such inspiring Swatties.

As a junior, what lessons did you learn during the trip that will help you during your senior year?

Now that I have seen firsthand the environments at different companies and gotten a chance to speak freely with Swarthmore alumni working there, I have a better idea of what to look for when I apply for jobs my senior year. One of the most important things that I learned on the trip is that it is important to know yourself. What is a productive and supportive work environment for some people, is likely a difficult environment for many others. Some people thrive in large companies like Google where there is a lot of structure and monetary support for individual pursuits. Others enjoy the sense of freedom that comes from working at a startup or smaller company like Box or Stitch Fix and the greater potential impact you can have on your product or division. Although I am still unsure what exactly my ideal work environment is, I was really grateful for the opportunity to peek into the worlds of these companies and develop a better idea of my expectations for my future workplace.

View of San Fransisco

What would you tell future students who are curious about the CIL @ SF trip?

If you are at all interested in working in the technology or venture capital industries, definitely apply! It’s an incredible opportunity to see up close what it might be like to work at one of these companies. The alumni are super cool and eager to offer younger Swatties advice. I was surprised how easy it was genuinely connect with them. Even now that I am back at Swat, I wouldn’t hesitate to reach out to them with additional questions. If I haven’t convinced you to apply yet, I bet the promise of amazing (and Swarthmore-funded) food, private company tours, and sightseeing in SF will! Hopefully, two years from now, when a new group of Swatties flies out to visit the valley, I will be one of the alumni you all get to meet!


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