Notre Dame-California News

Author: Dierre Upshaw

Updates and Upcoming Events
March 15, 2019

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Spring break is here and the 28 students who make up the Silicon Valley Semester (SVS) cohort all agree on one thing: the first half of the semester flew by! Some students traveled home to see family and many of them have planned trips together to see some of the majestic national parks and beautiful cities throughout California. Nine very lucky students just finished a Design Thinking course taught in conjunction with SAP over spring break. This intensive, 4-day class was a crash course in conducting user research, product design, and prototyping. The students finished the course with a product demo in front of a panel of industry professionals.

When all the students return to the Bay Area next week, we'll hit the ground running with more company visits, guest speakers, and networking opportunities. The highlight of the spring semester will be the ND Tech Forum on April 4 in San San Mateo, which is being organized by Amy Guarino and Rich Pivnicka. The featured speaker is Jan Muhlfeit, a global strategist, author, and the former chairman of Microfoft Europe. In this newsletter, you'll find more details about the ND Tech Forum as well as updates on SVS.
Students in the Design Thinking course present their final products and discuss findings from their user research and testing.

Jan Muhlfeit, our featured speaker for the ND Tech Forum on April 4. Mr. Muhlfeit spent 22 years at Microsoft, ending his career as the Europe chairman.
Unlocking Human Potential: A Discussion with Jan Muhlfeit, former Chairman, Europe, Microsoft
Moderated by Megan Hanley '90 ( , CMO Freedom Financial and former GM, Global Media, Microsoft

Date and Time: Thursday, April 4, at 6:00 PM
Networking reception begins at 6:00 PM. Program begins at 6:30 PM.

Location: Marketo, 901 Mariners Island Blvd, San Mateo (Theater First Floor) (

RSVP to Amy Guarino: ( , (925) 788-5268

Jan Mühlfeit ( joined Microsoft in 1993. After only one year at the company, he received the President’s Award for Excellence in 1994. Jan was named Regional Director of Microsoft Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) in 2000 and promoted to Vice President in 2002. Under his leadership, CEE became the company’s best performing region worldwide for four consecutive years. In 2004, he also became a co-architect of Microsoft’s global emerging markets strategy and a member of the Microsoft executive board for emerging markets.

Following these achievements, Jan Mühlfeit assumed the role of Vice President of Microsoft’s Public Sector team in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) in 2005. He was named Vice President, EMEA Corporate  Government Strategy in 2006 and was subsequently promoted to Chairman Europe, Microsoft Corporation in 2007. Here he played a crucial role in normalizing Microsoft’s relationship with EU institutions. Jan left Microsoft at the end of 2014.

Jan Mühlfeit is a global strategist, executive coach and author of bestselling business book The Positive Leader (Pearson, Oct 2016, Jan Mühlfeit & Melina Costi). His personal mission is “helping individuals, organizations and countries around the world to unlock their human potential.”

Thanks to:
-Richard Pivnicka for introducing us to Jan,
-ND-CA for sponsoring the refreshments,
-Eduardo Ramirez from Marketo, an Adobe Company, for providing the location,
-Megan Hanley for moderating. We are excited to hear what it was really like to work at Microsoft.

Engaging Speakers, Eye-Opening Company Visits, and Some Fun
It was just about two months ago when we took the SVS cohort on its first group outing to see Fisherman's Wharf and Lombard Street in San Francisco. In the time since then, our students have become quite adept at getting around the Bay Area, navigating CalTrain, and seeking out opportunities to build relationships with industry professionals.

In addition to a rigorous course load and part-time internships, we host 2-3 speakers every week and do company visits on Fridays. We reserve some Saturdays and Sundays for short trips and other activities like hiking, meals with alums, and sporting events. Just a few of the highlights from the past few weeks include:

-Gay Lawrence Pang brought together a group of alumni and 10 SVS students at Tony & Alba's Pizza and Pasta on February 24
-We hosted 20 sophomores from UNC's Silicon Valley entrepreneurship cohort for dinner and a talk by Chris Vargas '85 on February 27
-We visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Carmel Mission, and Pebble Beach on March 2
-The ND Club of San Jose/Silicon Valley hosted 7 students for the San Jose Sharks game on March 9

We are equally excited for a few of the programs and speakers coming up after spring break. Some of these highlights include:

-We are thrilled to host Tim Connors '89 for one of his famous talks on March 19
-Provost Thomas Burish will visit us on March 22
-A town hall with Kim Keating, the VP of Data Science at AT&T, on April 18
-Trips to Tahoe, Half Moon Bay, and Muir Woods
-Company visits to Dropbox, Google SF, LinkedIn, and more!

It's Not Too Late To Get Involved
Time might be flying by, but that doesn't mean it is too late for you to get involved with the program or to meet with SVS students. Our students are eager to meet Domers in the Bay Area and to learn about your journey, whether it's over a meal or at your office. As we look ahead to the second half of the semester, here are some specific ways that you can help us make the program a success for our great cohort of students.

1. We are looking for at least one volunteer service activity to do as a group
2. Host a small group of 3-5 students for lunch or dinner
3. Alert us of future internship opportunities
4. Share your expertise and experiences with the students at the ND-California facility in downtown Palo Alto
If you are able to help us with any of these, please e-mail Dierre Upshaw ( at