Francesco Tatullo, member of Silicon Valley Study Tour 2007, during the Stanford visit, knew this program. Back to Italy he applied to it , and he was accepted. He just came back to Italy 2 weeks ago...here is his feeling about the experience..
I’m writing this post hoping that it will be useful for some of you, in case you are considering applying for the Stanford SIGM next year, or just in case you are curious about this program. For an introduction to the program I suggest you go to the official website.
I prefer to go through my personal experience which is, after all, something hard to find on the official website.
Something about the schedule
Well, we had some pretty busy days in Stanford. On a typical day, lectures start at 9 o’clock (punctuality is VERY important in Stanford) and go to 4 pm, with a fifteen minutes break in between the lessons, and an hour for the lunch. After the lessons we oftenhad guest speakers from companies based in the Bay Area or elwhwere. Many of them were really new and interesting companies, like Linkedin, which you probably already know, and we had a good opportunity to interact freely, asking questions and expressing personal views. After dinner, which was around 6 pm (pretty weird for us, right) we sometimes had some other guest speakers, most of the times SIGM alumni. After that, we prepared for the next day reading the assignment the professors gave us, and finally meeting with our study groups to discuss the readings and answer the associated questions.
The teamwork is an important part of the SIGM experience, and it’s something really useful to try as many companies in the US as well as in Italy increasingly require their employees to be good team players. Even if the SIGM is not exactely a work setting, it is interesting and useful to observe some of the typical dynamics going on in a team.
Most of us actually ended studying around 10 pm; sometimes even later.
You may be thinking: “this looks really intense!”. Well, IT IS. This program is not the right choice for you if you’re looking for a vacation abroad. Lots of lessons, lots of reading, lots of questions to answer. But also a lot of learning and, last but not least, a lot of fun, especially in the weekends.
About the curriculum
The subjects taught are very diverse, and this is something I really appreciated. The business world is complex and diverse, and so should be a program aimed at providing you with the fundamentals you need to enter in such a world. So we had lessons in “classical” business subjects like marketing, accounting, human resources, and so on. But there is more than that: the faculty recognizes that“soft skills” are an important part of the education needed to enter successfully the business world. For this reason, subjects like negotiation and leadership also enter the curriculum. A particular lecture I especially enjoyed was the one in “non-verbal communication”. You would be surprised to know how much is going on in communication between two persons beyond words! After gaining some consciousness about this subject I felt like I was looking at my interactions with people with a too narrow perspective.
Another aspect which I think is worth mentioning is how the courses were tought. Beware: the teaching method is very different from the one we are used to in Italian universities! At first this can be a little bit confusing, but I soon came to appreciate it. I’m not making comparisons here; what I want to stress is that the two methods are very different. This is a good reason for non-American students to partecipate in this program: I found that the American teaching method was especially valuable for me, because being so different from the Italian method, it was actually complementary to it.
To be more specific, there is a much stronger emphasis on study cases, on “real life” examples, rather than on theory and on the general framing of a problem. Actually, the theory usually came after studying a specific problem/case/example, as a “wrap up”.
Another difference is about the students’ partecipation during the lessons: the students are HIGHLY encouraged to partecipate. Most of the times, the lessons is very interactive, with students raising their hands and expressing their personal view on the subject which is under discussion throughout the lesson. It’s not only about asking questions: the professors actually expect a contribute to the lesson from the students. Believe me when I say it’s not the right place to be shy!
The professors are, as it is obvious, diverse in their teaching styles and methods. Some of them are more formal and strict, but some others are the most enjoyable and friendly teachers I’ve met in my life. This may sound a little bit surprising, talking about such a serious subject like business, in such a prestigious university as Stanford, but we actually had a lot of fun during many lectures! At the same time, we learned a lot. Learning doesn’t have to be necessarily boring, right?
Interacting with my colleagues was my favourite part of the program. At first I almost could not believe there were so many smart and friendly persons in a single place! We had a really great time together, and I think I’ve also learned a lot by talking with them. If you want to know more about different cultures and different countries, this program is the right one for you. I met people from all around the world, and I think I have a broader perspective about it, now. As a part of the experience I had in this program, I also learned a lot about American culture. It’s really a full-immersion in it, from the food to the language, from the study method to the parties. But more important than all these things is that I gained many new friends, and this really makes me a richer person.