By Clara Lim, Emma Leiner, Kenneth Lim, Minsoo Kang (Patrick), Ziyu LiSouth by Southwest (SXSW) is an annual conglomerate of film, interactive media, and conferences that occurs in mid-March in Austin, Texas. This March 2019, the two Blue Goji Capstone Teams from the Master of Engineer Program at UC Berkeley, Team Infinity and Team Velocity, had the incredible opportunity to attend SXSW and to support Blue Goji’s exhibit at the trade show event. It was difficult to miss the hype surrounding SXSW; our Lyft driver popped the question, “Are you all here for South By?” once we hopped onto the car from the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Boy, were we excited to start our Austin adventure! The SXSW trade-show is an avenue where some of the most innovative technology debut. We visited the Blue Goji booth (#155) which was categorized with the other MedTech innovations. There, we got to see firsthand the second iteration of the Infinity Treadmill our capstone team had been working on. Besides catching up with our Capstone advisor, Mr. Coleman Fung, on the progress of our project, we also managed to meet the other members of the Blue Goji team working on various aspects of the treadmill — back-end data collection, software integration etc. Besides the trade-show, the all-encompassing festival on Texas’s capital calendar offered us a range of talks and panel sessions on topics ranging from sports in tech, healthcare technology, social entrepreneurship and many others. Providing sustainable support for women in technology was one of the top issues discussed at the conference. “Disrupting the Status Quo: Female Leaders in Tech” was one particularly insightful talk we attended. It featured Billie Sue Chafins, VP of Software Development at Hulu, and Felicia Yue, Senior Manager at Amazon Prime Video. They captivated the audience with their story of how they made their foray into tech as women. It was very encouraging and insightful for some of us women who are going to be working in this field soon! For those of us interested in entrepreneurship, SXSW provided endless opportunities to network and learn from both new and serial entrepreneurs. Inc Magazine, hosted the Founder’s House an invite-only venue for founders and entrepreneurs to meet and listen to speakers share their entrepreneurial journey. Among these speakers were Stephen Lease, CEO of Goodr. Goodr builds cheap and functional sunglasses in a market saturated with big name brands and retailers. Stephen spoke in depth about how he found his niche target market and how he strategized his business to continually beat his competitors and achieved a seven-figure revenue. The last talk in the Inc. Founders Project speaker series was titled “The Art of the Pivot”, with Justin McLeod, founder of the fastest growing dating app, Hinge. During his talk, Justin described the day-to-day life of an entrepreneur, a volatile relationship between elation and depression. For aspiring founders, his advice is to not focus on the competition, but to constantly challenge, run experiments and pivot until you find a product-market fit. A few of us attended a panel session by Carmen Medina, the former CIA Deputy Director of Intelligence, titled “So you want to be a change agent?” She shared her personal leadership beliefs and how working with people have been a huge part of bringing forth change in organizations. One lesson she shared that stuck with us was, “Change agents must enjoy being uncomfortable!” This would definitely be something we would keep in mind as we strive to make a positive impact in our respective fields after we graduate from the MEng program. The Start-up Crawl also showcased interesting companies from different industries. One that caught our eye was IOMAXIS — they were designing unique operating systems for robots to be deployed in extreme situations such as disaster relief or deep sea exploration. This allows them to overcome challenges concerning efficiency or debugging when using existing or traditional operating systems. Besides this, Diligent Robotics’ booth at the Start-up Crawl featured the Moxi robot which helps to alleviate the demanding workload of nurses by having the robot attend to the non-patient facing logistical tasks! Aside from technical talks, SXSW is a hotbed for emerging musicians to show off their newest projects. A stroll down 6th street drowns the eardrums with the sounds of live instruments ricocheting from one bar to the other. Meanwhile, the larger music venues in Austin are filled with free concerts by world-renowned artists. Members of the Blue Goji Team were fortunate enough to catch a free Miguel concert with features by Cautious Clay. Overall, we were really grateful for the opportunity to see and experience first-hand some of the latest developments in tech, entrepreneurship and other fields. From the high-end tech showcases to the talks and conferences hosted by experts, we were overwhelmed by the resources and content we had access to at SXSW. Once again, we would like to extend our thanks to Blue Goji and the Fung Institute for this amazing opportunity! Connect with Team Infinity members: Clara Lim (IEOR), Emma Leiner (IEOR), Kenneth Lim (IEOR), Minsoo Kang (Patrick) (IEOR), Ziyu Li (IEOR)
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