US Visit 2019: Attending class @ Stanford, Partnership meetings and getting a reply from Sheryl Sandberg

The title summarises my last US trip. It was May 2019 and the end of my fellowship. Rethink and Sijo were kind enough to sponsor a US travel for me. The objective of the trip was to explore the mallu network in the US and also meet with potential partners. Another hidden agenda of mine was to visit Stanford and take a class there because I’ve been obsessing about the university for way too long now!

And all of the above happened in the trip! SKG, Jibin and I travelled and it was quite fun. An added bonus was the road trip to LA 🙂

Class @ Stanford

Well, this one was straightforward — I was lucky with the timing. There were several MBA class visits happening during the time and I booked a slot. On the day of the visit, I arrived at Stanford and made a video call to my parents. I met other attendees in the library and our host joined us soon.

The host read to us abstracts of what each class would cover. There were 2 classes, 2 of which were a case study discussion. I picked this one: Strategy Beyond the Market: Innovation in the Energy Industry. We looked deeper into case studies on Uber and Tesla.

Interestingly, this was a class for 2nd year students and was largely focussed on Political Science. I loved the class. What I was most impressed with was how the professor involved the entire class in the discussions and yet finished the class exactly on time. Not a second before or after. Exactly on time. I’ve never seen such a neat presentation before.

After the class, I roamed around, went to the Admissions office to check them out and then clicked the mandatory picture 😛

Partnership Meetings

One of the key objectives of my visit were to meet with Alumni of engineering colleges in Kerala and explore partnerships with tech companies in the US. I had some really good productive meetings.

Couple of scholars from our collective have won scholarships from Western Digital, IIE and Google. Hence I wrote to key people from each of these organisations — just to go say hi and explore a potential partnership with them.

Western Digital

At WD, I met Mellissa Bedell. She is Director of their scholarship programs and was extremely warm. We bonded really well and she loved our work. She also showed me around the campus and shared insights about WD’s philanthropic efforts. Since she had put together the scholarship for the first time, she asked for some guidance on how other scholarships function and we had a brief chat about various formats other organisations like Google, Microsoft and so on take up.

IIE — Institute of International Education

IIE is like my alma mater. So this was mostly connecting with friends. Kelty Davis from IIE was the Program Manager for the WeTech scholarship and we had connected when I was a scholar. I travelled to IIE’s SF office to meet her and Mary Karam Mckey who is Director at IIE. We discussed about my line of work and how IIE inspired me. They also offered to explore a partnership.


We went Google’s Sunnyvale office and met Uttam who leads the Developer Relations Program. We discussed about our WIT initiatives and how we were working with DialogFlow and Action on Google in our collective.

Aside from these organisations, I also met some of my alumni.

  1. Satish Menon, CTO of ShutterFly
  2. Sasi Easwaran, CTO Chief of Staff at StreamSets
  3. Arjun Jayaram, CEO of Baton Systems
Satish, Sasi and Arjun

Meeting Asha Jadeja and the Rajeev Circle Fellows

Have always wanted to meet Asha and that happened this time. Fortunately, our visit coincided with the Rajeev Circle Fellowship delegation and we got to meet the fellows as well!

Sheryl Sandberg responded to my mail.

Yes! I wrote to Sheryl requesting a meeting with Facebook / Lean In to discuss partnerships and she gave me a response! I ended up meeting Archana Gilravi, who is VP of Partnerships at Lean In.

It was a delight speaking to Archana and we shared some common ground on the cause both of us were working for.

Startup Bridge India Conference

I also got to attend a pitching session and conference by Startup Bridge India. They help Indian B2B Startups forge strategic partnerships / M&As with US MNCs.

LA Trip

This was my very first road trip and I’m glad I got to do it with SKG and JJ! It was quite fun. We were tripping on songs from Manmarziyan throughout the trip!

At LA, we got to stay with SKG’s good friend Namrata and family. Bonus here was that I got to visit the LA Zoo and also eat some yummy India food from Sijo’s relatives’ place.


We stayed at lovely airbnb’s. Very warm and welcoming.

Two key learnings

  1. Get used to driving a car — I can ride a car but I’m not used to it. So I’m not confident enough. Had I been comfortable with driving, I could have hired a car and gone to the meetings by myself. Just because I couldn’t drive and also because commute by uber is uber expensive in the bay area, JJ or SKG had to drive me around. And I have to admit that it did not feel too good. The next project for me is to drive more often!
  2. Get a credit card — A credit card is like a get out of jail free card for international travel. Saves you in times of dire need.

Thanks must go to Rethink for the two wonderful years, this exciting trip and more specifically to SKG. It’s been a delight working with you and I can’t wait to pick on more exciting projects.