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By Marc Lamarre

This morning, we got to walk to our first destination which is Adobe Systems. Their main building is located only two blocks from our hotel. We are greeted by Donna Morris, a senior VP in HR and formerly with Jetform in Ottawa. She presented us with an overview of the company and gave us information about the lifestyle of Silicon Valley. She freely admitted that many of her friends here were also Canadians and does not feel too homesick. Also speaking were Paul Weiskopf, a company strategist, as well as Mike Savage from investor relations.

With a mission of "revolutionizing how the world engages with ideas and information", it was not surprising to discover that this company has evolved from desktop publishing, electronic documents, Web content and is now involved in rich Internet applications. This is a company that listens to their customers: to them, the word optimal can only be defined by users and customers. They value people who have skills, knowledge and abilities and encourage employee growth and development. Adobe Systems has a very high employee retention rate in all the countries in which they are located.

We saw a demonstration of their new CS5 software which has overcome previous challenges such as multiformat, multiplatform, multiscreen and multimedia devices. The demonstration definitely had a "wow" factor to it.

Our afternoon destination was Cisco Systems who treated us to a wonderful lunch at their Executive Briefing Center. The center is located on a large campus made up of 62 buildings. Each one of us had to sign a nondisclosure agreement but I am free to give my impressions of the company as a whole. This is a company that enables growth by being efficient, effective, and agile which in turn inspires and gets results. Their CEO, John Chambers, believes that "if you are not failing enough, then you are not taking on enough risk".

Cisco Systems believes that they are "acting like a start-up company" and that it must constantly "innovate or die". Within this company, anything that can be measured is measured. This philosophy creates accountability and helps reduce the element of surprise. They are leaders in leveraging Web 2.0 technologies in order to share information and to realize value. Our class participated in a demonstration of their video transmission capabilities which proved to be extremely entertaining and informative.

This being our last day in San Jose, I will attempt to recap our week here in only a few paragraphs. The words we kept on hearing over and over were leadership, openness, innovation, entrepreneurship and transparency. These are many of the qualities that have made Silicon Valley the success it is today. The collaboration between governments, universities and the private sector is truly astonishing. There is no stigma attached to failing. In fact, it is expected and is treated as a learning experience. Words such as "can't" and "impossible" are just not part of their vocabulary.

This is a multicultural place in two ways: the first is the vast diversity of people welcomed from many countries around the world and the second is the cultural diversity found from one company to the next.  They do however have several things in common such as embracing risk and a pioneering spirit that lives on through the good times and the bad.

On a personal note, I will never forget the lessons learned here and hope to integrate them in all my future endeavours. Every company executive should visit Silicon Valley and return home truly inspired.