Advice from an Airbnb Intern, by Olivia Nicolaus
Written by Olivia Nicolaus, UNC Class of 2016
I first used Airbnb when I was studying abroad, but didn't consider it for an internship until I thought about the company from an urban perspective. The company has a substantial economic impact on cities and makes housing more affordable for hosts, which was meaningful to me. Beyond that, they're spearheading civic partnerships to directly collaborate with city governments. Impact in urban areas is what I care about most, and this was a perfect mix of technology, entrepreneurship, and urban development.
Last spring I found myself researching Airbnb's urban work in my spare time, so I decided to write a blog post about how their work could be applied to my hometown, Baltimore. I sent the blog post with my application and pestered the recruiters until they finally read it and extended an interview. I found that "starting work before you start work" by doing a self-imposed project left an impression and showed that I was serious about applying.
I was working on the Operations Team at Airbnb, which was primarily focused on host acquisition to create a supply of listings to adequately meet the demand of travelers. My team tackled the challenge through integrated campaigns that focused on specific locations in preparation for events like major concerts or celebrations. Most of my work involved supporting those campaigns as well as communicating with hosts to create a repository of their stories, which served to normalize hosting and highlight the diverse benefits of hosting.
This summer we had a hackathon that culminated in a Hackathon Showcase after work. I invited UNC E-Minor alum Abby Bouchon to join in, and we were jubilant when we walked through the science-fair-esque showcase full of projects focused on increasing diversity in recruiting, introducing an "experiences" component of the website, and connecting travelers around common interests. It was unexpectedly wacky and fun because two engineers had distributed many pairs of zebra-striped pajama pants to employees and there was a newly-installed ball pit and zipline in the office. Abby and I were equally astounded and excited about the energy of the place that day.
For incoming E-Minor students searching for internships I would recommend being creative in your approach to recruiting. By showing initiative and doing a self-imposed project for a company (even before you apply) you can leave a memorable impression. Also, don't be afraid to bother people by following up on your emails (within reason) to ensure that they give you a fair chance.