From June to September, I interned for one of the world’s largest travel startups — Airbnb. As an Experience Research Intern on the Trust Team, I worked on projects central to account integrity for keeping Airbnb accounts safe and secure. In this post, I’ll hash out lasting reasons for what I believe makes the research culture at Airbnb so special.
Core values amplify and drive the research culture. On day one of orientation, interns learn the four core values of Airbnb: be a host; champion the mission; be a cereal entrepreneur; and embrace the adventure. These core values also happen to align with the functions of an experience researcher, particularly one who: brings out the voices of users at every stage of the product development cycle; prioritizes work that positively impacts the community; applies bold and original thinking to make ideal outcomes a reality; and demonstrates an ability to grow.
Researchers are given both autonomy and a dream team. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of autonomy I was given to design research studies that would add value to my team. Research studies that would normally take me four months to complete at a university setting (from study design to participant recruitment to data analysis to the presentation of findings) would just take me a week to execute at Airbnb. I absolutely relished having dedicated access to resourceful personnel in research operations, survey scientists, and product specialists who could provide critical support at a moment’s notice.
Research plays an integral role in the company’s design philosophy. Prior to hiring, all employees — interns included — undergo a cross-functional interview to convey their capacity to work alongside people with different talents. Harmonious collaboration within the cadence of sprints, syncs, and standup meetings advances projects that involve multiple teams and stakeholders. A researcher contributes empirically-driven insights to projects at various stages, and those insights are generated from running foundational to evaluative studies. I loved that my workstation lay adjacent to experience designers and content strategists, and my coworkers were always willing to share input on my latest work. I’ve come to learn that relationships and influence are essential ingredients to success for any industry researcher.
Employees are empowered to pursue growth in their own ways. Throughout my internship, I absorbed skill share sessions where full-time employees taught valuable on-the-job training to interns/new hires and presented at research critiques where peers provided real-time feedback at any stage of a project. I also admire how the research team promotes a dedicated learning budget to support those who want to attend research conferences or learn a new skill. Moreover, in terms of career advancement, researchers at Airbnb have a clearly defined ladder for leveling up as individual contributors. This culture of self-improvement and continuous learning at Airbnb signals that opportunities for personal and professional development abound!
Resounding Research Reflections
Beyond the corporate perks (interns get free breakfast/lunch/dinner, comprehensive health benefits, Airbnb travel credit, paid volunteer time, and a gratuitous housing stipend), captivating parties (not to mention unforgettable experiences at team offsites in Seattle and Saratoga Springs), and the competitive pay (I was compensated more in 12 weeks of my internship than what my university offered me in 12 months of financial aid) are the caring people that make the magic happen. My remarkable recruiters paired me up with both an amazing manager and an Airpal (a social buddy within the company) to cultivate a meaningful and frictionless internship experience.
As stated in the job description: “Research has been part of Airbnb from the beginning, ever since Paul Graham told the founders, ‘go to your users.’ The Experience Research team is continuing to deliver on that imperative today.” Research is coded within Airbnb’s DNA, and research allows the modern marketplace marvel to understand the mindset of its hosts and guests in building a trusted global community.
Airbnb’s internship turned me into a better storyteller, designer, and scientist. The experience opened my eyes to a career where rigorous research methods can be applied outside of academia to solve complex problems of unprecedented speed and scale. I highly recommend this summer opportunity to graduate researchers who deeply believe in the company’s mission of making a world where anyone can belong anywhere.
Additional Airtern Anecdotes
The application for next summer’s Experience Research Internship is open for placements in both San Francisco and Seattle. I’d also recommend prospective applicants to read the following posts by my amazing 2018 Airtern peers:
- Interning at Airbnb with a disability
- From data to action with Airbnb Plus
- What I learned during my experience design internship at Airbnb
- Secret of landing an internship at Airbnb
- Journey to landing my experience design internship at Airbnb
- Video: Day in the life of a software engineer intern at Airbnb
Questions? Ask away in the comment section!