A Look back on my 2-month living in San Francisco and working in its Airbnb office.

I had the opportunity to live in San Francisco for 2 months thanks to the Airbnb Explorers program. It offers a 1–3 month assignment, in which employees with more than 2 years of tenure can try out something different — in another function or country. Here is a look back at my experience.

Awake before sunrise aka jet lag run.
Hi! I’m Lucas.

Working in San Francisco

I have been working at Airbnb in Berlin for more than 2 years and it has been truly amazing. So, when the explorers program was launched, I was ready to discover a new part of my team (performance marketing) and to work in a new office for 2 months.

I applied, got interviewed, then got accepted and decided about the dates: October 16th to December 16th. San Francisco, off I go!

The SEO team has been my new squad for the past 2 months. This was a complete new field to me. I discovered the great work this nimble team is accomplishing for the business. I gave a hand on a wide range of projects from link building — ranking our guidebooks pages like Things to do in Boston or Chicago — to crawl path optimization, pushed some code 👌 for onsite optimization and more…

Pushing some code was something I was really excited about. I’ve only took free coding classes on platforms such Codecademy so it was truly rewarding to apply changes directly on airbnb.com. I’m curious about all these things and I believe it can only make me a better marketer to understand how our product runs.

Getting the opportunity to go outside of what we’ve been hired for is a great sign of trust and investment in its employees from Airbnb. I’m very grateful to work in this company.

Sunset colors from 888 Brannan

3 things I’ve learned while working in the San Francisco office:

  • Slack is everything: communication tool, storage tool, prioritization tool, deployment tool, boba ordering tool, source of happiness tool, GIFS machine tool, polls tool and… so much more! Slack is a great tool when you are working remotely, but its full power is unleashed when working in the same office as your team.
  • Coding is all about search, especially when you’re not an engineer. Searches on Github, Google, Slack… I became the master at looking for who shipped the last change, what was modified or where to find information to proceed to an adjustment. Look for patterns, look for similar pull requests, and you can make it happen on your own!
  • While being rather small, the SEO team cares for localization to a point I was not expecting. This is something local teams are probably not aware of. From finding the right keywords to implementing it for each domain (airbnb.fr, airbnb.de…) and everything right in the middle. 🙌🏼

Overall, thanks to Tommy Griffith for being a great host on the team and a great SEO scholar. I highly recommend checking his online SEO class: Clickminded.


I’m missing.

First time I spent Halloween in the US. They take it way too seriously! Here is the team above dressed as the Stranger Things cast. We won the office’s Halloween costume contest in the group category! 🎃

Look at how happy these 2 dinos are!

The San Francisco office is beautifully designed. Constantly changing, always adding new spaces or refurnishing the old ones. Pretty much every time I visited since I joined in 2014, a new floor or space was added. Airbnb is now occupying most of the floors in the building.

I used to look up Google workplace as the top of the game in college, but Airbnb completely raised the bar. It is a real pleasure to walk in everyday!

Talking about walking in, I’m used to get up late in the morning, and leave the office pretty late in the evening in Berlin. This was not helpful at all in San Francisco as it’s the other way round here. Being jet-lagged thankfully helped to settle in this pace.

I can’t talk about the office without mentioning about the food. What can I say… The Eatrium as it is called, is the canteen for Airbnb in the building. It serves nice food 3 times a day, which makes the daily life easy for non-cooks like me, but left me without inspiration for the weekend meals…


Airbnb Open

The Los Angeles theater for Airbnb Open 2016

November was a big month for Airbnb. I went to Los Angeles to meet hosts and guests who came from 100+ countries for the Airbnb Open. A community-powered festival of travel and hospitality that celebrates a city and its neighborhoods. Where we launched a lot of new products.

I went to see speakers such as the founder of Toms Blake Mycoskie or the truly inspiring Daniel Meyer, founder of Shake Shack. The best was certainly talking with hosts. Like this one encounter with a host from Pasadena who asked me where the Theatre at Ace Hotel was. I offered to walk her there which was only 10 minutes away. She could not believe that I would take the time to walk her there. We went to this place together and discussed about her hosting experience.

Like this interaction which was special and meaningful to me, hundreds happened at Open and thousands are happening on Airbnb every day. We are enabling one to one interactions at scale and that’s why I feel this company will be around 100 years from now.


Living in San Francisco

Brad and Debbie

Luckily, the Explorers Program is paying for accommodation during the whole stay. This makes the whole living in SF easier. I stayed in 2 different Airbnb: first one in Potrero hills then Lower Haight. I really liked Potrero for its closeness to the office and the splendid view walking down the hill. Not the best for biking though but I managed.

For the second month, I wanted to experience something new by living in Lower Haight and I was not disappointed at all. The home came with 2 cats that really liked the room I was in because of the sunny spot on the couch. The location is also ideal as you are in the middle of the city only minutes away from the Golden Gate Park by bike.

I’m glad I didn’t have to move around so much, I could focus on the experiences created while living somewhere rather than getting into new places. Here are some activities and moments I experienced below.

Biking

San Francisco’s view from Twin Peaks

Biking around San Francisco is probably the most rewarding activity you can do on your free time. When the weather is right, you’ll get breathtaking views over of the city and landmarks while doing exercise. Hawk Hill at sunset offers you a splendid view on the bridges and the city.

My favorite routes are going to Tiburon and Hawk Hill. Maps with the Strava details below.

Right: To Tiburon. Left: Hawk Hill and Rodeo beach.

You can also bike in San Francisco and find great spots. Like the Golden Gate Park or Baker beach. I just can’t get enough of the Eucalyptus smell in the Golden Gate Park.

Baker Beach

Baker Beach is the perfect spot to take pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge and a lot of people seem to know that.

I said double l

Unfortunately this interests thieves as well. I was interviewed for a random news story as a woman got robbed on the parking lot for her camera the day before. The reporter asked me why I liked to take pictures here, so I kind of gave her the obvious reason. Especially that I didn’t hear about that story until she showed me the pictures of the woman at the hospital as she tried to keep her camera… She also got my last name wrong.


Witnessing history

The NY Times prediction’s page around 6pm and 9pm

November 8th was an historic day for the US, with the outcome that we all know. We followed the results as they came in during the evening, and witnessed how the NY Times prediction shifted from Hillary to Trump winning presidency. To me this was the most striking fact about that night: predictions don’t mean anything.

The next day was not a great one for sure. I arrived at Airbnb in the morning to meet sad faces and an empty office. I’m personally really sad to see the USA taking this path and really concerned about the French election next year.


Thanksgiving

Inside of the Windsong Yurt

After all of these ups and downs, a small break for Thanksgiving was more than welcome. I never had the chance to be in the US for that special holiday, this is an interesting tradition that we barely know in Europe. I was just thankful to have my favorite human being with me. We rented a yurt in Point Reyes for the weekend, and spent an amazing time there.

It was so relaxing and memorable, the place was perfect for staying inside on a rainy day. Enjoying the jacuzzi, the wildlife walking around and the great view over the mountains and the countryside.
We did make it out to the Point Reyes lighthouse on a sunny day and it brought a lot of memories back as I was there 19 years ago with my family.


I’m all about curiosity and learning so this was spot on. I learnt so much that can be applied back to my day to day job. I discovered new places in California or rediscovered some that I already knew from a different angle.

If you ever have such an opportunity, just go for it! It is so worth it. The only part to plan out is logistics. Especially back home if you are hosting on Airbnb.

With that being said, it is time to go back to Berlin which I missed deeply.


Thanks for reading and feel free to ask me any questions about this on Twitter: @chelucas or in the comments below.

Thank you Elena Boulart, Jules Sednaoui and Thomas Bouillot and for your support.