How Robots and Video Games Changed Fiona Tay’s Life

Member Reflection
April 6, 2015
by Women Who Code HQ

Fiona Tay is a successful software engineer at Airbnb, a hypergrowth startup that has become a buzzword in the travel industry. There she coordinates with several teams of talented individuals in order to optimize and maintain the design and function of the company’s website. That puts her at the top of her field, in a position of success that is the envy of many of her colleagues. However none of this would have happened if not for a CS requirement that forced her to take a college course she would have never otherwise considered.

Fiona entered Professor Dodd’s Python 101 class with low expectations. However the teacher’s passion, and drive quickly inspired her with a new found interest in coding. She was further enticed by an unconventional teaching method, which used engaging projects like programming a robot, or creating a video game about aliens, in order to educate students about the art and discipline of coding.

This burgeoning interest was nurtured by an internship that she was able to get with a software consulting firm after her freshman year. There she learned what it was really like to be a part of the tech industry, and became enamoured with the work and the lifestyle. That helped her decide to pursue a degree in Computer Science, which she achieved in 2012. She also thrived in her position with the company, so much that they hired her on as a full time engineer as soon as she graduated.

She joined Airbnb as a front-end engineer in May of 2013. Since then she’s worked on several high profile projects for the organization. Most recently she spearheaded the launch of a mobile-responsive redesign of the company’s website, the second one in under a year. This was an impressive feat that required coordination between the growth, design, and web platform teams and was completed to ship in just three months.

Fiona remains active in the tech community, and does her best to give back to people trying to get started in the industry. She’s mentored several women from the Hackbright Academy, and she openly shares the wisdom of her experience with friends and colleagues who are looking for direction. She also volunteers with Women Who Code, and Girls Who Code, where she teaches programming to those eager to learn. While she is happy with the success that she has achieved, she still looks back on Professor Dodd’s Python class fondly, and dreams of one day becoming a CS professor at a small college herself.

Follow FionaTay on Twitter.

Media Contact: Neal Brown | Chief of Staff
Address: Women Who Code HQ, 44 Tehama St, 5th Floor San Francisco, CA 94105

Originally published at on April 6, 2015.

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