By: Nicole C. (’21)
All day long at the Airbnb Headquarters in San Francisco, Rohenne Lee (‘04) spends her time working collaboratively with designers, engineers, researchers, as well as with legal, finance and marketing departments. As Lead Product Specialist for Experiences, she often works cross-functionally to come up with different initiatives that would benefit Airbnb’s customers for the company to pursue.
“There is not a typical day at work for most people in technology companies. We tackle different issues every day,” she said. “There is a lot of time spent in meetings or creating project plans, but [it is] definitely something you need to do when you are working with cross functional teams.”
Since joining Airbnb in May 2019, Rohenne has really enjoyed working with different people. “Airbnb is a place that really values the people they hire,” she said. “Everyone I work with is extremely intelligent but [also] really genuine. [The people] are easy to work with, resulting in good relationships and partnerships which makes working and collaborating much easier,” she said.
However, working at Airbnb has its fair share of difficulties. Since Airbnb’s product of a shared marketplace for places to stay and things to do is fairly new, not every country or city has knowledge of the company’s impact. In order for Airbnb to be successful, it is important to work closely with local governments, which can sometimes be a challenge.
“It’s a new business, a new market place, and a new type of law or regulation is needed,” she said. “[The company] actually needs to try and work with local authorities and local governments to make sure that it’s successful for the hosts, the guests, and the city itself.”
Despite these difficulties, she has really enjoyed traveling around the globe and doing research on the company’s users. During a user research trip to South Korea, Rohenne began to better understand the different relationships and roles in the marketplace.
“Without a host, there is not going to be a home for a guest to stay in, and without a guest, a host is not going to make money. So, putting those together and understanding how we can, as the middleman [and] as the platform that provides a service for them, make a host successful and make a business for them [is] really cool,” she said.
Working at Airbnb has also required her to use both hard and soft skills in order to be successful. At work, she often has to query for data and has to be able to use that data to define strategy. She also has to be empathetic and be able to put herself in other people’s shoes in order to effectively collaborate with different types of people with different cultures —this is especially important during user research trips.
Ultimately, Airbnb’s mission to create a world where everyone can belong through healthy travel that is local, authentic, diverse, inclusive and sustainable, is what drives her at work.
“I felt that the company’s mission really aligned with what I wanted to do which is [to] help the community and [to] help everyone in the world feel inclusive,” she said. “In the future, maybe you are going to be living somewhere else that is not in Taiwan [and] you may not feel at home, so being part of a company that tries to make everyone in the world feel like they are a part of [a] community is a really noble cause.”