My Journey to Airbnb — Helena Zarazua | by Lauren Mackevich | The Airbnb Tech Weblog | Oct, 2023

Lauren Mackevich
The Airbnb Tech Blog

Rising from engineering apprentice to seasoned iOS developer

Languages have at all times come naturally to Helena Zarazua, who has used this ability to carry individuals collectively, whether or not by educating English to Chinese language businesspeople or by immersing American preschoolers in Spanish. Since then, Helena joined Airbnb by the Join engineering apprenticeship program and has stayed on as a full-time engineer. She’s picked up new (programming) languages like Swift to specialise in iOS growth, and works on options to create a world the place anybody can belong anyplace.

Learn on to listen to Helena’s story. from none apart from Helena herself.

I’ve at all times dreamt massive, however not as soon as did my desires embody software program engineering. Regardless of having a flair for arithmetic since younger, my aspirations emphasised my creative facet — I wished to be a singer, actress, or anybody concerned in movie manufacturing. Though (or possibly exactly as a result of) my father was a pc engineer, I had a preconceived notion that I simply wasn’t made for the expertise trade.

That turned out to be utterly false, however it’s definitely been a journey to succeed in the place I’m at this time.

Rising up in Mexico Metropolis, I used to be firmly on the trail to pursuing a profession within the arts. I attended an arts highschool the place I targeted on stage appearing, producing, and directing, all experiences for which I’m very grateful. I studied different topics, too, and I had one very inspirational math trainer who helped me see the philosophical facet of math, however my plan after highschool was to go even deeper into movie.

Though I obtained admission to movie faculty, in the end, it didn’t make monetary sense to attend that exact program within the US. As an alternative, I used this as a possibility to take a sabbatical and discover my different abilities and passions in life. Along with my knack for math, I noticed that languages are one other power of mine — I reached conversational fluency in German simply because I as soon as dated any individual from Germany!

When I discovered a distant job alternative to show enterprise English with a Chinese language firm, I used it as an opportunity to journey the world over a three-year interval. It’s fairly a pleasant coincidence that now at Airbnb, I get to assist hundreds of thousands of individuals do the identical.

My travels introduced me to San Francisco, the place I made a decision to cool down. I modified jobs a pair occasions to strive different roles, together with one as a educating assistant at a Spanish immersion daycare. The tradition of expertise runs excessive within the Bay Space, although, and a few encouragement from my associate on the time made me think about one thing that was by no means earlier than on my radar — coding bootcamp.

I used to assume I wasn’t technical sufficient to be an engineer, regardless that I used to be at all times good at math. I felt like there was a sure kind of one that went into software program and that simply wasn’t me. However I additionally felt like I had nothing to lose, so I utilized for a software program engineering bootcamp in San Francisco. Maybe an indication that I may achieve engineering in any case, I aced the interview and formally enrolled in this system.

A giant a part of my journey that I’ve but to speak about is psychological well being. All through my life, I’ve struggled with ADHD and OCD, along with medical despair and nervousness. The intersection of those has been particularly difficult, and I’m at all times cognizant of methods to stability my psychological well being with my profession. Bootcamp, because the title suggests, was a particularly intense 16 weeks, to not point out the added stress of the pandemic beginning at the moment.

Given my ADHD, I favor to work and be taught in particular person, so the shift to a distant bootcamp wasn’t simple. That mentioned, the assist community at my bootcamp was actually robust, notably this system’s mentorship and training. I put a number of effort and time into my job search, which was made simpler due to the assistance of my advisors.

My first contact with Airbnb was by a panel dialogue. Listening to from individuals at Airbnb with non-traditional backgrounds like myself was actually reassuring. They emphasised simply how accessible and pleasant the tradition at Airbnb is. It appeared like an incredible atmosphere that actually values variety.

Very similar to my foray into the bootcamp, I believed on the very least I’d strive making use of to Airbnb. The interview course of itself bolstered my notion of the corporate’s heat. I genuinely loved my interpersonal interview the place I obtained the sense that the interviewer was making an effort to get to know me as a human being. Personally, I felt that Airbnb’s technical interviews weren’t as intimidating as I anticipated, and the vibe was at all times constructive.

Evidently, the interviews went properly and I joined the second cohort of Airbnb’s Join program! Join is a six-month engineering apprenticeship designed to draw non-traditional candidates who would achieve success at Airbnb. Structured in two components, Join begins with coaching on Airbnb’s “paved street,” the technical stack engineers have to know to work with a big manufacturing codebase. In this system’s second half, apprentices be a part of engineering groups all through the corporate and work on actual initiatives with a devoted staff buddy.

Airbnb is closely invested within the success of Join, with the final word aim of contributors staying with the corporate as full-time engineers. This system constantly had a constructive ambiance the place I felt arrange for achievement. Notably, the cohort was deliberately small (simply ten individuals) to ensure that each apprentice had sufficient assist and will transition to full-time so long as they put within the work. At no level did I ever really feel like I used to be in competitors with my fellow apprentices.

The apprentice neighborhood was very tight knit and served as a robust assist system. When everyone was working remotely, we nonetheless discovered alternatives to assemble safely and work collectively, and now that the workplace has totally reopened, there’s a gaggle of us who proceed to repeatedly get collectively even after we’ve graduated.

One of many qualities I respect most about Join is this system’s dedication to suggestions and growth. The coordinators make an lively effort to enhance the apprentice expertise primarily based on our enter, they usually care deeply about creating an inclusive atmosphere for individuals of all backgrounds.

I’ve discovered a lot throughout my time at Airbnb, each as an apprentice and as a full-time engineer. From a purely technical perspective, I’m extra assured in my engineering abilities and able to working independently on larger initiatives.

Initially, I anticipated to be a full-stack engineer since that was my bootcamp’s focus, however when organizational wants modified and my supervisor requested if I wished to strive cellular growth, I approached that problem head on. I’m proud to now have some bigger product launches below my belt, having constructed iOS screens from scratch and end-to-end. That hands-on expertise has given me a robust understanding of how every little thing matches collectively in a manner that used to really feel rather more summary.

It was positively a steep studying curve, however that course of taught me priceless classes past the mechanics of iOS growth. As paradoxical because it sounds, I’ve discovered the secret’s to get comfy being uncomfortable. If you happen to’re difficult your self sufficient, you’ll continuously be studying and dealing with unfamiliar applied sciences. Being accepting of that and approaching issues one step at a time is the most efficient manner ahead.

After which there’s communication. I can’t stress sufficient how necessary it’s to be your largest advocate (all of the extra so when working remotely!). Be clear about what you want along with your supervisor, teammates, and collaborators. Particularly in a piece tradition like Airbnb’s, individuals genuinely need you to succeed. The best way to facilitate that’s to brazenly share along with your staff. In my case, I’ve communicated my psychological well being wants with my staff and that’s been so useful in shaping my expertise for the higher.

The learnings I’ve made right here at Airbnb are a big a part of why I’m considering exploring mentorship and administration sooner or later. The neighborhood from each the Join program and Airbnb at giant has taught me a lot. I’d like to pay that ahead and assist future Airbnb workers develop as a lot as I’ve. We’re hiring for a lot of roles, so check out our career page and who is aware of, possibly we’ll be working collectively quickly sufficient.