Location: San Francisco, CA
Job: Project Manager, Airbnb
Education: B.A. in Communications and Spanish, Stanford University
Just before spring break my senior year of college, my mentee emailed me asking if I was interested in learning more about a program manager position at NetApp, a storage and data management company where she’d previously interned. I hadn’t yet lined up a full-time job for after graduation and was feeling stressed about my future. So I responded to the email – without really knowing what project management even was – and ultimately ended up getting the job.
I never imagined I would end up in the tech world. When I started college, I didn’t even know what the term “startup” meant or even that there was this magical world of tech companies literally sprouting up around my campus. Suddenly, everyone I knew was interning at startups. After a brief attempt to break into the fashion public relations world, I ended up in tech at NetApp. The lesson here is: If you want to make Mama Universe laugh, tell her your plans.
Working as an engineering and product operations program manager at NetApp ended up being a really formative experience. I was able to work across multiple departments and learn from diverse groups of people. Tech companies are constantly changing – each day is different and filled with exciting new challenges. When I was interviewing at Airbnb, my now-manager told me that in order to do my job well, I needed to “be like Gumby" – you know, the clay like cartoon character from the 80s. It was a good way to put things. Part of working at a fast-paced, growing startup is being flexible, able to learn on the fly, and willing to really embrace the adventure.
Be patient and don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s very easy for young professionals to walk into a room and want to change the world by lunchtime. But there are also great benefits in taking a steady approach to your career. I’ve found that hiring managers care much more about your passion to learn and adapt than what you actually know. Also, remember that people do not know you exist unless you tell them. Let them know!
I start my day by checking email (I hate having unread emails!) and listing out all the tasks that need to be finished before I leave the office. It’s a little old-school, but writing everything down is really helpful. I also keep a separate list of tasks – my “extra sparkle” items – that are not necessarily due by the end of the day but would be awesome to knock out. My team uses the project management tool Smartsheet to track project plans. I'm also constantly in communication with my manager.
I love working somewhere that encourages me to learn about places I’m traveling to beyond the major tourist attractions. On a recent trip to Cuba, my friends and I stayed in a beautiful Airbnb home in Havana. The location really allowed us to interact with local people and learn more about the city’s history. I also love working for a company where your voice really matters. I sit in meetings with people who value my opinion. It can be rare to truly believe that you are being heard and that your voice matters.
I’m known around the office for my email sign-off: “Much Love, Lexi B.” I want my coworkers (and myself) to always remember the moral and ethical responsibility we have to ourselves, our Airbnb hosts, and the world. I think we all need to practice more love, even in office settings.
I’m really enjoying The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. We too often define our happiness in life by what’s in our bank account or how much we’re growing in our careers. This book is a good reminder that we can define our own joy and success.
Airbnb is among Jopwell’s partner companies.
Images courtesy of Lexi Butler