Internship Spotlight: Airbnb

PhD student Natã Barbosa worked as an intern at Airbnb in summer 2019. The internship provided the basis for his paper, "Designing for Trust: A Behavioral Framework for Sharing Economy Platforms," which was selected for The Web Conference 2020. Barbosa was recently named a 2020 Facebook Fellowship finalist.

What is your research focus at the iSchool?

My research focuses on building and evaluating systems that promote more awareness and transparency of the composition of users' ad-targeting profiles.

Where did you work last summer, and what was your role?

Last summer I worked at Airbnb as a research intern. I worked on several research projects, and was responsible for driving two of them to completion. Both projects gave me the opportunity to work with large-scale data from the Airbnb platform. This meant that I had to learn from my colleagues about how to work with such data, along with the pitfalls to avoid. I also had many opportunities to introduce my project to others and get their feedback and buy-in, since the concept we were studying was new to many.

How did you find out about the position?

I'm a transfer PhD student from Syracuse University, and when I was there, a fellow PhD student had interned at Airbnb in 2018 and enjoyed it, so I thought I might apply the next year.

What new skills did you acquire during your time with the company?

I learned valuable skills in conducting data-driven research on a large scale in a fast-paced environment. I also learned a lot about how to communicate research findings effectively and how to promote your project to gain the support needed to achieve its goals.

What did you like best about working at the company?

I really enjoyed the culture and the people I worked with. I felt very comfortable sharing ideas and receiving feedback, and everyone was always very supportive and genuinely interested in my work.

What would you advise current students who are interested in an internship opportunity?

Talk to student peers who have done internships to learn about their experiences and what places they might recommend based on your goals and expertise. Also, make sure to always check online about internships at companies you may want to join after you graduate. I've done three internships during my PhD studies. For two of them, I applied online, and for the last one, I was approached on LinkedIn. Keeping your LinkedIn profile updated is also important.

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