Inside Connect: Airbnb’s Engineering Apprenticeship Program

The first of a three-part blog series on Connect, an apprenticeship opportunity for aspiring Airbnb software engineers. by Beti Gathegi & Jacqui Watts Hello! We’re excited that you’re here to learn more about the Connect program. Before we share details, though, we’d like to introduce ourselves. We’re Beti Gathegi and Jacqui Watts — a team of two whose […]

The first of a three-part blog series on Connect, an apprenticeship opportunity for aspiring Airbnb software engineers.

by Beti Gathegi & Jacqui Watts

Hello! We’re excited that you’re here to learn more about the Connect program. Before we share details, though, we’d like to introduce ourselves. We’re Beti Gathegi and Jacqui Watts — a team of two whose purpose at Airbnb is to help bring this program to life. We couldn’t be more proud of the apprentices that we’ve gotten to work with to-date, and that’s why we want to share more, so that we can continue to attract even more amazing software engineering talent in the future.

In this post, we’ll focus on the goals and structure of the program. Then, in upcoming posts, you’ll get the chance to hear directly from one of the apprentices, now full-time engineer, from our 2020 cohort, in addition to an engineering manager who supported an apprentice. We hope this series gives you clarity around what the Connect program is all about, how it differs from other programs, and hopefully inspires you to spread the word to those who might be interested in joining or supporting the program in some way.

About Connect

The Connect engineering apprenticeship program is a six-month program that gives individuals from non-traditional technical backgrounds an onramp to a potential career at Airbnb. At Airbnb, we believe in self-starters and know that people can be successful in tech regardless of their background. But the reality is barriers exist that make it hard for people from non-traditional technical backgrounds to break into professional engineering jobs. So we set out to create a new opportunity specifically focused on this group of talent. Ultimately, Connect is one more way we can fulfill Airbnb’s mission of creating a world where anyone can belong anywhere.

Originally piloted back in 2016, Connect was brought back this past year with a dedicated team to help grow the program and double down on our commitment to expanding access to software engineering positions. With that goal in mind, we crafted a program to launch in January 2020. Little did we know what the year would have in store for us!

Despite these challenges, we are proud to share that the inaugural round of the program was a success, and we are looking to continue bringing in new non-traditional engineering talent through the Connect program moving forward.

Our Partners

We’re proud to partner with a number of local Bay Area organizations — such as TechSF, Kapor Center’s Pathways to Tech Initiative (formerly TechHire Oakland), Code Tenderloin, dev/mission, The Hidden Genius Project, and Hack Reactor’s Telegraph Track. These organizations are doing a fantastic job supporting talent from non-traditional training backgrounds who are a great fit for our apprentice roles. Although we’re planning to keep our Connect 2021 local to our San Francisco HQ again in 2021, we envision Connect growing to support talent needs for other Airbnb locations in the future.

The Program Structure

Over the course of six months, the Connect program aims to prepare apprentices to contribute to engineering teams across the company. We know that folks who are newly transitioning to software engineering are still learning and growing their technical skills, so we invest time in training and mentorship before they join a team. But what does that really look like?

Training

There are numerous non-traditional paths to learning technical skills — from coding bootcamps to community college to self-study regimens. Even within different software development bootcamps, the languages and technologies learned will inevitably be different. We spend the first several months of the program supporting apprentices in getting up to speed on Airbnb’s preferred tools and tech stack, what we call the “paved road”. Furthermore, this training period builds exposure to what codebases look like at scale. Anyone who’s done the non-traditional path — or really any path into software engineering, for that matter — can tell you that navigating a large production codebase with millions of lines of code is one of the most challenging parts!

The training period puts a heavy emphasis on projects and hands-on coding assignments, while also incorporating some more traditional classroom learning. And though apprentices are guided by a technical instructor throughout the training period, they also get to learn from dozens of engineers from around the company who are thrilled to support them in developing their technical skills.

Mentorship

Technical support isn’t the only thing we focus on during Connect. For many, this may be the first time working in the tech industry, so having a mentor to help them navigate the transition has been enormously helpful. A Connect mentor is a well-established member of Airbnb’s engineering team who serves as a non-evaluative partner, providing guidance in everything from technical skills to how to build relationships around the company. Mentors are a huge asset to the apprentice experience.

Team Placement

In the latter half of the six-month Connect program, apprentices join different engineering teams from around the company. During this team placement period, they work on real tasks and project work, with scoping, pairing, and code review support from a dedicated team buddy. Projects that apprentices have the opportunity to contribute to can vary widely from team to team and may include frontend UI features, backend API changes, or internal tools. In all cases, the team placement provides a chance for apprentices to hone their technical skills, side-by-side with Airbnb engineers, and demonstrate their ability to contribute to the team.

Figure 1. An example of an apprentice’s project — implementing design changes for an embed modal.

Opportunity for a Full-time Role

So what happens at the end of the six months? Apprentices may have the opportunity to join the team full-time! This decision takes into account business need and performance during the apprenticeship period. This isn’t just a program for educational exposure, the Airbnb Connect program has the potential to lead into a full-time engineering role. We love being able to watch Connect alum continue to grow their career and develop their software engineering talent here at Airbnb.

Moving Forward

We’re thrilled to continue offering and growing the Connect program in 2021 and beyond and can’t wait to see all that our apprentices are able to accomplish. Furthermore, we are excited about the partnerships we’ve built to help make that happen. Applications for the Connect 2021 round open on March 8, please check out the Airbnb Careers page to apply.

Stay tuned for upcoming posts in this series to get a peek into the world of Connect from a former apprentice.


Inside Connect: Airbnb’s Engineering Apprenticeship Program was originally published in Airbnb Engineering & Data Science on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Source: Airbnb