Marissa Coughlin ’04

JOB TITLE: Head of product, design, engineering communications
ORGANIZATION: Airbnb
LOCATION: San Francisco, California

What was your first position after college? After graduation, I worked on Alaskan candidate for U.S. Senate Tony Knowles’s campaign. When it ended, I moved to San Francisco and worked in Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s office for three months. By that time, I realized that the public service sector was not fast-paced enough for me, so I started an internship at The OutCast Agency, a leading technology communications and marketing agency. There I was promoted five times in eight years and was eventually named a director of the agency in 2012. During my time at OutCast, I worked with clients including Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Samsung, Andreessen Horowitz, Yahoo!, and many more.

In summer of 2013, I joined Airbnb to lead its product, design, and engineering communications. Airbnb is a leading community-driven hospitality company that operates in 191 countries and is making an impact around the globe by allowing people to rent out extra spaces to travelers who want a more authentic experience. In this position I write a lot of speeches, press releases, and blogs and work with media such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, basically any external communications from the company.

Has a liberal arts education helped you in shaping your career? Without a liberal arts education, I wouldn’t be able to do all that writing effectively. Even more important, however, is how I learned how to analyze problems, ask the right questions, and think of creative and effective solutions. I find that this makes me stick out from my peers and has helped me advance in my career.

What aspects of your Trinity experience have been important to advancing your career or graduate school experience? The Tutorial College was amazing in that it allowed me to combine disciplines and make connections between worlds that would otherwise have been disparate. Studying abroad in Ecuador and Uganda also gave me unique perspectives and a lens through which to look at the world. These experiences have been particularly helpful at Airbnb.

What advice would you give to Trinity students to prepare for a position in your field? Having a basic understanding of technology is incredibly important. At this point, most traditional businesses are being supplanted by businesses that are built on the Internet. We refer to this as “software eating the world.” Many businesses with global impact — Facebook, Airbnb, etc. — start with technology and then move to specific market expertise. If you have a background in international studies and technology, you would be a dream candidate for a position in my field.