Airbnb Tech Chief Mentors USF Students
Mike Jennings ’95 spent 20 years working for some of Silicon Valley’s best-known companies, from Intel to Google to LinkedIn. Today, he heads up information technology for Airbnb, a home-sharing startup valued last year at more than $25 billion.
As a member of USF’s Alumni Mentor Program, he helps students figure out how to build their own outstanding careers.
Jennings mentors computer science major Dave Gan ’16, who he meets with to share career advice.
“I’ve learned a lot from him,” says Gan, of Jennings. “He talks about his experience in the tech industry, how to form a career plan, and what I should avoid in phone interviews.”
Giving students a hand up
On a recent spring afternoon, Jennings met Gan and about a dozen other USF undergraduates at Airbnb’s San Francisco headquarters for a behind-the-scenes look at the company.
Gan was impressed by the company’s quirky interior design, like its Dr. Strangelove-themed conference room, and the friendliness of the employees — including three USF alums who joined the tour.
“Back then, I didn’t have much of a roadmap on how to move into the technology space — it was through trial and error and my own perseverance,” Jennings says. “If there’s a way for me to help students jumpstart that process and to give advice, that’s my goal.”
To Jennings, being one of the program’s nearly 150 alumni mentors is a way to give back to a university he loves and to possibly give a hand up to people just starting their careers.
“I’m always working at companies that are growing and looking for bright new talent,” he says. “I want to raise USF’s visibility here at Airbnb, or at any company.”
Foundation built on Jesuit values
Jennings, who studied information systems at USF, is in charge of most of Airbnb’s internal technology, from the computer systems to its IT help desk.
He credits his USF education for providing a solid foundation — not only in working with information systems, but also in ethics, honesty, and appreciating people of different cultures and backgrounds.
“You really gain the respect of your peers with your leadership, if you exude those traits,” he says. “I can directly tie that back to the Jesuit values I learned at USF.”