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The benefits of upskilling with Sarah Roy, Data & Insights Lead at Airbnb

Meet Sarah Roy, a Data & Insights Lead at Airbnb. We sat down with her to discuss her transition from public relations to the world of data. Read on to hear her advice on breaking into the world of tech.

Hi Sarah, can you please introduce yourself?

My name is Sarah Roy and I am a Data & Insights Lead for the Global Editorial Communications Team at Airbnb. Before transitioning to the field of data, I worked as a PR Manager at Airbnb. In my current role, I analyze Airbnb’s internal data to identify trends that inform the content created by the PR team. Additionally, I am responsible for measuring and analyzing press coverage around the world.

What inspired you to move from a communications & PR background into a data-oriented role?

I began my career at Airbnb as a PR manager for France. As part of that role, I used data to inform journalists about trends we were seeing on the platform. Initially, I asked analysts to gather this data for me. However, I soon wanted to become more autonomous and do this work myself.

I started by modifying simple parameters like dates or locations within existing queries. Gradually, I became more comfortable with the process and continued to learn through iterations.

Over time, I realized that the projects I was most interested in all had a data component. Additionally, many colleagues started consulting me for their own data projects. I began serving as an intermediary between the PR team and the data analyst responsible for handling the team’s queries. I made the team’s requests comprehensible to the analyst, and I provided context for data that wasn’t always clear to the communicators. It was like a PR/data Google Translate!

How did this change come to be?

It was actually my manager at the time who first proposed the idea of creating a new position for me in the communications team. I had been in charge of press relations in France for six years. During an annual performance review where we were discussing my career development, she noted that I didn’t seem particularly inspired by the “natural” next step, which was to coordinate press relations at a European level.

For several months, I had been managing the interface between PR and data for my colleagues. My manager suggested creating a full-fledged position within the communication team, which is still a rare occurrence. As a result, I transitioned from a PR manager position to a role focused entirely on data and insights.

What were the biggest challenges you faced along the way?

Moving from one job to the next was a big leap for me. For over 10 years, I had been focused on press relations, building relationships and writing. Now, I spend most of my time working with spreadsheets and writing SQL queries. The main challenge I faced was dealing with a severe case of impostor syndrome because I have to interact regularly with very specialized data experts.
I also had to quickly learn how to write queries since I found myself alone in this subject quite quickly. This meant that I had to get up to speed faster than expected.

What strategies did you use to overcome these challenges and ultimately succeed?

Fortunately, I love learning new things, so I began by attending an internal training program called Data University. I also spent a lot of time studying other analysts’ work and reading reports and internal newsletters. This was a great source of learning and inspiration.
In addition, I quickly realized that my experience in press relations was a real asset in my new position. While a more experienced analyst might always be better than me at performing precise micro-analyses, I have a better understanding of what will interest a journalist and how to use metrics that are easily understood by the general public.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of upskilling into the Tech or Data world?

In my experience, the best advice I can offer is to consider transitioning to a field that builds upon your current skill set. Without the foundation of my media relations experience, I would never have considered transitioning to the data world.

Thank you Sarah!

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