Spanish Paralympic Skier Inspires Madrid Team with Success Story

It’s not everyday Olympic athletes visit your office. The highly decorated Jon Santacana and Miguel Galindo, the Spanish Paralympic skier and his guide, stopped by to speak with our team in Madrid and share their story about how they’ve become the fastest pair in the world.


At eight-years-old, Jon was diagnosed with Stargardt disease, an inherited juvenile macular degeneration that causes vision loss. Jon began skiing competitively when he was 17-years-old and in 2000, he joined the Spain national team along with his guide, Miguel, who is always by his side.

The biggest takeaway for HomeAway employees was their example of humbleness and dedication. Also, a positive attitude and believing in yourself while pushing the limits means everything. Sonia Carro, Talent Acquisition Specialist, said, “It was interesting to hear them discuss how everything they do is possible because they work together and there is confidence and communication between them.”


“I don’t know if I am able to achieve everything, but for sure I am able to try it!” - Jon Santacana.

Jon and Miguel shared an inspiring story about how to overcome issues that can work in all areas of life. In the early stages of their careers, they noticed that they were doing well in competitions that required technique, but not in the competitions that required speed. Their first step was to identify what was hindering their speed. They soon discovered communication was the issue and they started to investigate how they could solve the problem.

Through an iterative test and learn process, they found a solution that improved their communication significantly. They grew faster over time and eventually won gold in the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Paralympics. Team HomeAway loved this story specifically because it was a great example of how they embraced Scientific Mindset, one of our core values.


Jon said he feels lucky despite the limitations he faces every day.

"I feel like a lucky person because I have the disability that I have. I know that what I am saying might seem a bit strange, but it’s true. I don’t mind continuing to suffer from this disease. If the medicine evolves and a cure arrives, great, but I feel fulfilled despite the limitations that I have.”

Jon emphasizes trust as a fundamental value, in himself and in his guide Miguel, who he refers to as his “other self.” Of course there is an amount of fear that comes with moving at 120 kilometers per hour with only 5% visual acuity, but Jon assures that these adversities can only be broken down based on trust.


“When you’re facing a challenge, you can only do two things, stay there or go ahead.” - Jon Santacana

"Trust, first in me, that I can get things that seem difficult and then, from that moment, projecting that trust on others - my environment and my work team.”

This value is, in his opinion, the most decisive when reaching for your goals.

"In the top level sport and in the business world, self-confidence is the key to success."

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Celebrating Mardi Gras with Team HomeAway

It’s Mardi Gras season and who knows how to celebrate Fat Tuesday better than Louisianans? These employees may live in Austin now, but they never stray far from their Cajun roots. Meredith, Shaler and Katie are sharing how they celebrate the holiday with their favorite traditions and foods.

If you’re not familiar with the history of Mardi Gras, you can learn more here.

The Urban Achievers Brass Band celebrating Mardi Gras with Team HomeAway in our Austin office.

The Urban Achievers Brass Band celebrating Mardi Gras with Team HomeAway in our Austin office.

What is your favorite Mardi Gras memory?

My step-brother and I decided that we were going to be the unofficial Bacchus parade commentators a couple of years ago. We sat on our parents’ front porch with a PA system and commented on all of the different floats, bands and other parade happenings. It was fun, but for some reason we haven’t been asked to do it again…  - Meredith Cranch, Employee Events Specialist

It was the Mardi Gras right after Hurricane Katrina. Everything was still a mess and there were barely any tourists, but the locals were out in full regalia and in full party mode. - Shaler Wells, Software Engineer

Mardi Gras is more than a party. It’s a holiday tradition for my family (much like Christmas!) and something my family has been actively involved in for 40 years. I’m from a smaller town outside of New Orleans and growing up, I remember going to our family friend’s house each year to watch the parades. I had this feeling of pride seeing my dad ride on the float. He would always be sure to find us in the crowd and throw something special just for us. Most recently, I was able to take my 3-year old daughter back to that same house for her first Mardi Gras parade and watch her uncle (my brother) and her own dad ride and throw something special just for her. - Katie Terry, Global Traveler Product Marketing Manager

Now that you live in Austin, how do you celebrate Fat Tuesday?

I’ve lived in Austin for over 10 years now, and I try to at least eat some King Cake, wear beads and rock purple, green and gold on Mardi Gras day. This year, I’m excited that I’m getting to celebrate with Team HomeAway at the Culture Week closing party at our office! - Meredith C.

I’ve been away from Louisiana a long time, but we still do beads with the kids, and make it back when we can. - Shaler W.

After 14 years in Austin, I still order a King Cake each year from my favorite bakery, Haydel’s Bakery, and have it delivered to work. This year I’ll be in Louisiana for Mardi Gras! - Katie T.

Meredith enjoying the Mardi Gras festivities at our office party in Austin.

Meredith enjoying the Mardi Gras festivities at our office party in Austin.

What are your favorite traditions and foods?


King Cake, Gumbo, Shrimp PoBoys - Shaler W.

Listening to Mardi Gras music and eating lots and lots of king cake (and seeing who gets the baby, of course)!!!! Mardi Gras Mambo, anyone? - Katie T.

Red beans and rice and Randazzo King Cake - Matt Carboni, Recruiter

Matt Carboni representing his alma mater, Louisiana State University.

Matt Carboni representing his alma mater, Louisiana State University.

What do you miss most about Louisiana?

Getting days off for Mardi Gras! And reasonably priced boiled crawfish… - Meredith C.

The food, the architecture, the slower pace of life. The fact that every neighborhood has its own unique culture. - Shaler W.

Absolutely the food and getting days off for Mardi Gras, but also in my area of Louisiana, I would have to say the people. Everyone there seems to genuinely care about each other and the community. Cajuns are a tight-knit group. You can’t go to a grocery store without striking up a conversation with someone in the checkout line. They always wish you and your family the best and do it all while calling you “cher” (pronounced “sha”) - Katie T.

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Talk Techie to me - HomeAway Career Exploration Program

The Career Exploration Program (CEP) is one of the newest concepts created by our Learning & Development team aimed at helping employees navigate and accelerate their career at HomeAway. This program is ideal for employees who are interested in exploring another career path, but lack the skills to join a programming team. Hear from the first CEP group and find out what it takes to succeed in this engineering crash course.

What made you want to apply for the Career Exploration Program?

I already had an interest in pursuing a career change as a developer, so it really was a no brainer since HomeAway was willing to help me along the way. Opportunities like this are almost unheard of. - Sam Soheylee

I’ve always been fascinated with computers; I even attended summer camp for game development when I was younger. Once I could afford it, I went through the Full Stack Program at University of Texas, Austin and now I’m continuing my journey with this program! I really wanted to learn how to bring my ideas and concepts to life, start to finish. - Dylan Rutter

For years now, I have been wanting to pursue the path of development and struggled to balance life commitments with exploring a new endeavor. The CEP provided that opportunity and I immediately knew that this was my chance! I am a lifelong learner and web development is ever-changing; this is what really drew me to this field. Let the adventure begin! - Kristen Fyffe

In high school, I spent long nights reading tutorials on how to change my Myspace theme. I remember coming up with new designs and features that made my page stand out. Ever since then, I saw coding as a career. A few years ago, I noticed coding boot camps were becoming popular, but I was concerned about the time commitment. The CEP has been an amazing opportunity that I am so grateful to be part of. I’ve learned more than I could ever imagine in a short period of time. I’m more confident at problem solving and I’m excited about this career path! - Tatiana Nino


2. What are your career goals?

My goals at this point are to start an internship and then move on to front-end developer and continue strengthening my tech skills. I hope to continue my journey at HomeAway and guide others who are trying to make similar transitions. - Dylan Rutter

Long-term goal is to be able to call myself a full-stack web development engineer. In the short-term, I want to be useful to my team and continue to learn as much as I can.  - Trent Ingram

My current goal is to learn as much as possible from this experience to improve my skill set in tech and hopefully begin a career as back-end/full stack software developer. - Alfredo Ficcadenti

3. What was your biggest takeaway during the boot camp?

The only thing that can hold me back is myself and I understand more than I thought I did. The scariest part was figuring things out that I didn’t fully understand yet. However, that was arguably the most important part of the bootcamp, learning HOW to learn! - Sam Soheylee

Confidence! I always pride myself on having positive energy and being able to create a positive work environment as well. This time around I really wanted to focus on my technical aspect and it was nice to see in the end that I am making progress and moving closer to my goals every day. - Dylan Rutter

Learning how to be comfortable with constantly not knowing. Quickly learning to work toward the small victories and how the struggles of not knowing were responsible for the amazing feeling of accomplishment. - Jason Jiron

I figured I’d learn a lot about web development, and I did.  But I didn’t expect to learn a lot about myself too. - Trent Ingram

Boot camp opened my eyes to how big web development is and how quickly things are evolving. Every new thing I found interesting and wanted to further explore; it made me realize that you will never be all-knowing. The great thing is, developers are willing to share their knowledge and collaborate. - Kristen Fyffe

There are so many things to learn! Becoming a software developer requires focus to deeply learn new concepts and techniques but to also be flexible to find solutions for a new problem. Sometimes the problems look similar, but it needs a different approach and in general every problem can have different solutions. - Alfredo Ficcadenti

Miguel B transitioned from a Customer Experience role to a full-time position as an Associate Software Engineer.

Miguel B transitioned from a Customer Experience role to a full-time position as an Associate Software Engineer.

4. Any advice for other people trying to make a career transition into tech?

My advice for anyone looking to start a career transition into tech is to take a deep breath and start. It’s a long journey, but if you take it one step after persistent step, you’ll get there. - Miguel Bernal

Don’t feel intimidated. The beauty of this field is you learn new things everyday. Whether you’re new, or a seasoned developer, everyday is an opportunity to improve your skills. - Jason Jiron

Perseverance:  Web development is a big subject, and there’s a lot to learn.  Try to keep momentum by setting small tasks to accomplish every day, or every week.  Over time you’ll start to notice progress. - Trent Ingram

Be passionate. Take the first step and be constant. Invest your free time in learning because if it is something that you like, you will know immediately. - Alfredo Ficcadenti

Start now and don’t wait to be told to learn basic Javascript. It’s the foundation to ALL of the Javascript libraries you will learn and those libraries aren’t going anywhere any time soon. Coding takes patience like you wouldn’t believe and the problems you encounter can be hard, but hang in there. Every problem solved is a new milestone and something learned. - Shell Branch

5. What qualities does someone need to have to be successful in the CEP?

You have to WANT it. It should excite you to discuss the topics and discover new aspects to the technology you use. 12-hour days won’t feel enough and you will always want more. It should make you happy doing it. - Sam Soheylee

Problem solving, problem solving and problem solving. - Alfredo Ficcadenti

I believe that learning to code is something that anyone can do as long as you’re passionate, have an open mind and a positive attitude when something doesn't work out as planned. - Tatiana Nino

Want to join Team HomeAway or learn more about what it’s like to work here? Visit our careers page!

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