Want to Make a Difference at Work? Join the Club.

While digging into a good book isn’t for everyone, we have a group of avid readers at HomeAway who are making old-school cool again. The HomeAway Book Club gathers monthly to debate topics related to career growth, problems in the tech world, and resolving conflict with coworkers.

The Penn Field book club meeting to discuss Crucial Conversations.

The Penn Field book club meeting to discuss Crucial Conversations.

Leader and founder of the HomeAway Book Club, Dottie Tosan, has a passion for self-improvement and lively discussion. It started with casual book recommendations within our Slack channel and blossomed into something more. He proposed the idea at a 120 meeting – a forum designed to bring new ideas to the table – and he was given the green light. The book club is less than a year old and has already spread to three of our Austin offices, connecting employees who didn’t know each other through a shared experience, with plans to expand to our global offices in 2018.

Currently, the book club is mulling over Crucial Conversations, a New York Times Bestseller dedicated to preparing readers for high-stakes conversations and teaching techniques on how to be persuasive instead of abrasive.


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Q&A with Dottie

 

Q: What’s the book selection process like?

DT: Members are able to nominate books in line with any current or relevant topic the organization is experiencing – after the nomination, all books are voted upon (majority win scenario).

 

Q: Is the book club made up of members predominantly from one team?

DT: The book club brings together members from several cross-functional departments in the organization, we presently have three clubs.

 

Q: What are the future plans for the book club?

DT: The book club was built on a “test and learn” approach – now we have been able to figure out what is and isn’t working, so we are shifting gears to a kaizen philosophy in order to scale. We are bringing our teams from London and Gurgaon on stream in January and this will enable us to leverage cross-cultural learning. We’re also hoping to get all our global offices to attend remotely – and possibly expand to Expedia as well. Longer term, we are hoping to see employees’ careers and character develop and evolve respectively. My personal aim is to make the book club prominent enough that it attracts authors to come speak.

 

Q: What’s been your biggest takeaway from the book club so far?

DT: My biggest takeaway so far is nothing is impossible. We have built a club that brings together cross-functional employees and leverages video conferencing – this was unthought of during the formative stages of the club, but with the help of my coworkers, we made it happen.  As we scale globally, I am constantly reminded of one of my personal mantras “Never consider yourself too small to make a positive global difference.”

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Are you a HomeAway employee interested in joining the book club? You can find more information on the wiki or join the book club Slack channel.

Want to join Team HomeAway or check out other cool perks we offer? Visit our careers page!

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Q&A with Emery Coxe About Presenting at Google's Firebase Summit

Software Engineer, Emery Coxe, recently had the opportunity to speak at the Firebase Dev Summit in Amsterdam- his first major speaking opportunity since joining HomeAway! For those who don't know, the Firebase Dev Summit is Google’s annual event to show off their hottest new products. Attendees are the first to know about new releases and have the chance to meet other techies from big companies around the world. It's pretty much like the Coachella of summits in the tech world.

 

During the summit, the HomeAway Product Design and Mobile Apps teams were selected to test the Cloud Firestore, Google's flexible database platform. They built a mobile app, which allows our travelers to search and comment on peoples’ recommendations in real time, without a manual refresh. The summit was a huge success for HomeAway because it reduced the development time and costs of the app, meaning we made it available to our users faster.

Watch Emery’s full presentation on HomeAway’s use case study with Firestore:

Firebase just announced the beta release of Cloud Firestore -- a fully-managed NoSQL document database for mobile and web app development. It's designed to easily store and sync app data at global scale, and it's now available in beta.

 

Q: How was HomeAway selected to participate in this use case study for Google Firestore?

EC: If you’re not familiar with Firebase or Firestore, Firebase is a set of tools that accelerates mobile development and Firestore is a database that allows the person who’s coding the app to cut out the middleman. Someone on my team knew someone at Google and they asked if we wanted to test out Firestore.

We started planning the study in March and implemented it in April. Our original intent was to get tickets to Google I/O, which is the biggest most prestigious tech conference for Android developers, so we figured we’d build an app that fit HomeAway’s use case.

 

Q: How did the app turn out?

EC: It was actually one of the more robust apps out of the different use cases Google assigned. In June, Google invited us to San Francisco to present our app at a team event. I also spent a day with their engineers giving my feedback and opinion on their usage.

 

Q: You recently traveled to Amsterdam to present HomeAway’s use case study at Firebase Summit. Tell us about that.

EC: Well, I had been working on this project for so long so none of the product launches or announcements were a huge surprise to me, but they were a big deal for the attendees. I was super excited to present as this was my first time traveling for something of this caliber in the five years that I’ve been at HomeAway. I spent a lot of time preparing and practicing on the houseboat I rented in Amsterdam.


 

Q: Wait, a houseboat?! Why’d you stay on a houseboat as opposed to a hotel?

EC: I found this modern, unique houseboat located in East Amsterdam on HomeAway and stayed there during my trip. I love staying like a local when I travel. I even found a cool windmill brewery up the road that I went to a couple times.

Photo by Emery Coxe

Photo by Emery Coxe

 

Q: Did you have the chance to sightsee after the summit was over?

EC: Yes, my favorite thing about Amsterdam is that it’s a really unique, cultural city with tons of art and museums. I went to the Moco Museum and several parks. I walked probably a total of eight miles that day and then I got Indian food!

 

Q: Overall, what was the best part of this trip?

EC: It was a great opportunity to get involved in the conversation regarding new technology. Cloud Firestore is the future and HomeAway is a leader in our industry so it’s important to adopt early.

 

Want to join Team HomeAway or check out other cool perks we offer? Visit our careers page!

 

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Becoming the Master of Toasts, Roasts, & More

Learning doesn't have to begin and end in a classroom. There is always more we can do after formal education to become the best version of ourselves – the “Mr. Miyagi” of our respective fields.

A Birdhouse Toastmasters meeting underway at the Domain.

A Birdhouse Toastmasters meeting underway at the Domain.

That’s where Toastmasters comes in. Toastmasters is an international organization that teaches members how to speak and lead confidently. Birdhouse Toastmasters, our HomeAway chapter, meets weekly and alternates between two of our Austin offices. You might be thinking, “What’s in it for me, why should I make another commitment during my already busy day?” Sarah Miller, a Business Analyst at HomeAway and VP of Public Relations for Birdhouse Toastmasters, is taking over the blog to share how this club has helped her personally and professionally.  


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How Toastmasters Helped Me Overcome My Fear

By: Sarah Miller

 

The first time I heard about Toastmasters, I imagined a bunch of jovial extroverts and excellent public speakers delivering compelling addresses and public roasts. I thought I would stand out like a sore thumb since I was terrified of public speaking – even meetings with as few as five people would trigger my anxiety. Why would I ever voluntarily put myself through that?  At the same time, I knew deep down that Toastmasters could help me push through my fear –  that joining would teach me how to speak up in meetings and talk about my ideas in public.

Shortly after joining HomeAway as a Business Analyst, I participated in my first HackAway. I came up with an idea for a “city finder” that would help travelers discover cities they would enjoy visiting. I was really excited about my idea, but to present it at HackAway meant I had to face my fear of public speaking. The presentation would be in front of executives and several of my colleagues, both in the room and on the phone worldwide.

I was able to deliver a three-minute speech followed by a Q&A without stumbling.  I had to prepare for expected questions and curveballs thrown by some of the smartest, most knowledgeable people in the company. Even though I was nervous in the days leading up to the speech, walking out I felt invincible!

Shortly after the competition, Birdhouse Toastmasters hosted an open house at our office. I already faced my greatest fear, so Toastmasters didn’t seem as intimidating. I joined that day, and I’ve now been a member of Birdhouse Toastmasters for two years. Many club members are just like me - introverts wanting to conquer their fears and perfect the art and science of delivering effective, professional public speeches. It’s much easier for me to speak up in meetings and it takes a lot more than an audience of five to shake me.

My managers have seen a substantial difference in my confidence and speaking abilities and now they recommend Toastmasters to the team. I can think on my feet when called to offer an opinion because of the skills I’ve acquired from Toastmasters.  I am more likely to speak up when I have something to say, whereas before I often waited until after meetings to share my ideas privately.

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We have so many opportunities to be heard by our HomeAway leadership team. Whether it’s a Monthly Product Review, 120 presentations, or weekly team meeting, we are encouraged to share publicly more than ever before. There is no better time to improve your speaking skills and learn to thrive under pressure.

Did I mention HomeAway even covers membership fees for employees? There is truly nothing holding you back from joining Toastmasters, so spend your lunch break with us and master the art of the public speaking.

If you’re a HomeAway employee in Austin interested in joining Toastmasters please visit Birdhouse Toastmasters on the wiki.

Want to join Team HomeAway or check out other cool perks we offer? Visit our careers page!

 

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