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Apartment List & Year Up: The Intern Experience

By: Ezra Bernardino, Jessica Cortes, and Rigoberto Gonzalez
February 4, 2021

Apartment List had the fortunate opportunity to partner with Year Up, a program whose mission is to close the opportunity divide in the workplace. Year Up believes every young adult deserves opportunity and economic justice. This message resonated with the Apartment List team, and we were thrilled to welcome three awesome Year Up interns to the team.

Ezra Bernardino

Hello! My name is Ezra Bernardino and I’m a Bay Area native. I am a college student at Diablo Valley College and currently enrolled as a Project Management student at Year Up Bay Area. With my hands-on experiences and extensive knowledge I gained from the Year Up program, I aim to further hone my public speaking, communication, organization, excel, and leadership skills throughout my career.

Over the last six months , I worked as a content marketing intern for Apartment List’s content and research team. I tackled various projects, ranging from SEO optimization initiatives to advertising spend audits. I was able to collaborate with the performance marketing team and dive into the intricacies of paid marketing. My favorite opportunity of my internship was authoring Apartment List’s “Best Cities for Pandemic Dating,” which was featured in several notable outlets.

In my free time, I like to go to cafes, read self-help and romance books, discover new music, and drive along the coastline.

Jessica Cortes

Hi! My name is Jessica Ahuactzin Cortes and I’m a San Francisco native. I joined the Year Up program back in March at the San Francisco site under the IT Helpdesk track. I enrolled in the IT Helpdesk track to challenge myself, as I had only basic skills in working with computers. The Year Up track taught me how to effectively operate a computer, from external hardware to software.

As part of the Year Up program, we all took a class in Business and Communication, which helped develop and polish our organizational, communication, and public speaking skills. This class also taught us the Microsoft Office/G Suite basics, from PowerPoint to Excel.

The skills I developed through the Year Up program allowed me to thrive during my internship at Apartment List. Throughout my time at Apartment List, I wore multiple different “hats” and worked on two teams: the Design and Research Team and the Client Experience Team. I also earned and created my own title as a Customer Support Specialist.

I felt that Year Up was going to truly open doors for me and it delivered. I’ve learned a lot these past six months and have been introduced to an awesome community and a plethora of resources.

Rigo Gonzalez

Hello! My name is Rigoberto Gonzalez, but I go by Rigo. I am a Bay Area resident, born in Oakland and raised in Richmond, CA.

This past year, I had the pleasure of participating in the Year Up program, which allowed me to learn and hone my skills as a Project Manager. During my tenure with the Year Up program, I joined Apartment List as a Salesforce Intern in the Go To Market - Strategy Insight & Analytics team.

My main priorities were to assist in maintaining positive OKR outcomes, as well as helping relieve technical debt in the company. Throughout my time at Apartment List, I’ve learned the fundamentals of Salesforce and began the Salesforce Trailhead training.

Embracing the Apartment List Culture

Although the Year Up team was mentally preparing to wake up early and take BART into San Francisco to Apartment List’s SOMA headquarters, the pandemic changed things dramatically.

As Year Up Interns, we joined Apartment List at an unprecedented time (to say the least), with the pandemic roaring and more and more tech companies going all-in on remote work. Taking on projects and learning new skills in a fully remote environment was challenging at first. Fortunately, Apartment List has embraced and invested in building an incredible virtual culture.

Two weeks into our internship, we participated in Apartment List's first-ever virtual event, ”Virtual Spark.” It was an all-day Zoom event featuring Apartment List leaders and notable industry experts, discussing strategies and opportunities in the company. Between chats from leaders, we attended various breakout sessions and team building exercises. Whether we were attending sessions on developing design skills (design lab pictured above), advancing your career, or cheering on colleagues in Apartment List’s virtual lunchtime rap battle, it was a day to remember.

To conclude the event, Apartment List was thoughtful enough to send us care packages with food and drinks. The event really showcased Apartment List’s commitment to building an incredible “virtual-first” culture.

Although we missed out on in-office interactions, “Family Friday” and weekly “Coffee Buddies” were a great way to network throughout the company. Family Friday is an old Apartment List tradition to go out to lunch with new, randomly assigned groups, allowing us to meet people we typically wouldn’t interact with. This tradition has carried over into the virtual world, and helped us network and learn about the various functions of the business.

Q&Meals, Apartment List’s biweekly all-hands meeting, was another uniquely “A-List” event we always looked forward to. Whether it consisted of company updates, celebrating wins, or listening to a colleague's personal TEDTalk, it was a great way to connect with the company.

Teambuilding & Mentorship

Apartment List as a whole has a family atmosphere, but the culture on each team stands out as well. Our teams put a lot of effort into including everyone in each meeting and making sure everyone’s voice is heard. Icebreaker questions and chatting about our weekends was such a great way to kick off our weekly team meetings and get to know our fellow teammates better.

The most memorable moments while being at Apartment List were the team-building activities and company events, like the cocktail/mocktail making pictured above. Apartment List has been so inclusive, welcoming everyone to participate and fostering a smaller space to communicate and get to know each other. In our recent 2021 kick-off event, Apartment List went the extra mile by surprising all of the A-Listers with notes of gratitude, written by our team members.

Since day one, Year Up interns were paired with mentors from different departments. Our mentors showed us the ropes of the company, allowed us to learn about other functions of the business, and provided us with valuable career advice.

Making an Impact

In Apartment List's dynamic startup environment, we had the opportunity to work on a number of different projects. Whether it was within our teams or working cross-functionally, we took on various crucial initiatives.

Here are a few of our most impactful projects.

Ezra: Driving SEO and Ad Spend Improvements

As part of the content side of the comms team, my main focus was on organic search traffic. I took on multiple SEO projects from my manager to grow Apartment List’s traffic and improve our organic search rankings.

I was in charge of monitoring Apartment List mentions in the media, specifically looking for unlinked brand mentions. While many outlets cover our rental market studies, some forget to link back to our website. I was in charge of reaching out and communicating with journalists to link back to us, so potential renters and interested readers can find our full studies.

Familiarizing myself with the media outreach process led to me promoting other content in link-building campaigns. In collaboration with my colleagues, we even wrote our own study, “Best Cities for Pandemic Dating,” which earned coverage in many authoritative outlets. I also managed an internal linking audit, which led to over 700 new internal links to enhance the user experience and improve Apartment List’s search rankings.

I also worked with Apartment List’s paid marketing team and learned more about Google ad campaigns. I learned how to manage Google ads and identify low performing ads, which led to me auditing over 4,000 google ad groups. By eliminating low-performing ads and recalibrating our keywords, I was able to help further optimize Apartment List’s ad spend.

I gained a lot of valuable skills from my experience that will help me in the future, connected with many co-workers who’ve become friends, and learned the ins and outs of a remote work environment.

Jessica: Spearheading Apartment List’s Customer Support

As I mentioned above, I had the opportunity to take on and curate my own role in customer support.

I focused on building out and refining Apartment List’s renter support to give our users the best apartment hunting experience possible. I also built out a process to collect and organize renter feedback that we received through email and social media and presented these learnings to cross-functional teams.

Responding to renter emails and social media posts in this role allowed me to create a friendly brand voice for the company. Through establishing this voice, and addressing any renter requests/feedback in a timely manner, I was able to successfully establish trust and quickly address the requests or complaints of our renters.

I also conducted two user experience research reports using the data I gathered from email and social media. Learning about our renters’ experiences in real-time allows us to learn where our product is excelling, and discover the pain points.

My internship taught me a lot about how to conduct research, along with the challenges you’ll face along the way and how to present a report’s takeaways to key stakeholders (i.e. the entire company at Q&Meals!).

Rigo: Attacking Technical Debt in Salesforce

During my time at Apartment List, I was in charge of taking over a portion of my team’s Salesforce ticketing queue. I spent the bulk of my internship learning the ins and outs of Salesforce. In the platform, I was in charge of creating accounts, conducting name changes, creating and editing fields in the Salesforce objects, and assigning tickets to the appropriate admin.

I also made a big impact working on a community refactoring project, which was relieving some of the company's technical debt that had accumulated over time. I was able to compile a list of 36 fields that I thought were okay to be deleted or repurposed. The results of the reduced tech debt were faster load times and better optimized-fields in Salesforce.

Final Takeaways

Year Up has taught and shown us a great number of professional norms and work habits to seamlessly adapt in the tech industry and greater corporate world. Our greatest lessons have come from the hands-on experience and learning from our managers and mentors.

Overall, our time at Apartment List was a blast! Working at Apartment List was an insightful and engaging experience where we worked hard on high-priority projects, made new connections, further developed our technical skillset, and ultimately made an impact on the business. The hands-on experience, skills, and tools we’ll take away from our time at Apartment List will be used to progress our professional careers for years to come.

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Ezra is a content and marketing intern at Apartment List. Ezra is currently a Year Up student - a nonprofit organization closing the opportunity divide. Read More
Jessica interned with the Client Experience and Design and Research Teams at Apartment List. She's a part of Year Up - a program committed to ensuring equitable access to economic opportunity, education, and justice for all young adults. Read More
Rigo interned as a Salesforce Intern in the Go To Market - Strategy, Insight, and Analytics team. He’s a part of the Year Up program thats aim to connect bright and hopeful young adults to tech jobs for financial stability. Read More
Meet the Founder

John Kobs
John Kobs is the CEO and Co-founder of Apartment List, the fastest growing rental marketplace in the United States. John believes that everyone deserves a home they love, and has built Apartment List on a foundation of trust and transparency for renters and owners.
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