From serving 'Latte' to being a part of $24 billion startup

The story of an engineer who worked his way from a coffee shop to a plum gig at a $24 billion startup

Even though Mike Curtis did not have a college degree, he still worked his way from AltaVista to Yahoo to Facebook to Airbnb just because he was good at serving lattes.

While in high school, Curtis used to serve up hot drinks to businessmen at the coffee shop. He then started pestering the owner of a new tech company that was across the street for an internship.

Addressing a crowd of 3,000 ambitious tech employees at Internapalooza, Curtis said “It’s okay to be shameless sometimes. You just have to go get it.”

The owner finally gave in and Curtis gave it a try; however, he also had to play receptionist for the company by answering the phone calls.

“Don’t be afraid to do a little bit of sh-twork,” Curtis said. After all, it taught him how to deal with the customers.

That company, iAtlas Corporation, went on to make a systematic list of business information that could be used for search. All of a sudden, it was dealing with calls about acquisitions. In 1999, Altavista bought the company leaving Curtis with a decision of either going to college, or work for AltaVista by moving to the west.

He decided to go to the west by giving up his college degree and moved out to Silicon Valley in 1999. He worked from there as an engineer at AOL and at a healthcare company before he went on to work with Yahoo.

He worked with the company for seven years, making his way up to lead engineering for Yahoo Mail, before he actually realized. “Make sure that one day whatever company you join is working as hard for you as you are for it,” Curtis said.

He explained that he had a corner cube at Yahoo known as “that’s a cube with two windows” along with a team of more than 200 engineers. However, he made a decision to give it up and go and work as an engineering manager in Facebook.

The former VP all of a sudden found himself surrounded by interns and college grads in the Facebook’s bootcamp program.

“It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” Curtis said. “Look for opportunities, and shed your ego.”

In 2013, Curtis moved to Airbnb as he felt “it really mattered.” It was also an opportunity to get entry into a company early. Currently, the home-rental market according to some what say is closing in on a $1.5 billion round of fundraising, which is estimated to be around $24 billion.

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