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When Mara Giorgio arrived on campus at Trinity College, she had to adjust to not just a new school, but a new country. She had moved to the US for college, after spending the first eight years of her life in Argentina and the next ten in Mexico.
“Having to move from one place to another, reinvent myself, and adapt to all of those changes growing up, it made me crave and thrive on change,” Giorgio says. “Every time I applied to a new job, I made it clear that I could adapt quickly and think through things from different angles and different viewpoints because of my upbringing.”
Giorgio certainly needs to think on her feet in her current role, as associate general counsel at short-term rental platform Airbnb. From her seat in the organization’s legal risk and regulatory team, she advises on issues both local and global with her policy expertise, international experience, and passion for travel to guide her.
Giorgio’s initial focus at Trinity was premed, but she soon reconsidered her career direction. “I took a prelaw constitutional law class about women’s rights, and I found it fascinating,” the lawyer says. “I got really into looking at arguments and uncovering every rock to figure out how to guide our society in applying the laws that are in place.”
With her constitutional law professor’s encouragement, Giorgio went straight from college to law school. She joined Squire Patton Boggs as a summer associate and discovered policy work during her first full year at the firm. “I like building consensus,” she says. “So the idea of talking to people in Congress and the federal agencies and trying to iterate and arrive at a place of mutual agreement was right up my alley.”
While at Squire Patton Boggs, Giorgio leveraged her Spanish fluency to broaden the scope of her work, including into international matters. She further expanded her portfolio at Steptoe & Johnson, where she focused on the lobbying and policy issue within the financial services industry.
Her jump to Steptoe also brought her to a professional crossroads. “I ended up taking a six-month trip around the world with my husband,” she explains. “It was a lot of fun. We stayed at a ton of Airbnb listings, and of course that piqued my interest in the travel industry.”
By the time she returned from her trip, Giorgio had started to envision a path that would allow her to connect her joint interests in travel, law, and policy. An opening at Airbnb proved to be the perfect fit. “Obviously my day-to-day work at Airbnb is not travel, but it’s nice to work in an industry where what you’re passionate about is what you’re helping forward,” she says.
In her five years at the company, Giorgio has helped Airbnb navigate, and strategize in response to, emerging regulatory issues, from consumer, content moderation, and privacy laws to those specifically targeting the short-term rental space. “Short-term rental laws are fairly new, which makes my job really exciting. I’m there in the trenches trying to figure out what makes sense from a multiple-stakeholder perspective,” she elaborates.
Sometimes, that means narrowing in on a particular city where short-term rental regulations are under discussion. Other times, Giorgio needs to collaborate with colleagues around the world to monitor and analyze laws applicable to broader regions, as in the case of a recent short-term rental proposal by the European Union.
What’s more, Giorgio has assisted in bringing actual regulators into the conversation through the launch of Airbnb’s City Portal, a platform that facilitates collaboration between the company and the communities in which it operates.
“I advised on what the City Portal was going to look like, what shape it was going to take, and how we were going to communicate about it,” she says. “That was a pretty exciting project because it was the first time a company like ours created a portal for the regulators and the tourism organizations themselves.”
Even now that she has settled into her role, Giorgio remembers the anxieties she felt before coming onboard at Airbnb. She worried that she didn’t have the right kind of experience until it occurred to her that her skills were just as relevant in-house as at a law firm. She urges other attorneys looking to break into the tech sector to reflect on their own transferrable skills.
“Most of the things happening in the tech industry are new for everyone,” she says. “If you can show a willingness to think creatively and adapt to change in the work you’ve done in the past, you’ll be well positioned for a job in tech.”
From there, it becomes a matter of believing in yourself and taking Giorgio’s second piece of advice. “Just go for it,” she says. “It’s definitely worth it.”
Sidebar: Her Mother’s Daughter
As she prepared for, took, and returned from maternity leave, Mara Giorgio gained a newfound respect for her mother’s difficult decision to stop working after the birth of her third child. “She really put us first, and what a sacrifice,” says Giorgio, who has learned to stop chasing perfection amid the challenges of balancing work and parenthood. “I will never be as good as my mom,” she says. “But I will keep trying.”
WilmerHale celebrates our friend and client Mara Giorgio who we admire for her legal acumen, collegiality, and unwavering commitment to creating and fostering a workplace that embraces each individual’s background, experience and perspective. It’s great to work with you, Mara. Congratulations!