Meet North Central College alumna Aileen Morrissey ’07, content strategist for Dictionary.com, the world’s leading digital dictionary.
Before joining the team at Dictionary.com, she spent four years working in Silicon Valley for the room-booking website, Airbnb. In those four years, the company grew from a start-up to a reach of beyond 60 million guests around the world, giving her a unique experience in a constantly changing environment. In her time at Airbnb and her current position at Dictionary.com, she has developed her skills with well-known, highly successful companies.
Q: How did you get involved in working for a start-up company in Silicon Valley?
It was a happy accident. I had heard about Airbnb from a friend and decided to use it for a work trip in 2011. While poking around the site I saw they were hiring remote employees, so I sent in a video application. A few months later, I started working from my living room! Two years later, my job really couldn’t be done from home anymore—Airbnb moved me out to the Bay Area and I’ve been here ever since.
Q: What does it mean to be a content strategist?
Content isn’t just the words on a page. It can include images, multimedia and (probably most importantly) the organizational structures that let you interact with it. Since content strategists rarely have just one product and are involved from planning stages all the way through to maintenance, day-to-day tasks can be really varied. I’m usually in one of four content modes: planning, analyzing, developing or managing.
Q: What are your new responsibilities at Dictionary.com?
As part of the product team, I’m researching and developing new content to make the experience at Dictionary and Thesaurus more enriching and enjoyable. I also manage the Word of the Day team (yes, each and every word is curated by a real person—her name is Renae!), and I help the lexicographical and marketing teams wherever I can. It’s my job to figure out what people are doing, why and how we can help them in those moments. The ideas are endless—imagine looking up “boomerang” and seeing a video alongside the definition, or being presented with a vocab list after you’ve looked up a few tough words from a particular book.
Q: How did your experience as an organizational communication major and College Scholar at North Central help you succeed?
North Central pushed me to remain curious and approach problems from different angles. With that perspective, I’m always learning, and I’m always getting better at my craft. Expertise is valuable, but being able to work collectively with people who have very different skills than I do is more valuable.
Q: Because Airbnb was still pretty new when you joined, were you nervous about working for a start-up?
I wasn’t nervous, but I was open to the idea that it could fail (and I might be out of a job) in a few months. Almost no one had heard of Airbnb when I started. I had really strange conversations with people when I had to try to explain where I worked and what we did.
Q: Have you used Airbnb to stay in any exciting places?
I do almost all of my traveling on Airbnb now. In the last five years I’ve stayed in amazing homes in Scotland, England, Ireland, France and all over the United States.
By Amanda Cortese ’17