Shina Akinboboye was a teenager driven by curiosity—the type to, as he says, “pick up a machine and break it apart just to see its components and how they fit together.” His brother noticed Akinboboye’s fascination with how things work, and suggested he pursue a career in engineering (despite his mother’s wishes to study medicine).
“I started taking classes in math, physics, and chemistry,” says Akinboboye, who is currently a software engineering manager at the tech company Hotel Engine, which builds innovative solutions to connect business travelers with hotel partners.
An internship with Shell Petroleum Development Company in Nigeria introduced Akinboboye to software that modeled how crude oil and gas would flow from the ground to the surface—and inspired him to learn to code. “I liked how I could apply my engineering skills to solving problems,” he says.
In 2016, Akinboboye immigrated to the U.S. to be with his future wife—and after struggling to restart his career in a new country, he is happy to now be working for a company that is focused on developing future leaders in tech.
“I tell people that Hotel Engine is the best part of my career,” he says. “No other company I’ve worked for offers the same work-life balance along with growth potential.”
Here, he talks about his path at Hotel Engine, why constant feedback is so important, and a project he’s excited to be working on.
Describe your career growth at Hotel Engine. Where did you start and where are you now?
I started two years ago as a senior software engineer, and now I’m a software engineering manager. I didn’t even ask for a promotion; when my manager felt that it was the right time for me to move up, they asked me if I was interested. In other companies I’ve worked for, you have to ask for what you want. But with Hotel Engine, when they think you’re due for an opportunity to grow, they give it to you.
How did Hotel Engine help prepare you for this leadership opportunity?
Leadership’s most important priority here is seeing you succeed. The company comes second. That’s because they understand that a happy engineer will produce better code and ultimately help customers have the best possible experience.
From the beginning, I had an excellent manager who was very interested in helping me grow. Our weekly meetings weren’t always just about work, but also about how I was doing on a personal level—my weekend plans, personal projects I had going on. By connecting on a personal level, management at Hotel Engine helps people stay engaged and happy.
I also felt ready to take on the opportunity because of something we call “mobbing,” where three to four engineers will work together on a project. This experience working closely with others made me feel like I was already leading a team in a way—and is an example of how Hotel Engine set me up for success from the moment I was hired.
What are you responsible for in your role as an engineering manager?
I manage a team that works on search optimizations. Our goal is to improve our customers’ experiences when they’re searching on the platform. We don’t want them to have to wait too long for results. Our platform should be like Google—you get results as soon as you hit search.
What are you working on right now that excites or inspires you?
Currently, I’m working on optimizing the room mapping experience. We want to make the room descriptions more helpful so that customers can understand the differences between similar rooms at a hotel property. What I like about this project is that it gives me the opportunity to build something client-facing. I can have a direct impact on the customer, and help them make decisions in a better way.
Why is Hotel Engine an exciting place to work, especially within the field of engineering?
When you work at Hotel Engine, you’re encouraged to take on exciting projects from day one. If you’re interested in something, they tell you to go ahead and do it. All that counts is your determination and that you have the willingness and drive. That’s how I’ve been able to grow so much here—because I was given the opportunity to try new things and succeed.
What skills and traits have helped you succeed in your career?
Staying humble and staying hungry. I believe you should never think you’re at a point in your career where you know it all and you’re done growing. Working in software is fast paced and always changing. There’s always something new on the horizon to learn. My advice to anyone who wants to grow as an engineer is to keep the mindset that each and every day presents a new set of challenges for you to learn from.
Tell us about your experience relocating to the U.S. from Nigeria.
When I was living in Nigeria, a mutual family friend introduced me to the person who is now my wife. I loved Nigeria; I was having fun and making money. But we started talking, and she invited me to visit America for my birthday. I came to the U.S. and just got lovestruck! I went through the immigration process and eventually settled here in 2016.
I love the culture in the U.S. and the idea of the American dream. Being with a company like Hotel Engine has made a huge impact in my understanding of the American dream, because that’s how I see the company culture. Anyone can become anything if they so desire. You come in as an engineer who knows nothing, but you can end up being a manager with five direct reports. Next, maybe a director, then a VP, then who knows?
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career and how did you overcome it?
Transitioning from working in Nigeria to getting a job here in the U.S. was difficult at first. Things weren’t working out, and I just kept getting rejections. I had some imposter syndrome. I asked myself, “Do I know enough? Do I need to go back to school to be on the same level with American engineers? Is it my accent, or the way I look?”
Eventually, I had to accept myself and the situation, and start working toward where I wanted to be. I ended up taking an entry-level position despite the fact that I had already worked as a software engineer for years and was ready for a senior-level role.
The entry-level job gave me the opportunity to talk to Americans and understand how they think and feel about people. I hadn’t been feeling accepted by society, but I came to understand that Americans are human beings just like me. A majority of them don’t care about how you look, they just care about what’s in your head.
I also set a daily goal for myself to get better at things that challenged me. I improved my portfolio and started moving up. Then when new opportunities came up, I was more than ready.
What do you like best about the company culture at Hotel Engine?
There is a culture of inclusivity and openness. People here don’t pay attention to your color, your accent, or where you went to school. We’re all just human beings.
I also love that we have a culture of constant feedback, so you’re never left wondering if what you’re doing is right or wrong. With constant feedback from managers and peers, you always have the opportunity to get better. I feel free to tell anyone anything, and everyone takes feedback very well. That also brings us closer together. I’ve become friends with the people I work with.