Welcome to My Kiwi story, an ongoing series surrounding our dedicated employees and their lives at Kiwi.com. In this episode, we get to know our Director of Corporate Solutions, Abdelhakim “Hakim” Cherif.
Hakim spoke to us about his motives to leave a large corporation for the Kiwi.com scaleup, his personal journey at Kiwi.com and his thoughts on employee engagement at Kiwi.com and how it relates to the business.
Hi, Hakim. Thank you for taking part in My Kiwi Story. Could you introduce yourself and tell us something about your Kiwi.com journey?
Hello. I am French-Tunisian and before joining Kiwi.com, I worked in various positions for Amadeus for about eight years. During my time at Amadeus, I contributed to lots of projects, both simple and complex. As you probably know, Amadeus is a company that provides directories, pricing, booking, ticketing and other processing services to travel providers and travel agencies. This is how I came across the Kiwi.com leadership team — they were my partners and customers.
It was quite a challenge for me when I first came to Kiwi.com in 2018. The practices, mindset, values and decision-making process were completely different from what I was used to. I was learning a lot very quickly, mainly by trying and failing. I was given the mission of leveraging everything that Kiwi.com has built — its content, services and technology — to generate revenue and fueling company growth, by distributing our travel content on the B2B space. I started two years ago by single-handedly leading a product, and today B2B comprises a cross-division team of more than 70 people across eight sites, as well as a platform we named Tequila, which has hundreds of active users. Now, I am the company’s Corporate Solutions Director.
You were living on the French Riviera with a stable job at Amadeus for more than eight years. For some, that would be a dream! What motivated you to move to Brno and join Kiwi.com?
Back at Amadeus, as a product manager, I was building and selling IT solutions for the biggest players in the travel industry. I was comfortable with the corporate mindset and I met with a lot of successful partners, but I was pretty much doing the same thing for a long period of time. I was really excited to come across an ambitious, new company such as Kiwi.com — one that was breaking all the rules, going against the status quo, and was led by, quite frankly, very friendly people.
Once, Kiwi.com was asking Amadeus for staggering quantities of data, ready to break the piggy bank for it, and showing little patience for the slow execution pace of a mature and big IT company. From the negotiations to the project execution itself, it was nothing like I had experienced before at Amadeus — an opinion I shared with many others at the time. After that project, I wasn’t so enthused by the prospect of going back to business as usual. I think the point at which I really started to see myself here was when I went (as a partner) to Kiwi.com 5th anniversary event. It was a private event, and yet it was held in an airport. That was quite an experience! [laughs]
I reached out to Kiwi.com not long after that. The management carefully considered my prospective mission with me: exploring the B2B space. It was a very exciting opportunity — building something completely from scratch with the help of smart and passionate people, and so I decided to take the risk and make the move to Brno in the Czech Republic. [smiles] They even offered me the option of working remotely but given what needed to be done to make this work, I knew I needed to be near to all the stakeholders in Brno. And I don’t regret it! Over the last two years, our little B2B family has had its ups and downs, but we’ve worked a few miracles in our time. The most amazing thing here is seeing people growing and spreading their wings, taking on bigger challenges every day.
We often say that our biggest asset is our people. How do you understand the engagement at Kiwi.com at the moment, and how is it connected to the business that you do?
I see Kiwi.com as a promising company with a great product and an awesome team, transiting to a new stage of its development. During this time, you face new challenges as you evolve into a mature and sustainable organisation. New startups don’t have to think too hard about things like employee engagement because team members are all passionate — actively involved in many areas, going above and beyond their scopes, seeking maximum impact. In short, high spirits and loose remits.
Kiwi.com has definitely passed this stage, and it had to adapt in order to maintain its growth. Engagement is pivotal in achieving this transition, as we don’t approach this in the same way as other, more structured organisations do. We want to keep our teammates motivated and to establish clear roles along with a comprehensive career development path. They have legitimate questions: “What is my mission?” “How does my role help the organisation?” What is expected of me?” “What are my prospects for the future?” And we owe them satisfactory answers. These questions need to be addressed, all the while not compromising the startup mindset which is in our DNA. A “can do” attitude persists across the company, even if it now comes with a much better planning and decision-making process; to make sure we focus on the right things.