Interview with Roman Studený, our Director of Customer Acquisition Products
It has already been 5 full years since Roman joined our company and made a huge impact in the Product area. He got to work from our loving villa, the very old building in Brno’s city centre where the working atmosphere was, as he says was “super friendly, but still kind of punk”.
“The fact that my “office” was in the basement made me one of the very few employees who really looked forward to moving to the new offices in Campus,” he said.
Roman explains that the best thing about Kiwi.com is that you can boost your career, switch between multiple roles, and, in his case, Product domains. Read the interview to hear more about Roman’s leadership style, his success stories, and his responsibilities at work.
What are your main responsibilities as Director of Customer Acquisition Products?
It’s kind of a specific role with a wider responsibility set. The main Product areas I am covering are: our B2B platform called Tequila, SEO Initiative and improvements, Marketing Automation, and I’m helping with partner integrations. In general, I am the one who is sitting between the two different worlds: Commercial Teams and Product/Engineering Teams. Sometimes it’s really tough. And that’s actually the challenge that drives and motivates me the most.
What are the most helpful marketing strategies Kiwi.com does to gain new customers?
This is a really big topic. In general, we can divide it into three main pillars. The first one is our branding positioning, where we are helping travelers to always find the best deal. The second one, from my point of view, is massive improvements in SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing). Last year we built the basics and now we are about to jump to a higher level where we will be competing against very strong competitors. From an SEO point of view, it means to get to the first positions in Google Search results; and from the SEM perspective to be able to massively scale our spending and increase the bidding pressure. The third one is our go-to-market strategies, where we would like to become well-known in new, but also current markets. To achieve this, we will use a whole marketing mix in the offline and online world. In general, the company is changing to become a real B2C company, which is a huge change!
Over the past few years, what have you noticed that works or doesn’t work when leading a team?
I am always trying to build up working relations by face-to-face contact. I believe that spending one full day with a team is more than one week of calls or 100 pages of specifications. Before Corona, I used to travel to different sites to visit my teams almost every week. Personally, I am not a huge fan of home-office (maybe even because of two small kids at home 🙂 and this shift to remote working influenced the work a bit negatively, I would say.
Do you feel that speaking both Czech/Slovak and English has been beneficial in your career? Why?
I am Slovak, but I believe that using English on a daily basis is just the perfect thing to do. To be completely honest, English was never my strongest language, but thanks to Kiwi.com and our daily routines, all of us are improving constantly. It’s not just about communicating internally, it’s also about working on projects with external partners with people from different parts of the world.
How did the positions you held before at Kiwi.com help you get to where you are now?
I was hired to Kiwi.com as Technical Project Manager. My first project was our custom internal tool for our HR and Facility teams. This helped me to know the company from the inside. Then, when we started establishing the Product Management in the organisation, I was offered to take over our Search Clients (The frontend part of the Search on both web and app platforms). There were very nice technological challenges and I believe we were able to deliver the leading Search tool for flights on the market. But to be honest, it was more of a power-user tool and not always perfect for the masses. Later, I became VP of Search Clients and part of the Senior Management.
In general, I really like the freedom of how you can define your own path in Kiwi.com. Everybody is trying to get the best of every single person. As I was working in three different worlds, in three different roles in my career: Engineering, Project Management, and Product Management. It helped me to understand all the parties involved during the delivery. And now, I set myself a new challenge and touch heavily on the fourth world called Marketing, or Commercial as it is also known.
What is your greatest accomplishment/success story you have had while working at Kiwi.com?
I already partially covered it in my previous answer. I was very proud of our Search. The real proof of the success was for me the very high NPS metric. Another great success in my eyes is the improvements of SEO. After one and a half years, we can see a really huge impact as we are already over-performing pre-Corona years by about 20-30%.
What are you passionate about in your work and outside of your work?
I am really passionate about the delivery itself. I feel super-satisfied whenever the project is done and I know I joined all the pieces across the organization to achieve it. Outside of work, my family is in the first place. We are living in the countryside of Brno and we are really enjoying it. I have two very small kids so it’s sometimes very exhausting, but fulfilling at the same time.
Whenever I have some spare time I spend it with my other passions, cars, and sports. I really love all the cars and recently I decided to buy some youngtimer from the ‘70. Working on it helps me to learn patience as everything is taking too long when you are repairing the car by yourself. Regarding my passion for sports, I did multiple different ones, my favourites were badminton and the gym. Unfortunately, both of them were not able to do it during Corona, and I started to run regularly with our dog!
Why did you decide to work in the travel industry?
I did not (laugh). The biggest drivers for me to join Kiwi.com were the culture and the technology. The funny fact is that I actually don’t like flying. And I am not very good at geography either.
Why do you think customers choose Kiwi.com over other virtual agencies?
I believe it’s heavily influenced by the ease of use. By having everything under one roof. As I already mentioned, a lot of users are on our website, just because of the huge variety of search options. This fact is a great opportunity for us to teach them we are not just that. For some of them, we are just a crazy start-up from Brno, for others we are somebody who saved their ass (or business) when there was no other direct connection, but we have covered it by our virtually interlined connection between different carriers.
What personal qualities or characteristics of yours do you believe have granted you success in your career path?
I always try to be honest and open to discussing anything. I believe I am a very good team player and try to make work fun at the same time. I am driven by the challenges which are not necessarily the positive ones, it could be even some personal goals.