What it takes to become a leader
Starting work in the travel industry at a young age, Dmytro (Dima) Malytskyi, our director of Corporate Solutions, has seen a lot within the industry. From customer service to operating tours, he had gained solid experience on the front line of travel well before his career as a manager began. After joining Kiwi.com as a customer support team member, Dima grew rapidly, getting promoted to a manager position in less than a year.
He then pivoted into business development, where the trend continued. He is now the Director of Corporate Solutions, working with several departments to ensure the growth and improvement of the company. In this interview, he shares his mindset and personal keys to success, recommends learning resources, and gives tips to professionals on personal growth, networking, and staying accountable.
Hi Dima, please tell us a bit about your journey.
I’ve been in the travel industry in one way or another since I was 18. I was working for Ukraine International Airlines as a ticketing agent and supervising the night call centers. Then I moved and spent four years as a tour operator. At that time, I was located in Kyiv and decided I needed to review my path forward. I focused on myself for half a year, and in return, I learned about this exciting company called Skypicker (initial Kiwi.com name). The company was opening and outsourcing in Kyiv, and I joined in February 2015.
How long have you been at Kiwi.com, and what positions have you had so far?
I’ve been involved with the company since February 2015. I first joined as a customer support agent, and as Kiwi.com experienced rapid growth, I was soon promoted to team manager. That was pretty much my position from mid-2015 until the beginning of 2017. I moved to the Czech Republic after getting an offer to work at the headquarters of Kiwi.com, and I was there for four months adjusting.
How would you describe yourself?
I like to come up with my solutions and form my opinions rather than blindly following some rules or processes. At the same time, I’m a very supportive person towards others’ choices, no matter if those are similar to my way of approaching things or if they are entirely the opposite.
I’m always trying to improve myself, and I’m never happy with what I’m achieving because I immediately want to achieve more.
What are some of your hobbies outside of work?
Considering my limited time, I would say, all in all, it would be studying. I’m constantly trying to improve. By default, I usually work on something like a Micro Masters program or, for example, now I’m doing the executive MBA, which is a more profound course focused on getting knowledge equal to or close to the Executive Suite level. Then I will have one or two more courses on something with a slightly different focus. For example, right now, I’m studying how to build blockchains and how to implement them in a variety of business solutions.
The second is not supportive of my profession, but I love it a lot. It’s gardening. I even moved outside the city, took a mortgage, and got myself a house. Gardening is my place of ultimate meditation, it’s where I’m calm. I’ve been learning a bit more about sustainable gardening, and I’m constantly reading books on how to grow things.
What or who are your biggest inspirations?
From a professional perspective, Jack Ma, a co-founder of Alibaba Group, is one of my biggest inspirations. He proves that with nothing at hand, you can still create wealth, and you can still achieve things. He’s one of the wealthiest men on the planet after not being able to get a job at KFC and being declined after he finished university. The way the ecosystem was built for Alibaba, all the support, all the operational items, that’s just fascinating. In addition to having a unified marketing approach within the ecosystem, they have side companies building ecosystems. So it’s like a tree with flowers at the end of the day, each company with its block that’s part of one whole.
What were the most significant challenges and hurdles you had so far on your professional journey?
In every part of my journey, I thought that the present challenge was the biggest, and the worst one. But it’s simply a question of the knowledge and support from your surroundings, from your coworkers.
For now, I think the biggest challenge is what I have at hand. And in a year, if you ask me, it will probably be the following. Currently, my main duty is rebuilding the strategy and approach of our business development units. We need to ensure that we’re contributing not only the cash, but we are doing the best that we can in all areas. We are completely changing our approach. It touches various stakeholders and different teams of the commercial, even departments like brands and marketing. And that’s way out of the standardized scope we had for years.
So, changing all of this simultaneously ensures that people are on board and nobody is against the new policies. This is the biggest challenge, considering it’s the highest position I have ever had.
What is the most inspiring thing you have experienced at Kiwi.com so far?
The most inspiring thing would be the community of Kiwi.com. There’s a feeling that, although we are split into departments, it’s still a big family. This inspires me because I always feel that if I need to make a tough decision, there are people behind me who would stand by with support. There are always people with whom I can discuss work-related problems.
You showed great potential and grew immensely from the moment you joined Kiwi.com. What do you attribute to your rapid growth at the company?
Every morning I wake up with one simple thought: “You could do it better.” And that’s constantly referring to the day before. I think, in a way, dissatisfaction with my previous performance is what helped me to grow. And it’s not because of my character or mindset, but because this led me to consume as much knowledge as possible. It still gives me the will to be better.
It’s pretty easy to say you want to be as good as someone else, but for me, it is always way better to look at myself yesterday and say, “You need to improve.” Then the next day comes, and you do this again and again, that’s how to ensure that you’re constantly growing. First of all, it’s more feasible, you’re feeling when you are failing or succeeding.
Second, attaching some heroes and these idols, it’s not always going to give you a clear growth path. So this is what simplifies this perspective, just like looking more at yourself. You have to keep wanting to improve. I’m happy when I’m making a step forward and improving. The unhappiness comes when I understand that I could’ve done it two days earlier, a month earlier.
How do you stay motivated and constantly work on improving yourself?
This necessity to improve every day is a factor, but there’s something I haven’t mentioned yet – I’m usually trying to plan things. When I understand my direction, I know what I want to achieve by a specific age, and what the aspects are, and I have it planned. The problem is that it’s impossible to predict everything. Planning brings satisfaction with my progress from yesterday. And then looking where I’m trying to get to is the way, how to try to improve and ensure that I’m going in that direction.
What are the most critical skills at work and also in life?
I would say critical thinking. The other important thing here, though, is to have balance, not getting too much into the details. That’s like a swamp that can suck you in and never let you out.
Communication is also essential. You need to find the middle ground, and communication helps to make this happen. In reality, you need both, your critical thinking will not bring any benefit without the possibility of communicating, but without critical thinking, you’re just talking to talk.
How do you stay innovative in a business environment?
I’m constantly trying to study. It’s not always related to formal courses, I can simply be reading news such as the innovations of startups. Luckily for myself, I’ve built a pretty good network on LinkedIn and am in constant touch with quite a few people, so we’re sometimes jumping on a call, and brainstorming ideas. Looking at adopting things that are unrelated directly to your industry but can be helpful.
The second thing is looking at the feasibility of things not happening. There are only two reasons why something doesn’t exist. Either it’s the pricing model and negotiation, or for some reason, people don’t want to destroy the classical standards and move on. Questioning how things work can unfold hidden potential, but not everything is innovation. Maybe something just fails in the start and you are fixing it by the batches.
What are your favorite resources to keep up to date and learn?
I try to read at least one to two books per month. But I sometimes reread a book, especially when there is a significant shift, for example, a change of position. Recently. I was rereading the “New Lanchester Strategy.” It applies First World War strategies to marketing. “Differentiate or Die” by Jack Trout and Steve Rivkin is a good one. It discusses brand positioning and how customers choose a brand based on its sentiments.
Phocuswright is a great place to keep up with changes and trends in the travel industry, also Phocuswire. In reality, I don’t think I even know all the resources I’m using because I have built some tech that puts together articles with keywords that I’m interested in so I have all the references to it that simplified my life.
Do you have any tips on networking and making meaningful connections?
It depends on how you’re getting those people in your network. I’ve seen quite a few influencers on LinkedIn doing these posts for networking, like, “Hey, put your name, put what you are doing, and people will connect.” If you are going with the direction of the influencer, maybe that’s something valuable because it creates a lot of instant connections with people. But I think when I tested it for one day, I got about 50 people knocking on the door, and I haven’t spoken with any of them, even after trying to start communication.
The best conversations I have are while debating. I go to interesting articles, especially those where I want to learn more, and I just share my opinions in the comments. I try to bring a different perspective from the other writers. I have a rule of five exchanges, and after that, I add the person, and we continue with the DM. With a lot of people like that, I don’t have constant communication, but once in a few months, we have a call, or we exchange messages. I think my bond with those people is so strong because it wasn’t the business that connected us, it was a specific matter we’re both interested in.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
If you’re starting something new, don’t procrastinate. Try to get as much as possible done at the starting point, the knowledge that you gain within the first three months to six months is the foundation of your moving forward.
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