From start-up to scale-up “Travel was broken, and we wanted to fix it!”

Posted on 25/09/2020, Teodora Stojšin

Our Chief Product Officer, Petra Vaškových started her journey at Kiwi.com in January 2014. She said that she met “three crazy guys” - Oliver (today’s CEO), JK (today’s CTO) and Maues (one of our first main developers).

She joined them with the acquisition of WhichAirline.com, being attracted by the business idea to build a great travel product. Read more about how the beginnings looked like, what were the biggest challenges and what it means to go from a start-up to a scale-up fastly.

 

Hi Petra, you are one of the first employees of Kiwi.com. Tell us more about how your career started here.

My journey in Kiwi.com started more than 6 years ago and back then, none of us had an idea of what would happen or how (un)successful we would be. Our job was just “getting the things done no matter what”. We were doing literally everything that was needed, night and day. My official role was Marketing Manager but in reality, I think I was doing everything possible with the exception of backend programming. As the time went by, our roles were maturing and we were specialising more into specific areas. In my case, the focus was on product. Today, I am a Chief Product Officer, and honestly, I am very happy about the choice of going towards the product area.

 

 

Kiwi.com was moving quite fast from a start-up to scale up.  What changed and how we matured as an organization?

When I joined the company, I was the 4th person, the first girl in the team. We were working day and night in one room, guys were even sleeping on the floor in their sleeping bags. As the time flew, the team got bigger, and we were covering new roles in the company. We moved to a villa in Brno which was our very first real office. 

And now – look at us! Today I am honoured that I can work with such a great team of people from whom I can learn a lot every day. We have cool offices in Brno and other locations all around the globe, we have matured in many practices, introduced new roles and teams and became a global company with talented people from all around the world. I am really proud of us and everyone in the team. Together we are making travel better!

 

Speaking about the product itself, how would you explain to people, what our product is about?

I remember Oliver (CEO) telling me one day “Travel is broken, it’s on us to fix it.” This is why we invented and pioneered Virtual Interlining. We’re connecting flights of non-cooperating airlines and covering the connections with Kiwi.com Guarantee to make sure our customers are safe and covered in case anything unpredictable happens on their way. 

We started with a few airlines, today we are covering the vast majority of them and we added trains and buses and became the first ones to introduce true intermodality – combining all the modes of transportation. Our mission is to offer the best option from any A to any B, being that just around the corner to your favourite restaurant or within the region; or to the other side of the planet. We want to offer everything in one app, without the need to contact any carrier directly.

 

 

The product matured, but what about the people? What opportunities do they have for self-development?

As we were growing, we introduced a lot of new roles where people were growing quickly but we got to a stage when we realised we need to give it a bit more structure. We worked with the teams on Career Path Framework, not only giving people clear expectations from the roles but also a guidance on how they can grow. We want to have clearly defined roles, a fair environment, the best team full of motivated, dedicated and happy guys that have a clear path to grow. This framework is here to help – basically, it is like a map or a compass helping you to guide you on your path. And there are some principles connected to that as well: be focused on your skills (not titles), be honest while doing the self-assessment and be ready to accept the feedback from your manager and your peers. Ask actively for it on your way as without feedback, there is no growth. 

As I mentioned before, with the fast pace of growth, we also have brilliant examples of incredible growth of some of our folks – we had people starting in Customer Support as agents, then becoming QA testers or even Product managers. We have junior frontend developers becoming Tribe leads and later on even VPs of a whole product area. And the drive these guys have is amazing! They love the product and they are able to move our company forward in many aspects.

 

As we could conclude, a lot of things have changed in Kiwi.com since the beginning. What do you love the most about Kiwi.com today?

I love our company and our product, I like all challenges we need to overcome and that every day is different. I am extremely grateful for having the opportunity to work in such a great team where you can learn from each other and grow but also rely on your teammates. We don’t play blame games; we care about what is right, not who is right and in case we fail, we always try to learn from it and move on being a bit wiser for the next challenges. In our company, I can meet so many interesting people from all over the world. This is not only important work-wise, this gives you a different angle on the problems we are solving but also it enriches you personally.

 

Did you like Petra’s story? Can you see yourself working with her and helping us to make travel better? We’re hiring PRODUCT MANAGERs in Prague, Brno or Bratislava. Find out more about the positions and product management here.

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