‘Kiwi.com is a lifestyle’

Posted on 25/08/2020, Giorgia Cavicchia

Our VP of Engineering, Stanislav Komanec’s current mission is to solve problems through technology for Kiwi.com.

We chatted with him about the vision and culture of Engineering at Kiwi.com, its unique features, and the challenges faced. “It’s about doing something effective right now, making change possible, and making the company even better.”

 

Hi Stano! First question: what is the vision of Engineering here at Kiwi.com?

I believe our main mission and vision is to support our product, our business, and Kiwi.com’s plan to become a virtual global supercarrier. And we need to be sure that technology helps us get there faster.

Technology is unlocking a lot of features that could make our customers’ travel experience even better. This means they can access these features from their phones, anytime and anywhere. It improves the way people travel: for example, we might send our customers the right offers at the right time, and perhaps inspire them to take a journey, because we passionately believe that travel makes people’s lives better.

 

Can you mention any specific roadblocks you might encounter along the way?

From an Engineering perspective, it could be the focus on data. We are processing hundreds of terabytes of data per day, and it can be very challenging to do that properly while making business decisions easier. There are entire projects and frameworks dedicated to data governance and data usage, and they are not just relevant to Engineering, but to the entire company. So it is a big deal. We are certainly going in the right direction right now, though. There is a lot of work to do, but it will really take the company to the next level.

 

From a strictly technical point of view, what would you say about the current technologies used by Kiwi.com?

When it comes to the Kiwi.com technology architecture, we have numerous products that are ‘hidden’ from our customers but are needed to run somewhere in the ‘backyard’. In order to be able to deliver our features faster, we are attempting to move in the direction of  ‘micro service-oriented architecture’. This means trying to develop services that are responsible for specific problems, and then provide the API to the others. This micro service-architecture is fairly special, I would say. We currently have around 400-500 types of microservices in production, and these make Kiwi.com quite unique in this matter. This is one of the most interesting achievements for us recently.

Another significant project is our custom-written database. It’s quite technical to explain in a few sentences, but it’s important because it contributes to making us ‘different’ in quite a unique way. Companies mostly tend to use on-shelf programmes borrowed from other companies. Unlike those, this database is something we built for ourselves. The goal was to store a lot of data about combinations of itineraries for specific people or periods. It has been performing very well so far, and it’s helping us solve a number of issues.

 

“Instead of only focusing on mastering technology, ask yourself: How do you leverage your knowledge in order to help somebody?”

 

Moving the focus to you now, how long have you been in Kiwi.com, and how did you grow within the company?

I have been at Kiwi.com now for five years. It has been quite a journey! I started as a back-end developer in the Booking team and then I became a team leader. Around that time we started working on best practices connected with coding, development and the developers’ experience. We had to learn many things the hard way during Kiwi.com’s ‘crazy startup years’, so we agreed to use our know-how to come up with products and best practices for other Engineering teams.

The Platform Team changed many times and incorporated many different areas of technological expertise. And eventually, I became VP of Engineering.

 

What does it mean to be VP of Engineering in Kiwi.com?

I believe the main mission of the VP of Engineering is to move the entire company forward. It’s not so much about focusing on a specific team or subset of one team as it is about fixing any problem and achieving any goal possible, be it through technology, processes, and/or people that need to be involved.

 

Which skill sets are especially crucial in your job? Which ones make the difference?

As someone who moved from programming to backend developing, and then pushed himself to a managerial position, I have learned that communication and how you treat people can be challenging, but essential. The core of this position is not only offering actual solutions. I might think of using some hard skill sets, but also soft skills, how to motivate the team and bring out the best in them. It’s a combination of both, and it’s great to have it that way: not only management by the book (which does not always mirror reality), but also soft skills as such.

From time to time it can be quite demanding to combine the two, but it makes me happy.

 

What would you recommend or suggest to anyone seeking a career in Engineering?

Be curious. This defines us a lot, as it means ongoing learning and continuous improvement. It’s not just about the one technology that you can master well. It’s about being a good engineer and, if you move towards a senior position, it’s about having multiple skillsets, both hard and soft. Instead of only focusing on mastering technology, ask yourself: ‘How do you leverage your knowledge in order to help somebody?’

 

So would you agree that for someone looking for an Engineering job, Kiwi.com would be a great place to grow?

Yes, without doubt. We have lots of new challenges coming our way every day. Flexibility is crucial, as you need to adjust to new requirements on a daily basis. This reality may discourage some people, but if this lifestyle suits you, then upskilling will happen very fast indeed. 

Kiwi.com is quite a unique company. We try to be flexible and not put process labels on everything, but rather use leverage and common sense in order to get the best result for a reasonable amount of effort. This gives us a quicker pace than other companies and allows us to fulfil the customer’s needs faster.

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