My Kiwi Story: Michal Kňažský

Posted on 05/01/2021, Teodora Stojšin

Welcome to My Kiwi story, an ongoing series focusing on our dedicated employees and their lives at Kiwi.com. In this episode, we get to know our Engineering Manager, Michal Kňazský. Michal explained to us how the atmosphere at Kiwi.com in the early days set the tone and the course for the company; he also shared some info about the tech stack we use in CS Systems, and how he sees this stack maturing in the next 10 years.

 

Hi Michal! Please introduce yourself.

Hi, I grew up in Slovakia and moved to Brno to study Information Technology. During my studies I had a chance to work on a wide variety of projects as a freelancer, starting with small website development and ending with a robust e-commerce system.

I joined Kiwi.com (formally Skypicker) as a Python backend developer soon after finishing my studies. I must say that my first days at the company were life-changing. The offices, the people and the overall start-up vibe, it was…special. Certainly different to anything I had witnessed or have seen since. “Work hard, play hard” was the motto and people were really adhering to that! A great team, the enthusiasm and drive at the beginning set the course of the company. Skypicker grew from fifty people to over a thousand employees. We rebranded to Kiwi.com and became even more ambitious.

As the company evolved into a stable and reputable business, Customer Support (CS) became crucial. It was around 3 years ago that I got the opportunity to lead a team called CS Systems and oversee 5 people who worked on tooling for the CS department to provide a better customer experience.

Since then, the team has grown considerably. CS Systems now has more than 60 people and I’m leading 6 teams as the Engineering manager. Our job is to make the lives of our colleagues from Customer Support easier and make sure the company is able to provide support to all our customers who need it.

You mentioned that your job is to make the life of our colleagues in CS easier. How do you manage that?

Kiwi.com is often referred to as a travel agency, however we are very much a tech company. We have built arguably the fastest search engine for flights and we’re trying to apply technological solutions when it comes to CS as well. Currently, we are developing all solutions internally except telephony, which is outsourced and integrated with our internal systems.

It mightn’t sound super exciting but working on internal systems can be pretty challenging. We have our own Customer and Booking management system, Ticketing system and Processing tooling. The majority of our services are done in Python and Javascript and deployed in Google Cloud in a microservice architecture. We have around 20 databases with terabytes of data, but on top of that, we work with data from across the company and integrate tens of other services, as we simply need all the data to service the customer.

CS Systems production servers handle around 100 requests per second and the majority of the services are part of critical infrastructure – any outage is costly, so we have deployed extensive monitoring and alerting. We use Datadog to monitor our infrastructure and services, but also to monitor key business metrics which are important for Customer Support operations.

How do you see this tech stack maturing in the next 10 years?

Good question. The CS domain is getting more and more attention. It’s visible also on the market – there are several new tech companies with innovative approaches which are developing solutions to improve customer experience, often leveraging artificial intelligence and natural language processing (NLP).

Some people believed that chatbots were just a fad and many companies were unable to successfully deploy chatbot technology, however, it is all about maturity and expectations. Right now we can’t expect machines to be capable of fully replacing humans or resolve all issues our customers may have, but we can use chatbots and similar technology to assist with the customer’s request. Automation (or semi-automation) is the way to go in order to keep up with growing demand and higher standards that are now required by customers of any service.

Younger generations prefer online communication or even no communication at all. We can expect that technology will be used more and more not to react to a customer’s problem, but to prevent the problem itself or to proactively solve it, even before the customer has a need to contact the support.

Companies will be pushing self-service whenever possible not to just reduce costs, but to improve the customer experience. That requires intelligent systems which are connected together, can process big amounts of data and can understand the context.

I expect that things like event-driven architecture, workflow engines, advanced machine learning, NLP, context-aware computing etc, will play important roles in the upcoming decade.

 

We’re always interested in passionate developers who want to join the team and help us to improve (not only) our CS systems. Check our openings or maybe you will be interested in another location where we have an office.

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