TourRadar
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TourRadar

Why I Joined TourRadar

As the company’s first VP of Engineering, here’s why I decided to be a part of this growing travel-tech startup.

Photo by Abhiram Prakash on Pexels

When I landed in Berlin in the early hours of 2015, I had no idea what was in store for me. Almost four years later, I look back on a journey of massive personal development, thanks to the rollercoaster that is working at a hyper-growth technology startup. Throughout my time at HelloFresh, change was the only constant; my role kept morphing every few months, even if the job title sometimes didn’t. The company quickly went from startup to scale-up and being an early employee on the tech team — eventually moving up to a Director of Engineering role — gave me the opportunity to amass a lot of experience in many areas: technical leadership, hiring and firing, performance management, organisational design… the list goes on.

But eventually, the time came when I felt my personal growth was no longer aligned with the company’s growth and I knew I had to move on. Being ambitious — and sometimes a little too eager — I wanted to leverage all the learnings by taking a shot at leading an engineering organisation within a smaller startup looking to scale up. I yearned to be given the trust to build a world-class engineering team. With this in mind, I started opening my ears to all the executive recruiting approaches I was getting, engaging with those I found interesting. That’s how TourRadar soon popped up on my radar and, once I went through the whole interviewing process, I had a decision to make. It has now been 3 months since I joined the company as their first VP of Engineering.

So why did I join TourRadar?

Solving an Unsolved Problem

The first thing that got me excited about TourRadar was that it seemed to be solving a problem that had not yet been truly solved — bringing multi-day touring online, a business that for the longest time was done through brick and mortar travel agencies. I quickly realised the challenges in selling this type of product online had to be very significant: a marketplace model, with high basket sizes and multiple touch points on and off-site. No wonder it was being touted as the “last frontier” of online travel.

The fact that travelling, especially for longer periods of time, can be transformative, coupled with the technical and business challenges I could perceive, made the company’s vision of “connecting people to life-enriching travel experiences” one I felt compelled to work for. And from a business perspective, it became obvious that solving this challenge at scale, with no real incumbent in sight, could mean massive upside in a global, multi-billion dollar industry.

People

Naval Ravikant once said of choosing a co-founder:

“If you can’t see yourself working with someone for life, don’t work with them for a day.”

While it may be a bit exaggerated, I think there’s a lot of truth to this. Working on interesting problems is only truly rewarding when you do it alongside great people that bring out the best in you. It was therefore important to me, throughout the hiring process to try and figure out whether I saw myself working with the people at the company.

As I was interviewing for an executive role, and thanks to a well-designed interview process, I had the chance to talk to multiple people in the organisation. I felt somehow immediately connected to the leadership team, to whom I was asked to do a presentation, and was appreciative of the fact that they all gathered to attend my presentation live, including those in Canada and Australia at odd hours of their day (or night). As for the engineering team, to whom I also gave a talk on a topic of my choice, they listened closely and proceeded to grill me on different subjects, which I really enjoyed as it showed they were genuinely curious and truly invested in their work. Overall, what struck me is that everyone asked really great questions.

The clincher on the people side was talking to two board members. Instead of selling me the company, they sold me the challenge, and that made all the difference. It was encouraging to see the company being backed by very experienced people, with their feet firmly planted on the ground, but obviously believing (and invested) in the company’s long-term success.

Pictured above: The TourRadar Vienna team

Skill Fit

My time at HelloFresh exposed me to many stages of growth and scale, something that I imagined made me an interesting prospect for TourRadar. The way I understood the role of VP of Engineering, the company was looking to scale up given their clear product-market fit. This, for me, meant working hard at setting up a tech platform that would enable TourRadar to scale its operations as smoothly as possible and continue on a strong growth trajectory.

When thinking about what goes into building this platform, more than executing anything hands-on, I believe the VP of Engineering role is about creating an environment where excellent execution takes place. This means hiring the best and best-suited talent for the company’s goals, developing the people already on board and maximising their potential, designing the tech org in a way that reduces friction and promotes agility and flow, ensuring we are collectively building the right tech stack, and so on. All of these I was exposed to, at scale, at my previous role.

Personal Growth

While I would definitely have opportunities to improve existing skills, I could also see myself being pushed way out of my comfort zone — which would be crucial for my personal growth. To name a few examples, it would be the first time…

  • being directly accountable to a CEO (and co-founder)
  • being part of an executive leadership team
  • coming in from the outside to lead an entire engineering org
  • having no tech person “above” me
  • working in the travel business (and a marketplace model)
  • living in Austria

Some trepidation aside, all things considered, the opportunity was just too good to pass up. It also helped that when discussing it with a mentor of mine I got nothing but encouragement. And in any case, I knew that if I worked hard, focused on asking the right questions, and connected with mentors outside the company, things would be alright and I would be able to really grow a lot in the process.

Vienna, Austria — Photo by Laurenz Kleinheider on Unsplash

When thinking about the next steps in your career, it is important to understand that interviewing is a two-way process — companies interview you as much as you are interviewing them. However, without a clear idea of what matters most to you next, it becomes quite difficult to suss out those things in a future employer. For me, the ability to have a significant impact in a high-potential business, with a challenge that pushes me beyond my current abilities while working with great people is the “superformula” I was looking for, and I can’t wait to see what 2019 has in stock for us.

Interested in joining TourRadar and helping provide life-enriching travel experiences? We’re always looking for talented people to join our engineering team!

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TourRadar is the world’s largest online Adventure Booking Platform for multi-day adventures. With a network of over 2,500 operators, we offer 50,000+ trips in 200 countries.

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