Meet the team: Partner Tech
In today’s post, the Partner Tech team, details their work, their impact on customers, and their strategy for maintaining a strong team despite working in different offices.
Can you please give us a brief summary of what your job entails?
Jared Niederhauser, Engineering Manager: I’m an Engineering Manager for the Partner Tech team stationed in the Zurich office. My main responsibilities are centered around the team and the technical solutions we implement.
Regarding the team, I focus on cultivating an environment where all Engineers can flourish through effective collaboration. I also drive productivity, personal development, and engagement.
Regarding our technical solutions, I focus on ensuring our systems are healthy and able to drive business and customer value and that all problems are visible.
Jan Hrubes, Backend Engineer: I’m a Backend Engineer located in the Zurich office. My main focus is on developing custom integrations with our partners, supporting our existing products so they run smoothly, and ensuring we architect sustainable software that can be easily extended and maintained while providing a great experience for our customers.
Cansu Tecimer, Product Design Manager: As a Product Design Manager, I’m responsible for the quality of work and career growth of the Product Designers in my team, as well as bringing design/UX's point of view into strategic discussions in those areas. My time can be spent on very tactical tasks like doing design reviews, having 1:1s with my team, and hiring new members, to contributing to the strategy for a specific group and planning future hiring needs to support the strategy. With the partnerships team, it was a mix of all of these — contributing to the team OKRs, bringing on a great designer to support the team, guiding the work as needed, and leading workshops to help our business team think like users.
Josh Gransbury, Senior Product Manager: As the Senior Product Manager for Partnerships, my responsibilities are focused on setting both the day-to-day and long-term priorities for the Partner Tech team, as well as creating and maintaining the Strategic Product Vision for our team. Whether it’s attending Sprint Planning meetings to emphasize priority, following up with implementations, answering questions from Engineers and Designers on our goals, or managing the stakeholders that rely on our work to achieve their own goals, I am the overall accountable team member when it comes to the wider GetYourGuide organization.
What is a typical day on the Partner Tech team?
Jared: It is quite varied. On days when I have few meetings, I will do some coding and gain a better understanding of the nuances of our systems. However, on most days I spend my time listening to teammates and stakeholders and converting these conversations into actions. If there is a recurring technical issue, I’ll surface the problem with Engineers and brainstorm solutions. If there’s a persistent customer pain point, I’ll assess the scope of the problem and talk with our Product Manager or Designer.
Michael Bell, Frontend Engineer: I’m usually in the office by 8am. I then make a superb espresso and set aside some quiet focused time to finish tasks from the previous day or hack on something to improve our development experiments. Our standup is at 11am, and it is followed by a mix of pair programming, discussing issues, brainstorming, working on features, or bug fixes. If it's a nice day, I will go for a swim in the Limmat in Zurich.
What are the principles your team lives by?
Jared: “Ask for forgiveness, not permission” ← This mantra arose recently during a meeting, and, although it was a bit tongue-in-cheek at the time, I think it embodies a few things that work well for our team: speed and trust. Our success as a team and, by extension, our success as a company depends on our ability to learn what customers value and effectively sate their desires; this can’t be realistically achieved if we’re bogged down in debate. It can only be realized by acting and acting quickly. The second pillar of this is trust. We can’t all vet every decision all the time, so we have to believe everyone on the team is doing good work with good intentions. Not every feature or experiment will be a success, and, when this happens, nothing is more damaging than casting blame. Casting blame simply discourages people from moving quickly and taking initiative in the future. Instead, it’s imperative that we acknowledge everyone is doing their best while honestly assessing how we can iterate and release something even better in the future.
Jan: Our team has always been full of highly-skilled people who share a passion for technology, engineering, and traveling. We can rely on each other, move fast, and focus on opportunities rather than blockers. We never blame each other for mistakes but rather leverage new learnings to our advantage, supporting not only the business, but also our personal development.
What is the overall impact your team is contributing to GetYourGuide?
Jared: People tend to associate marketing with a few mainstream channels, be it online (Google, Facebook, etc.) or offline (commercials, billboards, etc.); however, our team attempts to leverage a number of less conventional communication channels in order to connect travelers with exciting activities. We collaborate with many types of partners from small bloggers to large airlines to ensure our inventory is presented to travelers when it’s most relevant for them. This is clearly beneficial for GetYourGuide — more impressions equals more customers — and it’s also beneficial for our partners and the travelers who use their sites. In the end, we’re creating a win-win-win scenario where all parties involved benefit.
How do you collaborate and maintain a strong team while working in different locations?
Jared: Fortunately, the two cities are a little more than an hour apart by plane, so it’s not uncommon to make trips between the two locations. This is particularly useful when we’re beginning a new project involving multiple stakeholders. Getting everyone in the same room to discuss these new initiatives can be tremendously beneficial. Once everyone is aligned on where we want to go, it becomes far easier for us to work in separate locations with occasional remote calls. We also have periodic team events. For the last event we visited Prague for two days which was amazing.
Jan: Remote collaboration is never as good as working in the same office, and I believe it’s important to meet in person from time to time. To do so, we occasionally fly back and forth, and we meet in various places across Europe to build a stronger team. Luckily for the Partner Tech team where the project to engineer ratio is close to 1:1, our daily work can be easily coordinated through video-calls and messaging platforms. We usually talk to each other several times a day to update on projects, share knowledge, and push our skills to the next level.
Cansu: I believe this is all about mindset — as a team, we strongly believe in collaboration and shared ownership, so we care deeply about bringing the right people into the discussions when necessary. For bigger events like OKR planning and team bonding, the whole team gathers in either Zurich or Berlin. In our day-to-day, we talk and gather feedback in our slack channel and do remote ideation and collaboration sessions through video conference. With the tools available today, it’s quite possible to maintain strong working relationships across borders.
What is the most challenging aspect of your role?
Jared: I’ve had many roles at GetYourGuide, and somehow the most challenging thing has remained the same: maintaining focus. We’re fortunate to be working in a fun industry — who doesn’t like to travel — and so there are a lot of very interesting challenges and opportunities we would love to pursue. Sadly, we haven’t found a way to add more hours to the day, and so we have to be fairly selective with how we spend our time and energy.
Michael: Time or lack thereof. Our team is rather ambitious, in fact, we were the first team to introduce nodejs into our stack. We also introduced Cypress e2e tests, developed a vue.js design system, and built modules for other teams to utilize. We are often stretched a little too thin, but it’s still fun.
Jan: Prioritization plays a crucial role in our team and focusing on the right things at the right time is very important. This usually means making trade-offs between our projects and interests, yet keeping a balance so our work is enjoyable and not menial.
Josh: Balancing the long term strategy of GetYourGuide, the individual goals of the teams we support (there are many!), maintenance of our products, and our Partners’ needs is definitely the most challenging aspect of my role. In order to maintain our focus at any given time, we’ve had to come up with some creative ways to manage our workload and still accomplish the right projects at the right time.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your role?
Jared: Helping people develop and achieve their personal and professional aspirations is always immensely gratifying.
Michael: I like all the new ideas and inspiration that others bring to the team. There is never a dull moment.
Jan: Building partnerships is like building a team at a larger scale, and it’s always a pleasure to see both working very well.
Josh: Clearly seeing the impact that the projects our team completes is by far the most rewarding aspect of my role. When I’m able to start with a simple idea, carry it through planning and estimation, then implementation, and results tracking — it feels like a huge accomplishment, not just for the business as a whole, but for myself and my team as well.
Tell us about a recent learning or “Aha” moment.
Cansu: In order to create change in a healthy way in an organization, two things are very important: a clear plan about where you want to go and the patience to push it forward slowly. I think many people fail in this — even if they have the right ideas for improvements — because they try to do things without understanding the context or getting buy-in, which creates defensiveness in others. Effective people think about the long-term and find every opportunity along the way to create the right relationships, sing the same tune, and improve things incrementally.
What advice would you have for someone who would like to join your team?
Jared: Every job I’ve ever had required me to spend 90-95% of my time doing things I learned after I joined the company, so instead of looking for colleagues with an exhaustive list of tech skills and work experience, I instead focus on finding people who are humble, compassionate, and curious. People who exhibit these characteristics tend to seek out and absorb feedback well, listen and collaborate effectively, and strive to learn new things. If you have these traits, it doesn’t matter what your background is, you’ll almost certainly excel in no time.
Balazs: Besides technical skills, the most important thing is to be a great team player. If you work with passion and you love what you are doing then our team will be able to accomplish what we set out to achieve. Part of being a team player means being open to the ideas and approaches of other people around you. It’s important to take constructive criticism well and improve from there.