It was the 2007 Christmas holidays, the semester was over at university for that year and I was registered at a recruitment agency to do a few days of temp work in various offices. On one particular occasion, I was sent to Booking.com to cover the office manager, who was off sick. It was supposed to be just one day, but the office manager was ill for longer than expected, so I spent a week there. At the same time, the PPC Manager was trying to fill several job openings and had problems recruiting for the position – until a HR colleague said, “there’s a temp covering the office manager, why don’t you ask him and see if he will come back next week?”

So, I of course said yes, and then spent the next month in PPC, working on several different projects. After that, I kept coming back: Easter, over the summer, Christmas, and pretty much every time there was a student holiday. 

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do,
but I did know what I didn’t want to do”

After finishing university and graduating in anthropology, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I did know what I didn’t want to do, and that was be a banker, a lawyer or a consultant. I called Booking and told them “I don’t know what I want to do long-term, but I really enjoyed my time with you and I know you’re always looking to recruit.” Then, in 2008, I joined the company full-time and had several roles in PPC operations, before moving to analytics – where I would then get the opportunity to lead the PPC Analytics and Technology Team.

Google Advertising is a hugely interesting area and I loved it, but after a while I wanted to do something different. So four and half years ago, I moved to Amsterdam and started with the Marketing Innovation Team, which is now known as Marketing Science, exploring new marketing channel development (for instance, before that we never did TV or YouTube advertisements). I then took on a cross departmental role, focusing on anything that touched Chinese bookers, starting up product and marketing teams in Shanghai in the process.

“The answer is
usually always positive”

I’ve always enjoyed doing diverse tasks and changing focus, and Booking.com has always been very good at letting me be involved in different things. The rules around here have always been fairly straightforward – if you commit to what you’re doing and you’re doing a good job, but you want to do something else, then the answer is usually always positive. As long of course, as it’s something the business is interested in. You need to come with a proposal to show the positive impacts it can give to the business, plus your previous experience in the field and reasons why you think it’d pay off.

There are people who are phenomenal at coming up with very good solutions to problems over time and there are people who are good at coming up with workable solutions very quickly. I’m naturally the second, so have tended to look at doing things we’ve never done before, for example the roles in China and Marketing Innovation. And I try to have teams with me that have people who think in the other way to compensate.

“But something else
is stopping them from booking”

Last year, I was looking at what’s next. Previously in Marketing, we noticed that people who booked in the US market for the first time didn’t come back to Booking.com for the second time as frequently as other users did. We kept looking at it from a marketing perspective, but I was thinking that it’s not a marketing problem – we brought users in to make the first booking, but something else is stopping them from booking the second time. That’s how I started to talk with CS to understand it better and got interested in the loyalty impact of CS.

I thought, if we can use our technology to give customers answers to things they can do themselves, then our CS Executives will have more time to help customers in real need – and that’s where I’d like to go next. The capabilities our technology has today opens doors for us to do something we couldn’t have done five to 10 years ago, so I am excited about the new direction we we are moving to.

“As long as we’re happy
with what we are doing”

It’s probably easier than before to change direction and I don’t think that many of us start our careers knowing exactly what we want to do. In almost all things, it’s very difficult to predict how we’re going to feel and what we’re going to want five years from now. So I don’t think we should worry about that a lot, as long as we’re happy with what we are doing. As you do different things, you will always see something new and you will either like it or not.

Booking.com offers us all incredible opportunities, no matter what you are doing. In a rapidly growing company, there are always more opportunities than in a stagnant one, but they don’t just fall in your lap. It’s all about going out and finding the things you are interested in, passionate about and think will have positive impact. It’s about looking at ourselves and the skills we have today, and either saying “what can I do?” or “how can we work to develop the necessary new skills”.

“Once you have,
you can do anything”

Yes, the company and your managers will support you, but it’s you who needs to figure out what those knowledge gaps are, and how to close them, before reaching out to those who can help you. Once you have, you can do anything. I started as a temp; now I’m Global Director Customer Service.

 

Follow in James’ footsteps. Find your next job here.

(Interviewed by Anita Kalmane, Coordinating Copywriter)