An exciting adventure for a new designer at Agoda

By Salie Chien - Published on Dec 18. 2019

About six months ago, I had no thoughts about working for Agoda or moving to a foreign country 2,533 km away from home. To be more precise, 3.8 hours flight time. Except for living with roommates during college, I never had to live alone. Can you imagine how many chores your mom usually does for you? At least, it’s hard for me to move out from home without my beloved family.

This is also my first time working in such a big organization—50+ designers compared to 4 in an agency I worked with before. Are there tons of things to do which means extra hours at Agoda? So many questions came out of my mind and those concerns really affected my decision to move to Bangkok. After all it could change my whole life – new friends, new neighborhood and new city to build new memories.

Orientation on my first day at Agoda

Start a new life in Bangkok

Thankfully, Agoda’s onboarding team eased most of the worries I had. Before actually moving to Bangkok, I already had to deal with so many tasks like VISA, packing and shipping stuff, and finding time to reunite with old friends. I still remember the first day I arrived in Bangkok, I was alone with my 30kg suitcase and 10kg backpack when I jumped on the airport transfer service I booked 5 hours ago, heading to the hotel Agoda has already arranged for me.

What a relief.

I thought to myself when I saw the comfortable apartment I was going to stay for the next month.

I knew I still had to go to hospital for a medical check-up for the work permit and start contacting agents for condos in the next few days. But I really appreciated how the Onboarding Team comprehensively handled all the basic support for new joiners. So I didn’t need to worry too much. Just follow the instruction then you’ll be totally fine and settle down quickly.

My desk

Working in such a big organization

It was quite a rush for the first month, when I had to contact several agents and visit more than twenty condos to find a place I’d call home. Thankfully, during work I didn’t feel so much pressure because everyone gave me time to adapt to the new environment.

In the beginning, I was really nervous to learn that we had 50+ people on the design team. I didn’t have any idea why we needed so many people. I started joining the team with a small project I did by myself. I really appreciated that I had enough time to get to know more about Online Travel industry and our products. That was really useful for my future tasks as I won’t need to spend so much time to research.

My manager also gave me a list and suggested me to schedule a quick meeting with other designers, researchers and product managers to learn more about their projects, which was really helpful. I was also surprised that everyone was willing to spend their time talking to me. I felt so welcome and started building a proper understanding about the structure and working culture in Agoda.

As this is my first time to work in such a big organization, I’d say communication and cooperation are key to success. Since we have so many designers and product managers working together on the same product, you always have to confirm, sync and consult with other team mates first. Talk with as many people as possible, because it will make your design thinking broader. You don’t need to worry about bothering anyone, because it’s common here and everyone is willing to answer your question and help.

It’s essential to connect and cooperate, because that’s a great opportunity to learn from anyone you’d like to. You can always learn more about business strategy from product managers, and learn how to read a product dashboard from data analysts. It’s also a great strategy to discuss with engineers often, which will prevent you from so much duplicated work.

If you don’t know who to connect with, discuss with your manager. Our 1:1 meetings are always a good time to share opinions, ideas and worries. That’s made my onboarding within the team smoother and easier. We talk about challenges and solving problems all the time.

When Jeff, our CPO, celebrated the 5,000th employee in our last Town Hall

Embrace cultural differences and learn from each other

Always be open minded is my first advice about the Agoda culture. As a new joiner, I have a lot of things to learn – work culture, work flow, scrum, data, travel industry. We all need some time to become familiar with a new environment and working style. Even if you find some obstacles at the beginning, don’t be frustrated. Don’t be afraid of making mistake and asking stupid questions. Besides, I encourage you to keep this mindset even after you pass your probation and think your know everything. You will definitely benefit from this.

Flat hierarchy is another quality I admire in Agoda. It’s easy to reach our design director or any managers when you need. Even their schedules are crazy and full of meetings, they can always find 30 minutes and discuss with you about your ideas—and that’s exactly how I started writing this article.

I believe you’ve heard about data-driven thinking, but what does that really mean? I find it very interesting, though such a big journey to learn. Firstly, I consulted my PM with basic knowledge about our experiment, then I found out there were way more platforms we monitor to get data. I’m still exploring the way to get more data involved in my design thinking, it will take some time. I’m glad that we use an objective way to measure our results whether it’s user friendly or not, rather than a random business decision with instinct.

Our user lab

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming

Joining Agoda is like a milestone for me, but it’s not the end of improving and learning about yourself. During the past five months I’ve joined several ideation workshops and presentation workshops within design team. We always find ways to learn new things or sharpen our skills. We also have a design monthly sharing session to sync up with everyone. That’s also a great opportunity to share your hard work.

Beyond work, I also get to learn Thai and Business English, with sponsorship from Agoda . I find this as a great chance to get to know other colleagues outside of team. The teachers are so supportive and great at building your confidence.

Though we can be intense during working hours, Agodans also take a good advantage of their personal lives. After all, we work for travel industry, and the best way to know about our users is through travel. I really appreciate I could find work and life balance here. I’m planning to take a cooking class and get a massage, using Agoda’s flexible benefits program. Last but not least, I would say Agoda really cares about your career progression and mental health. Can’t wait to explore more and share more stories!

Agoda Design team with Mahidol students

A Growing Power of Design community in Bangkok

Before moving in Bangkok, I only noticed that there are many creative illustrations and design products from Thailand. My friends always buy me tote bags, stickers and postcards with lovely illustrations during their trip to Thailand. But what about digital design? I had no idea. Except for Agoda, I’m not familiar with any digital product here, needless to say the design community in Thailand.

Here, I learned that our design team just held a project to build a relationship with local designers through an educational program. We ran a 10-week program for Thai universities and mentored students to create end-to-end app experience, which is a big benefit for both sides. In December, we also sponsored Savvy UX Summit 2019, an annual UX and insights conference in Bangkok. I’m so glad that our design team started to emphasize the power of design community outside of Agoda. I believe there will be more activities in this community, which is a growing power in Southeast Asia.

Inspired to take on your new career journey? Apply to join us!

Salie Chien is UX Designer at Agoda. Learn more about our Design team at agoda.design

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