Pre-Scrum, Scrum and Pitching: Christina Gkofa takes us through her trivago journey
Christina Gkofa is currently leading the retention area within the Product department at trivago. She shared with us an insider’s perspective of her experience so far.
Life at trivago: Hi Christina, thanks for catching up with us, the floor is yours!
Christina Gkofa: Thanks a lot! I’m really excited to share my story with you today.
Lat: Why don’t we start by you telling us a bit about yourself in more detail? What is your role today, and how has this changed over the years?
CG: Great way to kick things off! When my life at trivago began, my focus was rather marketing-oriented, dealing a lot with SEO, SEM and DEA (Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing and Display, Email and Affiliate). A couple of months later, I worked on different parts of the website such as improving the experience of our calendar, or the way we display hotel information to our users. Later on, I took on the challenge of the ‘member area’, catering for the users that register with trivago. Fast forward to today, I am taking care of user retention holistically across our product. Basically, enabling the users to become loyal to trivago by activating triggers that would motivate them to re-engage with us on a more frequent basis.
Lat: What a product journey! Sounds really exciting having the chance to touch so many different areas. To cover all those areas, you must have been with trivago for quite some time, right?
CG: Correct! Time flies, it is really impressive. I am with trivago for more than 3.5 years now. In the beginning I recall we were around 350 people and now we have climbed up to over 1250. It is hard to believe that the trivago family has grown up to almost 300%. I am really happy that I have been a part of this journey ’til today.
Lat: Would you say that much has changed during those years?
CG: I would be lying if I said no to that question (laughter). Of course, lots of things have changed! We learn and improve every single day. In respect to our size evolution; you can imagine that decision-making is different now to how it used to be, in terms of the time you need and the people you have to involve in making those decisions. This spans from a small change we want to test internally right through to the planning of trivago on tour, an annual trip involving so many employees. If I may also reverse the question, I would say the remarkable thing that has remained untouched throughout my time at trivago is our startup attitude and our awesome culture. It is quite amazing to see that even after such growth, we keep the culture alive and live up to our values literally in everything we do. This is what I truly love about working here.
Lat: Talking about the growth and change, have there been any major impactful changes within your department specifically?
CG: We try out so many things every day, among those there were of course ground breaking changes, affecting how we operate on a daily basis. I would split it into three main eras: pre-scrum, scrum and pitching. Basically, within the first era, we had department structures in place such as product, design, software engineering, quality assurance etc. The ideas were coming from product and moved across the departments accordingly in the form of a request. The top-down approach was quite visible here. Within the second era, we entered the agile world and we had mixed teams focusing on different parts/areas of the website. Here the boundaries of our previously well-defined departments became less apparent. There was a product person, a designer, developers, and quality assurance sitting together in respective islands. The goals were still defined from product but the team was working together to make the experience of that area better. In the last and latest era that we are currently in, pitching, we changed the way we defined leadership, going into an even more extreme concept of agility. We basically got rid of all team structures and we have a pool of talents that include all designers, developers etc. In this setup, we have certain product leads that give a common direction of where we are heading and inspire people around a purpose. The main difference is that everyone else is free to decide on what particular project they want to work on to generate the highest value for our users and they can be fluid across the different areas. So the stricter goals we previously had and the static scrum teams are no longer present. With this change, we aim to uncover intrinsic motivation and so far it is going into the right direction. If this goes well, we will of course consider expanding it and applying it to other departments too so we can benefit as an organization.
Lat: Excellent! Now my favourite part. As we come to the end of your story, is there any advice you would like to share for anyone interested in joining trivago or the product team?
CG: I do have plenty! Firstly, consider joining us if you are passionate about creating an impact for the millions of travellers out there (including ourselves), making their trip an unforgettable experience that they will look forward to sharing with their loved ones! Secondly, I would like to say: be prepared to fall in love with Dusseldorf, a truly magical city full of hidden treasures.
Lat: Thanks a lot for your insights and time Christina. It was a pleasure!
CG: The pleasure is all mine. Thank you for giving me the chance to share my story with the outside world!