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2017: A Year in Review

By Kate Voehl, Product Manager at AirTreks

AirTreks is a company guided by core values. These values influence everything from our everyday product decisions and hiring, to our strategic direction and long-term planning.

Our core values are:

  • Love Learning
  • Make Meaningful Connections
  • Own Your Experience
  • Embrace Change
  • Work and Play With Passion

These five core values are vital to our company, and below are our favorite stories from 2017 that give you a glimpse into how we are living them out.

At AirTreks, we love learning.

We believe in lifelong learning, embracing personal and organizational development. We strive for our company to be our personal classroom, and work toward cultivating a learning environment.

One activity that promotes this is our company roundtables. This year we started roundtable events in which we invite everyone in the company to host and participate in monthly video chats on topics of their choice.

Sharing ideas around our “virtual water cooler”

It evolved into something social, where colleagues who don’t usually work together get to connect on a common interest. (Remember we are 100% remote and there is no water cooler!)  We’ve had topics such as Laughter Yoga and Wellness, Joys of Parenting, Myers Briggs Personality Tests, and Traveling Around the World With Your Family.

This summer, our VP of Product, Sara Tiffany, completed Seth Godin’s AltMBA program, which is an online leadership and management workshop. Here’s what she said about the experience: “The AltMBA felt like top-10-in-the-world for online learning and peer connection. It was really cool to share stories and vulnerabilities with people from New York to New Zealand. Most of the participants in my program were there because they have big, life-changing goals. It was very inspiring to see talented people who care, working to get better.  I took away a lot of great insight into how I communicate as a leader, as well as lessons on how to build an awesome product.”  

Sisense, a tool used for analyzing data, has revolutionized the way we work in 2017. It allows us to learn from data to design products, make strategic decisions, and provide better service to our travelers. In fact, in November we used Sisense to build a report listing the travelers whose routes would be affected by the volcano eruption in Bali. Because of this, we were able to proactively handle their flight cancellations and find solutions to keep passengers on track. In the dashboard below, we can see how many passengers are traveling on a given day, and where in the world they are going.

Sisense Dashboard: How many travelers are in the air on a given day, and where in the world they are going!

Make Meaningful Connections.

We strive to build real, deep relationships with people and communities all over the world.

Dinner Murder Mystery set in the 1920s

The AirTreks team is currently spread among 12 countries. However, this October, 12 AirTreks colleagues had the opportunity to meet in Romania for a company off-site.

During this week together we visited Bucharest, stayed at a mountain resort in Transylvania, and shared ideas about the future of travel. It’s safe to say that we played as hard as we worked! Over mulled wine, charades, hikes, and 20’s dinner mystery parties, we continued to learn more about each other and build strong relationships that will propel the company in 2018.

CEO Riel Manriquez and Sara Tiffany attended the SKIFT Global Forum in New York in September.  Sara wrote this about the experience, “We enjoyed 2 days of exciting speakers from the travel industry.  It was fun to see the similarities and differences between our company’s ideas and those of bigger companies like Expedia, Trip Advisor, and Airbnb. The most memorable night of the trip was closing down an Indonesian restaurant in Chinatown with a Ukrainian flight tool developer, a fantasy football/theater buff from Wisconsin who sells travel insurance, and a colleague from Virginia who now has what we hope will be a lifelong appreciation for rendang curry.”

Own Your Experience.

We prioritize self-awareness, and are committed to defining our unique journeys.

David Derrick and his family in Rome

Our Director of Air Product, David Derrick, had been dreaming about traveling the world and living abroad with his family for years. During his 2017 summer around the world, he took his wife and two kids to England, France, Spain, Italy, and Thailand. While he took time off to explore, he also completely owned his experience by working remotely from their various locations.

What would your company say if you told them you wanted to travel for seven weeks around the world while working? As a distributed company, AirTreks has the infrastructure and process that allows us to work constructively from anywhere.  The opportunity to live the product we promote to our customers was one I just had to do!”

Madison Hagen has also shown ownership of her journey working at AirTreks. After a few months at the company, she discovered she did not want to continue in the role she was originally hired for. She designed a new role for herself.

Glenn Talken and his wife in Santorini Greece

Here is what she has to say:  “AirTreks has provided an environment that has allowed me to ¨own my own experience¨ professionally. Over the course of the year, my initial role has evolved. The new position has given me the opportunity to better use my natural interests and strengths which as a result allows me to better serve the traveling community which is what attracted me to AirTreks in the first place.”

Our most veteran Travel Planner, Glenn Talken, is following his own journey to Mexico at the end of 2017. After helping travelers go around the world for 32 years, the next step in his journey is his own lifelong traveling dream! He and his wife are selling their house and moving to Mexico as their new home base while they travel the world. We’re so thankful to Glenn for all the time he’s spent sharing his passion for travel. We can’t wait to see where his adventures take him next.

Embrace Change.

We see change as an opportunity to grow and to recreate our lives with purpose.

Change is an inevitable part of life, and we welcome it! One of our favorite changes of 2017 is our move away from a traditional help desk system for customer support to a new shared inbox system that is used by all customer-facing colleagues. It’s called Front. It allows us to work together better in serving travelers.

Another company change this year was a switch in importance from functional teams to project-based teams. After being turned on to Google’s project Aristotle by Heather Fleming’s presentation at the Future of Work conference, we decided to emphasize cross-functional teams more.

Before 2017 when we thought about great teams, we thought about efficiency, talent, happiness. Now we think about psychological safety, dependability, clarity, meaning and impact. It’s a new way of thinking. We are still changing our company structures to take advantage of what Google’s research tells us about good teams.

Jo Doba, the manager of our Flow Department (think Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi), had this to say about the change: “We acknowledged the importance of having cross-functional teams. When we met in Romania their efficiency became apparent. We understood better what everyone else was working on, how our own work impacted others, we came up with diverse ideas on how to grow, how to innovate and we definitely communicated and interacted much better than before.”

Work and Play with Passion.

We value “going for it.” For us, this means crafting a life that allows us to strive toward mastery at work and outside work.

AirTreks colleagues have visited 20 countries this year.

Daniel Gamber with his family in Spain

For Travel Planners Kat, Aurelie, Daniel, and Camille, these trips are not just visits – they are new homes! Kat left chilly Vancouver seeking sun in Chiang Mai, and Aurelie left her home in Thailand to relocate to Canada.

Dan Gamber recently moved across the Atlantic with his wife and two children. He found an expat community in Granada and has even joined a local soccer team. Camille, after growing up in California, made her first international move in December: to Santiago, Chile!

Grazia Testa strikes a pose

Grazia Testa lives out her passion through yoga. She teaches yoga classes outside of her work with Airtreks. She will sometimes lead us in stretching breaks during meetings. “Yoga fills me with energy, with joy and with the desire to make others happy and to help them find their own balance and strength. The practice I teach is based on using breathing to listen to the body and release tensions and to help the mind calm down.” She started her Advanced Teacher Training in March 2017, and will finish in June.

Traveler Support Specialist Barbara Segria is passionate about helping others. She volunteers in an orphanage dedicated to children living with AIDS. A few of her responsibilities include cooking, assisting with the babies, cleaning the house, giving children their medicines, helping with homework, and of course, playing! She also conducts workshops on HIV/AIDS at schools and other local institutions.

According to Barbara, “Sometimes I take one of the children to spend the weekend at home with me and my family. They are like a second family to me. The best thing is when they are adopted and find their own family!”

2017 has been an exciting year at AirTreks: full of changes and connections. We’re extremely grateful to our colleagues, partners, and most of all, our clients.

Continue exploring, learning, loving, and make 2018 the best year yet!

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