“Emergency service.” This is a catchphrase that perfectly describes Anna Kalinichenko from tech support, both literally and figuratively. In this interview, Anna talks about her work experience at Travelpayouts, some funny and ridiculous requests from webmasters, the best birthday present she’s received from colleagues, the highest-paid job in her life (sorry for spoiling, it was in a kindergarten) and her experience volunteering for homeless pets.
- At one time, I wanted to become a veterinarian, but then I realized that my nerves couldn’t take anything like that.
- I once applied for a tech support manager position with Airbnb and passed through all the necessary interviews, but in the end, turned down the offer because of a low remuneration.
- I love traveling, but I used to do it more often in the past.
- I happened to work with children a couple of times. For instance, I joined a volunteering program called “Children of St. Petersburg” to teach Russian to migrant children. Another time, I went to the US with the Work&Travel program and got a job at a kindergarten in New York, which turned out to be the highest-paying job of my life so far.
My role at Travelpayouts
- My parents keep up with the times, so I don’t have a hard time explaining what I do to them. I just cite an example from the Vandrouki community (a group in the Russian social network “Vkontakte,” where you can find very cheap tickets for planes and other means of transport). I always say that they are one of our numerous partners, and my job is to provide them with full technical support. Even my grandma knows how to search recipes on Yandex (the biggest search engine in Russia), so when I talk to her, I say that my company is a kind of a search engine, but it is focused on airplane tickets.
- I spent one of my first days with Travelpayouts working from a train, and I appreciated that the company allowed me to do that.
- Fascinating things happen all the time when I am at work. But, I am afraid that my experience might not be interesting for others who don’t belong in our sphere. For example, we have a tool called “White Label,” but one time, an affiliate asked for “Black Label.”
- One of our partners was pretty superstitious, and he complained that our widget had shown him 6 flights with a duration of 6 hours and 6 minutes for the indicated itinerary, and he finally asked us to change it.
- We use Zendesk software to provide customer service and store the information.
- On average, we receive 45 to 50 tickets per day, but this number is gradually increasing. Normally I resolve 12 to 14 questions. Each ticket requires averagely three answers, so every day I send around 40 emails with a response time of 12 minutes for every email. My job responsibilities include many other tasks on top of that.
- When I have doubts about something, I bring it forward for discussion with the team.
- I have recently compiled a list of partners with whom we communicate most frequently. Number one, by a landslide, was one of our foreign partners who wrote us multiple times. He was complaining about his son who didn’t have time to help him build an app, so he asked us to do so based on our SDK.
- People quite often cannot explain the real problem because they share their emotions and fail to specify details. If a question is about our tools, it is useful to indicate the URL of the page where you place them and a screenshot of the problem. If you want to inquire about an order you placed, we need to know its date, number and offer.
- Most frequently, people ask about payments, API and how the partnership works.
- All the managers speak English and Russian, but some of them are real polyglots and know other languages, such as: Ukrainian, German, Spanish and Italian.
- Our affiliates show a great interest in White Label and API. If you have a question about this too, read the knowledgebase or watch the 101 Webinar held by my colleagues:
- We now work only on weekdays. Our support managers live in different time zones and have 8-hour shifts, so you can contact us from 9 a.m. until 2 a.m. (Moscow time). We are officially closed on weekends, but managers diligently answer a few tickets during this time so affiliates don’t have to wait until Monday.
- At first, we had just a few questions every once in a while, and Travelpayouts didn’t have a support manager, as all members of the team were responsible for communication with affiliates. When the workload increased, the company reached out to me. I was the only support manager for six months, sharing work with several other colleagues. Today there are five of us in the support team and there are going to be more.
- I work from home and miss corporate events and traditions, but colleagues congratulate me on my birthday, and it was really special once. They found out that I voluntarily help homeless pets and raised money for them. It started two years ago when I found other volunteers and organized a mini-shelter for cats. We sterilize homeless cats to put a stop to their reproduction and death in the streets, and we take care of dying pets. The money that my colleagues donated to our project was enough for several expensive appointments for three cats and for the sterilization of ten cats. It was the best present ever.
- I don’t feel any isolation from the rest of the team because of weekly conference calls. I went to Phuket two times and I managed to meet the whole team during the first six months, and that’s good enough for me.
- I work more efficiently at home, which has been proven in practice. In the office, I am often distracted by colleagues and coffee-breaks, which negatively influences work productivity. Once, we had to spend two weeks working from the office in Thailand right before New Year, which was absolute fun, but I worked much less than I could have. That’s why I think working from the office is not my thing.
- This is my workplace at home:
- I don’t need to motivate myself to perform well. I say that I love helping others and wake up every morning excited and ready to work. But the truth is, if my ultimate goal was reaching out to people, I would be working in a nonprofit where people come in with real problems, and not for tech support. The work I do at Travelpayouts fascinates me, and that is why I work well. I think I could handle any task given to me.
- At the moment, I can call this my dream job, but the thing is, in 5 to 10 years, I might change my point of view.
Things I’d like to improve
- We have some things to work on. Right now we are having a hard time communicating with the development team. They are always busy, just like support managers. We don’t always succeed in bringing it all into balance, but it can be solved by hiring more people. Our workload has increased, and restructuring the company from inside would do good.
- I would like to gain programming skills. It embarrasses me to say that I haven’t found time for it yet, because I want to learn the whole process of creating a website to understand our partners better. I have already started learning, but the process is very slow due to a lack of time and knowledge. I believe that it will help me in my current job and generate additional income. I am deeply inspired by the experience of our technical writer Egor Abramenko, who wrote “How to create a website from scratch” himself.
Let’s get personal
- I have to be a “support manager” in life every now and then as well. It just so happens that I receive calls from different people living in St Petersburg, who need my help in relation to homeless pets often. It can happen several times during the day. Normally, the first question is, “Hello, is it emergency service?” I have to explain then that I cannot help everyone myself, but at least I advise them on their problem, which is very similar to what I do at work.
- I hold a degree in Linguistics, Translation and Intercultural Communication.
- I don’t know where I want to go first, as I have a wish-list featuring many different countries with South America, South Africa and Australia on top of the list.
- If aliens come one day and ask where they can learn about the human race best, I will tell them to leave as soon as possible before people kill them. If they are too eager to stay, I would recommend traveling around the United States, where even freaks are perceived normally, and in general, they’d better imitate human behavior to fit in.
- I was impressed a lot by the book “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer. The main idea is that you can only be really happy when you have someone to share your happiness with.
- Among my recently read books, I can highlight «Alone in Berlin» by Hans Fallada and “From Dusk ’til Dawn: An Insider’s View of the Growth of the Animal Liberation Movement” by Keith Mann.
- My three favorite tracks that I would play at an office party are not know abroad, it’s a russian songs: Zdrada Palki – Iz chernoy reziny (From black rubber), Ankylym – Rabota (Work), Ruki na odeyalo (Hands on the duvet) – Avtonomnaya zona (Autonomous zone).
- I see myself in the social business in 10 years.