Travelpayouts Blog

Meet our team: Polina Oparina, product manager

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Polina Oparina joined Travelpayouts 11 months ago and immediately immersed herself into the main project at that moment: development of the personal account. Polina spoke in detail about the work process, the disadvantages of the old personal account and advantages of the new one, how she fits in with the team where only guys work, how to overcome laziness and fear, and why you don’t have to have developing experience to become a product manager.

Before Travelpayouts

  • I graduated from the Moscow State University of Railway Engineering with a degree in applied mathematics and informatics.
  • I’ve been in IT all my life. There was a time when I worked as a developer for the Russian Railways up until the moment when we faced a reason to communicate with clients, identify and prioritize tasks. Guys on our team weren’t interested in that, so I stopped writing code and started in management.
Meet our team: Polina Oparina, product manager
  • Then, I was working for Afisha.ru, a Russian online magazine, for almost two years. I was responsible for the ticket sales service. We worked on all operations that happen after a user clicked on “showings.” We also installed widgets on the cinema websites, which did not have their own solution, and received a commission for that. In general, it is related to what I do at Travelpayouts.
  • After that, I worked with a Russian technology startup DocDoc.ru, aimed at gathering all clinics in Moscow in one interface. My task was to develop a mobile application.

My role at Travelpayouts

  • Now, I lead a development team at Travelpayouts, which includes guys only.
  • This story started back during school. I studied math with only guys. The same thing happened when I entered university. But, I don’t feel any discrimination towards me. We work on one project, where everyone has a unique role, and the product manager is not superior to others. I try to set up my management strategy in such a way that people do not feel pressured. For example, the guys are good at programming, I am good at managing and we use our strengths. 
Meet our team: Polina Oparina, product manager
  • A product manager identifies how convenient our final product is for users, what functions it should have and how it will look. To meet the challenge, it is necessary to analyze the market and similar products in other niches, and understand the user needs and technical limitations. I read a lot about product development, technology, start-up projects, the travel industry and affiliate marketing. I communicate with marketers, business developers, support teams and our affiliates in order to receive feedback: what people complain about and what they do not like. Based on this information, I set tasks.
  • There are two product managers in Travelpayouts: Alexey Yanchuk and I, although we have not divided people into two teams just yet. Alexey is good at technical things, while I am keen on communicating with designers. That is why I am responsible for frontend development, and Alexey works on integrations and complex backend logic.
  • To be the best, it is important to have real achievements, but not a background. Not all product managers have a technical education. Moreover, sometimes it handicaps the work. Technical limitations impede thinking. For example, you tell yourself that it’s hard to create something new. In that regard, marketers come up with new solutions faster and easier. They turn on their imagination and avoid technical details.

About the personal account

  • From the very beginning, the personal account was made for our own affiliate program with Jetradar and Hotellook. We didn’t even imagine that it would grow into such a large affiliate network. With advertisers coming our way, the personal account was missing many functions. We added what we could, but the interface and the navigation still look inconvenient. Five years have passed, and we decided to build a new one from scratch, rather than implement changes to the existing one, to cater to our affiliates and advertisers. 
  • The old personal account did not look like an affiliate network at all. To change it, we had to put JetRadar and Hotellook in one catalog with all the other offers, develop the offer page, think through how to work with tools and reporting. The main priorities of the new personal account are as follows: easy navigation and convenient interface, transparency in statistics and reports.
  • Affiliate programs are always about trust. Users invest their energy, money and traffic to create a project and never know exactly when they’ll receive the payment. It can take months. Getting partners to trust is very important. That is why we want to give them transparent statistics and show everything that we see ourselves. Reports allow you to analyze bookings from different perspectives.
  • With a good dashboard, you see all the necessary tools right when you open a personal account. Now, on the contrary, we have to search for tools in different parts of the personal account. In its new version, we want the main page to have the key indicators for the offers our affiliate works with. It will also contain tools necessary for a widget’s code generation and partner link creation. 
  • We have to use the latest technologies to ensure a smooth operation of the new personal account for at least the next five years. Now we use React for the frontend and Go for the backend to increase the work speed, withstand the statistics load and quickly add new features. Moreover, developers like this approach because it allows them to grow professionally.
  • Principally, we create and release the personal account part by part. It’s necessary to release even just a part of the product to identify risks because we’re using these technologies for the first time. For starters, we showed some simple sections such as “menu” and “bonuses” for practice, but not to experiment on the most popular and crucial sections of the personal account. After their successful testing, we went further and launched important sections such as “authorization” and “finance.” 
  • Then we planned to focus on statistics, but the amount of backend work exceeded expectations. We had to change our plan. At the moment, the new dashboard is released.
About the personal account

About the development process

  • When I joined the team, we had an understanding of what sections should personal account contain, and the concept itself, but none of the sections were ready for development. Initially, we defined and described all the functionality, then sent it for design, staying in touch the whole time for coordinating materials. Every section underwent two or three iterations, even five sometimes. We paid a lot of attention to reporting. We revised a lot of references and finally chose a model that would suit us. Section by section, the design was finished. By the time we started the development process, design of most sections had been finished.
  • We work in sprints. They used to be weekly, and they take two weeks now. A sprint is a unit, an iteration that consists of planning, a two-week development and a final “demo” before the next sprint begins. We send developers the features for the next two weeks, they see the design, read the technical task, divide it into several tasks for each one on the team and add them to the sprint.
  • Normally, planning is not the first time developers receive features. We have a “product demo,” where we show designs of future developments. Our guys are usually involved in the process and they often come up with ideas, and are open to everything new in general.

About feedback

  • We receive feedback in a few ways. First, people write to our support team and leave messages on social networks. Second, we have created a special widget for all new sections. It is a red button called “Feedback.” It allows users to rate the new design and write a comment in a pop-up window.
  • We read all the comments ourselves and take them into account. For example, we have already received some ideas regarding the “finance” section, we discussed them and added to our plan. Also, we are always open to in-person interactions. We consider our affiliates to be friends and can ask them for feedback. By the way, we recently have placed a survey on the main page of the personal account, which has helped us understand the lack of transparency in reporting for our users. We have once again proven that we are on the right path.

About plans

  • Once the personal account is updated, we will start working on our affiliate tools (WL, widgets, API), but all that is not the main task of a personal account.
  • In the future, we want to add a motivational program. For example, a multi-step reward system for the affiliates. The more traffic they bring, the more they earn.
  • In the near future, we will hire developers and divide the team into relatively independent teams with a dedicated manager.

Working environment

  • Initially, I had two job offers: one from Travelpayouts and another one from Aviasales. After watching a video about Travelpayouts, I liked them very much and decided to collaborate with them. Also, I really wanted to understand how the affiliate programs work.
  • I was so impressed by both the office and the team after meeting in person, despite the fact that I have seen them on video before arriving in Phuket. It is absolutely incomparable with offices of other companies, although I worked in good modern-style offices. These villas and the sea views give you a completely different experience.
  • I used to solve my problems all by myself without asking for any help, but we are like children here. It is not really necessary to ask. You will be taken care of without further ado.
  • One thing that disappointed me in Thailand is that you can’t go for a walk. It is too hot and there are no sidewalks. So I started to go to the gym and exercise more often to shake the feeling that I don’t move at all. The guys in the company are keen on surfing or Thai boxing. I discovered for myself the fun of car or bike driving.
  • I like jumping in the pool at parties – that is the best part.
Meet our team: Polina Oparina, product manager
  • Everyone on our team likes sports. They have a tradition to go to a “retro party” once a week just to eat dinner and have a drink. The  guys from the development team and I prefer to go out for lunch instead.
Meet our team: Polina Oparina, product manager

About motivation

  • It is important to distinguish laziness from exhaustion. In the second case, I just fly somewhere for two or three days to get a new perspective. A change of scenery is important for me. You can book an awesome hotel in Phuket for the weekend just to relax and enjoy the silence. As for laziness, it is usually either fear or you do not like what you do. Personally, I do not do things I do not want to do. But, fear is not a reason for me to avoid experiences.

Things I would like to change

  • When I lived in Russia, I used to communicate a lot with product managers from other companies. I organized meetings where we shared work cases or gave each other advice. We started to meet up in a hookah bar, and by the time I was leaving Russia, it was an event for 150 people. I want to organize similar meetings at Travelpayouts for analysts, developers and anyone who wants to reach a product manager position. 
Meet our team: Polina Oparina, product manager
  • I need to compliment people more often. Praise is a good form of motivation. But, if you do not give feedback in time, it will trigger frustration. I forget to do it, but it does not mean that my team doesn’t work well. I am actually harder on myself.

Let’s get personal

  • It seems that all leaders are loners by nature. I can initiate changes and work independently long enough, and only then people will join me. Personally, having a team is not the main condition to start doing something, but I like to have one. 
  • I seldom communicate with people outside of the IT world. Most of my acquaintances are into that stuff, but there are others, with whom I wouldn’t discuss my work.
  • Once, I had a crisis because I thought that IT was not my cup of tea. At that time, I used to regularly go to the gym and even thought of becoming a fitness trainer. I took a course, launched a couple of online courses, did marketing promotion, and even made a few sales. But then I lost interest, it is like my gestalt closed.
  • If aliens arrive and ask where to go on vacation to understand the human race better, I would advise them to visit some big cities like Moscow or New York.
  • I traveled a lot around Europe and Asia. This year, I want to go to the USA, if there is no visa problem.
  • My first trip to the “Product Camp” party influenced my worldview a lot. It is the best party for product managers in Russia, and it’s quite difficult to get an invitation to, so I was lucky enough to get in. You need to send a request and offer a useful topic for your presentation. At the party, I met people who have already made cool products, developed their startups, some of them have done it in Silicon Valley. That kind of environment was absolutely new and unconventional for me, and I was shocked. Subsequently, all these people influenced me a lot and helped boost my career and self-development.
  • I only read business books. For example, I really liked the book “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products” by Nir Eyal. It talks about social networks, “likes,” dopamine cycles, the process of habit-forming and the use of these patterns in creating products in general. I also reread “Principles” by Ray Dalio in English.
  • Three favorite tracks I would put on a corporate party: 
    • Avril Lavigne – Never Growing Up.
    • Icona Pop – I Love It.
    • Poshlaya Molly – Nonstop.

My future plans

  • In 10 years, I see myself with three children and three businesses 🙂 I am beautiful, wealthy and not in Russia. I do something interesting that affects a large number of people.