Culture keeps the ball rolling as the OTA Insight engineering team expands

Ghent-officeFounded in 2013, OTA Insight started as the brainchild of three friends who aimed to help the hospitality industry visualise and leverage data. Six years later, the humble start-up has evolved into a team of over 175, providing revenue management solutions to more than 40,000 hotels and global chains in 168 countries, with offices in London, Dallas, Berlin, Singapore and Ghent.

The Ghent office has become the hub for an award-winning engineering team, who are not only driving the multi-source data strategy that powers our rate shopping tools but also becoming increasingly more visible with Tech Meet-Up hosting, hackathons and some pretty cool scooters.

Targeting talent 


Belgium has a rich heritage in engineering, and in a job market where these skills remain highly sought-after by a range of companies, this affords many budding engineers the opportunity to shop around for their perfect fit. OTA Insight’s engineering team have continued to expand and attract the best and brightest the industry has to offer. The selection process is very precise, and speaking with Director of People and Talent, Peter De Moor, and Talent and Acquisition Specialist, Carolina Ponzi, it’s clear that the formation of the engineering team takes more than just talent alone.


“It’s important to look for those with the potential to grow and learn who fit with the team culture,” says Peter, “we’ve had candidates with PhDs, but if they don’t have the cultural fit then they’re not for us.” Indeed, cultural compatibility is key, reflected in the interview process where candidates will sit down with Carolina and one of the tech leads, before going forward to meet Director of Engineering, Mathias Verhoeven, to further determine if they will complement the team ethos. 


Mathias elaborates: “We’re always looking for both the cultural and technical fit. On a cultural level, we want to find people who are curious. And it’s not just about learning new things or trying new stuff, it’s about wanting to improve, and about thinking how you can make existing things better. We want people who are passionate and engage with technology in their spare time, which also ties in with being entrepreneurial.”

Rewards and responsibility


Entrepreneurship stands out as a desired quality in members of the team, with Peter describing the running of projects as “agile and fast”, thus relying on people who are willing to take both ownership and initiative. “The bar is extremely high. If you work on the best products you want to hire the best people,” he says. “If you work here then you have to want a challenge.”


Those who relish a challenge will find themselves quickly rewarded, as both Peter and Carolina echo the benefits of being in an environment in which contributions can be easily seen. Carolina comments: “You see your impact immediately. You work on a project, implement it and then after a few months you see the result. If you work in a corporate setting, like a bank or insurance company, you often have to wait two years before you actually see your impact.”


As well as being challenged, new team members can expect to be supported with an assigned tech lead and small projects to get them started in cultivating their specialities. Along with the cultural assessment, Mathias expresses that, “on a technical level everyone who joins should bring their own unique strength to the team. We aren’t always looking for experts, but people who are open to trying anything and willing to help others.” 

A real sense of community


Ghent office - 2Helping others is another essential ingredient in working at OTA Insight and reflects the company values as a whole, exemplified by the #BestTeamEver mantra that’s proudly declared at team gatherings. Asked about the meaning of the hashtag, Mathias explains that “it started very early in the company and it just means: when we need you, you are there. That’s why I’m still here because I really love the team.” A fondness for the team and OTA Insight itself can be felt all around the Ghent office. The stylish space displays a meme wall and holds a coin-push machine and a beer tap, assembled by the engineering team themselves. 


Peter describes a “keen and active” atmosphere: “They work together and share the same values. They celebrate together. If something is wrong they fix it together. Everyone is in it together. That’s something you can’t create in HR or as a founder.” He emphasises that “you can buy 10 ping pong tables and lots of chocolate, but that won’t shape the culture of the team. The real office spirit is the team who built it.” 


In growing from three founders to a team of over 175 people living and working in over 30 different countries, OTA Insight has exceeded its start-up status. Mathias notes: “We have processes now, we have big teams, we are worldwide, we have 32 nationalities, but still we have the startup spirit.” For Mathias, this is reflected in giving ownership to engineers to tackle problems and find solutions. By granting such a level of ownership to team members, OTA Insight demonstrates its value in openness amongst all colleagues. “People are able to join in very easily and everyone is approachable,” he adds. 


Openness doesn’t just exist within the team but with new prospects. A frequent fixture at recruitment fairs, Peter finds his HR team with little to do. “It’s engineers talking to engineers, not HR,” he says. “Engineers are keen to tell their own story. They are passionate about what they’re doing on a daily basis and that makes a difference.” 

Culture as a foundation for success


Looking ahead, OTA Insight shows no signs of slowing down. Still looking to welcome new members, the bar is high but the rewards are many. What has allowed OTA Insight to stand out within the market and continue attracting Belgium’s best is its unique unwavering commitment to company culture as a foundation. Whilst it seems that OTA Insight has certainly found an effective formula, they are far from complacent, as becoming a multi-product company bring its own fresh demands and a continued need for a focused and adaptable team. This doesn’t phase the Talent team. As Peter says, “it’s not easy; if it were every company would be OTA Insight.” 


The key to continued success remains within the people who make up OTA Insight, and there is confidence that the growing engineering team will continue to be an example of what can be achieved when values are just as important as ability. Peter advises: “Find out about us. Talk to our engineers and if you feel fascinated by their story, join us.”



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