January 9, 2019

Why I left a travel giant to join a tech startup

Ali GeaGea
Head of Partners

I’ve always been passionate about travel and the time I spent at one of the world’s largest travel companies was instrumental in extending this from a personal passion to a professional one. Those 10 years, working across both leisure and corporate travel taught me a lot about creating strong business relationships and nurturing mutual growth. In particular, understanding the commercial needs and painpoints of different travel partners – something that is invaluable in my role now as Head of Partners at Upgrade Pack.

When the chance came to join a new tech startup (something entirely new for me, albeit working with travel products) I had the understandable wrestle with ‘known’ vs ‘unknown’. But the opportunity to embark on a new challenge and be an early part of building a concept I believed in; a win for customers wanting a great value upgrade as well as for airlines and hotels with unused seats and rooms, knew the market and timing was perfect and that I had the knowledge and experience to help bring it to life.

Always Learning….

While my knowledge is of course valuable here, it’s also about learning. This is exactly what I have loved so far. In a startup you have to roll up your sleeves and get involved. I had to learn lots of new things, such as, specifics about the technology we’re providing and how this would align with airline and hotel partner systems – but it’s only served to confirm how innovative what we’re doing is in the travel space.

In the travel industry things are now evolving rapidly, yet it is also still burdened by the issue of platform legacy. The way content is consumed by end users is being driven by the digital age and consumer needs. In just three months I have already learnt so much about this transformation, and as a technology-driven company being so agile (and not reliant on legacy technology) has been a refreshing change - knowing that we can plan and futureproof our product right from the start, to provide a platform that is seamless and offers a full cycle upgrade solution, from client to partner to user.


In just four months I have been able to provide input to so many aspects of the work flow, from social content, to UX, UI and development. I help design and discuss many aspects, from how the customer will interreact with our app, what our partners will want to achieve from the data we collect, feeding that back to product teams and discussing how best to design our interface moving forward.

In a smaller company, these areas might operate in silos but that’s not what being part of a startup is about. Of course, plans can also change on a daily basis. You have to be able to react quickly and make decisions on the fly. Everything is faster - you have to deliver things faster, grow faster and even fail faster.  This causes a small community where you succeed and fail together by your decisions, where mutual trust is essential to success. It’s all about innovation and idea creation, and so far, I love it.

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