Trip Advisor is a company that most in the travel industry have the deepest respect for, being one of the biggest travel entities in the world for sharing holiday ideas and finding peer reviewed places to go on Holiday.
When in 2018 TripAdvisor acquired Bókun an Icelandic tours, reservation and booking system, to me it was validation that what we were planning at that time with Toristy made sense.
The tours and activity space is growing and Tripadvisor by acquiring Bókun had decided to move into the business of attempting to get the activities they already had into a bookable experience.
The Current Opportunity
At the height of the Covid-19 crisis around the end of April 2020 Tripadvisor like most other major travel companies have had to cut back as they have seen unprecedented losses. This however presented Toristy with an opportunity amidst the general chaos in the travel industry. Would it be possible for us to hire well connected highly experienced talent from companies like Tripadvisor?
When the Tripadvisor news broke that they were cutting almost 25% of their workforce I was immediately on the lookout on LinkedIn for any good people looking for new employment. Eventually by actively seeking people out I managed to be put in touch with Mylene whom had worked for Tripadvisor and Bókun for years.
If it were not for Covid-19 I doubt Mylene and I would have ever have crossed paths. I would have been extremely wary of hiring someone 100% remotely living on the other side of the world. However since we'd all been working remotely for over 2 months by this point, the worry was totally gone in my mind. After the first meeting I was already convinced we needed to do everything we could to bring her to our team.
Now I have given you the back story and introduced Mylene I asked a few questions and what follows is in her own words.
Steve: Can you give a little background about yourself, what you like to do outside of work?
Mylene: My name is Mylene Soriano and I’m the Head of Business Development in Toristy.
I’m a Filipino working in Singapore for the last 13 years now with 15 years working professionally in the travel industry. I am passionate about travelling and I’m fortunate that my work is all about it. I like to go to new places and meet people from different backgrounds.
When I travel, I like to try the popular attractions in the area, explore the cafés or just simply sit while people watching. I also like to visit Catholic churches, I usually will drop by to a church to pray and make a wish (a tour guide told me that if it’s your first time to visit a church, you have one wish).
I also pick up photography as a hobby when I travel, I’m an avid photographer. And I like to take photos of places I visited and post it on Instagram.
When I’m not working, not travelling and just staying in Singapore, you will find me in karaoke bar, singing my heart out or having a foot and body massage or taking sunset photos from the balcony or watching Friends on Netflix.
Steve: Where are you from and where are you living now?
Mylene: I’m from Manila, Philippines and been living in Singapore. I’m enjoying my last few weeks in Singapore as I will back home to Manila.
Steve: When did you start working with Toristy?
Mylene: I have been working with Toristy since June 1st. I thought the setup will be challenging as I’m remote but so far, it’s been great, the support and guidance is there when I need it.
Steve: What first attracted you to the company?
Mylene: The opportunity to grow at a start-up company and be able to continue working in the travel industry even during this difficult time. I am pleased that I will be able to utilise my skills and background experience to help Toristy succeed while helping tour operators and the hospitality industry rebound from COVID.
Steve: What do you do for Toristy and how do you see your role in the future?
Mylene: My job is to onboard supplies and create demand within the marketplace. The focus is set in building up the travel supplier base and enterprise companies, aiming for the goal of 10000 products and 3 pilot projects within the quarter period.
I am also growing the social media presence and hopeful to increase the followers within the year. We are at an early stage, automation and initiatives are crucial at this time as it will define our success in the future. I can see long working hours, lots of patience, follow-ups, reading, studying and testing.
Soon, I can see my role progressing, managing a team that will help us in the supply and demand as well as the optimization of the products. I am confident that we will be able to achieve the set goals. In the medium term our target is to have 100,000 services we can sell, 100 enterprise companies working with us to help sell them, 10 new members under business development team, and an audience of followers on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn.
Steve: How do you prefer to start your day?
Mylene: When I wake up in the morning, I will do sit-ups and 5-10 minutes breathing exercise before getting out of bed. Then hit the shower and make a coffee. While drinking coffee, I browse online news and my social media feeds. Once I’m all caught up with the news, I will start my work.
Steve: Are you an early bird or a night owl?
Mylene: Either, I could be flexible based on the need. But I have to say that I’m a grumpy early bird especially if I haven't had coffee.
Steve: What’s something you saw recently that made you smile?
Mylene: A beautiful sunset from my balcony over the weekend.
Steve: What’s the top destination on your must-visit list?
Mylene: Finland! And I will include Norway and Sweden if the coast is clear to travel again. Followed by these destinations in my bucket lists – Maldives, Switzerland, New Zealand, Croatia, Greece, Hawaii, Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar, Sri Lanka. And since I will be in Philippines for the next coming months, when it’s okay to travel domestically, I will soon be relaxing at the beach of Boracay and Palawan.
Steve: What’s a trip or holiday that changed you, and why?
Mylene: My trip in US last February when I visited my brother in New Jersey. I learned from the trip that COVID is not to be taken lightly and life is precious. I have compared how Singapore and US handled the situation differently and I felt so scared and paranoid during the trip. I was lucky that my trip timing was just right. I was able to go back to Singapore safe and without any quarantine.
Steve: What advice would you give to your teenage self?
Mylene: I would say to Mylene the teenager “Mylene, you should worry less. Trust yourself and have faith in your skills and abilities. Don’t be swayed by what other’s tell you and expect from you. Follow your instinct and listen to your inner voice, be courageous to step out your comfort zone and just do it. And lastly, take all your language courses seriously, please! Pick up Mandarin and Spanish to master. It will be difficult to do this when you are older.”
Steve: Finally, What’s the weirdest food you’ve ever eaten?
Mylene: Being a Filipino, I eat “balut” -it’s a duck embryo. When a friend from Singapore visited Manila with me, I realised that balut is not easy to eat the way I usually eat it. My friend ate balut with his eyes closed, peer pressure forced him to try it. So, I will consider balut as the weirdest food I’ve ever eaten on the reference that other nationalities find eating it weird.
Balut, Sunsets and Coffee.
So there you have it, these are the things that keep Mylene happy! She's certainly keeping us happy and has brought an immense amount of the exact experience we need to help move us forward despite the pandemic.
Of course it's a difficult period and I wish this disease had never been inflicted on us. However I can't help thinking that our team, way of working and development has been positively impacted despite the virus. Onwards and Upwards.