Want to know what happened at our Travel Tech event? Now you can, thanks to our Community Blogger Catherine Heath. You can read more posts on tech and B2B on the Away with Words blog here.
During this Hack Your Career in Travel Tech event we heard from an illustrious panel of speakers who are all at the top of their game in the travel tech industry, kindly hosted by Huckletree.
WHAT IS TRAVEL TECH?
The moderator for the panel was Annabelle Blackburn, gender expert and coder. She joked that if you take any industry and add ‘tech’ to it, it instantly becomes more interesting. This is a slightly tongue-in-cheek comment that is none the less true.
In perhaps no other area of tech - other than perhaps fintech - is the word ‘disruptive’ more applicable. Very young companies like Uber are overturning whole industries - with much controversy - to provide a better service for those needing to travel across cities. People can order their own personal taxi driver, at the click of a button (or tap of a screen!).
Skyscanner, Expedia and others have transformed the international travel industry by providing accessibility to cheap flights. We no longer need to pay the fees of travel agencies offering packages and bundles, but we can create our own ‘dream holidays’. This can be done at relatively little cost and from the comfort of our own homes.
BIG THEMES IN TRAVEL TECH
Data is the most valuable commodity in the tech industry today, with the majority of tech companies getting rich off your data. In fact, as proposed by one of the speakers companies are collecting more data now than they know what to do with.
One possible future of tech is going to involve people becoming increasingly aware of the value of their personal data, how it is being used by businesses and taking a more active stance over its market value. One consequence of increased customer insight relates to the concerns people have about invasions of privacy. Companies must take responsibility for being open and honest about the data they collect, and for what purpose.
TfL and Crossrail are both public sector organisations. This means they are charge of spending money from the public purse and in an age where information is now easily accessible, people expect to know how their money is being spent.
Populations are increasing everywhere but particularly in cities, which creates additional pressure on public services to meet demand. Transport is extremely important to voters, who want to feel that their lives will get easier as technology increases the already frantic pace at which we live.
The ‘sharing economy’, in which people directly share resources and services with each other through the medium of technology, is threatening traditional industries that have previously functioned as ‘middle men’ or property owners. This has benefits for consumers but also consequences for workers and company owners, whose livelihoods have been threatened by disruptive technologies.
Another challenge in the travel industry is cheaper travel providing easier access to once remote and tranquil locations, with increased footfall ironically destroying the ‘product’.
Travel, as both a necessity and a luxury, is at the intersection between need and profit. The perhaps virtuous circle of a technological age giving rise to the need for more technology has reached a new apex, with smart cities, smart wearables, virtual reality, driverless cars and more.
One of the key messages of the event was that it's an incredibly exciting industry, and in need of more talented people to choose it as a career.
HOW TO BREAK INTO TRAVEL TECH
The speakers had a lot of advice for women and people in general who want to break into travel tech.
Eddie Jouade, Senior Developer at Crossrail, only learnt to code when he was 21. He works with people from all sorts of fields, and argues that you don’t need to come from a technical background to work in travel tech. He is passionate about improving diversity in tech, and really keen to work with more female developers.
Ashley Finlayson from Uber studied biology at university, and when she graduated was simply looking for a company where she could make a difference. Uber provides a simple solution to the problem of finding a taxi in a busy city - connecting drivers with riders at the click of a button. To kickstart your career, she says you need to help other people and gain valuable experience for yourself.
Denise Jones from Expedia has a history at Microsoft but says she ‘fell backwards’ into tech, after working in unrelated fields at a wireless company. Denise advises that if you are serious about pursuing a career in travel tech, then you should start telling people where exactly you want to go (excuse the pun!). By actively speaking your aspirations aloud, you are creating accountability and drawing the right people and experiences towards you.
David Lowe from Skyscanner used to be an accountant and is now Developer Advocate at Skyscanner, a role that was popularised by Google. He improves their products and finds other companies to partner with. Skyscanner actively releases its data about customers and their travel preferences to startups creating products and services in the travel industry, so don’t be shy about getting in touch!
Code First: Girls