Inside Guesty

A Day in the Life of an R&D Team Leader

August 30, 2021 |

The Guesty product was built in part upon the dedication of the R&D team. Through hard work, R&D team members provided solutions to integrations and many features within the Guesty platform. 

But how exactly does the R&D team create the wonderful features that we know and love on the Guesty platform? We spoke with R&D team leader, Gil Orlev, about his background in product development and some of the biggest R&D projects Guesty has executed so far. 

How did your career in R&D begin?

My interest in computers started when I was 8 years old. I would develop games and started studying computers when I was in high school. After my time in the army in the early 2000s, it was really hard to get a job in tech. I managed to get a job at a company that worked on communications and messaging technologies, but I was still waiting for my big shot in the tech industry. I joined a consulting group in 2005 and worked there for 6 years. I then became the CTO of a company that was Microsoft-oriented. When I was 39, I realized that I wanted to be in the startup scene and learn things besides Microsoft, things like JavaScript. I applied to be a team lead at Guesty but ended up as a developer because I wanted to learn something from scratch. There was something about Guesty from the get-go that was really appealing to me.

What’s a typical day for you as an R&D Team Leader at Guesty? 

I’m always laughing with my team. We work hard and on a typical day we are putting fires out everywhere as we work with the most sensitive features of Guesty like the calendar and Airbnb integrations. I did a lot of work developing features and leading the people. Actually talking to customers is something I never thought I would do, but it’s actually beneficial in helping rework and renew the foundations Guesty was built on. Other than that, I have meetings with sales, marketing, and support. 

What has been your favorite R&D project that you’ve worked on recently?

I’m currently working on taking the reservation system out of Mailer, a giant piece of legacy code that was previously giving us a lot of problems with reservations. This project is called Sandworm, named after the movie Dune because of how huge and epic of a project this will be. We are rewriting the reservation code. We’re not developing anything new, we’re rebuilding a foundational piece of Guesty software to contribute to the robustness of the product. It’s a huge project and it’s the first time that I have enough time to put the right effort into a project. 

What personal traits do you possess that you find beneficial to your role in R&D?

I’m a fast learner with a good memory. In a short amount of time, I was able to create significant aspects of the product. When I’m done with the Sandworm project I will be one of the most experienced people on the product. Another beneficial trait is that I’m confident in my work and compliment myself. This allows me to treat Guesty as my own, so my work gets my full attention.

What does the ‘R’ in Research entail? What does the ‘D’ in Development entail?

Research is when you identify a problem within the product but you don’t have a solution or you have a solution but you don’t like it. This is when you start reading and experimenting with solutions and present these to the team to try out the new tech. Then, you convince the team that we should adopt that solution. Not everyone does research on the R&D team. I’m on the platform team and we do more research. Development involves building and creating. For example, I have to write a feature, I have the spec, and then write code and test it and hopefully, it works! Development requires more of a team effort than research. 

The product is continuously growing and changing. What are you most proud of in your R&D efforts since you started at Guesty?

I am most proud of the Calendar project. I took the calendar feature out of Mailer and recoded it. It took a lot of time and it was the first time something like this was ever done at Guesty. No other team had taken something so big and so risky out of Mailer. We paved the way for more projects like this. The calendar is an essential feature of Guesty. Everyone said, “why fix something that’s not broken?”, but we persuaded them that this project would be beneficial. 

What’s the most challenging part of working on R&D?

The applicative team is responsible for pieces of the product that are so critical because they affect company revenue and customer satisfaction. There is always a spotlight on R&D. I never turn my phone off at night because I’m always needed. As an applicative team member, I’m in a constant battle to keep the product up and running. 

How do you measure success in your job?

Because of how demanding my job is, I feel successful when there’s a new day and we’re all still alive! When I get word from customers that we really improved their business or internally, when we have 45 support tickets a week and then get that number down to 15 support tickets, I feel successful. Where there’s impact, there’s success. 

How do other Guesty departments “use” the information you find through research to help with their work?

All R&D projects require collaboration with other departments. For example, the Airbnb integration project required us to move all customers from the unofficial API with Airbnb to the official API. It was a huge project, so we had many meetings with the support team, management and strategy, onboarding team, all the R&D departments, and the finance team.

What long-term goals do you have for yourself as an R&D team leader?

I’m happy that I was honest enough with myself that I’m not necessarily interested in moving up the ladder and that I’m dedicated and satisfied with my work where I am now. My goals are to continue being true to myself, to my work, and to my creativity.

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