Product & Design
Jul 27, 2022

Building A Career in UX and The Importance of Trusting our Instincts

Marlene Rosner
UX Director

Marlene Rosner, Director of User Experience, leads UX for our Search & Discovery experience. Here, she reflects on the role’s purpose and function, and how the pandemic presented new challenges both as a leader, and a mom.

When I was little, my two favorite things were drawing and understanding our family computer’s operating system. So when I started studying Visual Communication, combining my passion for design and systems, it was no surprise that I very quickly found my home in the digital space and began building a career in design.

Fast-forward to now, and in my current role as Director of User Experience at GetYourGuide, I get to work with talented product and content designers to craft great user experiences for travelers seeking inspiration for things to do in a new destination. Ultimately, it’s about helping them decide on the right experience for their specific needs.


Delivering an Unforgettable Experience

Our work starts with understanding customers’ problems and needs and then exploring multiple ways to solve them. Once we converge on our strongest solution, it’s all in the details.

That means ensuring what we introduce is consistent with the rest of our experience, follows our design system and brand guidelines, and is easy and enjoyable to use. In addition to my team, I also partner with Product and Engineering Director peers on the overall direction and strategy of our space to provide design principles, frameworks, and definitions of success for the teams.

As all parts of the Product and Marketplace connect, we work closely with adjacent teams to ensure a seamless end-to-end experience. That includes the supplier side of our marketplace to ensure that what we ask our tour operators to enter into our system is what our customers want to see in order to make a confident decision and have a frictionless experience.

Working with teams for a seamless experience

Growing with GetYourGuide

I joined GetYourGuide in 2014 as a product designer. My introduction to the company was by way of a German brand agency called Edenspiekermann. I’d been working in its digital department and one of our projects was GetYourGuide’s first rebranding.

In some ways, my GetYourGuide career has come full circle: my initial team was ‘Discovery,’ for example. Other things were completely different: the company had 80 employees then and was located in a modest office building in the not-so gentrified part of north Prenzlauer Berg.

During my first year, I envisioned how we could help people discover the breadth of a destination. A lot of our ideas from eight years ago are still valid today, the big difference is that now we have enough traffic on our site from people looking for things to do in a city to actually test and validate those ideas. Eight years ago our experiments had to run as globally as possible, and for quite a while to render reliable signals. This made testing more tailored experiences difficult.

As our customer base grew, so did the company and with it, the need for our design to mature alongside. In 2016, my manager approached me with the opportunity to lead and build up our Design team.

My dad always said luck is with the brave, so I took a leap of faith and jumped into my first role as a disciplined leader and people manager.

We hired and embedded designers in all mission teams, brought on researchers to inform our customer understanding, and finally Content Design as a sparring partner to Product Design. The company hasn’t stopped growing. When I returned from my first maternity leave in January 2020, we had just raised a big round of investment and had moved into our flagship office, the Ampere building on Sonnenburger Strasse.

I was leading a team of 25 people, and GetYourGuide was around 500 employees strong across the whole company. My role had evolved to managing managers that were leading UX for our different product groups.

When I was pregnant with my second child in late 2020, I took it as an opportunity to grow the leadership on my level and find an additional Director to lead the team while I was out and partner with on my return.

It took us over a year to find the right candidate and funnily enough, we both (re-)joined the team in January 2022. This development makes for a completely new experience: I get to report to a very experienced functional leader who guides me quite differently from the mostly product-focused leaders I was reporting to in the past. This keeps things exciting, challenging, and full of learnings – as has always been the case at GetYourGuide!

How a Global Travel-Stop Forced a New Approach at Work…

When the pandemic hit in early 2020 and the world went into lockdown, people stopped traveling from one day to the next. This obviously meant there was no need for our product and no new bookings.

Despite the uncertainty of the pandemic, GetYourGuide chose to continue to invest in technology and the improvement of the product.

But the challenge now was that our traditional way of validating features – A/B testing – didn’t work anymore. Ordinarily, we would launch a test showing half of the people our site as it was, and the other half a new feature or design. With no one booking, we had to rethink how to validate our assumptions with users at scale.

With that in mind, we leaned on our Research and Analytics experts and came up with a way to conduct, for example, surveys and user tests at scale, to not just get great qualitative insights but also gain confidence in their significance.

Marlene at GetYourGuide

We also used benchmarking and best practices to increase our confidence and de-risk our assumptions and designs. For our riskiest assumptions, we decided to back-test them, once traffic picked up again.

I realized that we had become quite reliant on data, not just to validate but also to show us a path forward. This experience taught us to re-trust our instincts and expertise, which we have all shaped through years of experience.

It led us to find alternative and often quicker ways to de-risk assumptions and develop our product and design with more conviction. Still today, I carry this revelation through my leadership and the guidance I give to teams. We now take a more balanced approach between conviction versus data, and qualitative versus quantitative proof.

… And at Home

2020 was by far the most challenging year I’ve experienced as an adult. I had just returned from maternity leave to a beautiful office to reconnect with my team – only to be sent home into lockdown and home office for the rest of the year.

Technically there was no office: just a desk in my son’s bedroom that I’d use while he was with my husband in the next room. I got up every morning being a mom to my seven-month-old, and then straight into being a caretaker for a big team all experiencing their own challenges and hardships. It was 24/7 caring for others, with little to no time for myself. I was almost burned out, but knowing my body’s and mind’s signals, I was able to reset boundaries and set up healthier routines for myself.

My team went through similar struggles and we all showed up for each other by sharing tips and challenges which helped a lot. Almost all stuck through 2020 together, which speaks volumes for what a great team we are.

As much as this year stretched and crossed my personal boundaries, it was also the year I grew a lot as a leader, a person, multi-tasker, and crisis manager. It taught me resilience, humility, frugality, and gratitude.

As for GetYourGuide, I’m proud of how the leadership navigated the crisis by taking a human-first approach. It started with reimbursing travelers that couldn’t realize their bookings and continued with not letting staff go until the end of 2020 when the uncertainty of the pandemic and markets had cleared and people were able to find new opportunities.

Continuing our investment in people and tech in particular also paid off when travel picked up. We were able to go full speed and provide a great experience for peoples’ pent-up desire to experience the world.{{divider}}

Working in a Low-Ego Culture

Working at GetYourGuide these past eight years has been a journey and a pleasure. Above all, I appreciate the smart, genuine people I work with and the low-ego culture; as well as the product we are building and the joy it brings to people’s lives. As to what’s kept me here, I’d say the constant change that keeps me learning and growing.

I enjoy everything design in my private life, too, from interiors and food to fashion and travel. Discovering and surrounding myself with beautiful things as well as spending quality time with my loved ones is what fills my cup.

Interested in a career at GetYourGuide? Check out our Careers Page.

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