When Kim dos Santos joined Booking.com in 2014 as a recruiter in their Amsterdam headquarters, he felt right at home: “I’m a geek who’s really into tech,” he says. “Sometimes I wear a Star Wars–themed blazer. That didn’t quite fit at my previous job, but it’s totally suited for Booking.” At university, he’d studied organizational psychology, and he had a deep interest in connecting with and understanding people. Inspired to help new hires grow and develop, he applied that same spirit to his own career, and in 2018, he became a UX Designer—without ever leaving Booking.com.
More and more, people expect to have opportunities for personal and professional development at work. (In fact, in The Muse’s own 2018 user survey, job seekers ranked having learning and growth opportunities as the most important factor in their search, beating out work-life balance and compensation.) Here are just a few of the benefits of working at a company that makes learning a true priority.
You’ll Get to Constantly Reinvent Yourself
Switching from recruiting to UX design doesn’t seem like an obvious career path, but dos Santos got there through a series of reinventions—all supported by his employer. “My move into visual work at Booking was really organic,” he says. He’d done some freelance graphic design in college, and he realized he missed having that creative outlet. “I volunteered to do graphic designs for our employer brand team. I began by focusing on graphics for social media, events, stuff like that. I got to express my individual creativity and transition within the company and eventually became a brand designer.”
At one point, he suggested some redesigns for the company’s careers portal. Its development had always been outsourced, but he volunteered to do mockups and got permission from his manager to take a two-day UX design course to help him do so.
In that course, dos Santos had his next “aha” moment: UX design, with its intersection of tech, design, and psychology, was a perfect fit. “The more roles I entered,” dos Santos reflects, “I discovered different puzzle pieces I liked and figured out how they connect.”
To learn how to code in HTML and CSS, as well as basic principles of UX design, dos Santos devoted evenings outside of work to self-study. He also participated in an internal Booking.com professional development rotational program where he could learn on the job.
Programs like this are an important way Booking.com supports a culture of learning, says Kirk Davies, Learning Operations Manager at Booking.com. “We see a lot of people that are just thirsty to know more,” he says. “And if we keep people coming back, learning more and more, that helps everyone in the long run.”
You’re Allowed to Fail
Ideally, at a company where learning is a priority, failure and mistakes are considered part of growth, rather than something to be ashamed of. That’s definitely the case with Booking.com's “fail fast and learn” philosophy, says dos Santos. “There’s freedom to try things and an acceptance of failure. I felt safe enough to try designing web pages for Booking.com, then give UX design a try. I had never done those things before, but the culture of Booking promotes that kind of thinking, where I feel empowered to go and do something even though I'm uncertain if I will achieve a great end result.”
You’ll Never Be Bored
When you work at a place that prioritizes personal development, there are always opportunities to challenge yourself in new ways. And at many companies, thanks to e-learning, you can do it all without even leaving your desk. “In this century, learning has really changed,” Davies says. “Digital personalization now helps people learn by making things relevant to them.”
He adds, “We want to make sure that we’re driving this continuous learning culture and building that growth mindset where people don’t stagnate. If people are always learning, they can cross over and bring topics into different fields. So if you’re a backend developer and suddenly start reading about philosophy, maybe there’s something in that philosophy that you can bring to your coding. That could lead to a brand new school of thought.”
You Can Move Up Without Moving On
Conventional wisdom says that you have to leave a company in order to move up and grow. But in a company that prioritizes learning and development, you can grow your career in different directions, and become a leader if that’s what you want, without having to move on. “We believe in people being able to work in a way that drives their own passions. In doing that, they improve their career prospects,” Davies says. “Someone who starts as a customer service agent can end up in our finance department. Hopefully, we’ll enable that and keep them within the organization.”
For his part, dos Santos has continued his career journey at Booking.com, recently transitioning into a team lead role. “It all comes back to my original motivation to help people grow and be their best selves, but this time from a manager’s perspective, rather than a recruiter’s,” he says. “There were designers and other colleagues that really helped me develop and learn, and I could never have taken the steps I have without them. And that's what I'm trying to do now—to help other people and provide the same support to them.”