Inside Impala: Yasmin Desai discusses the thrill of making big decisions
Inside Impala explores life on our team from the perspective of Impalans themselves. Yasmin Desai, a Product Director leading the Connectivity Group, shares how she’s grown as a manager, what she values in a startup and how mentorship intersects with her professional goals.
Hey Yas! Can you describe what you do in a few sentences?
I’m a Product Director at Impala, and I run the Connectivity Group. We aim to provide the best tools in the industry for anyone who wants to sell hotel rooms instantly.
What brought you to Impala? Is this your first experience working in travel?
It’s my first time working in travel, but I’ve always been in startups. When approaching Impala, I was really interested in Ben [Stephenson] as a CEO. I had a lot of confidence in his profile and his persona, as well as our investors — but the product itself and our customers were all important to me.
I think we’re very good at attracting exceptional talent as well. We have incredibly good people. There’s nothing more you can ask for than to work with people who are cleverer than you.
What do you find most exciting about working in Product?
I think being in Product is the closest you can get to being a CEO without having to take the risks of being a CEO. One of my goals is to potentially start my own company one day. So when approaching Product, I considered what experience I would need for that role, plus what kind of experience would give confidence to an investor.
For a long time I thought my route would be Operations, but I found that I don’t particularly enjoy a lot of the operational day-to-day tasks. Whereas with Product, I found that I have way more passion for the work. So while my drive has to do with my long-term career goals, I really like that Product grants me the ability to make big decisions every day.
How do you and your team stay connected?
There’s actually something I introduced more than a year ago which I’ve seen a lot of teams adopt since. It’s called 'Wheel of Names', and it’s a five-minute ritual we add to our daily sessions together. You spin a wheel with everyone on the team’s names, and you ask a question to whoever it lands on. It sounds so simple, but there’s such a benefit to the team when people can share funny stories and talk. It’s one thing in your day that isn’t necessarily work-focussed.
We also have offsite events that we started doing more actively with places opening again. We have WhatsApp groups to share stories. And we do random coffee breaks with the team.
We like to think we’re good at celebrating small wins, so if we have a successful feature or a product, we’ll get the team together and celebrate — even if it’s remote.
I’m happy to give my time to this kind of mentorship because I get so much back from the relationships as well
Can you tell us about some of your mentorship and professional growth work?
I’ve been mentoring for a number of years. It initially started with my university asking to pair me with someone who was on the course that I was on when I was studying. As I slowly grew my brand, people started reaching out to me to ask for advice. I’m Muslim, so I mentor through Muslim-specific initiatives aimed at pairing Muslim women with more experienced professionals for guidance and support.
I’m happy to give my time to this kind of mentorship because I get so much back from the relationships as well. It’s just a nice thing to give back in a setting that isn’t always formal.
What are you most passionate about outside of your work at Impala?
I have many professional goals that I’m working toward — I want to speak at two pretty big conferences this year. It’s something I enjoy doing and it gets me out of my comfort zone as well.
One of my goals is also to teach and help people get into Product. I’m teaching a course on Product Management with a company called Muslamic Makers that will start in May which I’m really excited for.
Outside of my professional life, I’m a big brunch fan. It’s what I look forward to on the weekends. I do enjoy cycling as well — I stopped a bit during the lockdown but just picked it up again. I aim for a thirty-minute cycle every day when I can.
Tell us about your ideal travel experience.
WORK THE WAY YOU IMAGINED
Join Yas - and the rest of the Impala team - in building the future of travel. Find out more about life at Impala on our careers page.
I know this sounds very out-there, but there’s nothing I want to do more than try every extreme theme park in the world. I’m a massive thrill-seeker and I love theme parks. I heard Singapore has really good theme parks. I have to plan and see which one to go to next.
Do you have any advice for someone approaching Product at Impala?
I think every start-up or every company says Product is one of the roles that gives you the most autonomy — but I’d say that’s definitely true at Impala. If you have an idea and you feel confident in it, that's it, you’re able to go ahead and pursue it. For people who like to move fast and like to experiment and get things out there, we’re the perfect fit.
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