Exciting news at Rome2rio HQ: we recently recruited Craig Penfold as our Chief Technology Officer.
Craig has a wealth of technical and product experience, and a passion for growing people and teams. After a successful career at companies like ABC, Excite, Yahoo and SEEK, he’s excited to be part of Rome2rio and help us figure out the best ways to help travellers travel better.
Eight weeks into his new role, I chatted to Craig to find out how he’s going – and where he thinks Rome2rio should be going next.
Q: How did you hear about Rome2rio?
I first heard about Rome2rio from my aunt, who told me about it two years ago. I thought it was awesome – and when I started looking at the performance of things like the app, I ended up using that as a benchmark of app performance for my team at SEEK because the speed was so good. So when the [Rome2rio] job opportunity came up, I was excited to see how it all worked behind the scenes.
Q: What inspired you to come on board?
I’ve always liked the travel space; it’s a fascinating area. Plus, my passion is growing people and growing teams. At Rome2rio, which is a relatively small company, I knew I could have more impact than at some of the other big companies I’ve worked at.
One of the things I look for in a new company is around ‘purpose’; it’s a big part of my decision making. Rome2rio has a really great purpose; trying to plan a trip can be stressful at the best of times and Rome2rio tries to make that easier.
Ultimately, I want to work at a company that really helps people, that solves really complex problems with technology and is made up of really smart people. And Rome2rio ticked all those boxes.
Q: What are you going to be focussing on as CTO?
The first thing is making sure we have the right structures and right ways of working in place. Rome2rio is a very complex product and we’re an engineering-heavy business, so I want to get more product and UX thinking in the mix.
I’m also working on a compelling product vision for the company so our people can tie their day-to-day work into a higher purpose and get excited by that – it’s the ‘why’ of what we’re doing.
Q: Where do you think we should be going next?
We need to figure out the best way for us to grow. Travel is a really big space and no one does the full end-to-end of inspire, plan, book, experience and share. How do we continue building on the core of what we do – which is helping people get from A to B – and expand out of that? It’s not that we need to take over the whole funnel, but it’s about finding the right products to invest in to grow more and to grow faster.
Q: What do you see as R2R’s biggest opportunities?
Some of the biggest opportunities for us are in itinerary planning. The majority of people travel with others, so being able to plan, share and collaborate on a trip is a fantastic opportunity.
We’re also very good at getting people onto the site, so how do we get them doing more when they’re here, and get them coming back regularly?
Finally, we know that people who know about Rome2rio love the product. But there’s a whole group of customers who don’t know Rome2rio, so we need to raise their awareness of how Rome2rio can help them.
Q: You’re now 2 months into the role. What do you love most about working here?
I love getting to work closely with the teams, and being close to the problems we’re trying to solve and to our customers. With over 20 million sessions a month and a truly global audience – all from a small base in Melbourne – the future looks great.