Iana joined City Relay as a Client Account Assistant in July 2018 to complete her University final year internship. We wanted to share her experience as part of the team that manages the important queries or concerns of our hosts every day.
Ariane: Thanks a lot for doing this interview with us today, Iana! Could you tell us a bit more about yourself, where do you come from?
(Iana) Sure! I am from Samara, in Russia. I initially came to the UK to study for my foundation degree in Brighton. After completing it, I had to make a choice: staying in the UK or going somewhere else. I chose to stay and moved to Manchester for my undergraduate degree. After 3 years, I decided to move to London for my post graduation degree.
Ariane: Which leads me to my second question, why did you decide to move to London?
(Iana) Mainly because I needed a change. I had been 3 years in Manchester and I felt like I had seen everything I could see there, I wanted something new and was looking for new opportunities. Also, I particularly love London, its architecture, the variety of markets… it really was a simple choice to make!
Ariane: And how did you find out about City Relay?
(Iana) That’s a good question. I think that I was browsing on the internet, trying to focus on small companies. I absolutely didn’t want to apply in a big company, mainly because I had experiences before in bigger structures and I found that relationships were way too formal. I don’t like working in environments that are too impersonal and where you can’t build good working relationships with your colleagues. I wanted to find a work environment with a startup spirit. I ended up reading a few articles about City Relay and I quickly decided to apply for a position!
Ariane: What were you looking for when you applied at City Relay, what was your main objective?
(Iana) My main objective was to gain experience. I was open to a few different possibilities but I didn’t have just one specific plan in mind. I had actually applied for a different position that had been taken. After my first interview, Anna the HR manager called me back and told me that she thought another position would suit me very well. That’s how I finally passed a second interview for the Client Account Assistant position!
Ariane: How did you prepare for the interview and how did it go?
(Iana) As the first interview was on Skype, I had to prepare quite a lot. I am not used to this kind of technology-oriented process, as I always did face to face interviews in the past. So I even watched Youtube videos and read articles about it, to make sure that I was well prepared! Surprisingly, I felt more at ease when I came to meet the CEO and the Client Account Manager for the second interview!
Ariane: What was your first impression of the company?
(Iana) To be honest, I had a good impression from the very first day I came to the office. On the day of my interview, it was a sunny day, I was in a very good mood and everyone seemed to be happy! On top of that, the interview with Eleni, my future manager, and Maxime, the CEO, went really well, they were very friendly and welcoming so I wasn’t feeling scared or anything.
Ariane: After this six-month internship, what are the main things that you learned from this position? Do you believe that you evolved, in terms of skills?
(Iana) Definitely! I learned a lot. I couldn’t list everything now, but to sum it up I would say I mostly learned how to be patient, to communicate effectively, to multitask and to handle stressful situations. In the Client Account team, we don’t just inform randomly to hosts how we manage their properties. We need to make sure that communication is clear and qualitative so that they are well aware of all the processes in place. All of this requires a lot of anticipation and good organisation skills. It also really pushed me to go outside of my comfort zone and to see the bigger picture.
Ariane: What are the key skills necessary for your position?
(Iana) First of all, empathy. It’s very important to be able to think from the hosts’ point of view in order to understand their needs and know how to satisfy it. You also need good organisational skills in order to prioritise the request and be as efficient as possible. On top of that, basic communication skills are imperative to create bonds with your clients and build a personalised relationship with each of them by getting to know them. In this sense, having a good memory is also a must! The worst thing is to forget what clients told you, that can put you in a very delicate position!
Ariane: Could you describe your team three words?
(Iana) Friendly, supportive and effective.
Ariane: What has been your biggest challenge so far? How did you deal with it?
(Iana) To be honest, every day is full of challenge in my work. If I had to choose one, it would be when I was alone in my team for a few days. It was really stressful and I suddenly had a lot of responsibilities on my shoulders. But to me, that’s the best way to learn, because I had to make decisions and act as efficiently as possible. Plus, people from other teams came to my rescue, which helped me a lot!
Ariane: What do you enjoy the most about working on your position?
(Iana)Working as a team. Not only my team, but the whole City Relay team. I think there’s a real team spirit in here and we know how to enjoy a good time together!
Ariane: In your opinion, what are the positives and negatives of working in a startup?
(Iana) I would say that the negative point is also a positive one. You need to be flexible and be ready to multitask, sometimes even doing the job of different people. But at the same time, it allowed me to gain more experience and to learn how to prioritise.
Ariane: Do you have a ritual to keep yourself in a good mood?
(Iana)Actually, I started something very recently that became really important in my life: horse riding. It completely relaxes me and makes me escape, I truly enjoy these moments alone with the horses and nature.
Ariane: What’s your favourite place in London? And in Russia?
(Iana) Well, if I was living in Russia, I would definitely live in Saint Petersburg, it’s such a lovely city. It’s hard for me to pick one single place in London, but I would say Soho. Simply because it’s the first area I visited when I came as a tourist when I was 15. After a walk in Soho, I like to go to Hyde Park to relax.
Ariane: What’s the difference between living in England and living in Russia?
(Iana)I wouldn’t say that England and Russia are completely different. In England, I found that people are quite friendly and quick to help you whenever you have an issue, as it is the case in my country. What changes is mainly the traditions, the way we celebrate holidays, for instance. We have a completely different calendar. Just to give you an example, in England Christmas day is on the 25th of December whereas it’s on the 7th of January in Russia.
Ariane: So… does this mean two Christmas days for you now?
(Iana, laughing) Yes, absolutely! I am celebrating both days this year.
Throughout her internship, Iana became a key asset to the City Relay team and we are happy to announce that she has just been hired as a full-time Client Account Assistant!