Truth about Booking.com

It is time to talk about Booking.com. I hear many people ask about us and guess what it is like. I hear lies. I hear truths. No one will really tell you. I will tell you and I wish be fair. Booking.com may be very good for you, but you need to know before you take job if you want it. Booking will tell you the good stuff, not bad stuff.

I will not mention names. I don't want to cause people trouble, but I see good people being pushed out door. This makes me sad because there is no hope of getting better. First, I talk about code.

Before I talk about code: remember that Booking has become the number one in what they do. They are making piles of money and are still growing fast. They are doing something right. I will sound upset about some of this, but some of what they do is good. They are very smart people.

Booking is destroying my career because I am not allowed to do anything new. I am not allowed to use new technologies. I'm not allowed to "design" anything big. I am not allowed to write tests. I am allowed to copy that 500 line subroutine into another module. If people have done that several times before, maybe it should be refactored instead of duplicated? If you do that, you get in trouble. One developer talks about "unforking" code is he refactor because he will get in trouble if he is caught refactoring. If you are not willing to cut and paste the same routine over and over, you are not "Booking Blue" and management will start talking to you about your attitude problem. Why? Cutting and pasting code is faster than refactoring code. They cannot measure how much work you save the next developer. They can measure how fast you make features. Booking believes that if they do not know how to measure something, it does not exist.

One developer was told that if he did not like it he could go back to the country he came from. I cannot go back. There is no work for me at home, so I must control-C/control-V all day. If I complain about it, important people who name we never hear will talk to my team lead and he will ask me why I am not doing what Booking wants me to do. My team lead does not talk to me that way because I am obedient. I am not paid bad, but I do not make enough money to save. I can not leave. I can not take another job in the EU. I can not go home. I must not complain. Others who complain too long are asked to leave. We have lost several good people because Booking gets mad at them. Booking does not like good developers. Booking likes obedience. They not even care about bad code. Some developers seem to enjoy deliberately writing code that other developers can not read. But as long as you are turning out features, no one cares. As one boss says, "we do not pay you to write nice code. We pay you to get job done. We can always hire more people to figure ou the code later." I don't understand this, but I hear it more than once.

When I was interviewed for this job, they asked me lots of MySQL questions. I don't know why. I have good MySQL knowledge, but I am not allowed to use it. Foreign keys "slow thing down". Joins are expensive, so like our code, we cut and paste our data. Much of our data is copied from table to table and lots of code is written to make sure it stays correct. It is never correct, but sometimes hard to know what is wrong.

We also have security holes. I will not talk about them, but Bobby could tell you some stories. Fixing security holes does not make money so often it is not a priority.

Now to talk about people. Booking does not want to hire developers who cannot communicate. This means we have amazing people to know. Most people here are very nice and very friendly. It is the only reason I can stand to be here. I learn nothing about programming, but people are really good. Every month we have Freaky Friday which is free drinks and snacks. Four times a year we have big parties. If you have a partner, they are forbidden and that is sad. If you do not have a partner, it is lots of fun.

Booking also offers lots of training. If you want to go into management, Booking will help you. They are good at this. Their training courses are very good and fun. Booking wants to hire more people and they need more managers. You can grow here.

Why to work here?

If you want to move to Europe, they will pay. Amsterdam is very nice. You might get a change to train for management. People are very nice and I like my colleagues.

Why not to work here?

If you care about technology and doing a good job, do not work here. If you like to write tests, do not work here. If you try to change things, they will talk to you about your attitude. If you do not stop, you will not have a job.

35 Comments

This reminds me generally about a story a few years ago of the United States housing industry: how it has refined the building of a home down to such efficient detail that they can put up decent houses quickly and cheaply. But in doing so they threw out any methods or research into methods that didn't fit that most-efficient build plan so they have essentially stagnated technology-wise and any hope of mass-produced energy-efficient homes today is more of a dream than reality. The construction companies still make money though.

I can only confirm everything said by the author (with an exception to a little weirdness about changing job in the Netherlands).

"Booking is destroying my career because I am not allowed to do anything new."
"We have lost several good people because Booking gets mad at them."
"If you care about technology and doing a good job, do not work here."

"If you do not stop, you will not have a job."

All these applied to me directly.

To be honest it sounds like pretty much any other bureaucratic environment. Getting bureaucracies to move past one size fits all metrics to understand how to make best usage of their resources is a bit of a challenge once they get beyond a certain size.

I have a feeling that you started at Booking.com on a bad note. I too work there and things are not exactly as you put them, at least not from my perspective.

It's true that Booking.com is growing fast, very fast. What's particular about Booking.com is that the company does only thing: selling online hotels reservations and it does it very well. So the idea and the web site does work, users love it and demand more and more. From a business point of view there's still plenty of work, plenty of new things to add or to improve.

Management, and the term is quite lose when applied to Booking.com, sees no gain in refactoring code. By refactoring I'm talking about taking a few weeks to rewrite an existing piece of software. By definition refactoring doesn't bring new functionality so this is why management is reluctant to go down that road.

This isn't something new or something that we're hiding, everyone that applies to Booking.com is explained the mentality and philosophy of the company. Even people that didn't apply are aware, Abigail has done a pretty good job at explaining this at various Perl events.

Saying that Booking.com doesn't care of bad code is a bit of an exaggeration. We're quite lenient about code that gets added to the repo, as long as there's a business reason behind it. If a quick hack can be deployed live and increase conversion then it will be accepted. But rest assured that crappy code doesn't last long, specially if other devs have to use it or maintain it.

I will love to keep the discussion going on, but we will have to wait until tomorrow. It's getting late.

We're still hiring :)

> Abigail has done a pretty good job at explaining this at various Perl events.

Is he too shy to make this publicly available? He always asks not to record sound and video and not to make notes.

Last summer I had the opportunity to fly out to Amsterdam and interview with Booking.com. I could say various things about the interview process, and specifically about the questions asked (yes, lots of MySQL questions, almost more than perl questions), but at the end of the day it came down to a simple question of whether I wanted to work for a corporation side-by-side with 80 other developers. Obviously, any company that is operating under those conditions is going to have certain policies, attitude, and culture.

For me, as someone who has worked from home for the last 5 years, it didn't seem like a good fit (not to mention the fact that there is only 4 hours of daylight in the winter!). For others, however, I could see it being an excellent opportunity.

The problem, I felt, is that Booking wants/needs senior level developers, but they sort of seem to treat everyone like a junior developer. Again, great if you are, in fact, a junior developer, not so much if you're not.

However, I will say that I don't feel that Booking.com tried to trick me in any way. I felt that they made their corporate culture totally obvious. They want people who want to be there and are willing to fly people out there to see if that is a possibility.

I would think if you were junior to low-level senior, without any real obligations or ties to your home country, had a few years to kill, and wanted to do some sort-of cool stuff (and let's not forget, it IS Amsterdam), Booking.com would be a great opportunity. Again, just an outsider's perspective to add salt accordingly.

Unfortunately, this is not a unique situation by far.

I started last July as a corp-to-corp contractor for a company just outside of Philadelphia. Their ads and their job specs heavily featured requirements for modern perl development standards. I was even quizzed on those standards during my telephone interviews.

When I started working for this company, however, what I found in practice was exactly the opposite. It turns out that the company is not a C Corporate, but an S Corporation owned by 2 individuals, who micromanage EVERYTHING, down to the point of insisting that array refs be referred to in code as $$var{key} instead of the generally accepted standard practice of $var->{key}. A single pass of one of their perl modules through perlcritic got an incredible result of "cannot parse" on the most lax setting.

As I was joining the company, they were just implementing git as their source control system. Sadly, this was ruined as well by the decision makers refusal to listen to people in the know, so now there is code in multiple branches that will not merge properly. Net result is spending more money for a git expert to come in and tell them exactly how to fix what they were told from the beginning, but wouldn't listen to. My guess is, they will probably pay all that money and fail to follow his/her advice.

The code itself is ridiculous. Copy and paste is the order of the day. In my first month working on the code (July 2011) I found an error from a simple typo. Someone put == instead of !~ in a line of code. That code was then copy & pasted over 95 times. Nobody ever did a single code review or caught the error. It still exists to this day.

In January of this year, I was forced to convert from corp-to-corp contract to a W2 employee. Their reason? Their lawyer told them that as an S-Corp, if they paid me more than 50% of my income then I was an employee and had to convert. This, I of course now know was a complete lie - it is none of their business how much I make or how much their payments to me make up of my total income. The irony of it? As an S-Corp themselves, they have only ONE client that makes up 100% of their income.

Less than one 1 of being an employee, I finally meet these owners in person on a trip east that they paid for. Two days later, after meeting them in person for the first time ever (having telecommuted for 8+ months) I now find myself fired, because for some mysterious reason I am not someone that can "suitably represent their company". Say what?

Final point: when you have a small company that has grown too fast, run by people who are usually good technologists but have no concept of how to actually run a business, you get chaos. Those same people probably have no practical experience managing more than a small team of developers. What they should do is hire people to run the business for them, people who know what they are doing, to help them make more money and be more successful. Usually, though, their egos will get in the way. I've seen this with this most recent position, I've seen it at previous jobs run by 3 or 4 people on a startup. Inevitably, though, it always happens unless you have a really smart person running the show.

Copy paste *is* the devil. The next {OS,file format,whatever} which can fix copy paste wins. Like defaulting to paste-by-reference instead of by-value, or something.

BTW, good stuff. Keep 'em coming :)

> Booking will not give good salary but will promise you big bonuses. You will not get big bonuses unless you are not troublemaker.

That's definitely not the case. I'm the most argumentative, contrary, fuck-shit-up bastard I know, always arguing about the way we do things, and every year I get a huge bonus. Because I work hard and pull for results, not writing beautiful code. If you're any good at what you do, Booking will support you - hell, avar seems to spend most days refactoring shit and i don't see anyone chewing him out.

And Shitov was a spy. :P

I will post under my own name because, really, I do not feel the need to censor myself to my corporate overlord. People are people, they wipe their asses like everyone else. My respect is earned, not freely given. I don't give two flying blue monkey shits if you are a gazillionaire or a pauper. That said I will attempt to at least be courteous. Everyone deserves courtesy.

I agree and disagree with this post on several points. It is sufficient to say though, that you feel trapped and that makes for poor decision making. I had days like this. I had a project that for the most part politically poisoned me. The culture of inertia overwhelmed me. It was a constant uphill battled to deliver something better than 'okay.' I made miscalculations. I am a prideful asshole a lot of the time. I am also rather opinionated and not shy with sharing. This makes for a perfect storm of sorts. To be honest, it wouldn't surprise me if I was asked to leave at the end of my contract. It would anger me, but not surprise me. So I see and understand your despair, viscerally.

That said, voicing this, here, anonymously, isn't going to help you. The company invested a lot in acquiring your talent regardless of how they want to use it. They have a business case for making sure our primadonna asses are somewhat happy and productive. This information is better shared with management in an effort to alter your situation to something a bit more tenable. You also need to (wo)man up a little bit. Pick up a vice in the land of sex and drugs and learn to cope with the things you will not be able to change. In the end, it is all business. There are other jobs; other corporate overlords even if you don't think so. If one company thought your skills were worth the money/effort/bullshit, odds are in your favor that there are others if you truly feel this situation is not malleable.

Not only is this post not going to help you, it only tickles the investigative among us to unmask you as if they are playing a god damn game of Clue. With the wrench. In the study.

Anyhow, good luck with your downward spiral. Someone much wiser than me, quoted Drew Carey and it was particularly apropos:

“Oh, you hate your job? Why didn't you say so? There's a support group for that. It's called EVERYBODY, and they meet at the bar.”

So come out to Mulligan's or Mankind (it is Magic The Gathering night at Mankind tonight, actually) and I'll buy you a beer. We can chat and hopefully help you get a better grasp of your options. Sincere offer.

my company recruited 15+ people out of Booking.com (not just developers), and the primary reason people give for leaving is "stagnant corporate culture which just wants to build things on a template that worked in the past." This isn't unique to developers, it is a general issue. And it isn't unique to Booking.com, it is something most companies that don't invest in developing their team and culture eventually go through.

usually one of the first signs of decline because it leads to an inability to adapt to changing market conditions.

Well, I work for Booking, the tables I work with have FK constraints, and I explicitly forbid people in my team to cut and paste code or going for other quick and dirty hacks that will hurt maintainability. On the other hand I work with business-critical data, so the overhead largely pays off, business-wise. So YYMV.

More generally there are quite a few very, very good Perl devs (and high-profile P5P or CPAN contributors) working for Booking. I doubt they would stay if they were paid only to churn out bad code and "not designing stuff".

> “Oh, you hate your job? Why didn't you say so? There's a support group for that. It's called EVERYBODY, and they meet at the bar.”

Nick, asking someone to damage themselves by turning to drugs to cope with an irrational situation is the worst advice i've ever heard given in sincerety. Bravo.

Mithaldu, there is no correct way to live life. There is simply facing the facts of the current situation and learning to survive. Who are you to judge how any one lives? Besides, if you had carefully read my post you would have noticed that I never asked the original poster to "turn[...] to drugs to cope with an irrational situation." I suggested the original poster should find a vice, which was possibly tongue in cheek especially since the later quote is by a famous American comedian known for starring in a white collar office workplace sit-com. And finally, the situation is not irrational. It is perfectly rational. The original poster's expectations and the company's expectations do not align and it causes friction. To assign blame to one side or the other is shooting yet another judgment from the hip.

So I'll just skip to the part where I resort to ad hominem retorts about you being a rather judgmental asshole, that you should turn to hookers to cope, and I'll take my bow after your second bravo.

You must be new to the Perl community. We meet in bars a lot :-)

Note that meeting in bars doesn't necessarily entail turning to drugs. I find that an orange juice or a diet coke usually hits the spot.

Nick, objectively the situation may not be irrational, but to them it most certainly is, or they would've been able to deal with it in another manner. Suggesting to meet in a bar to talk it out is good. I actually applaud that, since it helps the situation. The operative words here however are "meet" and "talk".

You DID say this:

> Pick up a vice in the land of sex and drugs and learn to cope

And the quote later on only corroborated the impression given by that.

You may have meant it in jest, but that was extremely difficult to tell and in fact, it looked more as if you were mocking them.

Telling people that sometimes they have to toughen up is all fine and good and quite often very appropiate. Offering help in form of dialogue is even better.

However even suggesting the aid of a "vice" seems to indicate more than anything else that you did not actually see a useful solution and consider self damage a viable solution. Even after rereading both of your posts i see this sentiment swinging along. If it is not intended, i will believe you though.

PS: Even after reading "famous American comedian known for starring in a white collar office workplace sit-com" i don't have the faintest clue who you're talking about. Keep in mind Perl is an international community. :)

Nick, I am not quite sure I understand you with the proposal to go to the bar and announce there your complaints.

I would like to know who was the author of the post here at blogs.perl.org, which may help to understand additional reasons (s)he did it anonymously here but I can share my experience with trying to change things in Booking.

If you share things with your work mates, finally a manager approaches to you and asks not to "spread panic" (sic!) among the team. I was literally asked to "dim down" with all my ideas and proposals to make things better.

Pub-lically announcing your opinion is not a wise thing to do there, I think it is the same for every big enough company. Together with that, it's not wise to approach to your manager with the complain. Or write an email to the working council. It's even not just useful. All that will boomerang back to you, your bonuses and career.

Hi

It sounds like a horrible place to work in. I too would leave.

As for the comment "$$var{key} instead of the generally accepted standard practice of $var->{key}", I have to say:

  • I use $$var{key} everywhere. The world has not collapsed.

  • I reserve -> for method calls.

  • It's not a problem in that environment, it's a symptom of the pathological attitude of the owners of the business.

Cheers Ron

Was thinking of going for a job with IT Engineering. What can you tell me about the network team? How often do people not get there contract renewed at booking.com.

Hi, Never worked for them but lol I will tell you a (I wish) joke. I went for the interview and other process of the recruitment and all went well I was told by the HR. Two days later they tell me that in fact they do not need anyone for this position. I should mention that I started organising moving to another city as the job was in a different city. Never witnessed such as ridiculous situation where a job that does not exist would be advertised. The most not serious companies have never done that to me and well big booking.com behaves so unprofessionally. That is all I have to say. Just wanted to share my dissapointment with them with you.

BookingsBlueBalls wrote:
> And Shitov was a spy. :P

Unfortunately this little piece exposes you. Shitov is especially vulnerable in this because he is Russian, so it's easy to attack him (you know all this spy scandals).

In his case it is ridiculus to hire him and expect him to earn your respect, which is what you did, despite all your great efficiency, which is temporary anyway.

Trouble is that mess around us is starting to spread out and we did not manage to resolve it yet. And in my opinion we are expected to resolve it, we are expected to behave in a morally consistant way, because we are a market leader. And if not a market leader can demonstrate moral standards then who?

Or may be it's the same in the entire travel industry? People get bullied and exploited at their jobs? Then I'm outta here.

If you care about technology, like to write tests and have an attitude send me a message to:
ZW5naW5lZXJpbmdAd2ltZHUuY29t and feel free to include your GitHub handle!
I promise you won't be punished if you desire to refactor as we like to keep our codebase clean and RESTful ;)

To me it seems like a horrible place to work at. That is if you are somebody who also enjoys programming and good technology. I am working hard to avoid such companies. Unfortunately I have submitted an application to Booking and quickly realized that this is not the sort of company I would like to do business with. For starters their advertising that they are looking for 30+ more developers of Perl which is completely untrue. I don't know why they say that. Secondly they have some automatic system with which one can submit his CV/Cover letter, but this system is really bad. As far as their reply concerns it is very un-personal and just reflects some ugly corporate attitude of the lowest level and no respect to human beings. After having read the comments in this blog I am 100% I will not go to work at this company. To the person who said he cannot work anywhere else, keep convincing yourself, that becomes your reality.

Why just not change jobs??

Very very bureaucratic: basically a money-making machine

Hi, thanks for publishing this post and clarifying the inner workings of Booking. I will likely apply to be a developer (front-end).

Can you explain more about the benefits there?

Do you get discounts for flights and hotels?
If so, what percentage?
How strict are the work hours?

I also read that Dutch are not too fund of American expat employees because they get to pay less taxes. Can anyone provide their opinion if you're an expat?

Thanks again.

I wanna contact you.
urgent

I need programers who work in booking.com or agoda

we will pay him high salary.
plz send me message on
fawaz_ahmed2003@yahoo.com
thanks.

Can anyone comment on any positions NOT technical? I'm interested in relocating to Amsterdam and was considering Booking.com, which I'm now not too sure of. I'd most likely be interested in a management position.

Just play their games: if you want challenging goals, I would suggest you, when you are allowed to write new lines of code, to design something which can potentially explode in the most amazing and weird ways in very particular conditions or if they are copied/pasted. Side effects should be your new catchword.

Hi Friend.

I read it today. This happens to me "MANY" times. This is because of the enthusiasm you possessing to learn more. It happened to me even for my last company(Currently I am working Self). What I learned is that , for the life you need money .For that you have to work (Most employers only bothered about the "BUSINESS" not bothered about employee or his interest).If you have enough money resign the job and do work for you (and learn what you want to learn. Now Google is there you can learn any new technology if you are willing to learn).
Good Luck !

It's not a match up when deals are compared to the advertised ones. Before booking it all appears reasonable, but as you proceed to payment directly it goes upward. The difficulty is that once you put in added expenses and duty, the prices are generally about the equal if not worse than the direct booking on hotel websites. You’d better try www.theholidayhotels.com

I'm currently working on my CV, portfolio, and motivation letter so I can apply to Booking.com for the UX Designer position. I'm ok with the company having a bureaucratic environment; I survived nearly 13 years in the US military. If we could have fit in any more bureaucracy there, we would have made great honorary Volgons (H2G2 reference). Not to mention, the pay can't be any worse than my current pay for the same job. I always hear about how freelance work gives you more freedom, but in my experience working as part of a team is more conducive to an atmosphere of freedom. If hired, I'm sure I'll fit in just fine and I know I'll enjoy stable pay. Besides, moving me to Amsterdam is the best bonus Booking could possibly offer me.

On the flip side, it seems advertised positions aren't always open. Does anyone here know if the UX Designer positions are still open and if not, will any open up again soon? I'm also wondering what I should wear to an interview, if I do make it past the CV, portfolio, and letter stage.

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