Interview with Userguest CTO – Ahmed Chami
As Userguest enters an exciting chapter of new developments, we sat down with Ahmed Chami, chief technology officer at Userguest, to discuss integrations, technology and the importance of digital-first teams in the current tech space.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your studies.
I’m 36 years old and I’ve been a fan of computers and programming since I was 10. As a kid, I always dreamt of developing video games and it naturally led me to Software Engineering studies. Things evolved with time, I’m not into video games anymore but I’m very much into Web technologies – way more fun in my opinion.
Describe your professional journey and what led you to become a CTO.
I worked as a Java developer in Paris for about 7 years, working on different kinds of projects within big companies. Once I felt grounded, I decided to venture out and start my own company. During this time I created professional applications used by thousands of users. A couple of years later, Userguest was born.
Besides being Userguest’s CTO, you are also a co-founder, tell us how the idea emerged.
Assil and Hicham have a vast experience in the hospitality industry and formulated the initial idea of the Userguest tool. We realized how much hotels needed to increase direct bookings and be less dependent on OTAs. After a successful MVP, there were no doubts our tool would be a game-changer!
Userguest is a “Smart Marketing Tool”, what exactly does this mean?
Mostly, it means that the tool is smart enough to adapt to what users (hotel visitors) are looking for, and at the same time adapt according to what the hotel is looking to sell. Match those in real-time and influence (that’s the marketing part) the users to book through different incentives.
In your opinion, what makes Userguest unique in the HotelTech sector?
I think it’s a combination of many things, from a product perspective, the fact that we focus as much on influencing users to book as we do on helping hotels optimize their inventory. Having this double focus and looking at the problem from this perspective is what sets us apart. The team’s very mixed experiences and backgrounds from working at OTAs, hotels, Saas, e-commerce, etc is also a key differentiating factor. An experienced team of experts who think outside the box is the reason for Userguest’s success.
What is your favorite Userguest feature so far and why?
Our new occupancy booster is my favorite in terms of development and what it can do. The purpose of these boosters (or optimizers) is to improve the hotel’s occupancy rate by converting a specific category of visitors based on their booking behavior. I believe this new feature will have a significant impact on the performance of the hotel websites.
What are the major developments planned for Userguest in 2022?
2022 is the year of third-party connectivities. Our main goal is to get more relevant data from our partners to provide the hotel website visitor with a tailor-made user experience! The more data we get, the more accurate our algorithms will match the visitors’ booking expectations.
What programming languages and development methodologies do you apply?
We’re mainly using Java as a server-side programming language. Spring and Hibernate frameworks provide the most advanced tools to improve productivity and code maintainability. Angular and Typescript are other languages/frameworks used to implement our client-side application.
Any insights or tips for aspiring developers out there, dreaming of creating their start-up?
As a small-sized development team, you should have a flexible way of working, for example, we apply the “Lean Start-up” concepts here at Userguest: we launch a minimum feature, we test and adjust the product, and start again until we find what fits best. We’re super customer-oriented and all feedback received is carefully taken into account.
Any tech predictions for the future?
In our space and e-commerce in general, I believe marketing automation and hyper-personalization will be key in the future. Users are getting used to being served exactly what they are looking for, on amazon, Netflix, eBay, Airbnb, and many others. This trend will continue to grow and become the norm in other industries including ours.
Do you keep up with the latest trends and movements in the hotel tech industry? What changes do you see relating to tech in this space?
It’s important to keep an eye on what’s being done and the newest developments, it helps us validate what we are doing and the direction we have taken. I see the importance of collaboration between hotel tech stacks changing completely, having a tool that can work with all other systems has become essential in our industry.
Userguest is a Digital-first company, how do you feel about remote working and its future in the technology space?
I think that the Tech community is full of free and creative souls and that the best way to get the most out of all these talented people is to give them back their freedom! Remote work is the future of the IT industry. Covid acted as a catalyst for this and this is good news for everyone.