My Return to Expedia Group: Hyung Jin Lee & Ippei Katsumi
Hyung Jin Lee, Account Representative, Seoul, South Korea
Ippei Katsumi, Sr Account Manager, Tokyo, Japan
Welcome back to Expedia Group, Hyung Jin and Ippei! We’re thrilled to have you on board again. For our readers, please could you tell us a bit about yourself and your career journey?
Hyung Jin: First of all, I am grateful and humbled by the opportunity to share my story. Expedia is a special company in my career, as it is where it started and helped me to provide for my family.
I started my career with Expedia back in 2014 and had an incredible journey that lasted 4.5 years within the Travel Partner Group (TPG), contributing to our Lodging business in South Korea. I still clearly remember the acquisition blitzes and exciting partner events we held with our lodging partners, travelling all around the South Korean peninsula. Through the various experiences and the vast learnings through an amazing team, I was able to further develop my career and transition into another exciting role within Expedia.
For the next 2.5 years I had another exciting journey as an account manager within the Expedia Partner Solutions (EPS) division. I was responsible for the growth of our key API partners in South Korea. This role helped me to fully understand and contribute to the end-to-end journey of our lodging partners’ inventory. In the previous role, I focused on acquisition and managed a portfolio of our lodging partners and was responsible for maintaining a competitive supply for our brands and partners. With the new role at EPS, I contributed by empowering our API partners through our extensive supply and API technology, enabling our lodging supply to reach a broader customer base that exists outside of our own brands.
I have recently returned, and many colleagues have asked how it feels coming back. It feels like coming back home! 🙂
Ippei: I am thrilled to come back to Expedia Group and to start my new chapter with the EPS team in Japan. My career journey is quite unique as I started my professional career as a photographer. I took pictures of architecture and celebrities. Somewhere along the way, I found myself enjoying the sales part the most and I wanted to work with a team as I was a freelancer.
At the age of 29, I joined a company that distributes professional equipment for the filming industry, such as high-end cameras, lighting equipment, and software. After a few years there, I had an opportunity to join the Expedia Group TPG acquisition team. Within my first EG life, I transitioned from the Acquisition team to the Account Management team, and both were valuable to me. Then, I had an opportunity to join a mar-tech company that would be a new challenge for my life, and I took it.
Why did you decide to leave your company and specifically go back to Expedia Group?
Hyung Jin: I initially left Expedia Group because I was presented with an offer that provided a different scope of work and challenge. In this new role, I led the team and development of a B2B marketplace in a new industry. It was a challenge that I knew I would regret if I did not take it. It provided an opportunity to develop both people management skills and launch a new service.
Despite the excitement and the successful launch, the reason I came back was because I didn’t plan to leave for a long time in the first place. I wanted to come back to Expedia after gaining the experience mentioned above, and I am very grateful to be back. I really missed the great people and amazing culture we have at Expedia. Also, I was homesick!
Ippei: Working at my previous company was great, and I learned so many new things. But one day, my previous Expedia Group colleague who became a good friend asked me to apply for an opportunity in the EPS team. He mentioned that he really wanted to work with me in the team which incited me to apply. His words were straightforward and made me feel like I want to go back to Expedia Group. After a discussion over Zoom, I felt a feeling that I never experienced, and I was moved to tears. This is my secret story.
What made Expedia Group so appealing to you?
Hyung Jin: As a fresh-grad:
- Global player: What could have been more exciting than joining a global company with many potential opportunities, but working in a startup-like regional office?
- The industry: Despite the difficult challenges we face from time to time (Covid 19), we play a critical role as the top player in an industry that will always co-exist with humankind.
- Tech-driven platform: Expedia is a company that invests in its technology, among many other things, and this definitely has its ROI because I hear from our partners how advanced we are compared to our competition.
- All of the above
- Last but not least, the people & culture. Here’s what I appreciate the most about it:
- Both smart and supportive, strengthening the culture we have established
- Senior leadership that deep dives into employee feedback and takes action/ implements changes within the company based on employee feedback
Ippei: My answer is simple and crystal clear. The people and the culture of Expedia Group were the most attractive motives to go back.
What impact are you wanting to have this year?
Hyung Jin: There are 2 things that are crucial for my following years:
- Blending into my team and finding opportunities where I can contribute as a member.
- Owning the portfolio of accounts that I am responsible for with my new role.
Ippei: I love to contribute to my team by generating revenue, and I am also keen to accelerate the recovery from Covid-19. My country shows an extremely slow recovery compared to other countries, and I would do anything to make it better.
What is your number 1 tip to succeed as an account manager?
Hyung Jin: Doing your due diligence, being data-driven and goal oriented, etc. are necessities that we all can agree on.
From my personal experience, I would say my number 1 tip is ‘to be sincere.’ This is what helped me to differentiate myself from our competitors, building a strong relationship and trust with our partners. It takes more time and energy, but it will be absolutely worth it for the long-term. We account managers are often called ‘farmers,’ so I chose to invest in my two fields, relationship and trust.
Ippei: Having respect brings success and this has been the case in all my past experiences. If there is respect, relationship building can be done smoothly, and I would be able to speak to my partners on an even keel.
What excites you most about your role?
Hyung Jin: While the fundamental role and responsibility does not change from my previous role, being an account manager, I am now responsible for multiple partners in different regions. For the first time, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to expand my coverage outside of the region where I am primarily located in, learning new markets, cultures, and partners. It’s truly a global experience.
Ippei: This is also a simple answer. I am super excited to work with the people at Expedia Group, and I am thrilled to start meeting my partners in my new role.
What would you say to someone wanting to re-join their previous company?
Hyung Jin: 1. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your old colleagues and apply when you see an open role. Expedians help one another.
2. It would definitely help if you have established a positive brand identity within the team and among your stakeholders. They will be your ambassadors.
Ippei: Expedia Group has a one and only culture. Do not hesitate if you ever think about re-joining, and there is always someone who is willing to support you. I am 100% confident that it is the best place to work.
What is your favorite travel destination?
Hyung Jin: Gangwon province in South Korea, which delivers all four seasons distinctively for any leisure traveler all year round. From surfing in the East Sea during the summer and skiing in the Pyeongchang ski resorts where the Winter Olympics were held, you will find this rural area quite interesting.
Ippei: Hateruma Island in Okinawa, Japan. It is a small and remote island near Ishigaki island, and there is an amazing beach and exceptional stars.