Secret Escapes is a free-to-join members club, which runs exclusive and ‘best in market’ flash sales of four and five-star hotels and holidays worldwide. The hotels and holidays are hand-picked by a team of travel experts and include everything from UK country house hotels and city breaks to luxury European getaways and long-haul holidays.
Launched in February 2011 and founded by Alex Saint, Troy Collins and Tom Valentine, the company works with its leading hotel, tour operator and travel agent partners to negotiate outstanding rates for over ten million members globally. Outside of the UK, Secret Escapes operates in Sweden, Germany, Poland, Denmark, Norway and the USA. With more to follow.
We operate both a website and mobile apps for iOS and Android. Our website is built using Groovy and Grails, a full stack, MVC, web application framework that runs on the JVM. We chose Grails because it combines the ease of development and testing of dynamic languages with the robustness and security of established frameworks such as Spring and Hibernate. Additionally Groovy is extremely accessible to Java developers.
In the backend we use MySQL for storing and processing transactional data while MongoDB is used for less structured data. All source code is stored in a hosted Git repository and we use Git Flow to manage feature development, release preparation and maintenance. The mobile apps speak to the backend using a Rest API. We have managed hosting provided by EveryCity who provides the expertise necessary to ensure our server environment is always available.
Developers are provided with the tools that make them most productive. As such we have actively decided not to standardize on development kits. In our team you’ll find Ubuntu, Mint and OSX. Our preferred IDE is IntelliJ Idea, however the designers choose to use Sublime. We all have AWS accounts and can setup new servers in the cloud for testing and development as the need arises.
The team is a mix of web developers, mobile developers and designers working closely together across 4 locations; London, Berlin, Poznan (Poland), Skopje (Macedonia). The combination of Skype, Slack, Google Hangouts and TeamViewer means that location is never really a problem.
We value team members that focus on delivering solutions and as such all our developers are full stack developers able to work comfortably on the back end, on middleware and to some extent on the front end. The designers prefer if the styling of the front end is left to them. We work closely with members of other departments including Product, Marketing, Customer Services and Finance to ensure that our solutions are fit for purpose.
We have multiple cross-functional teams working on different types of projects. Some teams use Scrum while others use Kanban depending on what works best for them. Regular retrospectives are held to ensure that we’re continually improving and we set aside one day every 2 weeks to hack away at our own projects. This is an excellent chance to experiment with technology and deliver that feature no one else thought of. Testing is a big part of the way we work with TDD being used wherever and whenever possible. Recently we’ve started a greater push towards Lean Development to ensure we’re always delivering value.