Summit Speaker Spotlight Series: Skyscanner

This year’s Mobile DevOps Summit theme is ‘Accelerating your Mobile App Success’ so we sat down with Michael Tweed, Principal Software Engineer at Skyscanner, to talk about all things mobile. 

When you think of Skyscanner, you probably think of their highly powerful website, but what about their mobile app? With a global team, multiple time zones and languages, Michael sat down to chat to us about his upcoming Mobile DevOps Summit 2023 session and how their mobile app is the future. 

Michael’s session: ‘Implementing effective Mobile DevEx at Scale’. Michael and his colleague Sergio Moura, Principal Software Engineer, will co-host a fireside chat on day one of the Summit: October 4th at 2pm GMT. Register now to hear them speak: 

15 quick interview questions with Michael Tweed, Principal Software Engineer at Skyscanner

1. No. of apps Skyscanner develop

Skyscanner has one main app, available from both the App Store and the Google Play Store.

2. No. of monthly downloads of Skyscanner app

An incredible 2.2 million monthly downloads for both Android and iOS.

3. What review score do you get on App Store and Google Play

The Skyscanner app gets an incredible 4.7/5 on both the App Store and Google Play.

4. What does app success look like to your Skyscanner app?

Ultimately, revenue is their key measure of success. Their goal is to be the travel-first company so in order to do that, their purpose has to be driving traffic, which then needs to convert to revenue. It's therefore all about the user experience and journey. 

“We want the process of exploring the world to be as smooth as possible for our customers”, Michael Tweed, Principal Software Engineer at Skyscanner.

How do they track the user journey and experience? With a series of internal metrics like monthly active app users, crash rate, error rate, app launch time, and the user journey. Delivering code quickly and efficiently is key, and they use the Bitrise Insights tool, which offers deep insight into build, test, build cache and credit data as well as locating bottlenecks, alerting engineers to issues immediately and tracking flaky tests, to aid with this.

One of their most important metrics of success is their ‘time to first response vs time to last response’ which is what takes their user journey from good to great. Simply put, this metric measures how long it takes users searches’ to show up in their entirety: from the first set of flights, to all available flights. 

5. How many people work in your DevOps team? (And more specifically, your Mobile DevOps team) 

The Skyscanner engineering team is huge - with over 700 people working in engineering and 40+ dedicated to mobile DevOps (both iOS and Android).

6. What is the title of your Mobile DevOps Summit 2023 session?

Session title: Implementing effective Mobile DevEx at scale

Session date: October 4th 2023 at 2pm GMT

Session hosts: Michael Tweed and Sergio Moura

Session description: Skyscanner has multiple teams building their Android/iOS apps split across geographically distributed offices and locations. This makes effective DevEx tooling a key part of their processes to ensure that engineers are able to deliver high-quality code quickly.

In this Fireside chat two of Skyscanner's Principal Engineers will discuss the techniques used to make their internal DevEx tooling a success, as well as lessons learnt from previous experiences and how to effectively prioritize what to focus on.

3 key takeaways from this session:

1. What strategies are required to make DevEx tooling successful

2. How to find the balance between standardization and allowing engineers autonomy

3. Lessons learnt from scaling DevEx tooling across distributed teams

7. Without giving too much away, what tips and trends do you plan to talk about in your session?

The session is going to focus on scaling engineering in the hybrid-remote world. Engineering culture at Skyscanner is taken seriously and just because they’re hybrid-remote doesn’t mean they stop ensuring their engineers stay empowered to work to the best of their ability. They have ten mobile teams located across the globe who work in different time zones so finding centralized tooling is what brings them together. Their session will touch on the tooling they use to counteract the challenge of global, remote, hybrid working.

“Our chat will focus around the remote challenges of being a global team and the tips and tricks that have worked for us”, Michael Tweed, Principal Software Engineer at Skyscanner.

8. How long have you been using Bitrise to develop your mobile apps?

Skyscanner migrated from Jenkins to Bitrise in early 2021.

9. How has the Bitrise platform helped you accelerate your app's success?

“Having a stable CI/CD platform is key to our success - it's one less thing for us to manage and worry about. We have a strong engineering culture and whenever we run into challenges, as we push the limit of remote working, Bitrise’s support engineers are there to help us dive into these challenges”, Michael Tweed, Principal Software Engineer at Skyscanner.

Skyscanner originally migrated to Bitrise from Jenkins, a custom CI/CD platform. The Bitrise community was one of the main reasons they migrated in the first place, in particular the Bitrise Step community. For example, “we were looking at some of the artifact caching and how that could work, and we were able to find the solution in community answers from people who had been in the same position and solved it by writing a community Step”, Michael Tweed, Principal Software Engineer, Skyscanner. Steps have solved many of their challenges and ensured they’re never alone with mobile-specific challenges. 

“Migrating to Bitrise from Jenkins has saved us so much time and effort - it's easily re-paid itself over and over”, Michael Tweed, Principal Software Engineer at Skyscanner.

10. How long have you been in the mobile app development industry?

Michael started his career as an Android Engineer, 11 years ago, and has worked at both big companies and small start-ups. As with most start-ups, he was a multi-tasker, and his day-to-day job would involve anything from wearing the Engineering Manager hat to the Technical Engineer one.

11. What was your previous role before working at Skyscanner?

Michael was previously a Senior Engineer at Sky before coming to Skyscanner at the start of 2020. 

“I started with Skyscanner right as the Pandemic hit, which was a really interesting time full of loads of highs and lows.”, Michael Tweed, Principal Software Engineer at Skyscanner.

Michael was promoted to Principal Engineer at Skyscanner after one year/18 months and now helps look after the long-term strategy of engineering.

12. What other apps/mobile DevOps teams do you look up to that embody ‘app success’ in your opinion?

“Twitter (pre ‘X’) in the UK and Uber always create great mobile app content and document their mobile development processes'”,  Michael Tweed, Principal Software Engineer at Skyscanner.

13. How important do you think it is to have a mobile-first strategy?

In Michael’s own words, Skyscanner is ‘web first, mobile premium’. They appreciate that the majority of their traffic and revenue comes from their web presence, but that their mobile app is the future. 

“Users who search through the app are much more likely to be retained - that's why it's important to go towards a mobile-first strategy to chase the higher retention rates'”, Michael Tweed, Principal Software Engineer at Skyscanner.

They believe that when you download the Skyscanner app, that's where you should get the polished experience - that's why they invest in mobile.

14. We know you’re speaking at the Summit but what sessions are you looking forward to attending?

Here are the three sessions Michael is most looking forward to:

Metrics we should know - or not! But we are gonna learn it! With Dinorah Tovar, Google Developer, Expert on Android at Arkam Technologies |  October 4th at 5pm GMT

Case Study: Mobile Release Engineering @ Reddit. With Lauren Darcey, Android Platform at Reddit | October 4th at 4.30pm GMT

How Contract Testing Works for Mobile Apps. With Mesut Gunes, Principle Consultant at QA Modus Create Inc | October 4th at 1.30pm GMT

Check our the full list of speakers in the Summit agenda: 

15. When you’re not developing kick-ass apps, what do you like to do in your free time?

When Michael isn’t leading the long-term engineering strategy of the Skyscanner app, he’s a huge fan of music. His latest concert? The Hives live from Kingston, London. 

Don’t forget to check out the full fireside session with Michael and Sergio Moura,October 4th at 2pm GMT: 

Haven’t already registered for the Mobile DevOps Summit 2023? Register now:

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