Samantha Ruiz is the founder of Well Traveled, a company that uses machine learning to translate big data into powerful consumer insights for travel brands and content creators. Sam is a self taught coder, who set up her own business and likes to travel the world. She quit her job in Digital Marketing, went to code camp in Bali and the rest is history...
Why do you think it's important for women to embrace tech?
Unfortunately, today there is a huge gender bias in this massive, dynamic field. Women need to embrace tech so we can begin to address those biases and provide diverse perspectives to engender more creative solutions. Having true diversity in tech will mean more ideas being brought to the table and thus enable us all to tackle increasingly complex and challenging problems.
Any tips for our community on how to get started in coding or web design?
Do it. It’s such a valuable skill to learn and courses are becoming more and more accessible. There are tons of free programs online to help you get started. As a travel lover, I decided to attend the Institute of Code in Bali. For me, it was the perfect way to get away from the hustle and bustle distractions of everyday life and focus on learning a new skill. Everyone has different learning styles though, so think about what works best for you and then take the time and invest in yourself.
What were the biggest challenges for you when setting up your own business?
Getting the courage to do it. Prior to taking the plunge there were a lot of things I felt I had to do to be “ready.” But, after a while, I realised that the list was never-ending. I think the true “ready” is building up the courage to jump. Quitting your job and embarking down an unknown path is really daunting, but the first step is believing in yourself enough to do it.
Why did you quit your job in digital marketing?
I absolutely loved digital marketing. I loved the idea of using data to create innovative and thought-provoking strategies for clients. After a while, though, the glitz of the industry faded and I realised there was also a lot of smoke and mirrors and I was anxious for the industry to continue to evolve. I knew there had to be something better out there, so I did the only thing that made sense to me at the time. I quit my job and flew to South East Asia so I could learn to code. I thought that code would unlock a new facet of the digital world for me - and it did.
What's your favourite country in South East Asia?
It’s always hard to pick a favourite place. I loved the Philippines; I’m a quarter Filipino, so for me it was amazing to visit a country that held so much of my own heritage and culture. But, I think what truly deems something as a “favourite” is more so how a place makes you feel. And for me, that place would be Bali. Bali was where I was first truly challenged to think outside of the path I had laid out for myself. I was encouraged to embrace big ideas and was surrounded by others who were doing so. Bali made me feel like I could do anything I wanted and sparked a fire within me to pursue my dreams. My time there was truly transformative and it will always be a very special place for me.
What's the best advice you ever got?
“You can be more.”
Someone told me this when I first started my career in digital media. At the time, it just made me feel uncomfortable. I thought “more? What does that mean?”. I shrugged it off but the words stuck with me. “More.”
As I advanced in my career, those words were still in the back of my head. Despite the fact that I was working on an amazing campaign, I stopped enjoying it and wasn’t sure of what to do next. At the time, I felt like I was failing myself for not loving my job and that my lack of passion was a way of falling short on the dreams that I originally had. But, then those words chimed in and I realised, I didn’t have to follow that career path. I didn’t have to do things in a “normal” way. I think sometimes it’s easy to feel like we’re failing or like we’re lost, when we’re actually just not on the right path. The person who told me that I could be more, believed in me before I even knew to believe in myself and, eventually, her words gave me the courage to take a leap of faith.
What are your future goals for yourself and for your business?
Well Traveled’s goal is to make travel smarter. There are a lot of ways that can be approached, but I’m really excited to see how we can bring online data offline to create truly personal experiences for travellers. Today, people want their travels to be unique and life-changing and I believe our data will be able to help do that.
As for me, I want to keep learning. I love working in a cutting-edge industry and breaking new ground. There’s always something new to learn and new challenges to take on.
How are the travel world and the tech world linked? Where do you think they're both headed in the next 5 years?
So much of the travel experience is online. Travellers spend way more time researching their trips than actually taking them. As technology continues to advance, there will be better ways to understand online behaviour and how that impacts offline behaviour. As I mentioned earlier, I’m excited to bring online consumer data offline and create more intimate and unique travel experiences for everyone.
You said that you met your cofounder at a coding bootcamp. That's great! How long was it? What are the benefits of short but intense programmes like these?
Yeah, I love our founder story. Last summer, when I quit my job, I traveled to Bali to attend a coding bootcamp. Every time I ran into a problem, I turned to a specific mentor. He wasn’t my assigned mentor, but he did a great job explaining things and helping me to find a solution. Today, he’s my cofounder. Obviously, we stayed in touch post-camp and started tackling bigger problems. But, being at the two-week intensive course in Bali together built the foundation of our friendship and eventually our business.
Where can we find you?
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