Share Your Escapes: Ella in Stockholm

One of our fabulous perks at Secret Escapes is that we like to reward our employees with credit to spend on their global travels. Every month we check in to find out which fabulous places and hotels they've visited.

Where did you stay?

Elite Eden Park Hotel in Stockholm.

Your holiday highpoint

Seeing the Northern Lights on the plane journey home

Your secret tip for other escapers (a must do or don’t)

Go to the ABBA Museum, try the seasonal Semla buns and, of course, indulge on meatballs!

Your overall star rating

5 stars

Where you’re headed next

Austin, Texas!

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) at Secret Escapes

As part of establishing our Networks here at SE, the name of our common goal has updated from Diversity & Inclusion to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. The addition of one word might not seem like much, but this little change can help us make an even bigger difference.

The shared goal powering all Networks is to create greater fairness, to allow every one of us to fulfil our potential. Equality feels fair, because it promises access to the same opportunities. But Equity goes further; it recognises that each of us has different circumstances and a different starting point, and allocates what’s individually needed for each of us to reach an equal outcome.

Equality is everyone having shoes. Equity is each of us having shoes that fit. 

We want to put Equity into the heart of what our Networks do in 2023, not because we can do everything, but because we want to acknowledge that each of us has different potential and has travelled a different path.

Introducing our Mental Health First Aiders

As part of Secret Escapes’ commitment to promoting positive mental health in the workplace, we’re pleased to introduce a new team of Mental Health First Aiders.

Accredited by Mental Health First Aid England, our newly qualified Mental Health First Aiders (MHFAs) are based in London, Berlin and Amsterdam, and are on hand to provide support to anyone who may be experiencing poor mental health or emotional distress.

We’re passionate about boosting employee well-being and maintaining a healthy workplace, and we believe that providing effective support to colleagues experiencing poor mental health is a way of putting the Secret Escapes values into practice. We also know that good quality mental health support can genuinely make a positive difference to well-being at work. 

Mental Health First Aiders can:

  • ​Act as a point of contact to reassure colleagues in emotional distress or experiencing poor mental health
  • Listen non-judgmentally and hold supportive conversations (confidentially)
  • Signpost colleagues to professional help
  • Identify the signs and symptoms for a range of mental health conditions
  • Use a five-step action plan to assist someone experiencing poor mental health

Meet our MHFAs

London office

  • Shianne Stannard – Risk Manager
  • Elle Kkolos – Senior Content Editor, UK
  • Dom Pitt – Brand & Marketing Promotions Manager
  • Hannah Hunter-Reid – Reward & Systems Analyst
  • Georgie Agnew – Senior Customer Insights Analyst

Berlin office

  • Efe Mumoglu – Engineering Manager


  • Aneta Keliskova – Global Operations Administrative Assistant

It’s also important to note that MHFAs are not qualified to provide counselling, diagnosis or ongoing support, and they can’t be available outside their normal working hours – but colleagues can also access 24/7 confidential advice through the Employee Assistance Programme here, and medical support via Medicash and Vitality healthcare. 

You can reach out to any of the MHFAs via G chat, via, or if you see them around the offices (they’re an approachable bunch).

Meet our Apprentices – National Apprenticeship Week 2023

At Secret Escapes we are lucky to have several apprentices in our teams. The theme of this year’s National Apprenticeship Week 2023 was "Skills for Life", so we got together with a few of our talented apprentices to discover what skills they’ve learned and how they are going to use them to excel in their careers.

Get to know Owen Flanagan, our Application Support Engineer

Owen tells us “since joining Secret Escapes as an apprentice 6 years ago, I’ve developed a lot. Doing a Degree Apprenticeship means studying for courses, writing essays and completing exams, but I have had to combine this with my full-time job in the Tech Support team.

So, over the years I’ve improved my ability to organise my work and manage my time, to allow me to handle both. However, one of the biggest differences I’ve found since I first joined Secret Escapes is my confidence and ability to communicate with different people. I remember being nervous and overawed for a lot of my first year but now I feel at home and able to handle whatever comes my way.”

Get to know Kate Donaghy, our Head of Business Technology

Kate has been at Secret Escapes for 5 years and we are so happy to support her development as she completes a ‘Digital and Technology Solutions Professional’ degree apprenticeship.

Kate says “my biggest takeaway so far has been that I knew way more than I thought I did, so it’s been a real confidence boost to get some certifications for it.

It’s also helped me become far more effective with time management. Trying to be diligent with my 20% off-the-job hours, and still being a successful senior manager in the business has been tough, but I seem to have found my rhythm now!”

Kudos to Kate for thriving in her position and using her apprenticeship skills to not only improve her personal development but also to deliver solutions that help the business reach its goals!

Get to know Olivia O’Driscoll, our Talent Administrator

Olivia says “I joined Secret Escapes a year and a half ago after pursuing a career change. Within this time I have developed in more ways than I could have ever expected!

Being able to take what I learn within my apprenticeship and apply it to my work has built up not only my knowledge, but my confidence. I remember being so nervous on my first day, worrying if I had made the right decision or if I was even going to be any good at the role. I can now confidently say that I can’t imagine pursuing any other career path than the one I am on.

I have been so lucky to start my career in such a supportive, encouraging and empowering environment. The skills that I have obtained working here have benefited me in all aspects of my life, personally and professionally.”

Get to know Marek Serzeniewski our Operating Senior Project Manager

Marek has been at Secret Escapes for nearly 9 years and is currently completing a level 6 Project Manager degree apprenticeship.
Marek tells us “when I embarked on my IT Project Manager degree apprenticeship, I slightly underestimated the learning curve I was about to take. Being (ahem) slightly older than the average student, I hadn’t quite realised that being a student required specific skills.

I left higher education some 20 years ago, and since then have acquired professional skills. Skills that help me in the day-to-day business world. They say you can never truly unlearn something. I guess that should extend to include what I call “student skills”. The ability to read reference materials for periods of time without getting distracted, or referencing in a specific way. I think for the first few weeks of my apprenticeship, I spent more time learning how to reference “Harvard” style than I did actually studying the course content itself!

What I did learn, and am in a constant state of self-development in, is the “student skills” that support me, that add credit to the work that I am doing. The ability to communicate more clearly, and more confidently than before. I have learnt a better, more structured way of working and managing components of my work, studies and day-to-day life. This may sound like an exaggeration, but what I think it boils down to is my mindset. I have developed my mindset around continuously improving aspects of myself.”

Get to know Shianne Stannard, our Risk Manager

Shianne has been at Secret Escapes for over 3 years and is about to start a level 6 Senior Risk and Compliance Specialist degree apprenticeship.

Shianne says “I’m starting my apprenticeship at BPP at the end of this month and I’m so ready to get stuck in.

I’m looking forward to updating my knowledge bank and especially keen for the ESG & External Environment and Cyber Security masterclasses as these weren’t as widely considered in the Risk Management realm when I did my MSc or when I started my career.”

A massive thank you to all of our apprentices who took part in our posts this week, it’s been great to hear how they have been developing their skills and knowledge in their chosen career paths.

If you’d like to find out more about our apprenticeship schemes, please get in touch!

60 seconds with Tech: Tolly Von Der Heyde, Business Analyst

As we continue to grow our Tech team, we'd like to introduce you to some of the fantastic talent we already have on board. In our '60 seconds with Tech' series we'll introduce you to various people within the department and take a closer look at their role and some of the projects they're working on.

What first attracted you to SE?

I have family within the hospitality industry and my new role is focused on analytics and project management which is my skill base. Also, the interview process was really friendly!

What does a typical day at SE look like for you?

Reasonably varied between supporting the team as the first line of support and moving forward the core project of the quarter.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

The team I work with are very welcoming and supportive of each other.

Your favourite holiday destination and why?

The Alps (specifically the three valleys) because I love to ski!

What 3 items would you take with you to a deserted island?

A book, a flare and a towel, you should never go anywhere without your towel.

Any interesting talents or hobbies to share?

I love sport! Rugby, surfing, skiing and skeleton luge are some of my favourites.

Why would you recommend SE as the place to be to others?

I would absolutely recommend SE as a place to work! The combination of an incredible group of people all with a positive attitude towards work has made it an awesome first month!

If you’re interested in applying for a role in Tech, discover your next opportunity here.

60 seconds with Tech: Mahrukh Tariq, Salesforce Business Analyst

As we continue to grow our Tech team, we'd like to introduce you to some of the fantastic talent we already have on board. In our '60 seconds with Tech' series we'll introduce you to various people within the department and take a closer look at their role and some of the projects they're working on.

What first attracted you to SE?

The work culture. Love the vibrant holiday vibe going on while getting work done! 

What does a typical day at SE look like for you?

Identifying where we can help our revenue and operation teams to boost our sales through salesforce. Looking at how we can provide solutions to keep the salesforce processes aligned with our business and analysing salesforce data to figure out where we can improve. 

What do you enjoy most about your role?

Exploring what the business is about and how we can make it better. 

Your favourite holiday destination and why?

Japan. For their culture, history and cherry blossom trees. 

What 3 items would you take with you to a deserted island?

A word search book, a good pair of shoes, a good camera. 

Any interesting talents or hobbies to share?

Taking pictures of sunsets, exploring new music and going to the cinema. 

Why would you recommend SE as the place to be to others?

For the vibrant work culture, free food and discounts on travelling.

If you’re interested in applying for a role in Tech, discover your next opportunity here.

60 seconds with Tech: Product Analyst, Darshana Sridhar

As we continue to grow our Tech team, we'd like to introduce you to some of the fantastic talent we already have on board. In our '60 seconds with Tech' series we'll introduce you to various people within the department and take a closer look at their role and some of the projects they're working on.

What first attracted you to SE?

How supportive the atmosphere seemed, and how lovely everyone was to talk to even in the early recruitment stages!

What does a typical day at SE look like for you?

No two days are the same, which is great! Typically, I’d have some meetings to understand stakeholder requirements for a piece of analysis, followed by speaking to the data team to source the data needed for this – and then the fun bit, which is actually carrying out the analysis and putting it into a digestible format for end users.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I love how much creativity I can use in helping to solve important business problems. I also love that there is continuous growth and learning potential, both when it comes to useful technical skills as well as more about the business and the travel industry as a whole – I learn something new every day.

Your favourite holiday destination and why?

I would have to say Italy – the food is incredible, the history is so rich and the weather is almost always amazing!

What 3 items would you take with you to a deserted island?

My crockpot, my kindle and hair straighteners…a lack of electricity and internet might be an issue though!

Any interesting talents or hobbies to share?

I love cooking and trying out new recipes, but I’m an absolutely rubbish baker!

Why would you recommend SE as the place to be to others?

There is so much support and encouragement from across the team when it comes to onboarding and longer-term career and skills development. We hear it a lot, but the team is incredible – everyone is genuinely so kind and patient.

If you’re interested in applying for a role in Tech, discover your next opportunity here.

My first Hack day: Kirsten Grieve, Data Warehouse Engineer

Our monthly Hack days are such a great initiative at Secret Escapes. So, having recently changed to a more technical role, I jumped at the chance to take the reins and participate in our May Hack day (my first) alongside other members of the SE Tech team.

I saw this as a great opportunity to try out a new challenge. Plus, as you have to present your findings back to the team at the end of the two day event, it’s also a good way to get more experience presenting to a wide ranging technical audience.

My feelings before Hack day…

Having never done a Hack day before, I was a bit apprehensive about what to expect. 

Initially, I was a little nervous about what the scope of my proposed project to tackle should be, with only two days of hacking to crack it (technically a day and a half, as the second half of day two, is presenting your findings back to the business!) 

I was also a bit concerned about potential blockers I might encounter, but overall I was quite excited to have the freedom and flexibility to shape the project as I liked and take some time away from the day to day to explore and play around with new tools. 

Prepping for Hack day…

The project I chose to work on was around experimenting with different data diagramming tools to see if they would be fit for the current data landscape at Secret Escapes. 

We are currently upskilling, as well as hiring more analysts within the business, and I thought having some clear annotated diagrams of our datasets for new starters would be a great resource to give a basic overview of the data landscape. 

My prep:

1) I selected the dataset to use

2) I decided upon some success metrics with these tools which I could then use to score each tool I tried against

3) I did some research on the tools out there, read some blogs and from this decided on which tools I was going to try out

So, how did it go? 

All in all, a really good experience!  At first, it felt a bit alien to be extracting myself from the regular day to day project/backlog work and look into something completely new. 

I particularly enjoyed being able to determine the scope of work. If I ended up being interested in a specific aspect of a tool I could spend more time investigating this further, while at the same time if at first glance I knew a tool wouldn’t be suitable for SE I could write up my findings quickly and move on. 

I spent the most time looking into the first tool just to get familiar with the dataset and how to navigate the process, but once I got going I ended up looking at more tools than I expected. Not all of them worked and some of them worked very differently from what I’d read but I enjoyed the discovery component. 

Presenting back to a Technical audience was interesting as it’s not something I do very often (I usually present to either non-technical stakeholders or within my own Data team). Overall, I received positive feedback on my approach and presentation. 

In terms of the next steps, I’ll be kicking off wider discussions within the team as to whether we look into using any of these tools to improve our documentation. 

What I learnt…

  1. Prep is key – If I hadn’t made those decisions upfront, I probably would have used up a lot of the first day working through these.
  2. Stuff won’t work – One of the tools I was looking at that I thought was quite promising tried to overwrite our current setup in the backend – not my intention at all!
  3. You need to make quick decisions – you’re working on a tight schedule so you don’t have time to sit around and deliberate. For example, in one tool I was trying to work out how to connect Snowflake directly to a system to import the table DDLs, but after 30 mins with little success, I decided to park it and moved on to the next tool. 

Would I do it again?


I would 100% do it again, and I’d encourage anyone else who is thinking about it to give it a go! 

It was quite empowering to be given the freedom and flexibility to pick and run a mini project outside of the day job to work out. 

The experience will definitely stand me in better stead to have more informed and confident conversations on the tools out there. 

And, it was pretty fun to try out some new tech too!

Want to join our Tech Team? Find your next opportunity now!

BHM 2021: The Bristol Bus Boycott

30 April 1963 marked the Bristol Bus Boycott, which arose from the refusal of the Bristol Omnibus Company to employ Black or Asian bus crews in the city of Bristol. To understand why the Bristol Bus Boycott happened, it’s important to understand the history in the UK at the time. In the late 40s and throughout the 50s, mainland Britain faced a labour shortage after World War II, and looked to its Caribbean colonies to help fill the gap. Thousands of people, known now as the Windrush Generation, answered the call and arrived in Britain between 1948 and 1971. By 1963, there were an estimated 3,000 people of Caribbean origin living in Bristol. Many experienced racial discrimination, were violently attacked, denied housing, and, despite labour shortages, were refused jobs because of the colour of their skin.

In 1955, the Transport and General Worker’s Union passed a resolution that banned people of colour from working as bus drivers or conductors, and the Bristol Omnibus Company did nothing to dispute this. In response, a Jamaican man, Roy Hackett, helped set up the Commonwealth Coordinated Committee (CCC) in 1962, with the purpose of uniting the Caribbean community and supporting any Black person who was facing discrimination. Another Black-led organisation at the time was the West Indian Development Committee (WIDC), run by Paul Stephenson, Bristol’s first Black youth officer. Together, the CCC and the WIDC campaigned against racial injustices and their biggest fight was in 1963 against the Bristol Omnibus Company.

A plaque at Bristol Bus Station commemorating the boycott

Paul Stephenson brought the company’s racist policy to public attention. He put forward a well-qualified man named Guy Bailey for a vacancy as a bus conductor with the Bristol Omnibus Company, but when the employers realised Guy was a Black Jamaican, the interview was cancelled. In response to this, there was public outcry and, inspired by Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the CCC and WIDC called for a boycott of Bristol’s buses.

The boycott soon attracted national and international attention, with an array of big names lending their support to the campaign, including Prime Minister Harold Wilson, local Labour politician Tony Benn, and famous West Indian cricketer and diplomat Sir Learie Constantine. With pressure growing on the Bristol Omnibus Company, it was finally forced to end its ban in August 1963. 

A significant milestone in achieving racial equality, the boycott resulted in the employment of the first conductor of colour on 17 September 1963, Raghbir Singh. This demonstration ultimately influenced the passing of the Race Relations Act 1965, making “racial discrimination in public places” unlawful, and subsequently the Race Relations Act 1968, which extended protection from racial discrimination to employment and housing.

To find out more about the Bristol Bus Boycott, listen to the The History Hotline’s episode – available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

“Paul Stephenson’s life, as readers of this book will see, offers living proof that history is made by the people who make the effort.”

Read Paul Stephenson OBE’s autobiography, which details his hugely influential life and his role in the UK’s Civil Rights movement. Available from the Bristol Museums website.

World Mental Health Day 2021

1 in 4 of us will experience mental health problems each year, and having a colleague in your corner can make all the difference. The World Health Organisation recognises World Mental Health Day every year on the 10th of October (this Sunday).

We wanted to take this opportunity to highlight some information and resources available to you, and to let you know about what we have planned for next week.

Information and resources

There are lots of resources available on our SE World site, but here are a few we thought were particularly relevant:

Soon we’ll be launching a new global Employee Assistance Program that will give all our global employees access to 24/7 online support and six face-to-face counselling sessions. We will be sharing more details about this very soon.

On Monday 11th October at 11 am, we’ll be running a virtual yoga session. You’ll just need some comfy clothes for this calming breathwork and simple stretching session, which is suitable for everyone, from beginners to seasoned yogis. We’ve added this to your calendar

On Tuesday 12th October at 11 am, our meditation master Monica Auro will be running a session – we’ve added this to your calendar

Mindful colouring is proven to help us relax – so we’ll have a selection of colouring materials in the office for you to take a creative break throughout the week

Tea and talk: On Thursday 14th at 10 UK time, we’ll be meeting for 45 minutes to have a cuppa and a chat – we’ve added this to your calendar

Spending time outside can benefit both your mental and physical well-being. At 12.30 pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday we’ll be heading outside for a relaxing walk together – come along and take some time to clear your mind

Healthy breakfast: Look out for healthy breakfast options next week to help nourish your body and mind for the day ahead!

The kindness form is open!

This month, we’re trying something a little different! As well as our usual virtual messages, we’ll have physical kindness cards in the London office. Write your lovely message and pop it in the “kindness box” in the kitchen, then we’ll deliver it to your recipient (UK-based only). Please make sure that you put first and last names so we can get your message to the correct person!

Our new kindness cards were designed by the wonderful Warsan Abdullahi! If you’d like to help design some cards, please get in touch with, or speak to Warsan!

Submit your kindness note here, or pick up a card in the office!