Travel Tech Q&A: Atlassian's Magda Walczak

In this week's Travel Tech Q&A, we get a fascinating insight into the travel experiences, useful recommendations and advice of Magda Walczak, vice president of marketing communications at Atlassian.

In this week's Travel Tech Q&A, we get a fascinating insight into the travel experiences, useful recommendations and advice of Magda Walczak, vice president of marketing communications at Atlassian.

Magda Walczak
(Credit: Magda Walczak)

Can you tell us a bit about what you do at Atlassian?

When I'm not force feeding my co-workers cookies, you can find me chasing my dog Saylor around the office, trying to get my head on straight in between endless meetings or sneaking spoonfuls of Nutella out of the kitchen. OK, seriously? I'm the vice president marketing communications. I look after the various marketing functions, including demand generation, events, user groups, PR, etc, or, to put it simply, my team makes sure Atlassian brand is kicking ass and taking names.

What tech do you travel with and why?

Isn't it funny how 10 years ago this question was irrelevant? You took a book and that's all you needed. Today, I travel with my iPhone, MacBook Air and occasionally my iPad, but I only bring it when I know I'll have time for distraction; otherwise, I'll end up spending countless hours cursing at pigs that simply won't die from exploding birds. I also always have practical things like my universal power adapter and a USB key. I also still bring a book — I refuse to convert to an e-reader. It's just not the same.

What's your favourite phone app for travelling and why?

Google Maps. You know that girl blocking the sidewalk, huge map in hands, confused look on face? That was me pre-iPhone. It suffices to say that everyone's better off now that I have Google Maps handy at all times.

Most memorable travel story/experience?

When in Hong Kong, a random jade shopkeeper insisted on taking me to lunch at a traditional tea house after I bought some jade from her. Most of the food was delicious and I learned a whole lot about Chinese food manners (wash your chopsticks with the hot water!). To be polite, I ate everything she ordered, including — wait for it — fish innards dumplings. It was the most horrifying piece of food I've ever tasted. The whole thing was totally random and I haven't looked at a dumpling the same way since.

Personal travel advice/tip?

Bring earplugs — better anticipate the crying baby in the seat next to you or the honeymooning couple in the hotel room next door.

What (if any) travel websites do you use?

I'm not organised enough to book ahead, so comparison sites like Kayak for air travel or Wotif for hotels to save my sanity on a regular basis. I also dig all the cool niche sites/apps that are popping up, like Hotel Tonight, which gives you awesome deals on same-day accommodation. On the other hand, it encourages procrastinators like me to put this off even more. Maybe that's not such a great thing after all ...

What was your biggest travel disaster?

I don't think of them as disasters, but rather colourful details that make my holiday stories more interesting :) Also, I'm normally pretty good at getting out of sticky situations, so there are no arrests to speak of (yet). Leaving my purse (with passport, phone and money) at Heathrow security and not realising it until I landed in Warsaw was probably the biggest one I can remember. Getting so sick on Johannesburg street food that I'm now officially immune to 90 per cent of digestive diseases was another not-so-fun adventure. And then there was that whole incident when I was refused a visa to India because of my "sinister travel objectives" and asked to leave the consulate, but that's a whole other article in itself.

What tech do you expect in hotels when you are travelling?

Nothing crazy — power outlets that fit my power cords, free Wi-Fi and an iPhone/iPad/iPod-charging cable. That's not much to ask for, is it?

What is your dream travel tech to have on planes/in airports/at hotels? (Stuff they don't have yet but boy it would make life so much easier on the road)

I'd just be happy with power outlets and Wi-Fi access. Let's get the basics right first! An easy, standardised check-in process across airlines would probably make travel easier. More intuitive boarding passes and iPhone/iPad/iPod charging stations wouldn't be unwelcome. If we're gonna get real fancy, then let's go for a personal humidifier and noise-cancelling headphones for every seat. And Japanese toilets! Everywhere! Every bathroom is better with a Japanese toilet. Don't knock it till you tried a heated toilet seat.

Favourite destination city to work/visit & why? (in relation to technology)

Tokyo — so much cool random tech, it's insane. They have robots. Their robots have robots. Even their toilets are robot toilets.

Which airport would you prefer to be stranded at and why?

If I had the option of leaving the airport, then I'd like to be stuck in Sydney. First thing I'd do is find a Coles or Woolies, buy a container of Maggie Beer's caramel, honeycomb and burnt fig ice cream and nothing else would matter. When the food coma wore off, I'd hit up one of Sydney's many delicious restaurants. Rinse. Repeat.

If I couldn't leave the airport, then Heathrow. That place has literally everything! Except robots. Unless there's a Japanese person who's willing to share theirs with me.

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