Speaker Spotlight: Q&A with Jenna Prescott

Jenna Prescott | Recruiting Manager in London

Jenna Prescott speaks about her role in the technology sector and shares her thoughts on London’s Women of Silicon Roundabout Event, taking place 25-26th June 2019.

Jenna Prescott leads Tech Recruitment globally for two of Expedia Group’s brands; Hotels.com and Expedia Partner Solutions. Previously she was in tech recruitment at Sky where she began the Women in Tech meetup series. Jenna is very passionate about making technology a more diverse and inclusive place for all.  In her spare time Jenna loves to travel (mostly with the intent to try the local food!).  

Please tell us a little about yourself and how you got into the field of recruitment?

I think most people in recruitment will tell you that it was not a planned move coming out of university! However working in a recruitment agency made me realise what I loved doing is working with people; delighting them with job offers and hard to find top talent. I took that to my first in-house role at Sky where I found my true love – tech recruitment! I think it’s my personal drive and passion that has allowed me to progress within HR functions to today at Expedia where I lead tech recruitment globally for 2 of Expedia Group’s brands, Hotels.com and Expedia Group.

What’s a typical day like for you?

What I love about my job is how varied it is and that means there often is not a typical day! In a day I will usually be having a catch up with a team member or a business stakeholder, check in on progress on the organisation of my next event, use LinkedIn to source hard to find talent, work with business or HR colleagues on various projects from diversity hiring to referrals and approve today’s posting for our LinkedIn page. Throughout this I will be keeping up to date with LinkedIn, posting updates and answering many slack messages!

Who is your female tech inspiration? What have they done and why do they inspire you?

I meet amazing female talent in tech who inspire me everyday! However here I have to mention Phoebe Greig and Misa Ogura who set up Women Driven Development in their spare time to build community and help move the dial when it comes to women in tech by creating sponsorship opportunities. Expedia Group were lucky enough to host the 2nd ever Women Driven Development Hackathon it was an absolute pleasure to work with this inspirational couple!

As a recruitment manager what is your top tip for people who are looking for their next opportunity?

Network! There are so many opportunities now to meet companies in their natural environments so if you think that company could be a great place for your next opportunity go to their next meet-up, Hackathon or visit their stand at a conference. This way you can speak to their engineers yourself and ask questions that are important to you. It’s a great way to gain a true insight into company culture!

What is your Women of Silicon Roundabout talk about?

We are talking about Diversity recruiting and what actions businesses can take to meet their diversity targets (I am sure there will be something on there on if we need targets too?!). The key takeaways will be actionable, tactical moves that everyone can use to influence tangible improvements in the diversity and inclusivity of their company.

What advice would you give to women who want to pursue a career in tech?

My advice would be to take opportunity, stretch yourself but most of all do something that you love and you are passionate about 😀

You can catch Jenna on Tuesday 25th June at 1:30 pm as part of the Hired panel on ‘Taking actions towards Diversity Hiring Goals’.

Expedia Group Dads Share the Power of Paternity Leave

Lauren von Stackelberg | Director, Industry Relations in London

Countries around the world mark Father’s Day on different dates and at least 86 nations will be observing the occasion the week of June 16th. Father’s Day is a time to celebrate the dads in our lives and an opportunity to reflect on how we support not only fathers in the workplace, but families at home.

According to a 2016 report by the National Partnership for Women & Families, 41% of Americans have employers that provide paid paternity leave to some workers, and only 9% work for companies that provide paid paternity leave to all. And even when a company offers leave, many men are reluctant to take the time off, as one in three men said that they feared the stigma associated with paternity leave.

Expedia Group has one of the most comprehensive paternity leave plans today to provide dads with time to bond with their newborns, support their family, and enable their partners to return to the work force to support gender equality. Anyone who has spent long hours with an infant knows the joys of watching momentous milestones, from first smiles to first steps, and the many challenging hours spent trying to get them to eat and sleep.

Parenting is hard, wonderful, messy, fulfilling and never boring. On this Father’s Day, we celebrate all the amazing dads of Expedia Group, and those who shared their paternity leave story. Enjoy!

Chris Hodges | Director, Business Development

I feel so lucky that I was able to take advantage of paternity leave after the birth of my daughter Grace. For me to be able to spend quality time with my wife and newborn in those precious early stages of life allowed me to create bonding moments that are priceless. I was initially nervous to go out on leave, but I had so much support from my boss and my team and I’m so grateful for that. And am excited to be taking pat leave again in a couple of months when my twins are born.

Nicolas Grande | Area Manager, MM Argentina

At the end of 2018, I faced one of the most difficult challenges in my life when my third child was born–I needed to help my wife as well as support my other kids. Even though I knew we had the paternity leave benefit, it took me a while to make the decision to use it. Now, I can say the paternity leave was a key moment both in my life and my professional career. I was able to enjoy my newborn and all of my family without worrying about my job, as I was supported by my Manager and all my team. I believe life is about moments–I strongly encourage you to fully enjoy the most important ones.

Nico Daudin | Senior Director, Program Development

I went on paternity leave in 2018 to take care of my first son. I was a bit afraid at first to take the time off. I had a ton of questions that were racing in my head: Would I know how to handle parenting alone? Would my team be ok? Would it impact my career negatively? However, thanks to the support of my boss, my team and the other product leaders, I took it and couldn’t be more grateful that I did!

Not only was I able to create a special bond with my son, but the time off also helped my career. It empowered everyone on my team to be even more autonomous, which increased their performance. It also gave me the time to really think about our product strategy and how to improve our overall performance. That’s a pretty amazing ROI when you think about it.

Jonathan Harris | Senior Manager, Business Development and Initiatives

I’m so grateful that the company has a culture where taking time off to nurture a baby is not only offered for men, but strongly encouraged. The fact that several senior leaders and members of my team had already paved the way with their own leave made my transition easier. I was able to completely disconnect for the full 12 weeks, although spending entire days with my daughter Erika felt like anything but “time off” – she is a far more demanding boss than anyone I have worked for at LPS!

Mike Doyle | Director, Market Management

My life got turned upside down in June 2017 with the birth of triplets. Yes, triplets. With no family living nearby, my wife and I had no idea how we would be able to handle this. It would have to be the ultimate team effort and would require time to get in sync with each other. Thankfully, we have a great paternity leave benefit at Expedia Group and my boss was fully supportive of me taking the full leave in order to bond with my new family. This afforded me the time needed to adjust to a “new normal.” It allowed me to spend quality time bonding with my kids while learning how to be a triplet parent. (Honestly though, I’m still learning). I felt no pressure from the workplace while I was out. When I came back to work, I got a great welcome from the Denver team and was allowed to gradually acclimate back into my role. I’m grateful for having this benefit – and the support to be able to use it.

Nicholas Ursini | Director, Strategic Accounts

We are fortunate to work for a company that offers a generous parental leave policy and it seems like it should be a no brainer decision, but I still was uncertain about taking the time off! Having an open dialogue and having overwhelming support from my leadership really helped me take paternity leave. Looking back, the time I had with my wife and son Theo was irreplaceable! It also helped reduce pressure for my wife, who had to go back to work (although she did check in on us a lot, to make sure we were both alive)!

Shuhei Kondo | LPA II, MO Kuala Lumpur

When I had my second child, I couldn’t take long leave due to my previous company’s benefit/policy. It was hard for my wife to take care of 2 kids alone as our family is living far away. Four years later, when our third child was born, I was able to spend quality time with our new family member as well as my wife, son and second daughter. I am grateful that our company offers such a great benefit to even fathers. I had a great time with my kids.

Jeffrey Scheidt | Area Manager, MM US Casino Markets

Our paternity leave at Expedia Group has been such a blessing, as I’ve recently returned to work from my second paternity leave. Taking the full 12 weeks of new parent leave allowed for both myself and my wife to adjust to our new journey of parenthood while embracing every moment of our kids. Being home to catch their milestone achievements, like the first laugh or the first time they rolled over, are moments that I’ll never forget and am extremely grateful to have.
 

Sachin Kumar | LPA III, MO Gurgaon

“Fatherhood is a feeling which cannot be put into words appropriately, ’til the day it’s experienced”. This was something I was told by my father and it was in the month of February 2019 when I really understood it. Since it’s a first time feeling, I wasn’t sure how it would be or how I’d be able to care for my child. Living away from my parents, with no previous experience, I was a bit nervous, curious, and excited at the same time. Being blessed with a son, he has brought a sea of change into our lives in terms of everything that we do. He has become the center of our lives, bringing all positive changes to our relationship and marriage. There has been so much learning in these first three months: my ability to communicate has improved by trying to understand my newborn son’s crying, cooing, and gurgling! In short, it’s a unique, ongoing experience and I’m loving every bit of it. I hold heartfelt gratitude that Expedia has supported these initial days of parenthood in such a beautiful way so that I could give undivided attention to my son during the very early days of infancy.

David Hamblin | Vice President, MM APAC

Taking paternity leave was an amazing experience and opportunity to spend time not only with my daughter, but also bonding as a family. It was a really important period for all of us to spend some quality, family-focused time. Taking paternity leave when Aliya was just 3-months old, I could also see the difference it made in my relationship with her (I got my first “Dada” before going back to work). It’s a priceless time that I’m really thankful to have had. My team, manager, and peers were fantastic in supporting me to really switch off and fully focus on my wife, son, and new daughter.

Paternity leave: a great employee benefit

Johan Hallgren | Analytics Data & Strategy Manager (Lodging) in Seoul, South Korea

My role in Expedia Group

I started my Expedia Group career in Geneva (Switzerland), covering lodging in the Asia-Pacific region. However, I requested country reassignment when my wife got the opportunity to relocate to South Korea for a new position with the United Nations.

My smooth transfer was concrete proof to me that Expedia Group with its global presence is a great long-term career platform, especially with my family’s need to relocate every few years.

I am happy to say that I love my job. The role gives great exposure, close working relationships with top leadership, and excellent opportunities to drive results and influence company direction.

I am involved in almost every commercial topic imaginable like property acquisition strategy, headcount allocation, marketing, margins and competitive intelligence. Whilst projects most often start with deep analysis, recommendations and deck production for presentation to leadership, I am also often part of building technical solutions and implementing them across our 500+ APAC lodging organization.

This tangible implementation link after analysis is something I value tremendously, especially considering my previous work experiences in banking and finance where I constantly was missing this; I like to both plan and execute.

Meanwhile, South Korea is fantastic with absolutely wonderful people and indeed truck loads of Korean barbeque together with the occasional makgeolli (Korean rice wine). 감사합니다, Korea!

Work-life balance

Whilst I love my job and the company, I certainly love my wife and two kids even more. I want to spend all the time in the world with them, while exploring it together.

Being an expatriate family with frequent travel means that forging work-life balance is crucial for our children and us as a family unit. This is complicated further by the fact that our closest family members are spread across Europe and North America, whilst we live in Asia.

In practice, work-life balance is seldom easy to achieve on a daily basis. The exciting weekend trips and solid vacation blocks encouraged by the company are part of that puzzle. Right now, backyard Tokyo is a weekend family favourite; we cannot stop marvelling how perfectly run this megacity seems to be, and the food is top notch.

My wife & daughter en route to Sweden for baby delivery at 36 weeks.

Another good example of how Expedia Group has been a strong enabler of work-life balance was when we had the chance to return to Sweden for the birth of my second daughter – the company paternity leave benefit was crucial in making our temporary stay there a reality.

We flew back when my wife was 36 weeks pregnant. I have to admit I was nervous, but my wife was a champ!

My paternity leave

My 3-month paternity leave was key in helping our family land well with our new child, while also experiencing the best of Sweden!

We spent plenty of time with family enjoying Swedish nature, Christmas snow, and amazing cuisine, including meatballs a plenty and more than a few Swedish pizzas (only for the true pizza connoisseur).

My oldest daughter has 10 cousins in Sweden, so she could practice her Swedish a lot, and even showed them how to properly use chopsticks.

My oldest daughter (4.5 years) showing her chopsticks skills

All in all, it was a wonderful and tremendously rewarding experience for the whole family to go back. The paternity leave also gave us plenty of time to readjust back to life in Korea before returning to work.

During this paternity leave in Sweden, I also managed to have some classic Swedish saunas with my brother, with a view over my childhood lake where we used to practise competitive rowing. This was indeed my ‘pappa tajm’ (dad time).

My brother’s sauna by the lake, with a free flow of refreshing barley based beverages to battle the Finnish/military grade sauna heat

The value of a good paternity leave policy

Paternity leave feels right to me from multiple angles (company, co-workers, family and society).

  • First off, backfilling the role of the father on leave creates an opportunity for others to grow and develop: as a knowledge-driven company, this can be very impactful indeed.
  • Secondly, it is almost a natural law that new children make parents less productive and worn down due to a lack of sleep. You need a break!
  • Thirdly, turnover and replacing skilled employees is very expensive and time consuming – I am convinced this policy creates loyalty and longer company tenures.
  • Fourthly, from a societal point of view, sharing the responsibilities of an infant more equitably means that a mother is much less likely to drop out of the workforce. It makes economic sense. By allowing mothers to return to the workforce if they wish, you also create employment opportunities for caretakers that in turn create job opportunities around us.

So, while it sadly is too uncommon globally, I think a solid paternity leave policy is a no-brainer and a ‘quadruple win’. To me it is hardly surprising that Expedia Group is a top employer given such benefits, they get it right.

In my specific case, Expedia Group managed to solve my 3-month absence elegantly, by temporarily bringing in cover from Geneva. My colleague Greg came to our APAC lodging headquarters in Singapore; read about his experiences.

While checking the occasional important e-mail to stay on top of things for my return, the company’s solution was great for letting me re-enter without a huge backlog of work hanging over my head. Luckily for both me and all the travellers around the world, the sun never sets on Expedia Group!

Speaker Spotlight: Q&A with Neeraj Bhadani

Neeraj Bhadani | Data Scientist in London

Neeraj Bhadani speaks about his role in the technology sector and shares his thoughts on London’s Women of Silicon Roundabout Event, taking place 25-26th June 2019.

Neeraj is a Big Data Engineer at Hotels.com, one of the Expedia Group brands. He has more than a decade’s experience in the industry and is currently managing the Big Data Platform for Hotels.com and delivering trainings/workshops both internally and externally. Prior to Hotels.com, he worked on various Big Data projects, dealt directly with clients as a Technical specialist and migrated various ETL pipelines to Spark. He has received a Gold Medal for being topper of batch during the Bachelor of Engineering in Computer Science. 

Please tell us a little about yourself and how you got into the field of BIG Data Engineering?

Being entirely honest, I was a below average student during my school days! But my family really motivated me a lot for studies (special thanks to my elder brother). Gradually I started focusing on my studies. No one from my family had a technical background when I started engineering but I was always passionate about the subject. Going from a below average student during school days to finishing my engineering as a Gold Medallist was very satisfactory. During the initial days of my career I was a SAP Business Objects Admin but my younger brother motivated me to mould the career towards Big Data and he always helped me during this journey. Also I am happy to share that we are now working in the same team at Hotels.com.

What’s a typical day like for you?

I am working as a Big Data engineer managing  the Big Data platform for Hotels.com. In my day to day activities I help our Analysts/Data Engineers to improve their query performance, work on ETL jobs written in Hive/Presto/Spark and support the platform. I also deliver trainings and workshops on Apache Spark and strengthen the skillset around the same. Working with the world’s leader in travel industry is really an honor for me and I am happy that I am making my contribution within the company.

What is your Women of Silicon Roundabout talk about?

Henrietta Forssen and I are are talking about “Data science: beyond the hype“. In this session we will take you through exactly what data science and machine learning really is. We’ll explain some of the key algorithms used, how to understand what they do and how to know when to use machine learning in the first place, versus other methodologies.

What advice would you give to women who want to pursue a career in tech?

With the new technologies and innovations, there are immense opportunities in different areas and at various levels to showcase their talent. Also, with the increase in the cloud technologies which make the entire software development pipeline very easy. Business can now focus more on solving the problems rather than worrying about the infrastructure and related problems. It’s not only about working with the latest technologies, but one can also innovate the solutions which can help to improve the  basic necessities around the world like Education and Healthcare which will be a great contribution to the society.

Neeraj will be sharing his session entitled “Data Science: Beyond the hype” at 13:30 PM on 25th June. His talk will cover what data science and machine learning really is and also explain some of the key algorithms and methodologies used.

Speaker Spotlight: Q&A with Henrietta Forssen

Henrietta Forssen | Data Scientist in London

Henrietta Forssen speaks to us about her role in the technology sector and shares her thoughts on London’s Women of Silicon Roundabout Event, taking place 25-26th June 2019.

Henrietta is a Data Scientist at Hotels.com, one of the Expedia Group brands. She has worked on a range of projects relating to marketing and attribution, building machine learning models deployed across the business. Prior to Hotels.com Henrietta completed an MSc in Machine Learning, after working for several years as a Business Intelligence and Analytics Consultant.

Please tell us a little about yourself and how you got into the field of Data Science?

I’ve always been very curious, and really struggled in choosing ever fewer subjects throughout school. I somehow finally managed to settle on studying maths at university, it just felt like fun! Later on I realised that I’m also really motivated by making things work better, so after a year in consulting I went on to study a masters in machine learning, and here I am.

What’s a typical day like for you?

I spend a large portion of my time writing code to implement the current data science projects I’m working on. However, a fair amount of time is also spent on planning and scoping projects, which involves talking to the relevant stakeholders to really understand the business requirement or problem, as well as colleagues across data and analytics to work out what data we have that could be used to solve the problem.

Who is your female tech inspiration? What have they done and why do they inspire you?

I find Elsa Lebrun-Grandie really inspirational. She spent large parts of her career hands on in data mining and is now a Director of Marketing Data Science at Hotels.com, and somehow manages to prioritise a mountain of expectations and demands from stakeholders whilst still leading her team with trust and compassion. It’s really impressive.

Are you working on anything exciting at the moment that you’d like to share with our readers?

One of the areas that I’m involved in at the moment is working on the models that inform auction bidding decisions on comparison sites like TripAdvisor and Trivago. It’s a fascinating problem, since we both have huge amounts of information on which properties have been booked in the past as well as no idea how our competitors will bid and react day to day. It really is an ever changing challenge!

What is your Women of Silicon Roundabout talk about?

It’s an introduction to data science and machine learning for those people that have maybe heard words thrown about, but want to put more concrete meanings to those concepts. There is obviously only so much you can get through in one hour, but we have tried to get a little below the surface and provide a technical first tutorial on the key things you’d take into account when designing and implementing machine learning solution.

What advice would you give to women who want to pursue a career in tech?

Follow your passions and your heart! If you are interested in a particular field or technology, read about it, take courses on it, and get involved and hands on as much as you can. There are so many great women working on tech, come join us.

Henrietta will be sharing her session entitled “Data Science: Beyond the hype” at 13:30 PM on 25th June. Her talk will cover what data science and machine learning really is and also explain some of the key algorithms and methodologies used.

Speaker Spotlight: Q&A with Chris Burgess

Chris Burgess | Global Vice President, IT in London 

Chris Burgess speaks to us about his role in the technology sector and shares his thoughts on London’s Women of Silicon Roundabout Event, taking place 25-26th June 2019.

Chris is the VP of Corporate IT at the world’s largest travel company, Expedia Group.  He leads a global team of over 700 people who are responsible for providing IT infrastructure and support for Expedia’s 25,000 employees in 200 offices worldwide.  Chris is currently based in London and frequently travels to the US, India and Europe as part of his global remit.

Chris is an ally, advocate and sponsor for Diversity, Inclusion and Gender balance and sits on Expedia Group’s Inclusion forum. Like most Expedians, he has a passion for travel and loves visiting new countries and experiencing different cultures with his wife and two children.

Please tell us a little about yourself and how you got into the field of Technology?

From a very early age I had a fascination with technology and it was all I wanted to do, because it seemed to come naturally to me I went into the field, I started in a Tech Support role and have worked my way up.

What’s a typical day like for you?  

Although I am based in the UK, because I work for a US headquartered corporation, I get a lot of email and slack messages overnight and my day starts with me picking my phone up and checking what’s happened while I’ve been sleeping, I then head into the office, typically I am in a range of meetings on a variety of topics with teams from EMEA or APAC, hopefully some time at a desk catching up on things and then heading home to carry on calls into the evening when my teams in the US comes online.  In the middle of all that I try and get some time with my wife and two young children.

Who is your female tech inspiration? What have they done and why do they inspire you?  

I have a couple of inspirations when it comes to women in tech, the first is possibly a little surprising, it’s one of my old male bosses, Todd Sanders, he was such a great role model for me, his tech teams were always gender balanced and he showed me the benefits of having a truly diverse team first hand.  The second is more recent and her name is Kristen Weber, she works in our Expedia Brand team and is driving real change in our business when it comes to Diversity and Inclusion.  She is innovative, collaborative and I’m lucky to work alongside her.

Are you working on anything exciting at the moment that you’d like to share with our readers?  

The most exciting thing I’m working on is the build out of new campus locations for Expedia Group, we have new buildings in Seattle, Austin, London and Delhi and these new and cool spaces full of amazing tech will be a great place for  Expedia employees to do their best work for years to come.

What is your Women of Silicon Roundabout talk about? 

Allyship and how everyone being an ally will help us get to a place where we have so much better balance in Gender representation in Tech companies.  

What advice would you give to women who want to pursue a career in tech?

 It might seem like a cliché but keep learning and keep challenging yourself to try new things, the tech industry moves so quickly and therefore standing still isn’t an option.  Secondly, I would say be your authentic self, don’t try to hide or mask your true personality, being authentic will make you stand out.

You can catch Chris’s speech at the Women of Silicon Roundabout event on Tuesday 25th June from 10 am – 10:30 am.  

Life as a Data Analytics Apprentice at Expedia Group

Isabelle Bentley | Data Analyst Apprentice, Hotels.com in London

Tell us about how you became a Data Analyst at Expedia Group?

After considering different positions within the tech industry I found my current skills and interests lay best with a role in Data Analytics, which I have always been eager to enter. Upon further research I found there was alternative routes to enter this specific Tech field contrary to the usual university route. This is when I learnt of degree apprenticeships, which comprised of a debt free degree and a paying full-time job. After research into the variety of companies that offer such apprenticeships, I believed Expedia Group couldn’t be beaten! Everything from their brand values, to the specificity of their Data Analyst role (Product Analytics) fit me perfectly.

What are you enjoying most about your Data Analyst Apprenticeship?

The Data Analytics field is broad, ranging from Statistics to Machine Learning. Not only am I earning a degree in one of the biggest growing industries, I will have 3 years’ experience in a highly regarded company which I believe to be invaluable. To think alternatively it would take me 3 years to just gain the degree with no industry experience reassures me I have made the best possible decision to take up a degree apprenticeship.

What are you enjoying most about your role at Expedia Group?

The role has allowed me to use my statistical and logical skills in the work place, challenge and stretch myself. On the job training also allows me to constantly update my toolbox of skills. Opportunities like this here at Expedia Group create great ways to expand your learning and interests further in ways that will help you progress within your role. At work, I do not feel like an apprentice; I feel like a valued team member, who contributes meaningful work towards projects, team and company-wide goals.

How is the qualification helping you to be successful in your role?

Studying my degree in Data Analytics at Ada allows me to fully investigate and learn further all the knowledge and techniques needed to confidently complete tasks or projects at work.

Tell us a few more details about how you became interested in Data?

My interest in Data stemmed from my interest in Mathematics! This began with primary Mathematics, just after learning addition and subtraction I was introduced to a new way to influence numbers; division and multiplication. It wasn’t enough for me to just accept that numbers could just be manipulated, I wanted to learn more. Throughout my years in education I have enjoyed linking my other subjects back to Mathematics and learning how it is the backbone of today’s industries and complex sciences. I have found that my true fascination lies in Statistical Mathematics and Data Analytics, the way that data can be analysed and interpreted to solve problems, predict an outcome or solution truly intrigues me

What are the most important skills to succeed in a career in Data?

Passion to learn. Data Analytics and the Tech field in general are constantly growing and changing industries, the applicable knowledge you know today could be irrelevant in a year, so do not feel put off if you don’t tick all the boxes. Another valuable skill is logical thinking, this will help you tackle anything from small tasks to big projects. The way in which you tackle the task can have large effects on your result, it is important to think logically from the start to increase the efficiency and promote accuracy in everything task you undertake.

What advice would you give someone else considering going down this path?

Keep yourselves updated on the latest skills and knowledge available in the field, so you are always ready to enter the industry and get involved at any time.

Any tips on how to work out if Data Analytics is for you?

If you enjoy solving problems and want to be part of the biggest growing industry which continually pushes the limits of possibility, Data Analytics is for you. I say this because there is so many branches you can take within this field. Whether it’s the Mathematics and Statistics, Machine Learning, Programming, Databases, Data Visualization or even soft skills that initially grabbed your attention to Data Analysis, you can tailor your role within Data to any or a combination of these skills.

How does working in Data make you feel empowered?

Being part of this industry as a young woman is a great feeling, it is rapidly expanding and reaching all areas of day to day life. It is greatly exciting to now think of myself as a fellow ambassador for women in tech. I think data is a vital part of the 21st century and plays a pivotal role in accessing and providing new and varying types of information, which makes it important that the people within these roles are an accurate demographic representation of the people the data effects.

Speaker Spotlight: Q&A with Vanessa Wachtmeister

Vanessa Wachtmeister | Launch and Product Marketing Manager, Expedia Group in London

Vanessa Wachtmeister speaks to us about her role in the technology sector and shares her thoughts on London’s Women of Silicon Roundabout Event, taking place 25th-26th June 2019.

Vanessa Wachtmeiste

Please tell us a little about yourself and how you got into the field of Travel Blogging?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California and in 2009, I moved 3,000 miles away to attend Boston College for my undergraduate degree. When I graduated in 2013, I had no idea what I wanted to do, but I knew that I would never get another chance to move to China without any serious responsibilities. Before moving, I launched my travel blog – wanderonwards.co – so my mom could keep up with my adventures and know that I was alive. Then I moved to a country I had never been to before, that speaks a language I don’t understand, to make it in an industry I had no experience in. I had just a domain name and a dream.

Fast-forward 7 years later, I’m now working for Hotels.com and living in London with my wonderful husband and cat.  Wander Onwards now has 40,000 followers across all my platforms and it allows me to travel for free to some of the most incredible destinations. I’m honestly living my #bestlife.

What’s a typical day like for you?
A typical week day for me looks like this.

  • 5:30 am – Wake up and head to the gym for an hour
  • 8:45 am – Roll into the office. I’m a morning person and often work with APAC so I’m happy to turn up even earlier if necessary. I’m buzzing from the gym so I’ll tackle my hardest tasks in the beginning of the day.
  • 12:00 pm – For lunch, I normally bring my lunch as my husband and I are pretty decent cooks. My Korean pork ribs and white wine leek dish sure beats Pret. I also never eat alone; I use this hour to invest in my relationships at Expedia Group or with friends and family abroad via Skype.
  • 5:30 pm- I’m out the door on time normally. I am not an afternoon person and I won’t apologize for it. Wake me up at 6 am for APAC calls instead but if I’m here past six, I’m likely in zombie mode.
  • 6:30 pm – My husband and I are likely cooking something interesting that we saw on YouTube. I specialize in Latin American and North African cuisine. He’s more of an Asian and European Chef. We always carve out time to do activities together to share each other’s wins, losses, and cat videos.
  • 9:00 pm – I am 100% down for the count. I’m actually asleep with dreams in my head and cat fur on my bedding. I need at least 8 hours of sleep every night to function normally.

Who is your female tech inspiration? What have they done and why do they inspire you?

Most of my inspirational female icons are actually people I’ve worked with directly. They are not necessarily in technology, but they’ve helped me develop skills that are cross-functional and I’ve carried these lessons into my career in technology.

Sandra Rice: I met Sandra in 2008 when I was participating in California’s annual ‘Girls State’ program, which encourages women to participate in government and civil service. I was running for governor (because if you’re going to do something, go big) and she saw me campaigning like a mad woman and thought I had potential. She then brought me into the Emma Bowen Foundation, where I learned the majority of my technical skills and gained serious work experience.  No one has had a bigger impact on my career than this woman. She was wise enough to know that energy and passion is something you can harness and used for incredible things; I never felt like I had to be a sort of way with her.  I owe this woman my career.

Denise Menchaca: My mom has been the driving force behind all of my success; and this is not an exaggeration. She is my most active follower, my unofficial PR rep, and my biggest cheerleader.  She’s taught me resilience, flexibility, and how to market myself in any scenario. In a past life, she was an accountant working for a big 4 firm and today she is the Vice Mayor of my hometown in Los Angeles. She’s also taught me a lot about humility. Do things without expecting to be compensated for them. Take care of those who have supported you in sickness and in health. And most importantly, bring people with you.

Christine Olivier: No one has taught me more about resilience than Christine. I would actually dub her the ‘Millennial Whisperer’ because she just knew how to encourage, inspire, and support all of the young people in the office; especially those just starting out in their career. I was a sheep and she was my shepherd. She taught me about goal setting, intentions, and encouraged me to listen to my gut about certain scenarios.

Are you working on anything exciting at the moment that you’d like to share with our readers?

Currently I’m putting together an all-female small group tour through Morocco! It’s scheduled for April 2020 and it will be an opportunity for like-minded, adventurous women to experience Morocco comfortably. Everything is going to be organized to the T; all you have to do is purchase your ticket and turn up. I really wanted to create a space for women who are looking to take their careers, life, and passions to the next level and create a hive of entrepreneurial energy. The luxury accommodation and personal photographer won’t hurt either. It’s going to be a real opportunity to experience the exciting energy of Morocco without worrying about the logistics. I promise you’ll come out of the experience with a whole new Instagram feed and a reinvigorated zest for life. Please ping me if you’d like to come along! #shamelessplug

What is your Women of Silicon Roundabout talk about?

My talk is about harnessing the power of the universe to manifest anything! Crystals aside, there are real tangible actions and methodologies that I’m highlighting to get women where they want to be. I’ve been chipping away since I was 13 years old to be exactly where I am now. I had no idea about the specifics of the situation, I just knew that if I did x, then y would eventually happen, only to finally accomplish Z. Now I need to pivot on my goals because I didn’t think I would get this far this fast. I hope to show people how to replicate this same process, wherever they are in their journey.  

What advice would you give to women who want to pursue a career in tech?

Stop being your own worst enemy. No one is thinking that you’re a certain way or reminiscing about that one email. Allow yourself to accept the success you know you deserve.

You can catch Vanessa’s speech at the Women of Silicon Roundabout event on Tuesday 25th June from 14:40 pm – 15:10 pm.  

Step Up Up Mentee Program

Tanu Aggarwal | Software Development Engineer, Global Customer Operations in Gurgaon

It was started when one day my manager called me and said he has nominated me for the Step Up Mentee program saying it will give me an opportunity to build up my network and grow in my career and requesting me to submit the Statement of Purpose (SOP).

The idea sounds great as I was already struggling in figuring out what next?

So, I thought why not lets write the SOP and that’s is when I have realised it is so satisfying to revisit the journey you had so far. How have you grown over all of these years and all the more important is who all have been mentoring you, supporting you in your journey already. This made me realize how important a mentoring program could be and has made me more confident in getting selected as one of the mentees.

From the very first day the Step Up Mentee program started helping me in identifying my areas of strengths and weaknesses. All of the selected mentees were asked to take the psychometric test called DISC which was followed by an orientation session where all selected mentees shared their purpose of joining the program.

During this session Tanya Bahuguna and Pallavi Tondon helped not just understand the DISC assessment but also made me figure out the areas which are my strength and those areas which sometimes are my weakness. This was the first time where I was able to talk my heart out by relating to the assessment analysis and sharing how apt the assessment by seeing how have we been conducted myself so far at both professional and personal front.

Orientation session was followed by a session where we all need to come up with the themes which we would like to discuss and talk about throughout the program.

We come with these  themes

  • Building business acumen for strategic foresight and transitioning from tech mindset to a business mindset
  • The art and science of enhancing performance through feedback
  • Enhancing personal brand equity to fuel career ambitions
  • Building meaningful relationships through impactful communication

The best part of this program is being a group mentorship circle it has made me learn from each other experiences. It has always been great listening to the challenges what other mentee is facing and realising that in some way or the other you have faced such challenges too. Thus the techniques which are shared are helpful to others too.

Our first theme-based session started with Eman Barhoumeh, the VP of the Insurance and Assurance Business in Expedia.

She is a great leader, she has various ways to make us not just to speak up and give words to all the challenges we are facing, but also help us understand why possibly we could be in that situation and then trying help and guide us by providing various techniques.

She came up with a framework or a model to associate with each and every problem we raised. That has not only made things so relatable but also made me feel that I am not the only one facing these problems. And, these are known issues and concerns and there are solutions for it already. I just need to understand and apply in my daily routine.

Eman has conducted various working session to made us understand the perspective of other side of the problem too. She made us play the role and understand the point of view of all the parties involved. We have also been asked to apply techniques discussed during the sessions in our daily routine whether office or home. This has brought a significant change in my thought process in facing situation day to day basis.

This program is a wonderful initiative and has not only given us chance to learn how to grow as a better professional but as an individual too. And at the same time it has  also given us the opportunity to interact with different ECP leadership team and discuss with them our growth plan and seek their guidance.A big thank you for conducting this program.