Achilleas Athanasiou Fragkoulis | Product Analyst, Hotels.com in London
Hi there! My name’s Achilles and with this blog post I’m hoping to give you a quick peek at what the life of an analyst is like at Expedia Group. It’s been 5 months since I joined Hotels.com as part of the Product Analytics and Experimentation team and looking back at the little time I’ve spent here so far, it’s hard to believe how much I’ve learnt and grown. Even less believable seems the fact that my work has had a direct impact from day 1 on our customers, my colleagues and stakeholders!
What do you do?
My team’s purpose statement reads “Bringing the scientific method to life; delivering actionable behavioural insights to enable informed product decisions”. It’s a bit of a mouthful but it captures the 3 most important elements of what we do, firstly we ensure that the appropriate scientific methods are applied in every analytical use case, secondly, we draw behavioural insights deriving from customer behavioural data and lastly, we use these insights to support business decisions.
We are responsible for maintaining the health of our test & learn programme (T&L) – here’s a blog post giving a breakdown of what our testing programme is like, we own the experimentation methodology and analyse hundreds of experiments every year relating to the design, functionality and performance of Hotels.com. In short, a lot of what we do involves conversion optimisation. The idea is that we strive to understand where users struggle with their experience on our website, be it because of lack of clarity of information, frustration around how to perform an action or find relevant content/info, lack of trust, a confusing /ambiguous design or anything else you can imagine! We identify and try to solve these problems, so that their journey through organising and booking a trip can be as seamless and enjoyable as the actual trip itself.
Personally, I find that the most fascinating part of our work is developing our state-of-the-art experimentation platform itself, aiming to have a world-class, industry-leading platform by performing industry research and developing our tools and experimentation methodology. We love automating manual parts of our daily workflow and always endeavour to increase our capacity to support more tests analyses and make our data go that extra mile for us.
On the side of the above, I’ve taken on a few personal initiatives. One being involved in early-talent recruitment and outreach events. Secondly, I am attempting to make a case within our business to develop the capacity to support and collaborate with post-grad and doctorate students on their theses / dissertations and year-end projects. Lastly, I am in the process of organising and hosting Meetup events in our London office, so that we can give back to London’s extremely vibrant tech, analytics and data science community!
What do you love about Life at Expedia?
Simply feeling valued and respected as an individual and being constantly enabled and empowered to bring my best self and do my best work every day. How do we achieve this?
What tops my list, is everyone’s openness to new ideas.
This is a by-product of working daily with a mixture of very intelligent people from all sort of different backgrounds and walks of life, where everyone brings their own unique perspective and there’s always something for you to learn from that.
Whilst still a massive company, it is astonishing how much of an entrepreneurial feel we manage to preserve, especially in the London office. There’s always a hassling vibe around and everyone’s extremely motivated to drive our product, tools, technology and online travel in general forward. There’s genuine excitement about the type of work we do here, and I can assure you it is extremely contagious!
After that on my list comes the variety of work and opportunities for development. This is enabled both by our fantastic internal and external training opportunities and dedicated development time in the form of frequent hackathons, an annual off-site and generally about 15% of our time being our own to dedicate at our discretion on side-projects, development of our experimentation platform, automating frequent tasks and so on.
Lastly but still very importantly, general quality of life and work-life balance. Our office is very lively and social and, while I probably am a poor example, being a bit of a flaker when it comes to our social events, I value that there is still something for everyone. Personally, I make the most out of our fantastic facilities and infrastructure to support a healthy active lifestyle. I commute by bicycle, take advantage of our yoga classes in the office (weather permitting on the roof-garden!) and feed my fully fledged kitesurfing addiction with our travel and wellbeing allowances.
But surely there must be challenges with so much on your plate…?
Yes absolutely! But challenges are just development opportunities that have yet to be realised.
Working in such an idea-rich environment it is very easy to build up a huge backlog. It can be hard to juggle things and there is constantly a need to self-organise, self-manage your workload and prioritise very aggressively. You are constantly learning to quickly assess the expected value you can return on every request for the time you invest in it and by consequence you learn to say “no” to people, often times much more senior, and actively manage their expectations.
Additionally, being a large company, it is often very challenging to find the right person to talk to. There’s always light at the end of the tunnel but it can be frustrating to find them with tools and processes spanning multiple teams, geographies and time-zones.
And lastly the bane of my existence… Simply having more ideas than time to work on them.
What’s a typical work-day like then…?!
That’s easy! 8am alarm and instant take-off, 30mins morning yoga followed by a 30min ride through Regent’s park. Quick shower in the office, get breakfast ready – preferably strained yogurt with blueberries, raspberries and plenty of nuts and seeds. Pick up a cup of coffee and land at my desk at 9:30. That’s when the typical part of the day ends!
From then on you never know, one day I can be working closely with data science trying to understand where one of our algorithms fails or if there are opportunities for further improvement. Another day I might be taking part in an ideation session with product managers taking notes of all the ideas flying around so I can pull data together to support a coherent story about where they should be taking this next. Or it could be one of those not so great days that something has broken, and I am investigating a data quality issue, working closely with our data engineers trying to understand the problem. If it’s a quieter day I am probably putting a developer or software engineer hat on, building new features for our experimentation platform or optimising our code.
It’s a fast-paced environment, the ebb and flow of which tends to shift around all the time. Some may find it chaotic, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.