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.  

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.  

Grace Hopper Celebration India 2018

Roopali Agrawal Anupama Sarohe Parul Ahuja Samiksha Chugh Suruchi Sinha Ridhi Lnu | Yayati Rajpal Umangi Oza

We at Expedia Group “relentlessly strive for better” and 2018 was certainly a year of better for us. We are on a mission to make ourselves a more diverse and inclusive place every day. With our continued efforts, Expedia Group India decided to participate in prestigious Grace Hopper Celebrations India (“GHCI”), the largest technical conference for women in Asia, for the very first time and it was a fantastic, inspiring & humbling experience for us. Around mid-year, when we decided to participate in the conference, we set two clear objectives for ourselves – inward & outward facing:

    • Inward Facing – A source of inspiration for our employees by providing access to role models, success and failure stories of thought leaders in the industry along with a platform for networking & exposure to all cool tech things in the world.
  • Outward Facing – To establish our tech brand & connect with amazing talent.

With those two clear objectives, we pulled up a crack team of 28 women with diverse background & varied experience levels. The team was set on a mission – “Inspire & Get Inspired.” Soon we started working on a close collaboration with GHCI team, booth design, collaboration with the vendor, swag, dress codes (You read that right), flight & hotel bookings, etc. We arranged gatherings for this team to get together, socialise, and plan and enthusiasm slowly started to build up. Our participation in the event was planned fairly well including all minute details.

Even with all the preparations, we had few logistic issues at the 11th hour like getting swag to Bangalore from Gurgaon. This team of 28 amazing women came together & volunteered to carry those 13-14 KG of swag per head with them. It was heartening to see how a common goal united this team and how this team exhibited ‘One Team, Group First’, one of the core guiding principles of Expedia Group.

With all the preparations, hard work and enthusiasm, our team was set to make a mark at the conference.

The conference started at a high energy note. The hall for the keynote was gigantic and it was overwhelming to see 4000+ technical women from 411 organisations,90 cities & 12 countries under one roof. GHCI was officially kicked off with a great message – “Life is a one-time opportunity. Dare to dream and live your dream.” Thought leaders from the industry shared reflections from their career journeys and we were reminded that we, as women, needed to have confidence in our own capabilities, speak up, raise our hand, sit at the table, invest in our own self, ask for help and support each other, celebrate motherhood with right prioritisation & support system. Keynote was concluded with – “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” – Madeleine Albright

Behind the scenes, Expedia Group’s booth had come out live with a ‘travel’ based theme. Our crack team didn’t miss an opportunity to show its ‘Bias to Action’ when it came to setup of booth. This amazing team of women cleaned, setup and brought the booth to life themselves. We participated in a networking event later in the evening, that worked as a confidence booster for us as we had to list down the reasons “Why I am remarkable” and share it aloud, something we do shy from.

Day 2 provided us ample opportunity to attend sessions across various tracks like Artificial Intelligence & High-Performance Computing, Design in Tech, Platform Engineering, Career 360, Speed Mentoring and iConnect sessions. Narrowing down on sessions was hard as we didn’t want to skip a single one. At the same time, our booth at the career fair was buzzing with energy and talent. It was heartening & overwhelming to have so many visitors interested to talk to us and understand more about Expedia Group. Registration method at our booth exhibited our guiding principle ‘Simplify’. We asked visitors to specify their dream destination along with their basic contact details. The moment we explained the concept of ‘Dream Destination’ to candidates – a place where you would love to travel, anywhere in the world – we saw a smile on each and every face while imagining about their dream destination. Such is the power of ‘travel’ and one of the reasons why we all love to be part of Expedia Group. It was rewarding to see that smile on those faces and those faces lit up even brighter when they saw their names flashing on big TV screen along with their dream destination pinned. Our swags, passport covers with Expedia Group’s logo, were also received very well as it was ‘unique’ and resonated with our theme.

We were a unique booth that was run by all women from diverse backgrounds. We were able to talk in languages of HR, Tech, Testing, Business, Management, Leadership and most importantly we were able to offer the human touch & connect to the amazing talent out there. The environment at the booth was almost infectious and magnetic.

We got an opportunity to experience ‘Tech Expo’, ‘Poster Session’,’iConnect’ & ‘Speed Mentoring’ along with a flash mob, that charged up the whole environment to a different level. With hours passing by, it was almost the time for us to wrap up and we all started working on a mental list of things that we need to do ‘better’ next year like presenting tech talks, showcasing the tech from Expedia Group, and participation in the tech expo. Panel discussions were definitely on top of everyone’s mind along with an attention grabber like a flash mob. We closed the conference at the mark of whopping 2500 registrations at our booth – 55% of total participation at the conference. By all standards, for a first-time experience, we had made our mark.

Our participation in GHCI united this diverse crack team in a very special way. We are certainly more confident, connected, motivated to live our dreams and determined to make a bigger impact at the conference next year. It’s just the beginning…