My placement year at Expedia Group

Sofia Pisacane | Marketing Intern in London

If I had to describe my placement year at Expedia in one word I would say “brilliant” and it was, absolutely brilliant.

I joined in July 2018 as a Marketing Industrial Trainee and with this week being my last week, I can now confidently say that choosing to do a placement year as part of my degree was one of the best decisions I’ve made.

I worked in the Expedia Partner Solutions Marketing team in London where I had the opportunity to rotate every four months to support the different sub-teams within Marketing: Digital, Brand & Campaigns and Product Marketing. The structure of my internship was great because it gave me exposure to a variety of different activities within Marketing, allowing me to try different things, which I believe, especially at the start of your career, is incredibly valuable.

From organizing events to planning and executing Digital Marketing campaigns such as LinkedIn Advertising, to working on our first ABM (Account-Based Marketing) project, there are so many initiatives I’ve been involved in. Not only I was involved in them, but I was also given the opportunity to take the lead on a few of them and this is probably one of the things I love the most about Expedia, you can get as much responsibility as you like, no matter your level of experience, as long as you work hard and are able to show positive results. 

The Partner Marketing team at the WTM partner appreciation event in London.

Only a few weeks ago I flew to Prague to coordinate our stand presence at a preferred supplier showcase event organized by one of our partners, which was a great experience. 

I felt like a valued member of the team from day one, my opinions were valued and taken into account, which was definitely a big motivator for me.

I was really surprised about how, even senior stakeholders, truly welcome new ideas and value a fresh perspective on things. This is definitely one of Expedia’s top strengths because it creates an environment that favors innovation.

My manager genuinely cared about my professional development and he scheduled regular meetings to talk about my progress, what things interested me the most and what skills I wanted to work on next. I feel really grateful for all the support he gave me throughout the course of my internship. 

I worked alongside some really talented people and I was able to learn a lot from them and over time I was able to build strong relationships with my teammates. They’re such a great bunch of people and I’m definitely going to miss them when I go back to university, even though we’ll surely keep in touch!

Looking back, I can say that this year has been a great year, I’ve learned a lot and gained invaluable experience which enabled me to grow, both professionally and personally. Overall I couldn’t have been happier about my time here.

Global Early Talent

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Vamos Vrbo

Simon Fattal | Product Manager Intern in London

Having just finished my second year studying Computer Science at University College London (UCL), I decided that I wanted to work as a Product Manager. This role involves a bit of everything, from data science to business strategy, so was really suitable for me since I haven’t decided exactly what I want to go into upon graduating. After an initial application, two rounds of interviews and some admin work, I was accepted onto the Vrbo 12-week summer internship programme, based in London! As someone with a passion for travel and technology, Vrbo was a great fit for me. I’m currently finishing up my second week, and so far I’ve enjoyed every moment of it.

Every three months, Vrbo holds a Quarterly Product Update (QPU). This is a 3-day event where different parts of the product team have the chance to tell everyone what they have been working on and what changes they are making to their objectives. Keeping other teams informed is pretty important, since it promotes new ideas and innovation, while also ensuring that no two teams are working on the same thing. Purely by chance, the QPU happened to be during the second week of my internship! I was invited to join the product team in Madrid, where this QPU was being held.

During my time in Madrid, I was able to connect with the other people in my team (many of whom I was meeting for the first time) and learn a vast amount about what each division within Product does. As someone who was unsure what to expect from this internship, there literally could not have been a better way to get started and dive straight into the work that I would be doing for the next three months. Events ranged from Leadership Panels to Strategic Updates to Happy Hour Tapas – something no one complained about! These informative events really excelled my knowledge of the industry as well as my understanding of Vrbo’s unique approach to achieving its goals. Days were jam-packed and intense, while nights allowed for team-bonding through dinners and bars.

One thing that really stood out throughout the trip was how close the entire team was. Naturally, I expected the team to work together during the day and then simply go back to their own lives the second they got out of work. What I experienced couldn’t have been further from this expectation; even after work hours the team was still closely connected and there was a real sense of belonging for all team members. Even more so, as an intern who had literally joined about a week prior to this, the entire team was really welcoming and I had no trouble fitting in. Another really great thing about the QPU was that there were Vrbo employees from offices in all corners of the world, including London, Sydney, Austin, Frankfurt, and of course Madrid. It was fascinating to learn how the vacation rentals market differs so much between all these cities, yet Vrbo is able to accommodate them all. This was also a brilliant networking opportunity for me, as I was able to learn more about people’s backgrounds and what routes they took to get to where they are today.

I was fortunate enough to start my internship in one of the best ways possible. Having really understood the foundation of the product and how the company operates, I am now in a much better position to begin working on my summer project. My project is to enhance the landing experience on Vrbo, by personalizing the information shown to users so that they can easily find what they are looking for. Millions of travelers visit our site and each one’s needs are unique. How can we leverage the power of data to help our customers find their dream vacation rental? This is a challenging problem to solve and will also have a meaningful impact on the end customer experience. It’s really incredible that I am able to have a genuine impact on the company. What’s more, the features I will be developing directly affect the homepage – one of the most visited pages on the entire site! The trust that the Vrbo team has put in me has given me the confidence to develop my skills as a Product Manager and design more creative and impactful solutions. This is an experience that will pave the future of my career while also giving me the chance to apply some of what I have been learning at university. For this, I am truly thankful to Pady, my manager and mentor, the Landing Experience Product Team and the entire Vrbo Community.

Global Early Talent

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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.

Is this too good to be true?

Ana Maria Jalba | Associate Software Development Engineer, Hotels.com in London

I’ve just passed 300 days at Expedia Group and it feels like it’s been much longer. I no longer feel junior in the company and my confidence has increased dramatically. It’s amazing what a good workplace does! Before I tell you about my experience as a graduate software engineer in Hotels.com (an Expedia Group brand), I will first tell you about my interview experience. That’s because you can’t really have a job without an interview these days and an interview is useful for learning if you are about to join the right company for you.

hi it’s me – Ana Maria

Interview experience

Not gonna lie, this was the best interview experience I’ve ever had. After the last stage, I left the building smiling.

My stages included a HackerRank code challenge, then an interview with a manager, and finally, an on-site interview that included three stages: coding interview face-to-face with two engineers, a group exercise, and a 1:1 interview with a hiring manager. Between the on-site code interview and the group exercise, there was a lunch break. Throughout the day, all interviewers were engaging, and they listened to me in a way that made me feel like what I had to say mattered. However, what I liked the most was that during the lunch break, a few grads and interns joined me and the other candidates. They were really friendly with each other, they joked a lot, and most importantly, they tried to get us to join in. I already felt like I was part of the company.

In case you’re wondering, I did pass the interviews, otherwise, I wouldn’t be here, telling this story.

Once I joined the company, I got to meet my team and my fellow interns and grads. I also got to take a photo with Captain Obvious recently!

yes, the real Captain Obvious you see in the ads!

Team experience

I joined the Big Data Platform (some of my team members are in the picture above).

Never in my life have I been in such a diverse and fun group. It changed over the last year, but it remained full of happy and funny people. There are quite a few times when I cried of laughter because of the conversations in our team Slack channel (a chatroom). They are also very knowledgeable, so when I ask them for help, they have useful suggestions to make. (I’m not just saying nice things because they might read this.)

Perks of being in my team include getting cake(s) when we celebrate things, a flexible schedule, lots of amazing stickers, contributing to open-sourced projects and getting to laugh a lot.

lots of amazing stickers – only a few make it to my laptop

Groups you can be part of

Being in a group not related to your job makes it much easier to get to know other people that you might otherwise never meet, and you get to contribute to causes that matter to you. For example, there are two groups that I absolutely love: the Hotels.com Gender Balance and Code Academy group, which have people from all parts of the company.

Hotels.com Gender Balance group: I strongly believe that not enough girls/young women are interested in STEM subjects. And that affects a lot of things down the line, especially the fact that tech companies lack talented women in tech. It’s still fairly easy to find yourself as the only female engineer in a team (although not in my case) or in a meeting. But I believe that’s because there’s a supply issue, so that’s why I started getting involved in Hotels.com’s Gender Balance Outreach group. It aims to teach more children (and especially girls) how to program, in the hopes that they would find it interesting, or at least make them aware that tech is a career option in the future, no matter who/what they are.

Code Academy is a group that encourages employees to teach other employees. I used to be afraid of teaching. It was this thing that I’ve never done before and I would frequently think that I don’t know enough of anything to teach someone else. Now, I teach, assist another course and encourage others to teach. Also, because this is an Expedia Group initiative, I got to know amazing people outside of Hotels.com!

Another group I am part of is the interns & grad group. As part of the group, I got to go to social events (we even went to Sky Garden), learn about Expedia Group while getting free lunch, and volunteer for a 24h undergraduate hackathon held in our office. I also made good friends that remember vividly what it’s like to have exams. So glad to be done with those now!

The view from Sky Garden

Other good things to mention

There is a group chat with photos of pets*, everyone is friendly and unless they are busy with something important, they are willing to help, you sometimes get free food and/or drinks, and, if you’re in London, a beautiful office with amazing view (which was shared in some other blog posts).

Overall, Expedia Group is an amazing company to work for! I feel extremely lucky to have found out about this company and to get all these opportunities that allow me to enjoy my job. So, although it seems too good to be true, it’s real!

* The following species so far: dogs, cats, snakes, hamsters, scorpions, chickens, turtles, sugar gliders, chinese waterdragons, rocks (???), pigs, cockatiels, and geckos

Career Check-in: Fabio Carta

Fabio Carta | Market Manager, Lodging Partner Services in London

Has it ever happened to you when you’ve attended one of those university career fairs and you try to make sense of the endless opportunities, industries and jobs that are right in front of your eyes? Rather than helping, it confuses you even more! Well, it’s at one of those job fairs where I met the Expedia Group (at Bocconi&Jobs Careers Fair in Milan) and it was Expedia that helped me take the first step to get some clarity out of this confusion and build my career path.

I wanted to be part of it! After a round of interviews, I was offered an internship and, after 4 years and 3 different cities, I’m still an Expedian and now Market Manager in London.

I still remember that day as if it was yesterday. The local team in Milan introduced me to the Expedia family and I was soon captured by the company’s vison: “We are the world travel platform. Our purpose is to bring the world within reach.”

But what does a market manager do? As a Market Manager, my primary responsibility is to initiate, develop and maintain a high-quality portfolio of accommodation providers (hotels, B&Bs, guesthouses, vacation rentals, etc.) for Expedia’s global customer base.

How do I do it? I spend the majority of my time in calls and meetings with these potential partners explaining our value proposition, understanding their needs and aligning Expedia Group’s strategy with their strategy. To achieve high quality, I work closely with internal stakeholders such as the legal, marketing and operations teams: together we set up our partners for success.

Expedia Group is not a company for everybody.

It’s the place for winners: We dream big and we go through constant changes, so this creates a need to continuously readapt, re-prioritize our tasks and set new goals. In market management, we spend a good 10% of our time planning our strategy for the day, week, and month.

It’s the place for humble people: Nobody has all the answers so we are active listeners!  We ask for regular feedback and build development plans. In market management, we have weekly team meetings where we look into performance and best practices; we have weekly trainings where we learn new skills and enhance our knowledge; we have catch-ups and one-to-ones, where we ask for feedback and help each other solve problems.

It’s the place for team players: We work in teams and every decision we take affects not only our close colleagues, but also our customers, our partners and many other stakeholders. When we add a new property to the marketplace, this property (with all its amenities, its rates, its reviews) is available to more than 670 million monthly visitors and needs to be traded by more than 200+ travel booking sites. We can’t play solo!

If you tick all these boxes, you might become the next Expedian!

What’s the life of an analyst like at Expedia Group?

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.