Empathy: the most powerful of Analytics tools

Alexander Jing | Analytics Manager, Product Analytics in Bellevue

My journey with Expedia Group started 4 years ago, when I was hired for a contractor role. Initially, it was just a short-term gig. Yet the more I learn about Expedians and the work we do here, the more I am fascinated by Expedia Group.

Seattle skyline

What motivates me to come to office everyday – perhaps misnomer since I sometimes work from home– is the opportunity and the mission that lies ahead. Firstly, the opportunity is huge. Expedia Group is in a market with tremendous potential; as big as it is today, it still only has a very small market share in the global travel market. What intrigues me even more is the mission. As a travel company, Expedia Group brings all people and places in the world within reach. Travel breaks down barriers, helps people understand each other, and broadens one’s horizon. This understanding is more important than ever in today’s world.

How do I connect the big picture to my everyday job? As inspiring as travel can be, there is still friction to solve for. When we put a traveler’s journey under a microscope, we see many elements that could be smoother. A customer trying to fit a flight to her budget and schedule. A customer needing to book a hotel in a foreign country when they don’t speak the language. A customer traveling to a destination for the first time, unsure of where to look for things to do. These and many more are the customer pain points Expedia is trying to solve, and we at Expedia Group solve them through…analytics!

Seattle sunset

I am analytic manager in the product analytics team. Our mission is to resolve customer pain points, which we do by leveraging the tremendous amount of data we collect every day. I like to imagine myself as a detective: I collect and visualize data points in a meaningful way, and I analyze them, trying to recreate the travel experience behind numbers, and pinpoint anything that may lead to a better experience. Since we don’t see our customers, we rely on modern technology to make sure we capture customer behavior as truthfully as possible. When I look at a number, I see the customer behind it. And it is my job to make sure I understand that customer and I do everything I can to improve their experience with us.

Dressing up for Halloween with the team

So how do I do that? Aside from all the “required skillset” you might see on a random job posting – query, visualization, modeling, scripting – I like to emphasize empathy. Behind every number there is a customer, or a customer’s interaction with our website. Behind every interaction there is a need or a purpose. A flight confirmation number might be somebody’s first trip to a foreign country. An error code on the confirmation page could be the difference between catching the flight or missing it. An increase in bounce rate might indicates customers are not finding the information they need. A low open rate for an e-mail campaign could mean we are not sending useful information to customers.

We are best at our job when we put ourselves in customers’ shoes, and we analytic folks are best at our job when we see the human interaction behind the numbers. This is the critical skillset one need to be successful as an analyst. Most other skills can be learned rather quickly, but empathy requires a completely different mindset! And if you have what it takes to be a customer champion? Expedia welcomes you!

Expedia Group is important to me not just professionally, but also personally. My daughter was born 2.5 years ago. Life with a young kid is hectic and unpredictable and requires tremendous energy. Life with a young kid and a full-time job? Oh my, you have no idea! Fortunately for me, I have colleagues that are supportive and understanding. Flexibility of working hours and location is common in Expedia Group, and one does not need to hesitate to take a day or two off for familial obligation. I’ve been able to watch my kid grow, read books to her, teach her to talk, whilst maintaining productivity in my role.

Expedia Group is truly a special place to be! Every day I am learning, meeting smart and devoted people, solving puzzles, and bringing the world closer! If you are like me, and enjoy fast-paced, customer-centric, and mission-driven work, I’m sure Expedia Group will not disappoint!

My First 90 days at Expedia Group

Eleanor Evans | Reporting & Analytics Manager in London

Tell me a bit about yourself and how long you’ve been with Expedia Group?

I joined Hotels.com on 7th January; less than 3 months ago, having previously been an analytics manager at a big UK retailer

I first heard of Expedia Group from a Woman in Data UK conference. I knew that Expedia Group had good gender balance and were top of the analytics game, and wasn’t feeling as stretched on the technical side of things in my current role. I was doing a lot of people management but wanted to focus more on my technical skills. A recruiter approached me about a role, and it went from there…

What role are you doing now?

My role at Expedia Group is that of analytics manager, working on channel optimisation for Hotels.com. Questions I might answer day to day would be: how can we build models to help predict when people will cancel hotel bookings? How can we adapt our prediction models for seasonality? Can they scale to countries all around the world? I also work on Expedia Group wide initiatives to coordinate across brands; it’s great to break down silos and not see other brands as competition.

What was the interview process like?

I really liked that there was a phone interview first with the hiring manager, and then a case study with real data. There was an excel sheet which I had to analyse, turn into insight and present back to interviewers. It was a realistic insight into what the job would be like and an interesting example.

I also liked that one of the interviewers was not in Analytics, but a stakeholder. This meant that on my first day I already had a foot in the door with some stakeholders, which gave me the confidence to go ahead and book in meetings with the rest.

How has Expedia Group compared to your expectations?

Originally, I was a bit worried that some of the things said at interview were just “buzzwords”; I was told that everybody was using python, R, databricks, AWS. However, I soon found out this genuinely was the case – everybody uses these tools on a daily basis and is heavily encouraged to do so. Expedia Group sets aside a lot of time and money for training to improve on skills.

I was also impressed by how global the Expedia Group offices are; I feel part of a virtual team, and so integrated with the global business, that I can benefit from the insight of Expedians anywhere in the world.

The culture is also very nice; working at Expedia Group is very flexible, and people are open-minded. Expedia Group also shows it cares with a range of benefits; from the wellness allowance, travel allowance, free monthly breakfasts in London, and numerous socials.

What differentiates Expedia Group in the analytics world?

The infrastructure is really solid. When I did my PHD, I was used to booking in time on a server; in contrast it’s great having all the resources on tap.

For example, if you want to run Rstudio, you’re connected to servers running it. There are 20 clusters, and everybody has access to them. You never need to worry about computing power; and the same goes for Python.

If you have any problems then there would be investment in resources to handle that, whereas in my last role the company didn’t take data infrastructure seriously enough to keep on top of the latest trends.

Expedia Group is big on its “test and learn” culture, and this openness to trying new things carries over into everything. Whether it comes to running a test with huge potential business impact, or suggesting a new meeting format, people are willing to give new things a go. A lot of companies say they do this, but Expedia Group really has the culture to let that happen.

It’s also important to know that Expedia Group is a global company, and we work across multiple different timezones. This means knowing that, if you want a team in Dallas to productionize something, your team in London needs to finish the models on our side in the morning before they come online. This also might mean being a bit more flexible to get a call in the diary that works for all your stakeholders – be it in the morning for Asia or the evening for America. We really appreciate that different teams have flexibility around timezones and we try to show that respect towards each other. 

What are you doing when not at work?

In my free time, I’m pretty sporty; playing squash with a local club and going running with my partner. I also like hiking and travelling; especially when going back to see my family in Scotland.

I’ve also booked my first trip with the Expedia Group employee perks; in Croatia to do hiking and kayaking. My partner’s favourite thing in the world is visiting waterfalls, so that’s the plan for Easter weekend!

What advice would you give to a candidate for analytics at Expedia Group?

Be yourself. Don’t be intimidated by technical side of things. Approach challenges with curiosity and enthusiasm. Everybody interviewing you wants you to succeed, and we look forward to meeting people with right mindset to respond to a challenge, learn quickly and get stuff done.

I was recommended for this job through a recruiter, and when I looked at the job I thought “I don’t have this experience. I don’t use R and Python regularly and have only done online courses.” Once within the process, the interviewers explained that those skills were not mandatory, as long as I was willing to learn and give it a go. At Expedia Group, you just have to be willing to get up to speed quickly – I am really grateful to my manager for having that faith in me!

Expedia Cares: The best perk of working for Expedia Group

Kayla Ferdon | Global Campaign Manager, Orbitz in Chicago

Besides my actual day job as a Global Campaign Manager, my favorite thing about working at Expedia Group is Expedia Cares, our incredible charitable giving benefits, that extend well beyond just monetary donation match.

Before working at Expedia Group, I worked for a wonderful nonprofit organization. Unfortunately, that nonprofit didn’t have a physical office, and after a few years, I was craving a job that allowed me to interact with fellow humans, face-to-face, on a regular basis. An opportunity opened up at Orbitz, one of Expedia Group’s many travel brands, which sounded great, but I was hesitant to make the move from the nonprofit sector to a large, corporate company because I was afraid I’d be losing my ability to give back and feel fulfilled.

My concerns disappeared when I learned about the company’s incredible charitable giving program.

Most companies today have a corporate match program where they will match every dollar you donate to charity. Expedia Group goes well beyond that. They understand that not everyone can donate money all of the time. EG also matches the time you donate to charitable organizations.

For every hour you volunteer (that does not conflict with your work hours), you receive $15 (or local currency equivalent) in donation dollars that go into a bank where you can allocate the funds to the charity of your choice at any time.

I volunteer with the Human Rights Campaign, Chicago Scholars and the Chicago Architecture Foundation. If I spend two hours on a Wednesday evening helping one of my mentees from Chicago Scholars proofread her college admissions essay, and then two hours on a Saturday afternoon helping HRC organize their annual gala, I can log those four hours and donate the $60 in donation dollars to Chicago Scholars, HRC, a different organization, or split it between a few. I can also save them to build up a bigger balance for a larger donation to one organization. This is seriously my favorite work perk ever and I hit the maximum time-match benefit every year.

If that wasn’t enough, we also empower our employees to volunteer together, building community within the organization. Each September, we organize the Expedia Group annual Day of Caring, a day when all Expedia Group employees are given a day off of work to go out into the community, as a group, and volunteer. I’m a member of the Chicago chapter of the Expedia Volunteers affinity group and for Day of Caring 2018 in Chicago, we organized opportunities everywhere from the Greater Chicago Food Depository to animal shelters to beach cleanups to preparing for a bike race to fight AIDS.

Throughout the year, we organize other activities too, in and out of our office. This year for National Volunteer Week, we planned different activities each day for the whole week. Last October, we hosted a volunteer fair where we invited nonprofit organizations to come into our office and tell our employees more about who they are and how to get involved.

And I’m not done yet! Expedia Group also has this really special Global Ambassadors Program, a yearly organized trip where a few lucky employees are sent somewhere in the world and work to understand how we can support tourism and sustainable living in that area. It’s adventure and culture and philanthropy all tied into one, and I am dying to get invited. The ambassadors are selected at random from the pool of individuals who participate in any of our various charitable giving opportunities. Since I hope to stay with EG forever, I hope I’ll get picked someday.

I’m so thankful that I found an organization that allows me to work in, let me just say, the coolest office space ever, with some of the smartest people around, all while allowing me to feel good about our collective efforts giving back to our world.

Learn more about how Expedia Cares: https://www.expediacares.com/

Career Check-in: Faisal Saiyed

Faisal Saiyed | Director, APAC People Services in Gurgaon

What does your typical work day look like?

In general, I have long days since I handle APAC. Being based in India, my first half typically is about engaging with my team, employees and managers in APAC. Evenings are often about hosting/participating in calls from US or other locations and thus I can often be found checking emails late in the night😊

What have you enjoyed most about working at EG?

The encouragement to think wide, to test and learn. There is a hugely supportive environment that allows one to risk failure without any negativity attached to it. Plus, I get to play out my role with a lot of freedom and autonomy.

What makes your team unique?

My team comprises of 6 nationalities and works across multiple time zones in APAC. They are incredibly passionate, driven and highly empathetic. I love their energy and ability to get stuff done.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

When we started off People Services team in APAC, there were many things that needed to align better. We were expending a lot of effort, but the impact on employees was sub optimal. Over the last 18 months, I am incredibly proud of the team that we have built, the technology interventions we have implemented and process excellence that we have fostered. While we still have a long way to go, we have already started impacting employees in a positive way. Our Employee experience is much improved and that such makes me incredibly excited.

Who has influenced you the mos?

Growing up, my father was a key influence in my life. Then, my wife and my daughter have two big influences on my life and I have learnt so much from them!

How and where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration in little little things in every day. A kind gesture, a lovely song or beautiful scenery really charge me up. I often turn to poetry to sooth a troubled day. Finally, I am also inspired by how people surmount challenges and demonstrate an incredible will to live and live well.

How did you learn to embrace failure?

I have always taken failure ‘personally’ and often brood on it. Over time, I have pushed myself to ‘let go’ and not let my ego come in the middle. This has been a really tough and learning experience for me and I am still on that journey.

What is best career advice?

My most frequent recommendations in terms of career advice are two (i) strive to be awesome at the role that you are doing such that you are upheld as a role model, and (ii) create a wider spectrum of skills so that one is able to broaden one’s capabilities to take on different roles. That way, we can demonstrate excellence in the current role and have a bouquet of skills to offer that can help us go to new/different roles!

Tell us about your favorite vacation.

This has to be Scotland and Lake Districts in North England. Picture-post card perfect places, great weather and we had a lovely place to stay.

What is favorite weekend getaway?

I love the hills, so whenever I get a chance, I relish going into the mountains and spending some quality time.

Employee Experiences: Krystyna Waterhouse

From recruitment coordinator to business analyst: how to make a career pivot within Expedia Group

Krystyna Waterhouse | Business Analyst, Lodging Partner Services in Geneva

What is my current role?

My role – as of the past year – is that of a business analyst, based in Geneva. When I moved into Analytics, my specialism was People Analytics. I created capacity planning models, assessed quality of hire, and provided reporting for recruitment. A few months ago, I moved into another team focused on new inventory; supporting analytics for third-party inventory and vacation rentals.

The core of my role is supporting my stakeholders through data to answer business questions. As an analyst, I report on the “what” by looking at metrics linked to performance. But where an analyst adds value is in moving from the “what” to the “why” and the “how”; helping stakeholders understand why we are seeing certain trends and helping them decide which actions to take next.

At the Analytics and Revenue Management offsite

This means that some days I spend hours querying on databases using SQL or doing analysis in Excel to understand a problem, but other times I am focused on visualisations in Tableau or Powerpoint. My work is all about enabling insights and solving business problems, and the tools I need to use to get there vary.

However, just a year ago, my day-to-day looked nothing like this. I was working as a recruitment coordinator in London, scheduling interviews for 50-75% of my office hours. So… how and why did I end up in Switzerland doing analytics?

The path from recruitment to analytics

During my year in recruitment, I was fortunate to have a manager who supported and engaged with me to understand my career aspirations and interests. My role prior to Expedia Group had involved some work with data so I had a vague feeling that I might be interested in working with data and solving business problems.

With 10% of my time allocated specifically to project work, I expressed an interest to my Senior Director about working more with data. He was incredibly supportive, and involved me in his recruitment reporting; the beginning of my tempestuous relationship with Excel. I found myself excited by the results of early analysis, but also itching to dig deeper and ask “so what” about the trends I saw.

I realised that I wanted to spend my entire day answering those “so what?” questions, and that I needed to upskill myself. Alongside my regular work, I started to take on as many projects as possible whilst attending Expedia’s Code Academy (learning basic Python and Java). I also participated in an online Harvard Computer Science course called CS50. Many of my lunchtimes and weekends became focused on getting exposure to new training; I still didn’t quite know where it would take me, but I knew that I had to follow my curiosity.

Next, I started to reach out to different hiring managers within Expedia Group. One of the great features of life in Expedia is the open talent market – this declares that all positions opened must be posted internally, and that an employee can apply for roles without having to let their manager know. However, cross-functional and cross-brand moves are really encouraged at Expedia Group, and so I kept an open dialogue at all times with my manager about how we could make my role more data-focused.

Cupcake decorating is another one of my weaknesses

When reaching out to hiring managers at this point, I wasn’t applying for roles, but looking to build my network and gain some experience. I ended up spending some time shadowing the User Experience Research team in London, and this was a valuable opportunity to assess the kind of work I would enjoy.

In the end, it was actually my manager who pointed out the role in Analytics to me. It would involve my Senior Director becoming my direct stakeholder. I worried I didn’t have all the skills on the job description, but I pushed my doubts aside and sent over my CV.

Within a week I was interviewing and realising just how exciting the position was. I would be answering the same questions that had eaten at me whilst I was creating reports for recruitment, but with the training, infrastructure and tools of the Analytics team in my arsenal. When I was told the role would be in Geneva, Switzerland, I did not hesitate to relocate.

So, how am I finding it now?

In the past year since my relocation, I have had a huge learning curve. I discovered that my Excel skills were quite underwhelming and that my powerpoint decks had room for growth. I had to learn to write complex queries in SQL to access data, design models in Excel using R, and create data visualisations in Tableau.

Yet despite the number of technical skills that I had to develop (still a work in progress!), I felt since day one in the team that this was right for me. I love solving new problems every day; and without doubt, the support of my analytics peers and managers has helped immensely. No matter how many slack messages I send, or how many times I pop up at somebody’s desk, I am never made to feel I am asking too many questions. My team in London were amazing, so I was relieved to find when I moved to Geneva that the team here were just as friendly and welcoming.

Hiking in Arnensee with coworkers at one of the most beautiful lakes in the world

Geneva itself has been great. Like every Expedian, I’m big on travel, and living so near an airport has me leaving the country on average once a month. The lake in Geneva is bright turquoise in summer, and I’ve learnt to paddleboard as well as continuing to attend the Crossfit classes I took in London. Last summer I went hiking frequently with coworkers, and we hit up several Christmas markets in December. The analytics team itself has a ton of social activities; from monthly fast food lunches to cupcake decorating, ice-skating and laser tag. I even learnt to ski with a co-worker, although my skills on that front need some work…

What’s next for me?

I’m enjoying the challenges of new business topics and problems in Analytics. I have got a long list of skills I’m looking to develop this year, and I’m determined to make a little progress in my French. As for the future? I’ve found my joy in analytics and learning, but in Expedia Group, as in life, change is the only real guarantee.

One of my many weekend day-trips to Chamonix

What would I advise to somebody else looking for a career change?

  • Reach out to hiring managers or peers in different teams to find out what they do; shadowing is a great way to understand what a day-in-the-life actually looks like
  • Engage with your manager on personal development goals; set clear objectives and define what steps you will need to succeed
  • Follow your curiosity: what do you enjoy doing, and what really piques your interest at work?
  • Upskill yourself using the resources at hand; there are plenty of free courses online on edx, udemy and coursera

Employee Experiences: David Barmaz

Why Expedia is a special place to work

David Barmaz | Supply Analysis Manager, Lodging Partner Services in Geneva

The comfort of a large corporation with the growth pace of a start up

When I joined Expedia Group Geneva Analytics team 2.5 years back, the team was made of 30 people.

Today, we are over 80. The overall company has been growing strongly in general (10-15% per year), but with the growing push for more data, the analytics function has seen growth outpacing the general company.

The direct consequence of this growth is that Expedia Group offers a huge number of opportunities to take on responsibilities and increase one’s scope.

Most company that see such growth are often of a much smaller scale… but being part of a large corporation has a lot of advantage: global reach, large impact, and also loads of nice smaller perks like desks you can raise, free fruits & coffees, big allowance for sport activities, showers on site etc.

The main Geneva office also happen to be on the street perpendicular to the water jet (Jet D’Eau), so you get to check it out every day when coming and leaving the office; there’s nothing quite like a bike ride along the Rhone and Lake Geneva to get to work!

Morning ride to work

Making Expedia Group the best workplace

One of the most noticeable changes I’ve witnessed over the past 2.5 years is the drive in the Analytics team to make Expedia Group a great place to work.

  • New joiner onboarding has been strongly developed and streamlined.
  • The number of learning opportunities has increased drastically; Analytics now has a dedicated training committee, along with data science classes & code academy.
  • The need for training is also recognized by leadership through a generous training budget to employees.

Our team has probably the most active social committee of the whole enterprise. We have about 5 events each quarter. Last year, some of the activities included an escape room, a baking class, a curling initiation and most recently an ice skating night.

For the first time this year, everyone in the team has a quarterly objective to make life in the office better. We see a lot of beautiful initiatives flourish from this: such as “Lunch and Learn” sessions and language exchange groups.

Volunteering is also dear to many Expedians. Shortly before Christmas 2018, 150 employees gathered to refurbish a block of flats for people in need in Geneva.

Ice skating team event

You thought London was international? Try Geneva!

Prior to joining Expedia Group in Geneva, I worked in London for 5 years. One of the things I loved the most was how international London was, and losing this diversity was one of my main concerns, moving back to my home country.

But Expedia Group’s Geneva office is a special place. The vast majority of employees here are born elsewhere; being Swiss-born, I’m definitely part of a minority!

When I moved back to my country, I expected people to have the same habits as me. I was in for a shock when I started my work days at 7am and had to wait about 2 hours before most of my colleagues arrived.

However, I do feel very lucky to spend my days mingling with people from all over, who have such a rich variety of experiences. The staggered times at which people arrive at the office reflect not only the cultural diversity of Expedia Group in Geneva, but also the Expedia approach to flexible working and work-life balance.

Christmas Party

Now if you’ve read all this, you might be wondering: “how can I be part of this?” We have A LOT of open positions pretty much all the time, so please check out our Career website and feel free to reach out should you have any questions about the Geneva office or the Analytics team.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Career Check-in: Alex Lieu

What differentiates an analyst from a BI Dev?

Alex Lieu | Director Business Intelligence, Lodging Partner Services in Geneva

Tell me a bit about yourself and how you first joined Expedia

My career with Expedia actually started 12 years ago in Seattle, but I’ve spent the past 8 years in the Geneva office. I initially joined as a financial analyst, moved into regional analytics and managed the team there, before transitioning into my current role leading the BI Dev (Business Intelligence Developers) team.

Having fun with my manager at the Analytics and Revenue Management offsite in Geneva

For somebody who is new to the world: How would you differentiate the role of a BI dev to the role of an analyst?

I’d like to start off by saying that what matters most is the commonality between the two;the problem solving capability.

But when it comes down to it, an analyst is a person who tries to identify business trends and to tell a story. A developer finds ways to explore data, build tools and create efficiencies to enable others.

For an analyst interview, the focus might be on answering questions and telling stories with the data. When interviewing a BI developer, I like to understand what tools they have built in the past. For both, I try to figure out if they truly understood the needs of their clients or just followed instructions.

However, it really is a spectrum; the roles in Expedia aren’t so definite any more, and the profile we want depends on the job that the team is going to carry out. Sometimes a more generalist person might be appropriate for a team, but in other times you need a really technical skill set. And it is key to note that you don’t need four people with the same skillset in a team; it’s more important to be able to leverage different skills across a team.

What defines an “Expedia Group” hire to you?

The best hires I can think back on are curious, focused on the problem being solved rather than the official task itself, and are interested in the human dynamic. This is important as often the root of the issue is not immediately clear from the way a stakeholder explains it. It requires both connection with people and grit to solve problems in such a large organisation.

Applying the core problem-solving competencies at the offsite by trying to build a car out of cardboard

I also think a lot of Expedians combine that grit with humour. Across the multiple teams and groups I’ve worked in, there’s been this sense of humour and a lack of ego that underpins the culture.

Do all the Expedia offices have a different atmosphere or is there a global Expedia vibe?

The offices definitely all have a distinct culture based on the make-up of employees. In the offices where we share space with the Account Management teams there is a particularly social and outgoing vibe; smaller ones, like Geneva, are a little more intimate. If you needed to talk to somebody in Geneva, you would always be able to show up at their desk with a question.

And what would your advice be to anybody thinking about moving to Geneva specifically?

Switzerland is a great location in the centre of Europe; it’s super easy to travel from. Furthermore, the Swiss are a very active and outdoorsy nation, so there are loads of activities to get stuck in with. And Geneva is one of the easiest cities in the world to commute around. It’s definitely a bit quieter than London or Prague, but there’s a strong social culture amongst the Expedians who have relocated.

Walking with lions in South Africa; enjoying the perks of my Expedia Group employee travel benefits

What advice would you give to somebody joining Expedia Group today to succeed?

Approaching everything with a problem-solving mentality has been really important for me. Lots of people are excited about getting the most exciting, glamorous, high-visibility opportunity. I’ve had the best outcomes from going for the “messy” problem nobody else wants to tackle and just making it work.

I’ve also had to learn that when somebody is asking you for something, they’re not asking for the “right way” or whose remit it sits within; they want the problem solved. In a big company like Expedia Group it could be tempting to “pass the parcel” but it’s important to have the drive to solve the tricky problems and to take responsibility for subjects.

I’d also say it’s important to understand your personal motivations and drivers, which might change over time. I like my current role as I really value making the life of the people I work with more effective, and that is validation I receive every day. Knowing I add value to my colleagues is really important for me.

Finally, I have found a lot of value from having a mentor; I would recommend every Expedian to sign up for the available mentorship programs. Leadership are generally very easy to talk to and interested to know that junior people are getting on well, and the visibility a mentor gives you across the organisation can be invaluable.

How CarRentals.com Encourages Professional Growth with Side Projects

Originally published on the Expedia Engineering blog, February 14, 2019

Continuous Learning

Part of my role as CTO at CarRentals.com, an Expedia Group company, is to train and develop my engineering team. I’m a believer that the best way to learn is through hands-on experience. And the best motivator for hands-on experience is doing work that you’re passionate about. I’ve found side projects keep me engaged and knowledgeable about upcoming technical trends. I’ve been fortunate to have had managers at Expedia Group who support my continuous learning. They realize that this makes me a stronger contributor in providing practical guidance within my team.

My passion is around voice technology, and most of my side project work has been with Alexa and Google Assistant. These platforms provide generous credits for their corresponding cloud platforms. This has encouraged me to do even more prototyping and exploration of different, emerging technologies.

Cloud Cost Reimbursement Program

At Expedia Group, we make extensive use of cloud technologies and infrastructure. We’ve developed a world-class set of tools for deploying and managing our solutions at scale. To give my team a solid understanding of cloud technologies, I wanted to encourage them to work on projects in their personal accounts. To do this, last year I launched a “Cloud Cost Reimbursement” program for CarRentals.com. Like the programs I leverage for voice app development, this program reimburses $50 monthly towards any cloud provider. I only ask that people share with me and the team what they were working on and takeaways from their projects.

So what have the results been? Since launching this program I’ve seen:

  • Program Managers with minimal coding experience self-teach from online courses
  • An engineer create a website for his upcoming wedding. He did this to learn Koa, which he then convinced the team to try for a new project
  • An engineer and analyst on the team explore machine learning with Amazon SageMaker
  • An engineer learn about serverless programming by setting up some jobs to run and manage on their own

It’s been a successful program and demonstration of the continuous learning principles that we espouse at Expedia Group. I’m looking forward to seeing what the team produces in 2019!

From git to Teaching Git

Amanda Olsen | Software Development Engineer | Expedia | Chicago

According to the 2018 Stack Overflow survey of 100,000 developers across the globe, 87% use Git. But do we know what git is? I thought I did, until my non-technical British friend informed me how hilarious it was that I use Git. “Git” it turns out, is British slang meaning a contemptible, stupid, annoying, juvenile, silly person, usually a male. Thanks Linus for bringing such positivity into the daily workflow of practically everyone! And yes, it’s in the source code of Git: Linus chose the word fully intentionally.

Fortunately however, I have graduated from being a git to teaching Git to thousands. I share this story to encourage developers to branch out (pun intended!).

I initially wanted to teach Git because I was bad at it. I was a git at Git. I wasn’t clear on what exactly was happening when I rebased or merged. For the same reason, I wasn’t clear on the advantages and disadvantages of each. The concept of “what story do I want X branch to tell” was one I had never considered, i.e. the concept of building a usable history. Repo theory and the major workflows I was unfamiliar with. Several best practices I had yet to encounter (e.g. rebase locally, otherwise known as a squash, before pulling using rebase so that this rebase process is simpler and more efficient). The limits and best uses of git reflog were also unclear to me, despite the fact that I used it somewhat regularly. And how Git actually manages content was opaque to me. There are many, many more things I could list.

The best way to master something is to teach it, because you have to learn so much more than what you actually teach. (And because students will ask you questions you don’t know the answer to!) When I started prepping to teach Git, one developer told me he couldn’t imagine needing more than one hour to teach Git. Another developer told me he couldn’t imagine needing a class at all! For him, using Git is like walking. You don’t need to teach anyone to walk! Keep that in mind as the story continues.

Last fall, I taught a Git 101 class here in the Chicago office for Expedia Group employees. Then Freddy Guime encouraged me to lecture on the topic at DevNexus that March. They wanted Intermediate Git, so I had to change scope, research more, and update my content. At DevNexus, I got recruited by Pearson/O’Reilly. While DevNexus only needed a one-hour lecture, Pearson needed a three-hour course, so again I expanded scope and researched and learned more. (And yes, as I mentioned in a previous article, part of this was grueling.)

In my first iteration of Intermediate Git for Pearson/O’Reilly, I had between 350 and 500 students. And in my second iteration, I had 560. In both cases the class size maxed out and, for the second, there was so much interest that they made a special exception to allow more than 500 registrants. These were three-hour courses focused on only a subsection of Git concepts.

My trajectory of “from git to teaching Git” was: I wanted to learn, Freddy intervened and took it to the next level, I put in a ridiculous amount of hours, and I have found myself an O’Reilly instructor. View my October 29 class. The high-level topics of this class were:

  • Learn the differences, advantages, and disadvantages of merge and rebase
  • Intelligently converse on why you should choose merge or rebase
  • Create and use aliases, if desired
  • Differentiate between a few primary workflows and their benefits
  • Interactively rebase, i.e. squash commits
  • Set up an external editor
  • Rebase a local branch onto another local branch
  • Update a local branch from a remote branch using rebase
  • Move forward, backward, or sideways in time to get out of a jam or just to use Git to its full creative potential

Because this has been such a rewarding and broadening experience, I want to encourage developers, for whom teaching is comfortable, to take it to the next level, at least once. Just give it a try. Like Freddy got me out of my comfort zone which in turn got me to a really good place, consider other expressions of being a developer. Teaching may be the most potent way of learning.

So, uh, don’t be a git, but learn and exploit Git to the fullest!

Get noticed by our recruiters with these 6 Tips

Originally published on our HomeAway blog in January 2018.

Our recruiters review thousands of applications each month so you can be sure they are eager for unique and eye-catching resumes. So how do you stand out from the sea of applicants? Our HomeAway recruiters are sharing their biggest resume turn-ons, plus cringe-worthy mistakes applicants should try to avoid.

The one name you don’t want to forget:

“My biggest pet peeve is when candidates don’t take the time to customize their resume and cover letter. Sometimes they will even address a different company! Take the time to customize your resume – not only for the position you are applying to, but also double check your application for grammar, spelling, and the correct company name.”  – Heather T.

Pay attention to the numbers:

“A resume showing tenure of a position title instead of showing total years with the company can be confusing. For example, 10 years with HomeAway is more eye-catching than five years as an account coordinator and five years as a manager. You can make that distinction within the description of responsibilities.” – Brittany H.


Don’t show up to the party empty-handed:

“When candidates come to an interview I advise that they bring a portfolio with a pad of paper and a pen. Before you arrive, do research on the interviewers you are meeting with and bring up something you learned during the interview. The other piece is to have five or six questions written down in your portfolio so when the interviewer asks you if you have questions you are ready to go. Interviews are hard enough and having to come up with questions on the spot can conclude an interview on a flat note. Make sure your last impression is your best foot forward!” – Adam F.


To cover letter or not to cover letter, that is the question:

“When it comes to the cover letter, it’s better to have one than not. When you write your cover letter the key is to be brief, be unique, and be accurate. That being said, cover letters often do get overlooked so it’s more important to invest your time perfecting your resume and mining your network for a quality connection that can help you get your foot in the door.” – Analisa F. 

Don’t overdress to impress:

“Wear something casual, but not too casual. I’d recommend jeans and a collared shirt but stay away from t-shirts with logos. I stress to candidates to wear what they feel comfortable in. Just leave the suit and tie at home unless you’re interviewing for an executive role.” – Clinton B.