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!

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