Career Check-in: Grégoire Laurent

From Account Management in Munich to Analytics in Singapore: My reflections on four years at Expedia.

Grégoire Laurent | Senior Business Analyst, Lodging Partner Services in Geneva

What a journey it has been since I joined Expedia at the start of 2015! Given the wide range of teams and offices around the world and culture of inclusion and exchange, it is no surprise that my career has also been varied.

Chapter 1: Munich | Skillset: German + Account Management

Interested in improving my German-skills, I applied for a role within an Account Management team looking after German speaking part of Switzerland. The interview process was longer than I was used to but each step was worth the time as I got to know my future colleagues and the role I was applying for. I liked the culture and energy of the people from the beginning.

Although I was the only non-German native speaker I was choosen on the potential and mindset I showed during the interview process. The team organized German-classes and took the extra time to help me with this new challenge. After a few months I was able to pass my C1 and work more proficiently in German.

Sunset ride with partner after a successful market visit in Zermatt

From day one in Munich, I was lucky to meet people I still consider mentors. These Expedians encouraged me to take time to think about my career plan and objectives so that I could truly follow my passion. By attending regular onsite and offsite training with the wider DACH and EMEA team I was able to develop skills which I knew would become extremely valuable for the future.

Chapter 2: Geneva | Skillset: Analytics

After 2 years in the Munich office I found myself spending more and more time travelling back to Switzerland for private and professional reasons. I had discussions with my manager about a move back.

The perks of working in Switzerland

Evolving within my role, I also began to realise that what I like the most and what I was the most interested in was the data (I have always been more of a numbers person) and therefore started learning on my own time some of the hard-skills needed to aspire for more analytical positions. After a few months I finally decided to discuss with my manager about my interest to get more exposure to analytical roles.

A key for me to be able to make this career change was the opportunity I was offered to spend a few hours every week on a cross-departmental project. This allowed the manager in the Analytics team to test my skills and interest, whilst I could discover if the work was really of interest to me. Two months later after a very successful 1st project I was offered a role in the Regional Analytical team.

This new role started with a very intense period of exponential learning, surrounded by very qualified and talented colleagues. It’s vital to be able to adapt quickly to new situations and learn new skills on the job. However, the reward for me was far greater than the challenge. Expedia Group invested in me and gave me time to develop myself. Surrounded by talented colleagues, I always had resources to learn from.

Enjoying the local food in Singapore

Regional Analytics, what do you do?

Our role in in the regional analytics team has two sides:

  • Support the Sales and Marketing Leadership teams within our SuperRegion (EMEA, APAC, LATAM or AMER)
  • Support Global projects and initiatives at the core of Expedia Group strategy

The Regional Analytics team is just team within the wider Expedia Group Analytics & Revenue Management department. Expedia Group has data in its DNA and therefore I have had many opportunities to learn from now datasets, applications and analytical technics.

Chapter 3: Singapore | Skillset: Culture + more Analytics

The view from the Singapore office

I have always been passionate about opportunities for career development, training and learning. When the Analytics department launched committees in early 2018 to make sure that Expedia is a great place to work I jumped at the chance to get stuck in.

The committee I worked on implemented a Mobility Program with colleagues from the US and Asia; after a few months and presentations were able to get a green light from the Analytics Leadership to launch a program worldwide that would allow analysts to get experience across the globe.

I was lucky to be one of the first employees to be part of the new program; spending a few months in Singapore to cover for two colleagues taking their paternity leave – 3 months each (Generous paternity leave is yet another great feature of Expedia Group! 😉).

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!

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!

Career Check-In with Sarah Sandiford

Come join us as we adventure around the Hotels.com global offices and meet our team to discover more about their day-to-day roles, exciting projects, great teams and, of course, their passion for travel.

Sarah Sandiford | Associate Social Community Manager | Hotels.com | London

  • What area of Hotels.com do you work in?

I work in the global social media team, which sits within the brand org – my team neighbours are PR and Brand. In my day to day role, I manage our EMEA social channels including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. From creating content to partnering with influencers, my role is fast paced and very creative.

  • What do you enjoy most about working at Hotels.com?

Ooh that’s tough to just pick one! My top three would be:

  1. The amazing teams I work with: my colleagues may be based all over the globe, but we are actually a tight knit bunch! From working on a big collaborative projects to motivating one another with ‘out there’ ideas and of course, we always make sure to catch up on the latest Peaky Blinders episode.
  2. Wealth of knowledge: Working in the fast moving world of social media, it’s constantly evolving. Since joining Hotels.com, I’ve learnt more about this industry in the last six months, than the last two years of my career.
  3. And being honest? The travel inspo! My destination bucket list has been ever growing since I joined.
  • Tell us about a project you are most proud of and why?

As Social Media Manger of EMEA, I look after our global Instagram account. All the snaps we share on our grid are from our internal staff – that’s right, our amazing grid of travel inspo images are all shot by our employees around the world. We really do live to travel.

Showcasing their passion for the next adventure and uncovering hidden travel gems, being able to share that with our followers is incredible. Our finance team seem to live the best adventures and their photography is pretty impressive!

  • Tell us about a manager who has supported your development? And how?

Since the get-go, my manager has given me the confidence to in putting ideas forward – however small, big or silly. It means that I’ve been able to crack on with projects and in my short time here, really carve out new strategies and campaigns. This also applies to senior management, I feel completely at ease asking for help or sharing feedback on certain projects.

  • How do you balance work and life?

Knowing when to switch off. Social media is always ‘on’ and it’s hard to completely log off – but making time to unwind and disconnect is important. Spending time outdoors or getting lost in a good book on my commute are my social free moments. Well, I try.

  • What is your most memorable travel experience?

Spending two weeks exploring Cuba. Understanding their way of life and soaking up the culture, to those incredible white sandy beaches where the coldest drink on tap is a Havana rum mojito. Bliss.  

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!

Career Check-In with Josie Shah

Come join us as we adventure around the Hotels.com global offices and meet our team to discover more about their day-to-day roles, exciting projects, great teams and, of course, their passion for travel.

Josie Shah | Director of User Generated Content | Hotels.com | London

  • What area of Hotels.com do you work in?

I work in the Content team, specifically user generated content. We work on a number of projects that integrate the experiences, feedback and photos from real customers that have stayed at our hotels, back into the booking journey to help new customers find the right hotel for their needs.

  • What do you enjoy most about working at Hotels.com?

I really enjoy working with such an international group of people I love the different conversations and perspectives this brings to the work place.

  • Tell us about a project you are most proud of and why?

I ran a market wide RFP to launch our affiliate program across Europe, in search of best in class technology and service, ensuring we had the right people and tools on the ground to be locally relevant in all markets and meet our growing business needs. We ran the project on time, exceeded our performance goals and saved $1m+ in costs in the process.

  • Tell us about a manager who has supported your development? And how?

My previous manager was very supportive of my interest in exploring new career opportunities whilst retaining a part time schedule. He highlighted all my transferable skills and where they could be applicable in parts of the business I might not have considered myself qualified for. He has also championed the benefits and value of part time employees amongst senior decision makers.

  • How do you balance work and life?

After returning from maternity leave (twice) I have worked part time, both 3 and 4 days per week at different times. Right now I work a 7 day fortnight which feels like the right balance for me. Hotels.com has been very encouraging and accommodating of my need to be as present as I can be for my young family, whilst also exploring new and fulfilling career opportunities.

  • What is your most memorable travel experience?

Many years ago whilst backpacking around South East Asia, I caught a boat to a tiny island off the north east coast of Malaysia called the Perhentian Islands. There were just a handful of small huts, fish were freshly caught and BBQ’d and there was about an hour of electricity a day from one central generator for the whole island. We saw komodo dragons, snorkelled with tuna and turtles… it was the most beautiful unspoilt place. I imagine it’s a bit different now!

Find out about how Josie found a part-time working schedule that worked for her family and career. #WeWhoTravel

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.

A HomeAway Employee’s Trip Around the World

Throwback Thursday: originally published on our HomeAway blog on January 11, 2018

Diana Nogueira | Social Media Advertising Specialist, HomeAway in Austin.

Diana Nogueira works in Austin, TX, but it seems like she spends more time abroad than in the Lone Star State. She’s mastered the art of using up all of her paid time off while scheduling trips that allow her to visit other HomeAway offices around the world. She’s sharing her favorite moments from 2017 (one of her biggest travel years) and tips for traveling solo.

Q&A with Diana

Q: How many countries did you visit in 2017?

A: I visited 14 countries. Although I did visit Spain twice; Barcelona in May, and Madrid in August.

Q: That’s more than one country a month! Which HomeAway offices were you able to check out?

A: I visited our Singapore, Madrid and Sydney offices.

Q: So out of all the offices you’ve been to, which one is your favorite?

A: My favorite office is our Downtown Austin location where I work. My favorite international office is in Madrid. Full disclosure, the proximity to tasty food (Whole Foods in Austin and El Corte Ingles in Madrid) may have influenced my decision.

The beautiful Kaafu Atoll in The Maldives.

Q: It’s definitely understandable how food could be factor. Do you have a favorite dish?

A: I love eating healthy and finding local food markets wherever I am.

Foodie Heaven! La Boqueria Mercat in Barcelona, Spain

Q: What’s the culture like in the other offices?

A: I’m Brazilian and everyone in Brazil is very open and inviting and I saw a lot of that in the Madrid office. When HomeAway people found out I was visiting, they stopped by my desk to greet me and invite me out for drinks. They were genuinely interested in getting to know me.

Lunch at the El Corte Ingles in Madrid with some employees from the HomeAway office.

Visiting the volcanic island of Rangitoto, near Auckland, New Zealand

Q: Have you met any Team HomeAway friends during your travels?

A: Yes! I have met with colleagues in our Singapore, Madrid, Sydney and Auckland offices. I was on vacation by the time I made it to Auckland, so I didn’t work in the office, but I still made time to grab coffee with my Kiwi counterpart. I spent the most time in the Madrid office. In five days I got to meet different teams, hang out with them for lunch, happy hour, dinner and also go sightseeing with them. Everyone there was so friendly and I can’t wait to go back!

Meeting new friends at The Grounds of Alexandria in Sydney, Australia. This is must-see stop for foodies!

Q: HomeAway is truly a global team! When you’re traveling solo where do you usually stay?

A: I typically stay in hostels when I’m traveling alone because it’s super affordable and reserve a HomeAway when I’m traveling with a group. I’ve booked two HomeAways in the past, one in Playa del Carmen and another in South Padre Island when I planned a vacation with my friends.

Q: Is there one trip in 2017 that really stood out to you?

A: It is hard to pick just one, but I must go with Chiang Mai, Thailand. I got to spend a full day at the Elephant Nature Park, a nature and rehabilitation center located center in Northern Thailand. These majestic creatures have suffered a great deal and hold visible marks of torture. We had four elephants in our group and we were in charge of feeding, bathing and playing in the mud with them for the day. The oldest elephant in our group was 80 years old while the youngest, little Nina, was just five. This was truly a remarkable experience that I will never forget. I definitely plan on going back and spending more time volunteering at the Park.

Q: Wow, that’s truly an unforgettable experience. What kind of traveler would you say you are? Adventurous, touristy, or all about relaxation?

A: I would say a little bit of all of those. I grew up in a beach town, so relaxing on the beach ranks high on my list. I also love learning the history of a city, meeting locals and immersing myself in the culture of the country. I became a  big fan of “free walking tours” after attending my very first one in Paris in 2012. My guide and I hit it off and I ended up hanging out with him for two days as opposed to just one. It certainly did not hurt that he looked like Keanu Reeves! I also use the “Hop On Hop Off” buses quite a bit on my trips as they provide a convenient way to hit all the top attractions within the city.

Q: Final question, if you could stay in any vacation rental on the HomeAway website, which home would it be?

A: I would love to stay at this awesome 727 airplane overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica.

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.

Why I chose the alternate path as an apprentice

Lewis Luther-Braun | Apprentice, Hotels.com in London

Let’s start off with a question, what are your immediate thoughts when I say ‘apprentice’ – and I don’t mean the TV series hosted by Lord Alan Sugar. Chances are, those thoughts aren’t hugely positive. There’s this negative stigma (not everywhere, but in the majority of places) surrounding apprenticeships. This stretches from high school atmospheres all the way up to the mindset of those leading ‘innovative’ companies. Going through the sixth form, all I ever heard were that the next steps in a successful career meant going to university because that’s the way it’s always been done. That was all that was ever spoken about. While I was ‘deciding on my future’, I never even thought about apprenticeships. My naïve thoughts led me to believe that, apprenticeships were for people who couldn’t make it to university. Those who had failed to meet the requirements of the ‘standard’ system.

That was about two years ago.

Now I’m just over halfway through the first year of my degree apprenticeship with Expedia (Hotels.com Brand). So after confessing my prior belief of this negative stigma, why did I choose an apprenticeship? Well…

In December 2017 I thought I had the first steps in my career decided. I was 3 months into a gap year, picking up bits of freelance work here and there, building myself a small portfolio and working on things that took my fancy. I had a scholarship lined up to Aberystwyth University for the following September where I was going to be studying Computer Science with a flavour in either cybersecurity or robotics (which was quite exciting as they are developing pathfinding algorithms for the European Space Agency’s ExoMars rover mission).

Sounds like a pretty good deal, right – So why did I turn it down?

Well, over the gap year I came to the realisation that I prefer actually making stuff and doing something practical. So, as appealing as it sounded, sitting in a lecture theatre for however many hours per day listening to and taking notes of theoretical concepts that chances are, I would never use again – apart from maybe when I took my final year exams. I wasn’t buying it. I fancied something where I could put into practice what I was learning, almost instantly – so that I could consolidate my knowledge actually grasp what I was learning.

I had also heard that a lot of my friends coming out of university were having trouble finding jobs – not because they didn’t know their subject matter but instead because they didn’t have the required amount of experience to get a full time position.

Considering what I’ve briefly mentioned, in January I turned down my university place with no real idea of what I was going to do next. Writing this down, makes me realise that this idea doesn’t seem rational at all – I was turning down a secured place at university with a scholarship in place of… well. Nothing.

I had nothing lined up, no back-up plan. Plan ‘A’ didn’t quite cut it for me so I needed to find something else – On the bright side, there’s still another 25 letters left.

I started looking for extra freelance work to take up to improve my skillset and portfolio while I preceded to seek out what I was going to do next.

I started trying to answer the questions we’ve all asked ourselves; “Can I really see myself doing this as a job?”, “Am I actually any good at it?” & “Why exactly, does this capture my interest?”.

In the blind searching, that’s when I stumbled across mention of an apprenticeship at Expedia. I thought I’d try my luck, I had nothing to lose and so much to gain – the apprenticeship offered a full degree and 3 years ‘work experience’ at the same time, so those two points I mentioned earlier seemed to have been solved by this apprenticeship.

Practical: Tick

Work experience: Tick

BSc Degree: Tick

And now, here I am. One of Expedia’s first apprentices.

So what exactly do I actually do as an apprentice?

I work in terms of an 8-week cycle wherein I spend 7 straight weeks at Expedia and then 1 week at university, where I am studying a three-year course for a BSc in ‘Digital Innovation’. I usually receive a perplexed look when I tell someone what I study – so I’ll lay it out for you. In effect, it’s a computer science course but as defined by the industry as opposed to a university body who may or may not be currently involved in the industry. This means that everything we learn can be applied directly in the workplace, as it’s what the ‘industry’ have defined as what we need to know.

I appear to have tailored my next steps to what I was searching for. Since starting here, I’ve learnt so much. That in itself is a testimony to the team that I’m part of, where knowledge sharing is a basis of the team structure. One source of learning that I had overlooked when applying, was from the developers around me – people with years of experience are committing their code all the time where I can pick up on patterns they’ve used or hear why they did something one way but not the other and compare approaches. Plus I get insight into all their mistakes, in the hope that I can build on what they’ve learnt.

So it appears that not following the standard procedure has been an ‘Expedia-nce’ of a lifetime that’s led to some exciting new opportunities.