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

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.

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! 😉).

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.

Open Internal Talent Markets Promote Opportunity and Employer Sentiment

Ryan Johne | Reporting & Analysis Manager, Expedia Group in Bellevue, Washington

One of the most stressful events in a professional’s career is changing jobs. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average US worker will have ten different jobs before the age of 40 – and that number is projected to rise!

Personally, I fall right into that average. I’ve had seven different roles across three different companies, and let’s just say I’m a far cry from my days of being 20-something. Each of my transitions has been for different reasons as well. I’ve left because I wasn’t happy, and I’ve left because I needed more money to support my growing family.  My most recent move in July was for a yet another new reason – more on that in a few paragraphs…

I’ve been with Expedia Group for over six years now, with no plans to go anywhere…from a company perspective. Expedia Group has a unique benefit that offers their employees a gargantuan pool of job opportunities across job functions, businesses units, and experiences.

At Expedia Group, we have an Open Internal Talent Market, which allows hiring managers to approach employees from other teams within the company. It also gives employees the chance to apply for internal jobs without the (sometimes) awkward conversation with their manager about looking for other opportunities. It may sound a bit unproductive to have several different business groups pining over the best talent in the organization, but it’s not. It gives employees a great opportunity to develop their skills while avoiding ramp-up time with a new company.

Most other large companies offer an open talent market as well, but together with the work/life balance and the rockstar benefits at Expedia Group, being able to try new roles and/or teams is, well…butter-cream frosting on an already delicious baked good (sorry – I’m such a dad).

Back to my most recent transition…

The past four years of my career, I was on Expedia Group’s Global Brand Marketing team. I ran ROI analytics for a large-budget TV advertiser. My college degree is in advertising and the bulk of my career is in analytics, so as one could infer, I had a BOAT-LOAD of passion for the role. To be frank, it was my dream job. I worked with wonderfully smart and fun people who had a similar passion for the advertising world, which led to excellent cutting-edge work, in my humble opinion.

A few weeks before my 4-year mark with the Brand team, I received an email from my [now] manager asking me if I’d be interested in exploring a new opportunity on her team. It was in the HR organization, which, to be frank (again), didn’t seem like a great idea given my history of being less than politically-correct at times. However, as she explained her vision for the team and for my role, I realized something: It’s not advertising I’m passionate about, I’m passionate about using analytics to solve complex business problems. This was a perfect opportunity to challenge myself and apply that mindset to a function with which I am not familiar at all.

So, I jumped, leaving the comfort of Brand Marketing for HR. I jumped, hoping a bungee cord made of analytics experience and dad-jokes would keep me from crashing into a rocky outcrop of uncertainty and potential HR nightmares, given my periodically insensitive humor. I jumped, and I’m so glad I did.

Something I learned along the way is taking risks, in general, to promote health and growth (actually bungee jumping, however, might not prove to be “healthy”). Someone once told me, “If you’re comfortable, you’re not growing” – I’m a firm believer in that mentality. As we all know, growing up is a part of life. But it took this experience to make me realize “growing up” is one of the biggest parts of life…and it never really stops. Thankfully though, “growing up” during adulthood doesn’t include nearly as much voice change.

Let’s be realistic; all jobs eventually run their course and we all move on to the next challenge (remember, I still need three more jobs before I’m 40 to beat the national average!). However, given how many unique opportunities there are at Expedia Group, I have no reason to look anywhere but internally when the time comes, making those risks a lot easier to handle…and hopefully there’s no bungee jumping involved.