Speaker Spotlight: Q&A with Neeraj Bhadani

Neeraj Bhadani | Data Scientist in London

Neeraj Bhadani speaks about his role in the technology sector and shares his thoughts on London’s Women of Silicon Roundabout Event, taking place 25-26th June 2019.

Neeraj is a Big Data Engineer at Hotels.com, one of the Expedia Group brands. He has more than a decade’s experience in the industry and is currently managing the Big Data Platform for Hotels.com and delivering trainings/workshops both internally and externally. Prior to Hotels.com, he worked on various Big Data projects, dealt directly with clients as a Technical specialist and migrated various ETL pipelines to Spark. He has received a Gold Medal for being topper of batch during the Bachelor of Engineering in Computer Science. 

Please tell us a little about yourself and how you got into the field of BIG Data Engineering?

Being entirely honest, I was a below average student during my school days! But my family really motivated me a lot for studies (special thanks to my elder brother). Gradually I started focusing on my studies. No one from my family had a technical background when I started engineering but I was always passionate about the subject. Going from a below average student during school days to finishing my engineering as a Gold Medallist was very satisfactory. During the initial days of my career I was a SAP Business Objects Admin but my younger brother motivated me to mould the career towards Big Data and he always helped me during this journey. Also I am happy to share that we are now working in the same team at Hotels.com.

What’s a typical day like for you?

I am working as a Big Data engineer managing  the Big Data platform for Hotels.com. In my day to day activities I help our Analysts/Data Engineers to improve their query performance, work on ETL jobs written in Hive/Presto/Spark and support the platform. I also deliver trainings and workshops on Apache Spark and strengthen the skillset around the same. Working with the world’s leader in travel industry is really an honor for me and I am happy that I am making my contribution within the company.

What is your Women of Silicon Roundabout talk about?

Henrietta Forssen and I are are talking about “Data science: beyond the hype“. In this session we will take you through exactly what data science and machine learning really is. We’ll explain some of the key algorithms used, how to understand what they do and how to know when to use machine learning in the first place, versus other methodologies.

What advice would you give to women who want to pursue a career in tech?

With the new technologies and innovations, there are immense opportunities in different areas and at various levels to showcase their talent. Also, with the increase in the cloud technologies which make the entire software development pipeline very easy. Business can now focus more on solving the problems rather than worrying about the infrastructure and related problems. It’s not only about working with the latest technologies, but one can also innovate the solutions which can help to improve the  basic necessities around the world like Education and Healthcare which will be a great contribution to the society.

Neeraj will be sharing his session entitled “Data Science: Beyond the hype” at 13:30 PM on 25th June. His talk will cover what data science and machine learning really is and also explain some of the key algorithms and methodologies used.

Speaker Spotlight: Q&A with Henrietta Forssen

Henrietta Forssen | Data Scientist in London

Henrietta Forssen speaks to us about her role in the technology sector and shares her thoughts on London’s Women of Silicon Roundabout Event, taking place 25-26th June 2019.

Henrietta is a Data Scientist at Hotels.com, one of the Expedia Group brands. She has worked on a range of projects relating to marketing and attribution, building machine learning models deployed across the business. Prior to Hotels.com Henrietta completed an MSc in Machine Learning, after working for several years as a Business Intelligence and Analytics Consultant.

Please tell us a little about yourself and how you got into the field of Data Science?

I’ve always been very curious, and really struggled in choosing ever fewer subjects throughout school. I somehow finally managed to settle on studying maths at university, it just felt like fun! Later on I realised that I’m also really motivated by making things work better, so after a year in consulting I went on to study a masters in machine learning, and here I am.

What’s a typical day like for you?

I spend a large portion of my time writing code to implement the current data science projects I’m working on. However, a fair amount of time is also spent on planning and scoping projects, which involves talking to the relevant stakeholders to really understand the business requirement or problem, as well as colleagues across data and analytics to work out what data we have that could be used to solve the problem.

Who is your female tech inspiration? What have they done and why do they inspire you?

I find Elsa Lebrun-Grandie really inspirational. She spent large parts of her career hands on in data mining and is now a Director of Marketing Data Science at Hotels.com, and somehow manages to prioritise a mountain of expectations and demands from stakeholders whilst still leading her team with trust and compassion. It’s really impressive.

Are you working on anything exciting at the moment that you’d like to share with our readers?

One of the areas that I’m involved in at the moment is working on the models that inform auction bidding decisions on comparison sites like TripAdvisor and Trivago. It’s a fascinating problem, since we both have huge amounts of information on which properties have been booked in the past as well as no idea how our competitors will bid and react day to day. It really is an ever changing challenge!

What is your Women of Silicon Roundabout talk about?

It’s an introduction to data science and machine learning for those people that have maybe heard words thrown about, but want to put more concrete meanings to those concepts. There is obviously only so much you can get through in one hour, but we have tried to get a little below the surface and provide a technical first tutorial on the key things you’d take into account when designing and implementing machine learning solution.

What advice would you give to women who want to pursue a career in tech?

Follow your passions and your heart! If you are interested in a particular field or technology, read about it, take courses on it, and get involved and hands on as much as you can. There are so many great women working on tech, come join us.

Henrietta will be sharing her session entitled “Data Science: Beyond the hype” at 13:30 PM on 25th June. Her talk will cover what data science and machine learning really is and also explain some of the key algorithms and methodologies used.

Life as a Data Analytics Apprentice at Expedia Group

Isabelle Bentley | Data Analyst Apprentice, Hotels.com in London

Tell us about how you became a Data Analyst at Expedia Group?

After considering different positions within the tech industry I found my current skills and interests lay best with a role in Data Analytics, which I have always been eager to enter. Upon further research I found there was alternative routes to enter this specific Tech field contrary to the usual university route. This is when I learnt of degree apprenticeships, which comprised of a debt free degree and a paying full-time job. After research into the variety of companies that offer such apprenticeships, I believed Expedia Group couldn’t be beaten! Everything from their brand values, to the specificity of their Data Analyst role (Product Analytics) fit me perfectly.

What are you enjoying most about your Data Analyst Apprenticeship?

The Data Analytics field is broad, ranging from Statistics to Machine Learning. Not only am I earning a degree in one of the biggest growing industries, I will have 3 years’ experience in a highly regarded company which I believe to be invaluable. To think alternatively it would take me 3 years to just gain the degree with no industry experience reassures me I have made the best possible decision to take up a degree apprenticeship.

What are you enjoying most about your role at Expedia Group?

The role has allowed me to use my statistical and logical skills in the work place, challenge and stretch myself. On the job training also allows me to constantly update my toolbox of skills. Opportunities like this here at Expedia Group create great ways to expand your learning and interests further in ways that will help you progress within your role. At work, I do not feel like an apprentice; I feel like a valued team member, who contributes meaningful work towards projects, team and company-wide goals.

How is the qualification helping you to be successful in your role?

Studying my degree in Data Analytics at Ada allows me to fully investigate and learn further all the knowledge and techniques needed to confidently complete tasks or projects at work.

Tell us a few more details about how you became interested in Data?

My interest in Data stemmed from my interest in Mathematics! This began with primary Mathematics, just after learning addition and subtraction I was introduced to a new way to influence numbers; division and multiplication. It wasn’t enough for me to just accept that numbers could just be manipulated, I wanted to learn more. Throughout my years in education I have enjoyed linking my other subjects back to Mathematics and learning how it is the backbone of today’s industries and complex sciences. I have found that my true fascination lies in Statistical Mathematics and Data Analytics, the way that data can be analysed and interpreted to solve problems, predict an outcome or solution truly intrigues me

What are the most important skills to succeed in a career in Data?

Passion to learn. Data Analytics and the Tech field in general are constantly growing and changing industries, the applicable knowledge you know today could be irrelevant in a year, so do not feel put off if you don’t tick all the boxes. Another valuable skill is logical thinking, this will help you tackle anything from small tasks to big projects. The way in which you tackle the task can have large effects on your result, it is important to think logically from the start to increase the efficiency and promote accuracy in everything task you undertake.

What advice would you give someone else considering going down this path?

Keep yourselves updated on the latest skills and knowledge available in the field, so you are always ready to enter the industry and get involved at any time.

Any tips on how to work out if Data Analytics is for you?

If you enjoy solving problems and want to be part of the biggest growing industry which continually pushes the limits of possibility, Data Analytics is for you. I say this because there is so many branches you can take within this field. Whether it’s the Mathematics and Statistics, Machine Learning, Programming, Databases, Data Visualization or even soft skills that initially grabbed your attention to Data Analysis, you can tailor your role within Data to any or a combination of these skills.

How does working in Data make you feel empowered?

Being part of this industry as a young woman is a great feeling, it is rapidly expanding and reaching all areas of day to day life. It is greatly exciting to now think of myself as a fellow ambassador for women in tech. I think data is a vital part of the 21st century and plays a pivotal role in accessing and providing new and varying types of information, which makes it important that the people within these roles are an accurate demographic representation of the people the data effects.

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!