Expedia Group Dads Share the Power of Paternity Leave

Lauren von Stackelberg | Director, Industry Relations in London

Countries around the world mark Father’s Day on different dates and at least 86 nations will be observing the occasion the week of June 16th. Father’s Day is a time to celebrate the dads in our lives and an opportunity to reflect on how we support not only fathers in the workplace, but families at home.

According to a 2016 report by the National Partnership for Women & Families, 41% of Americans have employers that provide paid paternity leave to some workers, and only 9% work for companies that provide paid paternity leave to all. And even when a company offers leave, many men are reluctant to take the time off, as one in three men said that they feared the stigma associated with paternity leave.

Expedia Group has one of the most comprehensive paternity leave plans today to provide dads with time to bond with their newborns, support their family, and enable their partners to return to the work force to support gender equality. Anyone who has spent long hours with an infant knows the joys of watching momentous milestones, from first smiles to first steps, and the many challenging hours spent trying to get them to eat and sleep.

Parenting is hard, wonderful, messy, fulfilling and never boring. On this Father’s Day, we celebrate all the amazing dads of Expedia Group, and those who shared their paternity leave story. Enjoy!

Chris Hodges | Director, Business Development

I feel so lucky that I was able to take advantage of paternity leave after the birth of my daughter Grace. For me to be able to spend quality time with my wife and newborn in those precious early stages of life allowed me to create bonding moments that are priceless. I was initially nervous to go out on leave, but I had so much support from my boss and my team and I’m so grateful for that. And am excited to be taking pat leave again in a couple of months when my twins are born.

Nicolas Grande | Area Manager, MM Argentina

At the end of 2018, I faced one of the most difficult challenges in my life when my third child was born–I needed to help my wife as well as support my other kids. Even though I knew we had the paternity leave benefit, it took me a while to make the decision to use it. Now, I can say the paternity leave was a key moment both in my life and my professional career. I was able to enjoy my newborn and all of my family without worrying about my job, as I was supported by my Manager and all my team. I believe life is about moments–I strongly encourage you to fully enjoy the most important ones.

Nico Daudin | Senior Director, Program Development

I went on paternity leave in 2018 to take care of my first son. I was a bit afraid at first to take the time off. I had a ton of questions that were racing in my head: Would I know how to handle parenting alone? Would my team be ok? Would it impact my career negatively? However, thanks to the support of my boss, my team and the other product leaders, I took it and couldn’t be more grateful that I did!

Not only was I able to create a special bond with my son, but the time off also helped my career. It empowered everyone on my team to be even more autonomous, which increased their performance. It also gave me the time to really think about our product strategy and how to improve our overall performance. That’s a pretty amazing ROI when you think about it.

Jonathan Harris | Senior Manager, Business Development and Initiatives

I’m so grateful that the company has a culture where taking time off to nurture a baby is not only offered for men, but strongly encouraged. The fact that several senior leaders and members of my team had already paved the way with their own leave made my transition easier. I was able to completely disconnect for the full 12 weeks, although spending entire days with my daughter Erika felt like anything but “time off” – she is a far more demanding boss than anyone I have worked for at LPS!

Mike Doyle | Director, Market Management

My life got turned upside down in June 2017 with the birth of triplets. Yes, triplets. With no family living nearby, my wife and I had no idea how we would be able to handle this. It would have to be the ultimate team effort and would require time to get in sync with each other. Thankfully, we have a great paternity leave benefit at Expedia Group and my boss was fully supportive of me taking the full leave in order to bond with my new family. This afforded me the time needed to adjust to a “new normal.” It allowed me to spend quality time bonding with my kids while learning how to be a triplet parent. (Honestly though, I’m still learning). I felt no pressure from the workplace while I was out. When I came back to work, I got a great welcome from the Denver team and was allowed to gradually acclimate back into my role. I’m grateful for having this benefit – and the support to be able to use it.

Nicholas Ursini | Director, Strategic Accounts

We are fortunate to work for a company that offers a generous parental leave policy and it seems like it should be a no brainer decision, but I still was uncertain about taking the time off! Having an open dialogue and having overwhelming support from my leadership really helped me take paternity leave. Looking back, the time I had with my wife and son Theo was irreplaceable! It also helped reduce pressure for my wife, who had to go back to work (although she did check in on us a lot, to make sure we were both alive)!

Shuhei Kondo | LPA II, MO Kuala Lumpur

When I had my second child, I couldn’t take long leave due to my previous company’s benefit/policy. It was hard for my wife to take care of 2 kids alone as our family is living far away. Four years later, when our third child was born, I was able to spend quality time with our new family member as well as my wife, son and second daughter. I am grateful that our company offers such a great benefit to even fathers. I had a great time with my kids.

Jeffrey Scheidt | Area Manager, MM US Casino Markets

Our paternity leave at Expedia Group has been such a blessing, as I’ve recently returned to work from my second paternity leave. Taking the full 12 weeks of new parent leave allowed for both myself and my wife to adjust to our new journey of parenthood while embracing every moment of our kids. Being home to catch their milestone achievements, like the first laugh or the first time they rolled over, are moments that I’ll never forget and am extremely grateful to have.
 

Sachin Kumar | LPA III, MO Gurgaon

“Fatherhood is a feeling which cannot be put into words appropriately, ’til the day it’s experienced”. This was something I was told by my father and it was in the month of February 2019 when I really understood it. Since it’s a first time feeling, I wasn’t sure how it would be or how I’d be able to care for my child. Living away from my parents, with no previous experience, I was a bit nervous, curious, and excited at the same time. Being blessed with a son, he has brought a sea of change into our lives in terms of everything that we do. He has become the center of our lives, bringing all positive changes to our relationship and marriage. There has been so much learning in these first three months: my ability to communicate has improved by trying to understand my newborn son’s crying, cooing, and gurgling! In short, it’s a unique, ongoing experience and I’m loving every bit of it. I hold heartfelt gratitude that Expedia has supported these initial days of parenthood in such a beautiful way so that I could give undivided attention to my son during the very early days of infancy.

David Hamblin | Vice President, MM APAC

Taking paternity leave was an amazing experience and opportunity to spend time not only with my daughter, but also bonding as a family. It was a really important period for all of us to spend some quality, family-focused time. Taking paternity leave when Aliya was just 3-months old, I could also see the difference it made in my relationship with her (I got my first “Dada” before going back to work). It’s a priceless time that I’m really thankful to have had. My team, manager, and peers were fantastic in supporting me to really switch off and fully focus on my wife, son, and new daughter.

Speaker Spotlight: Q&A with Chris Burgess

Chris Burgess | Global Vice President, IT in London 

Chris Burgess speaks to us 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.

Chris is the VP of Corporate IT at the world’s largest travel company, Expedia Group.  He leads a global team of over 700 people who are responsible for providing IT infrastructure and support for Expedia’s 25,000 employees in 200 offices worldwide.  Chris is currently based in London and frequently travels to the US, India and Europe as part of his global remit.

Chris is an ally, advocate and sponsor for Diversity, Inclusion and Gender balance and sits on Expedia Group’s Inclusion forum. Like most Expedians, he has a passion for travel and loves visiting new countries and experiencing different cultures with his wife and two children.

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

From a very early age I had a fascination with technology and it was all I wanted to do, because it seemed to come naturally to me I went into the field, I started in a Tech Support role and have worked my way up.

What’s a typical day like for you?  

Although I am based in the UK, because I work for a US headquartered corporation, I get a lot of email and slack messages overnight and my day starts with me picking my phone up and checking what’s happened while I’ve been sleeping, I then head into the office, typically I am in a range of meetings on a variety of topics with teams from EMEA or APAC, hopefully some time at a desk catching up on things and then heading home to carry on calls into the evening when my teams in the US comes online.  In the middle of all that I try and get some time with my wife and two young children.

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

I have a couple of inspirations when it comes to women in tech, the first is possibly a little surprising, it’s one of my old male bosses, Todd Sanders, he was such a great role model for me, his tech teams were always gender balanced and he showed me the benefits of having a truly diverse team first hand.  The second is more recent and her name is Kristen Weber, she works in our Expedia Brand team and is driving real change in our business when it comes to Diversity and Inclusion.  She is innovative, collaborative and I’m lucky to work alongside her.

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

The most exciting thing I’m working on is the build out of new campus locations for Expedia Group, we have new buildings in Seattle, Austin, London and Delhi and these new and cool spaces full of amazing tech will be a great place for  Expedia employees to do their best work for years to come.

What is your Women of Silicon Roundabout talk about? 

Allyship and how everyone being an ally will help us get to a place where we have so much better balance in Gender representation in Tech companies.  

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

 It might seem like a cliché but keep learning and keep challenging yourself to try new things, the tech industry moves so quickly and therefore standing still isn’t an option.  Secondly, I would say be your authentic self, don’t try to hide or mask your true personality, being authentic will make you stand out.

You can catch Chris’s speech at the Women of Silicon Roundabout event on Tuesday 25th June from 10 am – 10:30 am.  

Speaker Spotlight: Q&A with Vanessa Wachtmeister

Vanessa Wachtmeister | Launch and Product Marketing Manager, Expedia Group in London

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

Vanessa Wachtmeiste

Please tell us a little about yourself and how you got into the field of Travel Blogging?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California and in 2009, I moved 3,000 miles away to attend Boston College for my undergraduate degree. When I graduated in 2013, I had no idea what I wanted to do, but I knew that I would never get another chance to move to China without any serious responsibilities. Before moving, I launched my travel blog – wanderonwards.co – so my mom could keep up with my adventures and know that I was alive. Then I moved to a country I had never been to before, that speaks a language I don’t understand, to make it in an industry I had no experience in. I had just a domain name and a dream.

Fast-forward 7 years later, I’m now working for Hotels.com and living in London with my wonderful husband and cat.  Wander Onwards now has 40,000 followers across all my platforms and it allows me to travel for free to some of the most incredible destinations. I’m honestly living my #bestlife.

What’s a typical day like for you?
A typical week day for me looks like this.

  • 5:30 am – Wake up and head to the gym for an hour
  • 8:45 am – Roll into the office. I’m a morning person and often work with APAC so I’m happy to turn up even earlier if necessary. I’m buzzing from the gym so I’ll tackle my hardest tasks in the beginning of the day.
  • 12:00 pm – For lunch, I normally bring my lunch as my husband and I are pretty decent cooks. My Korean pork ribs and white wine leek dish sure beats Pret. I also never eat alone; I use this hour to invest in my relationships at Expedia Group or with friends and family abroad via Skype.
  • 5:30 pm- I’m out the door on time normally. I am not an afternoon person and I won’t apologize for it. Wake me up at 6 am for APAC calls instead but if I’m here past six, I’m likely in zombie mode.
  • 6:30 pm – My husband and I are likely cooking something interesting that we saw on YouTube. I specialize in Latin American and North African cuisine. He’s more of an Asian and European Chef. We always carve out time to do activities together to share each other’s wins, losses, and cat videos.
  • 9:00 pm – I am 100% down for the count. I’m actually asleep with dreams in my head and cat fur on my bedding. I need at least 8 hours of sleep every night to function normally.

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

Most of my inspirational female icons are actually people I’ve worked with directly. They are not necessarily in technology, but they’ve helped me develop skills that are cross-functional and I’ve carried these lessons into my career in technology.

Sandra Rice: I met Sandra in 2008 when I was participating in California’s annual ‘Girls State’ program, which encourages women to participate in government and civil service. I was running for governor (because if you’re going to do something, go big) and she saw me campaigning like a mad woman and thought I had potential. She then brought me into the Emma Bowen Foundation, where I learned the majority of my technical skills and gained serious work experience.  No one has had a bigger impact on my career than this woman. She was wise enough to know that energy and passion is something you can harness and used for incredible things; I never felt like I had to be a sort of way with her.  I owe this woman my career.

Denise Menchaca: My mom has been the driving force behind all of my success; and this is not an exaggeration. She is my most active follower, my unofficial PR rep, and my biggest cheerleader.  She’s taught me resilience, flexibility, and how to market myself in any scenario. In a past life, she was an accountant working for a big 4 firm and today she is the Vice Mayor of my hometown in Los Angeles. She’s also taught me a lot about humility. Do things without expecting to be compensated for them. Take care of those who have supported you in sickness and in health. And most importantly, bring people with you.

Christine Olivier: No one has taught me more about resilience than Christine. I would actually dub her the ‘Millennial Whisperer’ because she just knew how to encourage, inspire, and support all of the young people in the office; especially those just starting out in their career. I was a sheep and she was my shepherd. She taught me about goal setting, intentions, and encouraged me to listen to my gut about certain scenarios.

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

Currently I’m putting together an all-female small group tour through Morocco! It’s scheduled for April 2020 and it will be an opportunity for like-minded, adventurous women to experience Morocco comfortably. Everything is going to be organized to the T; all you have to do is purchase your ticket and turn up. I really wanted to create a space for women who are looking to take their careers, life, and passions to the next level and create a hive of entrepreneurial energy. The luxury accommodation and personal photographer won’t hurt either. It’s going to be a real opportunity to experience the exciting energy of Morocco without worrying about the logistics. I promise you’ll come out of the experience with a whole new Instagram feed and a reinvigorated zest for life. Please ping me if you’d like to come along! #shamelessplug

What is your Women of Silicon Roundabout talk about?

My talk is about harnessing the power of the universe to manifest anything! Crystals aside, there are real tangible actions and methodologies that I’m highlighting to get women where they want to be. I’ve been chipping away since I was 13 years old to be exactly where I am now. I had no idea about the specifics of the situation, I just knew that if I did x, then y would eventually happen, only to finally accomplish Z. Now I need to pivot on my goals because I didn’t think I would get this far this fast. I hope to show people how to replicate this same process, wherever they are in their journey.  

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

Stop being your own worst enemy. No one is thinking that you’re a certain way or reminiscing about that one email. Allow yourself to accept the success you know you deserve.

You can catch Vanessa’s speech at the Women of Silicon Roundabout event on Tuesday 25th June from 14:40 pm – 15:10 pm.  

Grace Hopper Celebration India 2018

Roopali Agrawal Anupama Sarohe Parul Ahuja Samiksha Chugh Suruchi Sinha Ridhi Lnu | Yayati Rajpal Umangi Oza

We at Expedia Group “relentlessly strive for better” and 2018 was certainly a year of better for us. We are on a mission to make ourselves a more diverse and inclusive place every day. With our continued efforts, Expedia Group India decided to participate in prestigious Grace Hopper Celebrations India (“GHCI”), the largest technical conference for women in Asia, for the very first time and it was a fantastic, inspiring & humbling experience for us. Around mid-year, when we decided to participate in the conference, we set two clear objectives for ourselves – inward & outward facing:

    • Inward Facing – A source of inspiration for our employees by providing access to role models, success and failure stories of thought leaders in the industry along with a platform for networking & exposure to all cool tech things in the world.
  • Outward Facing – To establish our tech brand & connect with amazing talent.

With those two clear objectives, we pulled up a crack team of 28 women with diverse background & varied experience levels. The team was set on a mission – “Inspire & Get Inspired.” Soon we started working on a close collaboration with GHCI team, booth design, collaboration with the vendor, swag, dress codes (You read that right), flight & hotel bookings, etc. We arranged gatherings for this team to get together, socialise, and plan and enthusiasm slowly started to build up. Our participation in the event was planned fairly well including all minute details.

Even with all the preparations, we had few logistic issues at the 11th hour like getting swag to Bangalore from Gurgaon. This team of 28 amazing women came together & volunteered to carry those 13-14 KG of swag per head with them. It was heartening to see how a common goal united this team and how this team exhibited ‘One Team, Group First’, one of the core guiding principles of Expedia Group.

With all the preparations, hard work and enthusiasm, our team was set to make a mark at the conference.

The conference started at a high energy note. The hall for the keynote was gigantic and it was overwhelming to see 4000+ technical women from 411 organisations,90 cities & 12 countries under one roof. GHCI was officially kicked off with a great message – “Life is a one-time opportunity. Dare to dream and live your dream.” Thought leaders from the industry shared reflections from their career journeys and we were reminded that we, as women, needed to have confidence in our own capabilities, speak up, raise our hand, sit at the table, invest in our own self, ask for help and support each other, celebrate motherhood with right prioritisation & support system. Keynote was concluded with – “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” – Madeleine Albright

Behind the scenes, Expedia Group’s booth had come out live with a ‘travel’ based theme. Our crack team didn’t miss an opportunity to show its ‘Bias to Action’ when it came to setup of booth. This amazing team of women cleaned, setup and brought the booth to life themselves. We participated in a networking event later in the evening, that worked as a confidence booster for us as we had to list down the reasons “Why I am remarkable” and share it aloud, something we do shy from.

Day 2 provided us ample opportunity to attend sessions across various tracks like Artificial Intelligence & High-Performance Computing, Design in Tech, Platform Engineering, Career 360, Speed Mentoring and iConnect sessions. Narrowing down on sessions was hard as we didn’t want to skip a single one. At the same time, our booth at the career fair was buzzing with energy and talent. It was heartening & overwhelming to have so many visitors interested to talk to us and understand more about Expedia Group. Registration method at our booth exhibited our guiding principle ‘Simplify’. We asked visitors to specify their dream destination along with their basic contact details. The moment we explained the concept of ‘Dream Destination’ to candidates – a place where you would love to travel, anywhere in the world – we saw a smile on each and every face while imagining about their dream destination. Such is the power of ‘travel’ and one of the reasons why we all love to be part of Expedia Group. It was rewarding to see that smile on those faces and those faces lit up even brighter when they saw their names flashing on big TV screen along with their dream destination pinned. Our swags, passport covers with Expedia Group’s logo, were also received very well as it was ‘unique’ and resonated with our theme.

We were a unique booth that was run by all women from diverse backgrounds. We were able to talk in languages of HR, Tech, Testing, Business, Management, Leadership and most importantly we were able to offer the human touch & connect to the amazing talent out there. The environment at the booth was almost infectious and magnetic.

We got an opportunity to experience ‘Tech Expo’, ‘Poster Session’,’iConnect’ & ‘Speed Mentoring’ along with a flash mob, that charged up the whole environment to a different level. With hours passing by, it was almost the time for us to wrap up and we all started working on a mental list of things that we need to do ‘better’ next year like presenting tech talks, showcasing the tech from Expedia Group, and participation in the tech expo. Panel discussions were definitely on top of everyone’s mind along with an attention grabber like a flash mob. We closed the conference at the mark of whopping 2500 registrations at our booth – 55% of total participation at the conference. By all standards, for a first-time experience, we had made our mark.

Our participation in GHCI united this diverse crack team in a very special way. We are certainly more confident, connected, motivated to live our dreams and determined to make a bigger impact at the conference next year. It’s just the beginning…

Expedia Group Is Not A Travel Company, We’re A Technology Company Dealing In Travel

Kate Bascombe | Software Development Engineer II in Brisbane, Australia

A great manager of mine once explained to me the difference between a ‘Travel Company’ and a ‘Technology Company that deals in Travel’.

He used a pizza metaphor to help illustrate, comparing Pizza Hut and Dominos. Pizza Hut is a fine company offering pizza to their customers. Domino’s is a technology company that uses technology to offer their product to their customer, and that product happens to be pizza. See the difference?

Dominos Pizza memeWhile Pizza Hut cooks and delivers pizza as they’ve always done, Domino’s has invested in technology such as Google Glasses for the pizza makers, drones for delivery, GPS tracking for the drivers, and I’m sure much more. Pizza Hut is a pizza company, but Domino’s is a technology company that sells pizza! That’s one key difference to why Domino’s dominates the market while Pizza Hut is falling behind.

So why am I talking about pizza? Well, it’s the same principle for Travel.

I’m here to share with you the benefits of working for Expedia Group, a company that truly does value technology and the engineers who keep us relevant in today’s tech-driven world.

Expedia Group is a company who understands the value of technology and that it’s not only good for the company but it’s good for the employees as well. As an engineer at Expedia Group, I know my contributions are listened to, valued, and are making a difference to ‘help people go places’.

Expedia Group listens when an employee has an idea they want to try. The annual 3-day Hackathons are a great avenue to propose an innovative idea and have it implemented. This year, myself and a couple of co-workers had our Hackathon project make it to the finals, and even though the idea didn’t win, the grand prize ($3,000 travel award by the way) encouraged us to develop the idea further, run it in an A/B Test, and share our learnings. And we did.

Toy Story meme about Innovation "There's a whole ne world out there. Don't be afraid to explore it."This was literally an idea 3 engineers came up with over lunch, decided to develop, test in production, and release to all our users (if it was a winner). How much more empowered to innovate can you get?

And this is not just once a year during Hackathon, we’re encouraged to bring our ideas to the table every single day. The work we do as engineers is not handed down from a Product Manager somewhere up the line. We work with Product, UX, Analytics, and Engineering throughout the lifecycle of an idea.

It’s our ideas and execution that are valued, not our job titles. I’ve contributed to content strategies, UX design, data analyzation, and product development, and my ideas have been welcomed in each discipline as an equal no matter my skillset or background.

I’ve seen co-workers send a quick message to our CEO because they had an opinion on a topic they wanted to talk about. Expedia Group treats feedback as a gift and welcomes it with open arms at all levels and across disciplines.

Those are a few of the cultural benefits of working in a company that values people in technology. But what about the tangible benefits?

Because Expedia Group values technology so highly, we try our best to attract the best talent in the technology industry. As a female in my early 30’s working in Australia, the standout benefits and perks to me are:

  • Annual Travel allowance, this year helping me attend my brother’s wedding in Hawaii
  • Health Insurance, not normally offered in Australia
  • Annual Wellness allowance, helping me build out a quality home gym
  • Free coffees, teas, fruit, breakfast foods, and snacks any time in the office
  • Friday drinks with catered food
  • Flexible work hours
  • Ability to work from home, I choose to work from home at least one day every week
  • Day Of Caring volunteer days
  • Competitive Salary
  • Stock options
  • Annual bonus, always appreciated in the after Christmas period
  • Access to training and conferences, even internationally
  • Top-of-the-range computing equipment, I love my Macbook Pro!
  • Creative and inspiring office fit-outs

Web designer wearing no pants says "So, you want to be a web designer like me. Is it because you like my work?" Other man says "No, it's because I don't want to wear pants to work."You can see a full list of the benefits we offer on https://lifeatexpedia.com/ with many more in-depth benefits aimed at everyone.

Expedia Group makes the effort to attract talented people with benefits, small and large. These are becoming the norm in the Tech Industry. Engineers should accept that we earn and deserve these benefits because of the bottom-line we generate… and Expedia Group recognizes that.

At the end of the day, I want to feel appreciated by the company I dedicate my time and efforts to. I’m not going to say that’s all the compensation I need but it’s a big one 😉

So let me ask you, is the company you work for a ‘pizza’ company or a Technology Company that sells ‘pizza’? Which one would you prefer to work for?

Career Check-In with Julia Kanter

Julia Kanter | Director, Product Management in Chicago, IL

Julia Kanter smilingWhat does your typical workday look like?

For me, any day that doesn’t have a full breakfast involved is already off to a bad start. So to minimize hangriness, I always eat, walk the dog, and have a daily latte or London Fog. Once that’s done, I usually have an hour to catch up on emails (thank you Central time zone!) before meetings kick off. From there, the rest of the day is at least 60%-70% meetings. Since I just started on the Lodging Partner side of our business, moving from the consumer side where I spent the last several years, nowadays my meetings range from informational discussions with our partner or stakeholder teams (such as Engineering, UX, Analytics, Business Development, Market Operations, etc.), to conversations where a specific decision needs to be made, and of course general team meetings and one-on-one’s. At least a couple of times a week I also sneak in a coffee chat to catch up with other folks in the office or get to know someone better.

What have you enjoyed most about working at Expedia Group?

I love how Expedia Group gives its employees a chance to navigate their own careers and never be bored. While our business is very broad and complex, that also affords many opportunities to try out new roles, new teams, or even entirely new businesses without needing to move externally. And even if you’re not interested in changing what you do day-to-day, taking initiative to blur traditional lines and take on projects that need to be tackled is always appreciated and rewarded.

What makes your team unique?

I love that every person on the Partner Central Core product team took very purposeful steps to enter the field of Product Management, even though they all started somewhere different. Although I’ve been doing some form of product management or marketing for the last 10 years, the other four members of my team all came from very varied backgrounds — but share a passion for building products that tackle user problems and opportunities. For example, our team is a collection of past hip-hop dancers, sales/account managers, aspiring war reporters, and marketers.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Without a doubt, meeting my husband Shane. While my work and career are very important to me — that’s just a fraction of how I define myself and what I value. I’ve been very fortunate to have a partner for the last 9+ years that complements my weirdness (as my brother likes to say), helps me approach life a little lighter, and shares an appreciation for new adventures and similar values in life.

Plus, I completely agree with Sheryl Sandberg’s advice that one of the most important career decisions you can make is choosing your partner in life — and that has held true for me. The support and mutual respect we offer one another have enabled both of us to take risks in our career that have ultimately propelled us forward to new challenges.

Who has influenced you the most?

My brother Michael, who is almost 7 years older and has a successful career at Deloitte & Touche. Our family immigrated here in 1994 from Ukraine, and he has always been my role model on how to always strive to be better. From encouraging me to take risks and move to new places, to giving me the figurative slap on the face when I find myself settling for “just okay,” he always pushes me to new heights.

How and where do you find inspiration?

All around me. I think anyone in the product world is pre-programmed to recognize good and bad products in our everyday lives, whether they’re physical or digital. Although we operate in the travel space, in the end, you can learn from any experience who has clearly solved a problem by understanding the core needs and underlying motivations of its users.

How did you learn to embrace failure?

It’s a work in progress. I don’t think many people can honestly say that they love to fail — but as you grow and inherently fail more often, it becomes easier to not only admit it to yourself but also learn to see those failures as a part of the territory and an opportunity to learn and improve. It’s also been a tremendous help to work in company cultures, like Expedia’s, where failing fast is not only permitted but often times expected. (And when really in doubt, it always helps to imagine what you’d say to someone else in your situation — and then actually take that advice yourself.)

What is your favorite piece of career advice?

While working at American Express early on in my career, one of my managers told me that whenever I’m looking for a new job, always try to keep 50% familiar and 50% new. That way, you are still challenged and learning new things, but not enough that you completely fall flat on your face. I’ve tried to follow this advice every step of the way, and can definitely attest that it helps to hit the ground running — but still maintain excitement and curiosity for what’s to come.

Tell us about your favorite vacation?

I’m fortunate that this is a very hard question to answer, as I’ve had the opportunity to travel to so many amazing places. In general, I love any destination that challenges my expectations, habits, and cultural norms — where every single experience offers something different from what I’m used to at home. My husband and I also love any place where we can get our mix of delicious food, outdoor adventure, and endless city strolls. Most recently our favorites have been Japan and Colombia.

Julia Kanter posing in the rain, in the city with an umbrellaWhat is your favorite weekend getaway?

For better or for worse, we don’t often go to the same place twice. (And as much as we love Chicago, one of its major disadvantages is a serious lack of solid weekend getaways.) Having lived in New York City for 6 years prior to Chicago, I can never decline a weekend in my old stomping grounds. Also a couple of years ago I took advantage of an extended work trip to London and had my husband join me for a weekend in May. The weather couldn’t have been better, and we spent 48 hours walking through London, enjoying as much food as we could along the way.