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!

Hotels.com at dotSwift 2019

Lewis Luther-Braun | Hotels.com, London

Photo provided by dotConferences

In the last week of January, two engineers from the Hotels.com iOS team went out to Paris, to partake in the 5th annual dotSwift conference. For those who don’t know what a dot conference is, let me bring you up to speed. dot-Conferences are the equivalent of TED talks but more focused on topics from the tech industry; there are 7 different flavours of dotConferences: dotSecurity, dotScale, dotAI, dotGo, dotCSS ,dotJS and our very own dotSwift conference.

It was a great day to meet with other engineers from across the industry, as well as meeting other engineers that work within the Expedia Group — namely, members of the iOS team from Traveldoo in Paris.

The day was broken into 3 sets of talks with breaks between them.
The talks ranged from the sublime, how ‘pure swift’ apps aren’t really a thing as they all rely on the Objective-C runtime and ways of embracing Objective-C (instead of trying to get rid of any mention of it as fast as possible), to the ridiculous, such as a proposal on why you should use unicode characters in your code for method and variable names.

I feel like I should give this one a bit of explanation: 
The talk was far from suggesting that you do something like this;

⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⛵️⎈ ⬅

to tell your boat object that it should steer left. That notation could probably get away as a contemporary art piece but it’s definitely not useful as a standard for a naming convention. Instead it focused on scientific modelling and using the same notation that equations have, such as using Σ(sigma) for sum and λ(lambda) for wavelength as function and variable names respectively. This makes sense if you’re working with physicists who don’t want to look at long function names (no matter how descriptive they are) and also gives them an opportunity to debug the algorithm as opposed to your code.

Photo provided by dotConferences

It was brilliant to hear ideas from some very talented individuals — we even got to hear talks from people working on open source projects at Apple, such as SwiftNIO (an asynchronous event-driven network framework)— which gave real insight into what problems they were encountering and how they went about solving it.

As well as the main talks there were a number of lightning talks given by members of the Swift community. These were super quick talks that were straight to the point, often providing points of thought or presenting useful approaches to problems or tips.

Photos of the talks are available at https://dotswift.io.
Videos are available to watch: https://www.dotconferences.com/conference/dotswift

I’d highly recommend giving them a watch — maybe you’ll find a solution to an issue that you are currently encountering or learn something new.