My placement year at Expedia Group

Sofia Pisacane | Marketing Intern in London

If I had to describe my placement year at Expedia in one word I would say “brilliant” and it was, absolutely brilliant.

I joined in July 2018 as a Marketing Industrial Trainee and with this week being my last week, I can now confidently say that choosing to do a placement year as part of my degree was one of the best decisions I’ve made.

I worked in the Expedia Partner Solutions Marketing team in London where I had the opportunity to rotate every four months to support the different sub-teams within Marketing: Digital, Brand & Campaigns and Product Marketing. The structure of my internship was great because it gave me exposure to a variety of different activities within Marketing, allowing me to try different things, which I believe, especially at the start of your career, is incredibly valuable.

From organizing events to planning and executing Digital Marketing campaigns such as LinkedIn Advertising, to working on our first ABM (Account-Based Marketing) project, there are so many initiatives I’ve been involved in. Not only I was involved in them, but I was also given the opportunity to take the lead on a few of them and this is probably one of the things I love the most about Expedia, you can get as much responsibility as you like, no matter your level of experience, as long as you work hard and are able to show positive results. 

The Partner Marketing team at the WTM partner appreciation event in London.

Only a few weeks ago I flew to Prague to coordinate our stand presence at a preferred supplier showcase event organized by one of our partners, which was a great experience. 

I felt like a valued member of the team from day one, my opinions were valued and taken into account, which was definitely a big motivator for me.

I was really surprised about how, even senior stakeholders, truly welcome new ideas and value a fresh perspective on things. This is definitely one of Expedia’s top strengths because it creates an environment that favors innovation.

My manager genuinely cared about my professional development and he scheduled regular meetings to talk about my progress, what things interested me the most and what skills I wanted to work on next. I feel really grateful for all the support he gave me throughout the course of my internship. 

I worked alongside some really talented people and I was able to learn a lot from them and over time I was able to build strong relationships with my teammates. They’re such a great bunch of people and I’m definitely going to miss them when I go back to university, even though we’ll surely keep in touch!

Looking back, I can say that this year has been a great year, I’ve learned a lot and gained invaluable experience which enabled me to grow, both professionally and personally. Overall I couldn’t have been happier about my time here.

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Building and Managing High Performing Teams and Products

Hitesh Gupta | Sr. Technical Product Manager in Gurgaon

We at Expedia Group want to be a place where Exceptional People who share our passion for technology and travel want to do their Best Work

I have played multiple roles in my last 3 years of experience with Expedia Group ranging from Program Manager to Engineering Manager to a Product Manager based on the situation, need and personal interest. Sharing a few experiences on how we were successful in building and managing a high performing team and product while incorporating all the feedback and getting better each day.

1. Innovating Fridays

One piece of feedback we got from the team is that they would like to have more dedicated time for innovation while working on sprint stories in parallel. We (I and my peer Manager) discussed with Management and came up with the concept of “InnovatingFridays” where every Friday (second half), the team innovates. It can be anything from learning new technology (Machine Learning/AI) to writing blogs as this is non-project time and they are free to work on any feature which they feel is good for end customers. It came out really well where the team ended up burning few features which were taking a back seat in the backlog. Few team members got their hands dirty on Machine Learning and did a few POC’s. Though one can’t time-bound innovation, this concept really helped me boosting team morale and the team is ready to spend extra/personal time in learning technology and go the extra mile. Once a month, we do the demo to see how it’s going and celebrate it.

2. Setting Up a Complete “Engineering” Team

Few QA members wanted to move to the core development role and this led to setting up a complete Engineering team where everyone is responsible for the development and testing of the features. We came up with a plan where every QA member is paired with a core developer who helps them in day to day questions and ramp-up. Within 3–6 months, we started seeing the impact where newly added developers (QA) started burning complex stories (moving from 1 and 2 story points to a 3+ pointer story). Also, during this duration, they shared the regression and testing duties with the existing developers and let them own it while shadowing them. This is one of the great experiences to share as to how we managed to set up a complete Engineering team.

3. Organizing Tech Talks and Collaborating Across Teams

We tried to set up a culture of continuous learning and sharing where I connected with all other Managers/Directors who are working on other mobile apps. Then, I set up the weekly tech-talk series and asked everyone to vote on what topic they will like to discuss each week. With this, we got a prioritized list of topics and assigned speakers from the team (based on their preference). This enabled us to share our learnings and knowledge across teams in Expedia Group and helped us set a collaboration platform building trust and relationships. Also, it helped everyone in the team to speak in front of a large audience and build on their presentation skills.

4. Change of Guard

We decided to rotate regression and other recurring responsibilities within the team instead of one team member owning it every time. How we did this — Created a monthly roster where every team member takes a lead on the above mentioned responsibilities every week and passes the ball to the next one. This solved the dual purpose of not having a single point of failure and everyone gets a chance to manage complete process and own it.

5. Taking Care of Platform and Tech-Debt Together

Everyone wants to work on the best feature, but you can’t have the whole team working on the same feature. At the same time, you have to take care of tech-debt and platform work since you have to take care of Engineering KPI’s (Quality and robust Architecture) too. We decided to reserve some % of bandwidth in each sprint for burning tech-debt and platform items. Also, this goes back to the rotation cycle where we have one developer contribute to this work each sprint, thus enabling them to take platform and feature work hand in hand and get some time out from routine feature work. With each feature being delivered, we introspect and see what/how/where we can improvise and try to provide the best experience to travelers.

6. Setting Up a Culture of Open Feedback

We set up a concept of open feedback where we meet as a team (twice a month) and provide open feedback to each other. This can be anything related to work including appreciations and constructive feedback. This is more of a Vegas-style meeting where we set the ground rules as not to discuss anything out of the room and whatever being discussed stays in the room only. We saw a huge drop in conflicts post this approach and the team started to collaborate more and more, thus making my life as a Manager easier 🙂

7. Core Working Hours

All planned meetings (planning/grooming/retro/demo/tech-talks) were moved to a morning slot (before lunch) and no meetings were planned after lunch. This ensured there is agreement on core working hours (like 1:30–5:30 pm) where the team can concentrate on actual work and there is no more context switching with so many meetings running around the day.

8. Own the Product as Your Own Baby

We tried to set up the culture where we encourage each and every team member to ask questions as to why this feature is really important, why not prioritizing this over there, what benefits we expect here and what are the metrics we are targeting here. This really led to useful grooming meetings where everyone (including product) enjoyed the discussion and is actively contributing there. Inducing the feeling of product ownership made the team think innovatively and ending up getting a couple of feature ideas from the team itself 🙂 Also, we encouraged them to share any suggestions/bugs which they find in other Products/Line of Business and communicate it using Dogfood process.

9. 1 on 1’s

Though I had recurring 1×1’s set up with each team member, I never stopped anyone asking for a quick ad-hoc discussion and not waiting for 1×1 to discuss that. Also, I used to maintain a separate record for each 1×1 so that I can recollect as where we left and how the individual is working on action items to be discussed in the next meeting.

10. Joint Code Review Sessions

In order to bring everyone on the same page in understanding code and helping QA moving to a developer role, we had set up joint code review sessions where teams meet every day for half an hr and opens up existing PR (Code Review request) and jointly reviews it to cover the why and how part of coding. This helped everyone (specially the new developers) to think from a common coding ground perspective.

11. Celebrating Success Together

I believe that a small appreciation note goes a long way. We made it a habit to celebrate each and every success (not having a grand party every time but taking the team out for tea/snacks) and then having lunch together, once a week.

Well as a Manager, your primary responsibility is the people and if you make them feel like coming to work every day, half of your job is done. It took us some time to set up above mentioned processes but it went a long way for us as a team and I can see a great sense of ownership, collaboration and passion to do a better job each day.

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Speaker Spotlight: Q&A with Rehana Nanji

Rehana Nanji | Programme Manager in London

Rehana Nanji 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.

Rehana leads the London Engagement Team which provides London-based employees with access to learning and volunteering opportunities, as well as building out a sense of community, a place where people enjoy working and feel heard and valued. Rehana partners across all brands, levels, geographies and Business Resource Groups to drive culture change, working towards an inclusive and exceptional workplace for Expedians worldwide alongside Expedia’s Global Inclusion forum. Expedia Group is guided by a purpose that is inherently inclusive: to bring the world within reach. As the world’s travel platform, it’s extensive brand portfolio includes some of the world’s most trusted online travel brands.

Having partnered with Tech leads on the set-up of the latest Expedia Group engineering office in Amman (the first gender-balanced EG Tech office globally), Rehana enjoys traveling to different Expedia offices to learn about cultural differences across locations. As well as travel, dance is one of Rehana’s biggest passions and she has competed at 10 dance Latin and Ballroom National competitions.

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

Throughout my life, I have tried different types of career: from studying biochemistry to teaching Latin and Ballroom dancing, from being a Teaching Assistant in a Secondary school to Recruiting Occupational Therapists for the NHS.  Now I find myself at Expedia Group working in Engagement across Technology, Inclusion, Corporate Social Responsibility and Internal Communications.  Each of my experiences have been developing different skills in preparation for this role and I love what I do!  

What’s a typical day like for you? 

No two days are the same. The team run events across all the areas above which keeps us busy, we also run trainings and at the moment are gearing up for Pride month (June).  I usually have to context switch a lot which keeps things exciting (and somewhat confusing at times 🙂)

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

Lori Hofmann is my manager and my inspiration.  Lori believes in Life Long Learning and is currently getting a PhD in Leadership and Change.  Lori continues to challenge me and help me improve in everything I do.

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

The Inclusion Learning Series is an example of a globally aligned and locally relevant programme being rolled out at Expedia.  It has had great success across many locations and in London we are working on engaging everyone across Expedia Group in conversations around Privilege, Identity and Inclusive Language.  Having an inclusive culture is important but you must bring all your employees on the journey with you.  We are excited to see where this will take us!

What is your Women of Silicon Roundabout talk about?

Chris and I will be talking through the journey of Inclusion at Expedia Group through Allyship.  The key stages to changing and creating an inclusive environment.  We hope the people at the conference will take away some simple actions to create positive change and an inclusive environment around them.   

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

The phrase Women in Tech does not refer to just one or two professions anymore.  Technology is being woven into everything we do, embrace it and be proud of who you are and what you bring to the table.  Keep an open mind, keep learning and remember to take people with you on your journey.

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

Speaker Spotlight: Q&A with Jenna Prescott

Jenna Prescott | Recruiting Manager in London

Jenna Prescott speaks 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.

Jenna Prescott leads Tech Recruitment globally for two of Expedia Group’s brands; Hotels.com and Expedia Partner Solutions. Previously she was in tech recruitment at Sky where she began the Women in Tech meetup series. Jenna is very passionate about making technology a more diverse and inclusive place for all.  In her spare time Jenna loves to travel (mostly with the intent to try the local food!).  

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

I think most people in recruitment will tell you that it was not a planned move coming out of university! However working in a recruitment agency made me realise what I loved doing is working with people; delighting them with job offers and hard to find top talent. I took that to my first in-house role at Sky where I found my true love – tech recruitment! I think it’s my personal drive and passion that has allowed me to progress within HR functions to today at Expedia where I lead tech recruitment globally for 2 of Expedia Group’s brands, Hotels.com and Expedia Group.

What’s a typical day like for you?

What I love about my job is how varied it is and that means there often is not a typical day! In a day I will usually be having a catch up with a team member or a business stakeholder, check in on progress on the organisation of my next event, use LinkedIn to source hard to find talent, work with business or HR colleagues on various projects from diversity hiring to referrals and approve today’s posting for our LinkedIn page. Throughout this I will be keeping up to date with LinkedIn, posting updates and answering many slack messages!

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

I meet amazing female talent in tech who inspire me everyday! However here I have to mention Phoebe Greig and Misa Ogura who set up Women Driven Development in their spare time to build community and help move the dial when it comes to women in tech by creating sponsorship opportunities. Expedia Group were lucky enough to host the 2nd ever Women Driven Development Hackathon it was an absolute pleasure to work with this inspirational couple!

As a recruitment manager what is your top tip for people who are looking for their next opportunity?

Network! There are so many opportunities now to meet companies in their natural environments so if you think that company could be a great place for your next opportunity go to their next meet-up, Hackathon or visit their stand at a conference. This way you can speak to their engineers yourself and ask questions that are important to you. It’s a great way to gain a true insight into company culture!

What is your Women of Silicon Roundabout talk about?

We are talking about Diversity recruiting and what actions businesses can take to meet their diversity targets (I am sure there will be something on there on if we need targets too?!). The key takeaways will be actionable, tactical moves that everyone can use to influence tangible improvements in the diversity and inclusivity of their company.

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

My advice would be to take opportunity, stretch yourself but most of all do something that you love and you are passionate about 😀

You can catch Jenna on Tuesday 25th June at 1:30 pm as part of the Hired panel on ‘Taking actions towards Diversity Hiring Goals’.

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.