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.

Is this too good to be true?

Ana Maria Jalba | Associate Software Development Engineer, Hotels.com in London

I’ve just passed 300 days at Expedia Group and it feels like it’s been much longer. I no longer feel junior in the company and my confidence has increased dramatically. It’s amazing what a good workplace does! Before I tell you about my experience as a graduate software engineer in Hotels.com (an Expedia Group brand), I will first tell you about my interview experience. That’s because you can’t really have a job without an interview these days and an interview is useful for learning if you are about to join the right company for you.

hi it’s me – Ana Maria

Interview experience

Not gonna lie, this was the best interview experience I’ve ever had. After the last stage, I left the building smiling.

My stages included a HackerRank code challenge, then an interview with a manager, and finally, an on-site interview that included three stages: coding interview face-to-face with two engineers, a group exercise, and a 1:1 interview with a hiring manager. Between the on-site code interview and the group exercise, there was a lunch break. Throughout the day, all interviewers were engaging, and they listened to me in a way that made me feel like what I had to say mattered. However, what I liked the most was that during the lunch break, a few grads and interns joined me and the other candidates. They were really friendly with each other, they joked a lot, and most importantly, they tried to get us to join in. I already felt like I was part of the company.

In case you’re wondering, I did pass the interviews, otherwise, I wouldn’t be here, telling this story.

Once I joined the company, I got to meet my team and my fellow interns and grads. I also got to take a photo with Captain Obvious recently!

yes, the real Captain Obvious you see in the ads!

Team experience

I joined the Big Data Platform (some of my team members are in the picture above).

Never in my life have I been in such a diverse and fun group. It changed over the last year, but it remained full of happy and funny people. There are quite a few times when I cried of laughter because of the conversations in our team Slack channel (a chatroom). They are also very knowledgeable, so when I ask them for help, they have useful suggestions to make. (I’m not just saying nice things because they might read this.)

Perks of being in my team include getting cake(s) when we celebrate things, a flexible schedule, lots of amazing stickers, contributing to open-sourced projects and getting to laugh a lot.

lots of amazing stickers – only a few make it to my laptop

Groups you can be part of

Being in a group not related to your job makes it much easier to get to know other people that you might otherwise never meet, and you get to contribute to causes that matter to you. For example, there are two groups that I absolutely love: the Hotels.com Gender Balance and Code Academy group, which have people from all parts of the company.

Hotels.com Gender Balance group: I strongly believe that not enough girls/young women are interested in STEM subjects. And that affects a lot of things down the line, especially the fact that tech companies lack talented women in tech. It’s still fairly easy to find yourself as the only female engineer in a team (although not in my case) or in a meeting. But I believe that’s because there’s a supply issue, so that’s why I started getting involved in Hotels.com’s Gender Balance Outreach group. It aims to teach more children (and especially girls) how to program, in the hopes that they would find it interesting, or at least make them aware that tech is a career option in the future, no matter who/what they are.

Code Academy is a group that encourages employees to teach other employees. I used to be afraid of teaching. It was this thing that I’ve never done before and I would frequently think that I don’t know enough of anything to teach someone else. Now, I teach, assist another course and encourage others to teach. Also, because this is an Expedia Group initiative, I got to know amazing people outside of Hotels.com!

Another group I am part of is the interns & grad group. As part of the group, I got to go to social events (we even went to Sky Garden), learn about Expedia Group while getting free lunch, and volunteer for a 24h undergraduate hackathon held in our office. I also made good friends that remember vividly what it’s like to have exams. So glad to be done with those now!

The view from Sky Garden

Other good things to mention

There is a group chat with photos of pets*, everyone is friendly and unless they are busy with something important, they are willing to help, you sometimes get free food and/or drinks, and, if you’re in London, a beautiful office with amazing view (which was shared in some other blog posts).

Overall, Expedia Group is an amazing company to work for! I feel extremely lucky to have found out about this company and to get all these opportunities that allow me to enjoy my job. So, although it seems too good to be true, it’s real!

* The following species so far: dogs, cats, snakes, hamsters, scorpions, chickens, turtles, sugar gliders, chinese waterdragons, rocks (???), pigs, cockatiels, and geckos

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.

Career Check-In with Josie Shah

Come join us as we adventure around the Hotels.com global offices and meet our team to discover more about their day-to-day roles, exciting projects, great teams and, of course, their passion for travel.

Josie Shah | Director of User Generated Content | Hotels.com | London

  • What area of Hotels.com do you work in?

I work in the Content team, specifically user generated content. We work on a number of projects that integrate the experiences, feedback and photos from real customers that have stayed at our hotels, back into the booking journey to help new customers find the right hotel for their needs.

  • What do you enjoy most about working at Hotels.com?

I really enjoy working with such an international group of people I love the different conversations and perspectives this brings to the work place.

  • Tell us about a project you are most proud of and why?

I ran a market wide RFP to launch our affiliate program across Europe, in search of best in class technology and service, ensuring we had the right people and tools on the ground to be locally relevant in all markets and meet our growing business needs. We ran the project on time, exceeded our performance goals and saved $1m+ in costs in the process.

  • Tell us about a manager who has supported your development? And how?

My previous manager was very supportive of my interest in exploring new career opportunities whilst retaining a part time schedule. He highlighted all my transferable skills and where they could be applicable in parts of the business I might not have considered myself qualified for. He has also championed the benefits and value of part time employees amongst senior decision makers.

  • How do you balance work and life?

After returning from maternity leave (twice) I have worked part time, both 3 and 4 days per week at different times. Right now I work a 7 day fortnight which feels like the right balance for me. Hotels.com has been very encouraging and accommodating of my need to be as present as I can be for my young family, whilst also exploring new and fulfilling career opportunities.

  • What is your most memorable travel experience?

Many years ago whilst backpacking around South East Asia, I caught a boat to a tiny island off the north east coast of Malaysia called the Perhentian Islands. There were just a handful of small huts, fish were freshly caught and BBQ’d and there was about an hour of electricity a day from one central generator for the whole island. We saw komodo dragons, snorkelled with tuna and turtles… it was the most beautiful unspoilt place. I imagine it’s a bit different now!

Find out about how Josie found a part-time working schedule that worked for her family and career. #WeWhoTravel