My First 90 days at Expedia Group

Eleanor Evans | Reporting & Analytics Manager in London

Tell me a bit about yourself and how long you’ve been with Expedia Group?

I joined Hotels.com on 7th January; less than 3 months ago, having previously been an analytics manager at a big UK retailer

I first heard of Expedia Group from a Woman in Data UK conference. I knew that Expedia Group had good gender balance and were top of the analytics game, and wasn’t feeling as stretched on the technical side of things in my current role. I was doing a lot of people management but wanted to focus more on my technical skills. A recruiter approached me about a role, and it went from there…

What role are you doing now?

My role at Expedia Group is that of analytics manager, working on channel optimisation for Hotels.com. Questions I might answer day to day would be: how can we build models to help predict when people will cancel hotel bookings? How can we adapt our prediction models for seasonality? Can they scale to countries all around the world? I also work on Expedia Group wide initiatives to coordinate across brands; it’s great to break down silos and not see other brands as competition.

What was the interview process like?

I really liked that there was a phone interview first with the hiring manager, and then a case study with real data. There was an excel sheet which I had to analyse, turn into insight and present back to interviewers. It was a realistic insight into what the job would be like and an interesting example.

I also liked that one of the interviewers was not in Analytics, but a stakeholder. This meant that on my first day I already had a foot in the door with some stakeholders, which gave me the confidence to go ahead and book in meetings with the rest.

How has Expedia Group compared to your expectations?

Originally, I was a bit worried that some of the things said at interview were just “buzzwords”; I was told that everybody was using python, R, databricks, AWS. However, I soon found out this genuinely was the case – everybody uses these tools on a daily basis and is heavily encouraged to do so. Expedia Group sets aside a lot of time and money for training to improve on skills.

I was also impressed by how global the Expedia Group offices are; I feel part of a virtual team, and so integrated with the global business, that I can benefit from the insight of Expedians anywhere in the world.

The culture is also very nice; working at Expedia Group is very flexible, and people are open-minded. Expedia Group also shows it cares with a range of benefits; from the wellness allowance, travel allowance, free monthly breakfasts in London, and numerous socials.

What differentiates Expedia Group in the analytics world?

The infrastructure is really solid. When I did my PHD, I was used to booking in time on a server; in contrast it’s great having all the resources on tap.

For example, if you want to run Rstudio, you’re connected to servers running it. There are 20 clusters, and everybody has access to them. You never need to worry about computing power; and the same goes for Python.

If you have any problems then there would be investment in resources to handle that, whereas in my last role the company didn’t take data infrastructure seriously enough to keep on top of the latest trends.

Expedia Group is big on its “test and learn” culture, and this openness to trying new things carries over into everything. Whether it comes to running a test with huge potential business impact, or suggesting a new meeting format, people are willing to give new things a go. A lot of companies say they do this, but Expedia Group really has the culture to let that happen.

It’s also important to know that Expedia Group is a global company, and we work across multiple different timezones. This means knowing that, if you want a team in Dallas to productionize something, your team in London needs to finish the models on our side in the morning before they come online. This also might mean being a bit more flexible to get a call in the diary that works for all your stakeholders – be it in the morning for Asia or the evening for America. We really appreciate that different teams have flexibility around timezones and we try to show that respect towards each other. 

What are you doing when not at work?

In my free time, I’m pretty sporty; playing squash with a local club and going running with my partner. I also like hiking and travelling; especially when going back to see my family in Scotland.

I’ve also booked my first trip with the Expedia Group employee perks; in Croatia to do hiking and kayaking. My partner’s favourite thing in the world is visiting waterfalls, so that’s the plan for Easter weekend!

What advice would you give to a candidate for analytics at Expedia Group?

Be yourself. Don’t be intimidated by technical side of things. Approach challenges with curiosity and enthusiasm. Everybody interviewing you wants you to succeed, and we look forward to meeting people with right mindset to respond to a challenge, learn quickly and get stuff done.

I was recommended for this job through a recruiter, and when I looked at the job I thought “I don’t have this experience. I don’t use R and Python regularly and have only done online courses.” Once within the process, the interviewers explained that those skills were not mandatory, as long as I was willing to learn and give it a go. At Expedia Group, you just have to be willing to get up to speed quickly – I am really grateful to my manager for having that faith in me!

Women Driven Development Hackathon @ Expedia Group – from the perspective of the host

Jenna Prescott | Recruiting Manager, Hotels.com in London

I heard about the Women Driven Development community through Ada’s List and after my initial call with the dream duo Phoebe and Misa there was no doubt that these were the type of people we at Expedia Group wanted to partner with. I connected with their genuine passion of giving back to the ‘Women in Tech’ community and concurred with their philosophy that sponsorship could make a huge difference when increasing diversity in tech!

Together we planned the amazing 3 part #TechitForward Hackathon that took place at the Expedia London offices over February and March.

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What we considered during the planning and organisation of the Hack;

  • Agile/constant iteration. I loved the way Phoebe and Misa had done a survey after their first Hackathon at Google so this 2nd WDD Hackathon could be even better. The results of that survey were used to make changes. For example, food choices and having a full 1 day hackathon alongside 2 initial evening events rather than a full 2 day conference
  • #TechitForward – we engaged with 6 local Islington charities through the Expedia Group Corporate Social Responsibility team. These charities shared their challenges at the first event and then worked with self-organising groups to hack solutions which were showcased at the end of the full hack day. Attendees loved that they were giving something back through their contribution to the Hackathon.
  • Inclusivity – We wanted the everyone who attended to feel included and comfortable in their surroundings.  We did this by food options for everyone, quiet places and thinking of every eventuality when planning
  • Collaborative, learning environment – we took away the competition environment traditionally part of a hackathon to make it centred around working in collaboration, helping and learning from each other and giving back to the community
  • Communication/Open Source – Slack set up for everyone attending so teams could communicate throughout the 3 events and attendees could also join remotely. All code shared on Github to encourage open source
  • Ensuring it was a special, memorable event – We wanted people to come away from this event feeling good and remembering it as a special fun day. We did this by little extras such as a Barista from Grind all day, a very cool SWAG bag, top quality food (not the normal pizzas and sandwiches!) and a photo booth so they could have a photo to take home and remember the event by!
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What happened at the three events that made up the Women Driven Development Hackathon:

Evening Event 1

6 charities shared their problems and the 90 developers self-managed into groups based on their interests. A self-proclaimed ‘Rebel’ group formed to create something that could be used by all charities.

Event 2 – conveniently the day before International Women’s Day

Now mostly in groups the idea precipitation began. During the event each team did a quick elevator pitch on want ideas they were working on.

#BalanceforBetter
#BalanceforBetter

Event 3 – Full day Hack

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Event kicked off with an inspirational panel sharing their journey from Engineer to Director and the challenges they had faced in their career as an under represented group in tech. Hacking began with a regroup at 2pm for groups to share what they were working on (and call out successes/barriers) and all work was showcased at 6pm followed by food and drinks.

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During the presentations the groups presented amazing work for the charities from building interactive dashboards, a slackbot for event subscriptions to a tinder like app which will match charities with volunteers

There was a lot of action on Twitter during the Hackathon this is what some of our attendees had to say:

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‘First Hackathon done! With the lovliest and most supportive people @WomenDrivenDev. We built a matchmaking app for charities and volunteers. Very well looked after by @LifeatExpedia; Unlimited super nice coffee all day and tasty food. Can’t wait to #TechitForward next time’

‘A wonderful day @womendrivendev – so lucky to have got the chance to work with incredible women in redesigning @Culpepergarden ‘s website. Thank you @ExpediaUK for hosting, and to everyone that was a part of this :star2: #TechItForward’

And what some of the charities shared;

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@BodyandSoul: ‘On Friday Body & Soul took part in @womendrivendev hackathon. What an amazing #womenintech event it was. And this badass team helped us tackle challenges re data & reporting #TechItForward #techforgood’

@LondonVillageNetwork: ‘Thank you to everyone @womendrivendev Hackathon hosted by @Expedia Friday. It was a long fruitful day. Looking forward to catching up with you again soon #TechItForward #womenintech #tech4good’

What’s next:

The projects with the charities will continue.. WDD are planning further evening events where attendees can get together and continue to work on their hacks! And I know some of the hackers have already continued to engage with the charities and their teams to do more since the Hack.

It was an amazing experience being part of the Hackathon across all 3 events and I loved every minute. I look forward to partnering with WDD on future events, as well as working with my lovely Expedia colleagues to organise more Hackathon and events.

If you want to check out more photos from the event you can do so here.

Career Check-in: Fabio Carta

Fabio Carta | Market Manager, Lodging Partner Services in London

Has it ever happened to you when you’ve attended one of those university career fairs and you try to make sense of the endless opportunities, industries and jobs that are right in front of your eyes? Rather than helping, it confuses you even more! Well, it’s at one of those job fairs where I met the Expedia Group (at Bocconi&Jobs Careers Fair in Milan) and it was Expedia that helped me take the first step to get some clarity out of this confusion and build my career path.

I wanted to be part of it! After a round of interviews, I was offered an internship and, after 4 years and 3 different cities, I’m still an Expedian and now Market Manager in London.

I still remember that day as if it was yesterday. The local team in Milan introduced me to the Expedia family and I was soon captured by the company’s vison: “We are the world travel platform. Our purpose is to bring the world within reach.”

But what does a market manager do? As a Market Manager, my primary responsibility is to initiate, develop and maintain a high-quality portfolio of accommodation providers (hotels, B&Bs, guesthouses, vacation rentals, etc.) for Expedia’s global customer base.

How do I do it? I spend the majority of my time in calls and meetings with these potential partners explaining our value proposition, understanding their needs and aligning Expedia Group’s strategy with their strategy. To achieve high quality, I work closely with internal stakeholders such as the legal, marketing and operations teams: together we set up our partners for success.

Expedia Group is not a company for everybody.

It’s the place for winners: We dream big and we go through constant changes, so this creates a need to continuously readapt, re-prioritize our tasks and set new goals. In market management, we spend a good 10% of our time planning our strategy for the day, week, and month.

It’s the place for humble people: Nobody has all the answers so we are active listeners!  We ask for regular feedback and build development plans. In market management, we have weekly team meetings where we look into performance and best practices; we have weekly trainings where we learn new skills and enhance our knowledge; we have catch-ups and one-to-ones, where we ask for feedback and help each other solve problems.

It’s the place for team players: We work in teams and every decision we take affects not only our close colleagues, but also our customers, our partners and many other stakeholders. When we add a new property to the marketplace, this property (with all its amenities, its rates, its reviews) is available to more than 670 million monthly visitors and needs to be traded by more than 200+ travel booking sites. We can’t play solo!

If you tick all these boxes, you might become the next Expedian!