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.

Global Early Talent

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Vamos Vrbo

Simon Fattal | Product Manager Intern in London

Having just finished my second year studying Computer Science at University College London (UCL), I decided that I wanted to work as a Product Manager. This role involves a bit of everything, from data science to business strategy, so was really suitable for me since I haven’t decided exactly what I want to go into upon graduating. After an initial application, two rounds of interviews and some admin work, I was accepted onto the Vrbo 12-week summer internship programme, based in London! As someone with a passion for travel and technology, Vrbo was a great fit for me. I’m currently finishing up my second week, and so far I’ve enjoyed every moment of it.

Every three months, Vrbo holds a Quarterly Product Update (QPU). This is a 3-day event where different parts of the product team have the chance to tell everyone what they have been working on and what changes they are making to their objectives. Keeping other teams informed is pretty important, since it promotes new ideas and innovation, while also ensuring that no two teams are working on the same thing. Purely by chance, the QPU happened to be during the second week of my internship! I was invited to join the product team in Madrid, where this QPU was being held.

During my time in Madrid, I was able to connect with the other people in my team (many of whom I was meeting for the first time) and learn a vast amount about what each division within Product does. As someone who was unsure what to expect from this internship, there literally could not have been a better way to get started and dive straight into the work that I would be doing for the next three months. Events ranged from Leadership Panels to Strategic Updates to Happy Hour Tapas – something no one complained about! These informative events really excelled my knowledge of the industry as well as my understanding of Vrbo’s unique approach to achieving its goals. Days were jam-packed and intense, while nights allowed for team-bonding through dinners and bars.

One thing that really stood out throughout the trip was how close the entire team was. Naturally, I expected the team to work together during the day and then simply go back to their own lives the second they got out of work. What I experienced couldn’t have been further from this expectation; even after work hours the team was still closely connected and there was a real sense of belonging for all team members. Even more so, as an intern who had literally joined about a week prior to this, the entire team was really welcoming and I had no trouble fitting in. Another really great thing about the QPU was that there were Vrbo employees from offices in all corners of the world, including London, Sydney, Austin, Frankfurt, and of course Madrid. It was fascinating to learn how the vacation rentals market differs so much between all these cities, yet Vrbo is able to accommodate them all. This was also a brilliant networking opportunity for me, as I was able to learn more about people’s backgrounds and what routes they took to get to where they are today.

I was fortunate enough to start my internship in one of the best ways possible. Having really understood the foundation of the product and how the company operates, I am now in a much better position to begin working on my summer project. My project is to enhance the landing experience on Vrbo, by personalizing the information shown to users so that they can easily find what they are looking for. Millions of travelers visit our site and each one’s needs are unique. How can we leverage the power of data to help our customers find their dream vacation rental? This is a challenging problem to solve and will also have a meaningful impact on the end customer experience. It’s really incredible that I am able to have a genuine impact on the company. What’s more, the features I will be developing directly affect the homepage – one of the most visited pages on the entire site! The trust that the Vrbo team has put in me has given me the confidence to develop my skills as a Product Manager and design more creative and impactful solutions. This is an experience that will pave the future of my career while also giving me the chance to apply some of what I have been learning at university. For this, I am truly thankful to Pady, my manager and mentor, the Landing Experience Product Team and the entire Vrbo Community.

Global Early Talent

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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.

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.  

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.

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.  

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