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.  

3 Things I’ve Learned Since Joining Expedia Group

Becky Waller | Program Manager in Bellevue, WA

Becky Waller smilingI didn’t take a traditional route getting to Expedia Group. I’ve never coded anything. I’m not techy. I didn’t go to business school, nor did I ever think the idea sounded appealing until entering the corporate world.

Before joining the Expedia Group family as a Program Manager for Brand Expedia, I was a high school AP English teacher. At heart, I am a writer and I always will be. But when my career in education began to feel stale, I decided to take a flying leap into the private sector. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to convince people who had grown their entire careers in this world that my skills from public education would translate, but I knew that once I cleared that hurdle, I would be ready to take on the challenge.

I have to be honest – I had a lot of preconceived notions about what life at one of the world’s top travel giants was going to be like. I was right about a few things – namely, that people here LOVE to travel – but many of my ideas were, at best, misinformed.

So, what have I learned since joining this team back in February 2018?

1 ) People here are genuinely good people.

I had seen lots of movies in the 80s and 90s about corporate America. Everyone wore suits and carried briefcases. They were always in a hurry. Every woman wore shoulder pads (okay, maybe that was just in the 80s). People were ruthless and bloodthirsty, and they would stop at nothing to climb their way to the tippy top of the corporate ladder.

It’s not like that. Not even a little. My teammates are more kind, more caring, and more genuine than I would have thought possible. They return with gifts when they go on trips. They bring chocolate chip cookies and cheddar popcorn. When they show up with food to share, they never forget about the people on our team who are gluten-free, or who are vegetarians, or who just don’t like eating vegetables.

It’s been a refreshingly genuine experience coming to work for Expedia Group. I miss my friends that I taught with from my days as a teacher, but the relationships that I’ve built in a short amount of time at Expedia Group have made the career change an incredibly easy and rewarding one.

2 ) Not everyone in leadership here is male.

Again, before I came here my preconceived notions about the corporate world had me envisioning myself as one of only a handful of women swimming upstream against a raging river of Brooks Brothers suits, Louis Vuitton loafers, and male dominant egos.

I was, again, painfully mistaken. First of all, most people wear Star Wars t-shirts. Second, my boss is a fiercely intelligent and highly respected woman who handles herself incredibly well in any conference room. Her boss is a woman who is smart, kind, visionary, and a servant leader. The men in positions of leadership at Expedia Group that I have met are good at what they do, they are there for a reason, and they listen. It isn’t what I expected.

Expedia Group prides itself on its ability to recognize, reward, and promote people for their contributions and for their potential as leaders. A lot of time, the ones who are promoted are women and people of color. This is no accident. I’ve learned that in this world, our leadership at the top recognizes that when we have homogeneous leadership, we suffer from a lack of creativity and a deficit of new and fresh ideas. So to counteract that, they push to diversify leadership. I mean, it’s 2018, right? I think this company has figured that out and is actively working to fight the good fight.

3 ) A work/life balance is not only valued, it’s encouraged.

Becky Waller hikingEnding a 12-year career in teaching meant giving up a lot of time with my family. As a wife and a mother of two young children, I had a lot of soul-searching to do in order to arrive at the decision that I did. I had heard horror stories of promotion-hungry young millennials working 60 and 70 hour weeks and never taking a day of vacation in order to land the title that they were striving for.

That has not been my experience here. People work (I mean, you have to at some point, right?) and they dedicate a portion of their days to the company, but they also take time off and have flexible work schedules. Most people I associate with don’t work on the weekends – unless they want to. They don’t have a boss pressuring them to give up their Saturdays to wrap up a project before Monday. Expedia Group recognizes that it’s employees have families and hobbies and that we enjoy sleeping seven nights a week – sometimes for eight hours even!

When I’m at work, I put forth all my effort to bring about the best results I can for my team and for Brand Expedia. I want to be a high-functioning, high-performing member of an awesome team. But I also do a lot of backpacking and camping during the summer. I managed to take 3 separate backpacking trips with my daughter this past summer, a 10-day road trip down the 101 with my family to break in our new camping trailer, and since my team works from home on Fridays, I get to have breakfast with my kids, drop them at school, and then spend the evening with my daughter in Seattle for her ballet class every Friday.

From the top down, I’ve found life at Expedia Group to be extremely friendly to mothers who value time with their families, and I don’t know if that’s the case for all companies. When I come home in the evenings, I’m not bone-tired. I have energy to spend time with my children and my husband, and I’m happy to dedicate a portion of my life to a company who allows me to dedicate so much of my life to my world outside of work.