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

Deciphering Product Roles

Amanda McArthur | Talent Advisor, Expedia Group in Bellevue, WA

Product, Technical Product, and Program Management. If you are in the product world, you know the struggle is real. Companies (and sometimes even teams) have different definitions for each. It can be difficult to understand what roles are a strong fit given your background and personal career goals.

My goal here is to help you maneuver Expedia Group and find exciting opportunities with us that are more in-line with your experience or career goals.

First, the Program Manager:

In several large tech companies, this is a title predominantly used to describe someone who is closely aligned with Engineering. Generally speaking, within Expedia Group, the Program Manager is more focused on business process and programs. With one exception; the title Technical Program Manager is used in a few divisions and the responsibilities are similar to a Technical Product Manager.

This role is great for someone who excels at surveying the ‘big picture’. You enjoy finding and fixing inefficiencies. You build business processes and programs that scale, are streamlined and cross-functional. Like most other Product or Program roles, you are also an excellent communicator who is able to build consensus through influencing without authority.

While searching, I would consider areas of expertise as well and use keywords as part of your search to narrow your results. Maybe your area of specialty is talent acquisition, business operations, finance, or marketing. If you do have a functional area that you are focused within, do include it in your search.

https://lifeatexpedia.com/jobs/?keyword=Program%20Manager

Technical Product Manager:

Within the Expedia product ecosystem, we have both a Technical Product Manager (TPM) and a Product Manager. As a TPM, you are more closely partnered with Engineering teams.

All of our teams follow the Agile methodology, which means you can expect to attend (if not lead) daily standups. You will likely build user stories and participate in sprint planning. The lengths of our sprint cycles vary by team. Some could be as short as a week, others are a few weeks. We have a ‘Test and Learn’ culture and a bias toward action – giving our teams the ability to move faster with less red tape.

While most roles don’t require a background in software development, it does help in most cases. I’ve seen a lot of Engineers make a successful transition from development to TPM. It’s a natural progression for those wanting to take on broader responsibilities over product creation. You’ll partner cross-functionally with several teams. You act as a liaison and help your less technical counterparts understand technology constraints and possibilities. You’ll also help to communicate timing for execution, helping to prioritize feature work within the roadmap.

Keep in mind if you’re looking to move into Technical Product Management, there are some TPM roles that definitely need someone who comes from a hands-on development background. While this isn’t the norm, I have seen roles where the TPM would continue to own some code as part of their broader responsibilities.

https://lifeatexpedia.com/jobs/?keyword=technical%20product%20manager

Product Manager:

This is purely my opinion, but I believe finding the right Product role is pretty tricky. The level of technical aptitude needed to be successful is different for each team and depends heavily on the product space. Because most of our Product teams are dealing with digital products, the level of technical knowledge needed tends to be on the higher end of the spectrum.

That said, there are definitely Product Management roles that are more focused on stakeholder management, strategy, or user journey and UX. As the Product Manager, you own the roadmap planning, feature release cycles, backlog prioritization, varied levels of reporting, and product related problem-solving.

In general, all of our Product Management teams are going to be looking for someone who is comfortable working in a highly matrixed organization. Because a lot of products span multiple brands, you may have several stakeholders and they could be located all over the world. That means that not only will you work cross-collaboratively with UX, Engineering, Marketing, etc. you may also have the added complexity of working across brands. For someone who’s looking for more complexity, this may be perfect for you.

https://lifeatexpedia.com/jobs/?keyword=product%20manager

A few things to keep in mind:

Our teams are truly Global. I know, on the surface this doesn’t sound very different from other large tech companies. I’ll explain. I’ve worked with some companies that have a large global footprint; however, in a lot of cases, the product work was dispersed by location. London had their part, Sweden had another, and both were part of a larger body of work. In those cases, they had regular check-ins but the interdependencies were fewer which required less coordination. In our case, your immediate team may have a global footprint. It’s possible that you’ll be managing close dependencies where you’re coordinating with immediate team members located on the other side of the globe.

Your Search:

First and foremost, don’t be discouraged if one position isn’t the right fit. If you are a Product veteran you probably already know how unique each position is. Maybe you don’t have enough experience with complex information architecture, but nail the customer experience and user journey. Everyone has different professional experience and those are the things that will make you a unique fit for the right team.