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 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.  

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.

No alt text provided for this image

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!
No alt text provided for this image

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

No alt text provided for this image

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.

No alt text provided for this image

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:

No alt text provided for this image

‘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;

No alt text provided for this image

@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.

Celebrating Education in Tech: DojoCon 2018

Every year the CoderDojo community gathers for their global conference, DojoCon, and this year the event will take place in Kilkenny, Ireland. The CoderDojo foundation reviews bids submitted by clubs around the world and selects one of the clubs to host the conference. On behalf of her local club in Kilkenny, Expedia Group’s Margaret Ahearne put through a proposal and her submission was successful. She and the team in Kilkenny CoderDojo have spent the last 12 months planning a bumper weekend.

DojoCon 2018 is a celebration of education in tech and will have representation from over 14 different countries. On Saturday, October 20th delegates can sit and watch the main stage speakers, which will cover topics from virtual reality, game design, inclusion in tech, augmented reality, and women in STEM. Representing Expedia Group on the main stage will include Kristy Nicholas, who will be sitting on a Women in Tech panel. Nasreen AbdulJaleel and Connor Culleton will share the stage with Dr. Norah Patten, who is currently training to be Ireland’s first person in space, to discuss travel tech from global travel to outer space.

There are also 5 workshops covering design, creativity, coding, community inclusion, and robotics. Teachers and CoderDojo volunteers will leave the conference with the tools to educate and support their students.

From the get-go, it was non-negotiable to have 50% female representation of speakers and presenters, and the DojoCon team are proud to have lived up to this promise. Making technology accessible to all children was also a key, so having Nasreen and Connor representing the Expedia Group accessibility efforts was an ideal fit.

The conference will end with a hackathon on the Sunday for 7 – 17-year-olds.

Perfectly in line with what Expedia Group stands for, it was a no-brainer for us to get behind DojoCon and support the initiative as the main sponsor. Expedia Group is proud to have employees worldwide volunteering and mentoring in CoderDojo clubs.

The full DojoCon program can be viewed here.