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.