ANA ANANTHAKUMAR

Product Manager, Supply Intelligence
Chicago, IL
Joined: 2017

Ana describes his job as being an agent for Groupon’s version of the CIA. What does that entail? We’d tell you, but…just read his story to find out!

What’s your favorite Groupon memory?

On the day before Halloween, I was busy at my desk working and wearing a T-shirt and jeans (on that day, my tee-shirt and jeans combo was the most formal attire). I was already enjoying the costumes people around me were wearing. Top Gun’s Tom Cruise (our engineering manager), was sitting with his costume. A few desks away, a fox was coding. I thought that things couldn’t get any more hilarious. As if to prove me wrong, I saw all hell break loose in our office: Freddy Krueger, Jason, and a lot more of the everyday villains that haunted you were walking among us.

Where were you before joining Groupon?

I was born and raised in Sri Lanka. I graduated an Electrical Engineering major, completed CFA Level 3,  and worked for Unilever’s supply chain for four years. Then, I came to Kellogg to get my MBA. This was the first time I lived outside of Sri Lanka. Last summer, I was the product manager for a drone company. Now I am here!

So tell us about your job. What do you do? What do you love about it?

I am the Product Manager for Supply Intelligence. My product—an AI platform—brings in the best supply/merchants into Groupon. I think of it as GIA (Groupon’s Intelligence Agency – like CIA). Think of it as an ‘agent’ going out and looking at all the available merchants in the market, and gathering intel about which merchant would maximize Groupon’s value in the future ⇒ repeat. I love the fact that this is at the cutting edge of technology, and that I get to impact the entire Groupon, both North American and international as well. (This is the intimidating component as well!)

Where can we find you outside of work?

I am on okay cook (Sri Lankan and South Indian cuisines) and an excellent eater. I have won eating competitions (26 pieces of pizza in one instance). I used to play rugby and chess for school/college. I am a singer and a disaster of a dancer. Currently looking for friends who might go to fighting classes, dancing (you’ve already been warned), or climbing with me.

Tell us something about you that might surprise us.

I eat a lot of sweets. One of our team members brought in a bag full of candies that were too much even for his kid (remember, this was right after Halloween, so the bag was really big). I have been constantly eating away all those candies, alone – without the slightest hint of guilt.

I always believed that with the agile methodology things would be fast paced, but at Groupon, I have seen some of the ideas go from concept to implementation within a few sprints.

Tell us about your first impressions of Groupon.

My first interactions with Groupon were with the recruiter, an alum, and the hiring manager. I got the sense that Groupon had a very open and inclusive culture because all of these folks focused on genuinely listening to my story and understanding what I wanted to do. I also felt that Groupon focused more on potential when it came to recruiting, rather than experience (slope vs intersection argument: Groupon hires more so for the slope). This means that not only does Groupon benefit from its employees, but it also has a keen interest in investing in their skills and career development.

What do your parents think you do?

They still can’t wrap their head around the fact that a tech laggard like me is handling a product that involves a lot of AI. “So your product has something to do with AI right? And you still take notes on paper? Son, you’re like from the stone age.”

What’s unique about Groupon’s Engineering culture?

How collaborative and organized the team is. In my team, I could find a textbook example of the Agile process, and every aspect of it. We have an excellent scrum master who works on the finer details of the agile process and drives it like a religion. I remember the entire team instinctively getting up and gathering around his table at 10:30 for the daily stand…even on Mondays, the only day of the week we don’t have that meeting. As the book, “Scrum”, says, he is driving the agile methodology into our bloodstream, as a way of work that would come naturally to us.

What about the Product culture?

Despite being a large organization, I can directly see how my product impacts the business. I have responsibilities that create a meaningful impact on the entire business. This also means that I should be extremely careful about the changes I make to the product given the level of impact it has on Groupon.

What has been surprising about working at Groupon? Or what would surprise candidates to find out?

Surprising to me: How fast-paced things work. I always believed that with the agile methodology things would be fast paced, but at Groupon, I have seen some of the ideas go from concept to implementation within a few sprints.

For external folks: Work hard, play hard culture. I’ve been at Groupon for a few months and already have been with various teams to dinners, improv shows, breweries, and even rock climbing. It is great to see that the teams truly enjoy being together whether at work or outside of work!

What’s your favorite view from the office?

How does your work connect to Groupon’s mission of building the daily habit in local commerce?

My platform brings in the local commerce to the sales reps. Very direct connection.

What are your favorite local businesses?

Horror houses. I visited one and learned that Groupon has a big impact on the incoming traffic to the industry during the Halloween season.

What do you love about your team’s Software Development process?

How well defined the user stories are and how articulate the engineers are about the user stories. The dev team has a good ‘big picture view’ of how some of the changes might have downstream and upstream impact on the business. This makes it easy for me to connect the dev process with the other parts of the business and the respective stakeholders.

One of our software developers created a presentation which illustrated our process end to end. I use it all the time when I present to others about my product and process. Not only was it easy to understand, it was also quite comprehensive. Furthermore, we have a platform called Flux for our machine-learning models. As you might have already figured out, it’s a very hard concept to grasp. The engineer in charge of that explained it to me in such a manner that I could well understand what it meant for my product and for Groupon in general.

We have another engineer who has an amazing curiosity to learn. He makes sure to ask questions to hammer out the details. He sweats the details in meetings and finally when the products are built, there is no question as to any of the nuances being overlooked. I believe that this ability to articulate so well and curiosity, are key ingredients to a successful process.