A Leader’s Garden—Designing a thriving organization when you aren’t in control.

A Leader’s Garden—Designing a thriving organization when you aren’t in control.

TECH PAPERS

Aug 19, 2014

A Leader’s Garden—Designing a thriving organization

when you aren’t in control

Written by Todd Webb, Senior Technical Leader

What if organizations were natural ecosystems, and like any other part of nature, cannot be controlled?

 

We like to think that we stand apart from nature, but what if we do not? What if our organization is just like a garden, with all its living and non-living elements, each at the same time independent and interdependent? How would this inform the way leaders approach the challenge of building and maintaining an organization?

If organizations were ecosystems then leaders must act as gardeners. Just as the master gardener must tend to an infinitely complex natural ecosystem, the leader must tend to an infinitely complex human ecosystem. Though the complexity of the ecosystem may be beyond our comprehension, if we understand its fundamental properties, we can help it thrive without the illusion of control.

What are the fundamental properties of a thriving organization?

A thriving organization is fundamentally a network of people with diverse motivations, sharing a purpose and objectives, and acting heedfully via systems and patterns of feedback.

A network of people

When you envision your organization do you think of a hierarchy? If you do, you are missing nearly everything important about how your organization works. If you were to visualize the real interactions between people inside and even outside the organization, you would see a tangled web of connections, some formal, some informal, some known, some unknown. You find people who influence the organization far more than their title or authority would suggest and others who have far less influence than you would expect given their positional power.

Although we may influence, we cannot control the network’s form, or evolution, but through an awareness of the network, can unleash its power.

(For more on networks watch The Power of Networks)

With diverse motivations

When you envision the motivations of the people in your organization do you think of everyone pulling the same direction with similar motivations or acting in self-interest and pulling against one another? Humans are wonderfully diverse and messy. They often have motives in line with organization goals, but they also have power motives, career motives, fear motives, outside interest motives.

Although we cannot control people’s motives, we can influence those motives through understanding and an expression of empathy. We must amplify shared motives and help people accept and find strength and creativity in diverse motives.

(To learn more about what happens when we fail to understand diverse motivations and act with empathy read Leadership and Self-Deception)

Sharing a purpose and objectives

When you ask anyone in your organization what the shared mission is, can they recite it? Do they list the organization’s values and principles? Do they share stories about people who embody those values and principles?

A shared understanding of values provides the glue for the foundation of the organization. This shared understanding of mission, values, principles, and objectives must permeate the organization and become a common lexicon within the company.

Acting heedfully

When you look around at the people working in your organization, are they aware of what is going on around them? If something went horribly wrong how quick would they notice and how well coordinated would their response be?

We must design and foster patterns of heedfulness. Heedfulness leads to resilient teams that can overcome significant chaos and change to reach a goal.

(To learn more about resiliency and heedfulness read Managing the Unexpected: Resilient Performance in an Age of Uncertainty)

Via systems and patterns of feedback

Keeping all those fundamental properties in mind, we must tend to the organization by designing and encouraging systems and patterns of feedback that foster heedfulness, and harness diversity, while reinforcing shared purpose and objectives.

Designing in Systems and Patterns

A master gardener understands the underlying patterns of the garden. They understand how each element of the garden produces, uses, or affects the nutrients, sunshine, water, temperature and other factors that help the garden thrive. They design their garden to reinforce those patterns with no illusion that they are in control. Master gardeners are systems thinkers.

We must be systems thinkers too. We must understand and design in systems and patterns of feedback. A thriving organization has many layers of feedback:

  • An all-hands Q&A with senior executives
  • A personal pat on the back for a teammate
  • A practice community that shares knowledge about the Java programming language
  • A book club that studies management practices
  • A governance meeting that helps an engineering team decide what they should work on
  • Software developers pair programming
  • Employees job shadowing to learn what it’s like for someone in a different department
  • A retrospective meeting
  • An always-on group chat room for a project team
  • A team standup meeting at the beginning of each day
  • An employee survey
  • A weekly 1-on-1 coaching session

The next time you think about how to influence your organization, to build great culture, to do great things—think about systems and patterns of feedback. Know that you are not in control, but if you design and foster the right systems and patterns of feedback you can help your organization thrive.

(To learn more about systems thinking read The Fifth Discipline)

Steve Krenzer – Chief Operating Officer

Steve Krenzer – Chief Operating Officer

STEVE KRENZER

Chief Operations Officer
Chicago, IL
Joined: 2017

Meet Steve Krenzer, Groupon’s Chief Operating Officer. When he’s not focused on engaging and empowering our employees to do great work, you can find him, well, in a lot of places: scuba diving, hiking, checking out local bookstores, or enjoying…airplane food?

What do you love about working at Groupon?

I love to walk around the offices and meet the people of Groupon. I always learn so much and get energized by meeting our great people.

Tell us about your role as COO. 

As COO, there’s not too much about Groupon that I don’t get involved with in some capacity. The job can be expressed quite simply: to align the talent and engagement of the people of Groupon with our biggest opportunities. Groupon is such a broad and diverse company, I love the scale and variety of the things we’re working on. This also requires that I have the discipline to say “no” to many good ideas so we can focus on the difference makers.

What differentiates Groupon from other companies you’ve worked for?

I’ve spent almost 20 years working in e-commerce; the chance to work at scale with the opportunity set of Groupon was irresistible.

What are you excited to tackle in the upcoming year?

Five things:

  1. Gaining a better understanding of our customers in detail
  2. Mindfully aligning the assortment of our supply in order to help customers find more great things from more great merchants in their communities
  3. Gaining a better understanding of our merchants and how we can help with their business problems  
  4. Growing our leadership in mobile e-commerce
  5. Increasing the engagement and empowerment of our people

Who or what inspires you?

Passionate people, they’re all around us!  If I had to choose one individual, it would be our middle son, Ethan. Ethan was diagnosed with a very rare (<2000 cases in the world, that’s 1/3.6 million), very serious metabolic disease when he was three years old. At the time the life expectancy for children with the disease was seven years. Ethan has had many, many challenges, but he just celebrated his 28th birthday this past Thanksgiving and is currently completing his Master’s degree. He is so focused and committed to overcoming every obstacle life has put in his path, it’s amazing.

What was your first impression of Groupon as an employer?

The scale and energy of the teams on the floor were jaw-dropping.

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

Everything we do needs to be in the service of bringing customers and merchants together more easily, more beneficially, and more frequently.

What do your parents think you do.

They have no idea, probably something like “travel a lot, working on big challenges.”

So where were you before joining Groupon and how did you get here?

Most recently I was the CEO of Core Digital Media, one of the larger direct-response marketing platforms on the web. When we completed the sale of the business, Groupon CEO Rich Williams invited me to come help at Groupon and I jumped at the chance!

What do you enjoy outside of working at Groupon?

Hiking, reading literary fiction, scuba diving, and drinking good red wine.

If you could do any other job for a day, what would it be and why?

For one day? Politics, but I wouldn’t want to make a career of it. If not that, then an Olympic skier.

What are your favorite local businesses?

It’s a tie between independent bookstores and wine shops.

Can you write a Groupon haiku?

No, I only write in Iambic pentameter.

And last but not least, tell us something about you that might surprise us. 

I actually like airplane food.

Joanne Soo – Senior Technical Product Manager in San Francisco

Joanne Soo – Senior Technical Product Manager in San Francisco

JOANNE SOO

Senior Technical Product Manager, Groupon+
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 2011

At a young age, Joanne was told she wouldn’t be able to do any overly physical activities due to her disability. Fast forward to today, she’s not only climbing three-story walls but is also applying her fierce determination to a growing Product role at Groupon.

Tell us about what you do and what you love about it!

I work on the Groupon+ Product team, focusing on consumer growth. I love that I get to launch really cool features, learn what our customers love and what they don’t, and collaborate with the best and smartest people in the industry to shape the way people save money while dining out.

What’s the most challenging thing you’ve worked on here?

Back in 2015, while on the Conversion team, I’ve had the opportunity to drive the North America PayPal integration, which was a feature that was very high in demand from our consumers. This effort was particularly challenging because the integration happened during a time where Groupon was rolling out a set of new technologies (new API endpoints, new backend services, and a few ongoing frontend UX A/B experiments). The challenge was to launch this initiative on top of those rollouts without compromising on performance and user experience. There was a lot of careful planning needed and strong coordination between various teams proved to be very valuable. We were able to successfully launch the payment method and it was a big win for customers and for Groupon, which was really, really awesome!

What’s unique about Groupon’s Engineering culture?

I love the diversity and our continuous pursuit of a diverse workplace. One of our core values (Groupon’s) is “respect, integrity, and inclusion” and while this is important at any workplace, it is even more so in engineering departments, which are usually predominantly masculine. At Groupon’s Engineering organization, our proactive fostering of a diverse workplace has created a place where people feel comfortable challenging each other’s ideas, regardless of where you come from, your gender, sexuality, identity, etc. Also, cats. What’s not to love? 🙂

And what specifically do you enjoy about Product at Groupon?

I really enjoy being able to launch really cool features. As owners of our specific areas, we have a direct influence on the outcome of the product, and through that, we get to learn about consumer behavior, our merchants, and Groupon as a business. And because we operate in a lean, agile environment, we get to launch, learn, and iterate quickly and see our product evolve over a short span of time.

So what did you do before joining Groupon?

I worked for a startup in Malaysia that focused on youth empowerment. One fine day in 2010, we decided to pivot our business model and try something new. We built GroupsMore.com, a Groupon clone offering deal of the day to Malaysians. Within four months of launching, our company was acquired by Groupon. Since then, I’ve worn many hats at Groupon (customer service, editorial, project management, and now product) and have lived in various countries for the job: Malaysia, Taiwan, and now the US.

What’s your favorite Groupon memory?

In Groupon Malaysia, we had set up an RM9,000,000 unicorn ride deal ready for April Fool’s Day in 2012. We decided not to launch it at that time and we killed the deal before we launched it (but the deal URL was still live, and accessible if someone had access to it). Fast forward to February 2013— something mysterious and weird happened—we saw a huge spike in traffic on groupon.my and found that the (closed) unicorn ride deal had for some reason gone viral! We were worried about bad press at first, but the virality actually was a good one…people were amused. Here’s an article about it. Needless to say, sales skyrocketed that week. 🙂

What keeps you busy outside of work?

I climb walls! I was born with a disability and was told as a child growing up that I would not be able to do any big physical activities, but with my nature of breaking molds + wanting to prove people wrong + in the spirit of “I can do it even if you say I cannot!”, I’ve developed a passion for scaling three-story walls at climbing gyms.

Tell us something about you that might surprise us!

I have synesthesia, a neurological phenomenon where one’s senses are intertwined. Some people taste words (lexical-gustatory synesthesia) or feel sounds (auditory-tactile synesthesia). I see numbers and letters in colors (grapheme-color synesthesia), which make memorizing/remembering spelling, names, strings of numbers relatively easy for me.

What do your parents think you do?

My mom thinks “I do all the creative planning for the internet and website things” and my dad thinks “something with people management skills or something.”

Becky Kelleher – Senior Sales Trainer

Becky Kelleher – Senior Sales Trainer

BECKY KELLEHER

Senior Sales Trainer
Chicago, IL
Joined: 2015

What’s your favorite conference room?

Rebecca might be the most caffeinated person in the Chicago office—a daily venti latte with 5 shots of espresso(!)—and she capitalizes on that boundless energy to pump up our newest Sales reps in Groupon Sales University.

Tell us about your job! What do you do? What do you love about it?

My role is split right down the middle, with one foot in our new hire/onboarding program and the other in continuous sales training for reps in Groupon Sales University. Whether I’m standing in front of the classroom during the first two weeks of a new rep’s sales career at Groupon or working them months down the road – I love being able to assist in facilitating the sales growth of all the amazing people we have in this place. If I am able to provide 1% of the incredible experience I’ve had here to someone else –  I’m happy. I couldn’t imagine a better job to come to every day.

So tell us more about Groupon Sales University. What can a new hire expect from the program?

For anyone starting their sales career at Groupon, I couldn’t imagine wanting to have the unconditional support and guidance from anyone other than the amazing people who make up my team!

I’m going to boldly speak for all of them and say that they can anticipate a top-notch, results-driven, sales-intensive program that has proven to develop amazing sales reps. While we’re here to facilitate their growth—which often times involves getting in the trenches with them—make no mistake, we’re also the same team that celebrates along the way with you throughout this wild ride.

What was your first impression of Groupon as an employer?

From the people to the vibes, to the opportunities I was offered from day one – I was waiting (and still am) for the bottom to fall out beneath me. Especially as my first job out of college, I truly hit the jackpot in every way.

Tell us about your career path here at Groupon.

I started in May 2015 as a Sales rep. I went through a 16-week GOB program, and from there was drafted to sell on the west coast. Groupon then “verticalized” to allow reps to specialize in one category of business, where I sold as a Business Development Manager on “Things To Do” for a year and a half before making the jump to the training team!

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

Building the daily habit starts with providing our subscribers with the campaigns in their area, that they want! The people who do that for them are our salespeople – being able to ensure those reps are building an inventory that makes local consumers excited to hop on Groupon is what I’m responsible for from day one of their sales career here!

What’s your favorite Groupon memory? 

I witnessed a teammate successfully execute the “stapler in Jell-O” prank from The Office.

Who or what inspires you?

If you were to poll the Chicago office, I’m sure you’d get plenty of this exact same person…but Keegan Chapman. As a manager, mentor and friend, Keegan radiates a constantly magnetic energy that would be impossible to not pull inspiration from.

What keeps you busy outside of work?

There are a couple of places you can catch me outside of Groupon, including ordering cheese curds at State Restaurant, desperately trying to work those off at F45 Lincoln Park, and finally rewarding myself with a “Big Mike” at Derno’s.

Tell us something that might surprise us about you.

My Starbucks order has a tendency to leave people speechless: venti, iced, skinny vanilla latte with five shots espresso.

Groupon’s project managers are ‘the air traffic controllers of the engineering department’

Groupon’s project managers are ‘the air traffic controllers of the engineering department’

Groupon’s project managers are ‘the air traffic controllers of the engineering department’

It was 4 a.m. when confirmation finally came in from the engineers: Groupon had successfully completed the online integration of LivingSocial, which the company acquired in 2016.

Groupon’s project management team had been toiling for months, working with engineers and key stakeholders on this large-scale project. With about 50 other staffers from different departments, they waited and watched into the wee hours, some via conference, until the “cutover” was finally confirmed. This means that users could now access the integrated content — and two weeks ahead of schedule.

That’s when an engineer came in with a bottle of Cristal and a “cutover” cannoli cake.

“Besides my wedding cake, that was the best cake I’ve ever had,” said Karen Hyatt, technical project manager. “There was something about being bleary-eyed at 4 a.m., eating cutover cake with the team you worked so hard with over six months that was really just special.”

Such spirit of togetherness is typical for this close-knit team, known formally as the project management organization.

We recently spoke with the crew to find out how they manage to complete their highly visible work while always being there for each other – and for cake.

GROUPON AT A GLANCE

YEAR FOUNDED: 2008

EMPLOYEES: 1,800 in Chicago (more than 6,000 globally)

THE TEAM: Known as the PMO, this team works with engineering, sales, customer service and finance, among other teams, to ensure that Groupon’s large-scale initiatives are efficiently executed. In particular, they are the liaisons between technical and non-technical functions.

“We’re the air traffic controllers of the engineering department, guiding projects home safely and being proactive about preventing any issues,” said Hyatt.

IMPACT: Because these are high-stakes projects, the team affects the entire business.

TEAM INCLUDES: A college hire and one-time Groupon intern, and others with both technical and non-technical backgrounds.

SUGAR HIGH: This team has a sweet tooth, celebrating a project’s completion with cannoli cake and a team member’s marriage with a rainbow cake.

IDEAL CANDIDATE: Anyone with an innate bias for action and strong technical command, plus the lust for learning required to work with multiple product and engineering teams.

KAREN HYATT, TECHNICAL PROJECT MANAGER
Simply put, Hyatt gets the work done — and makes sure others do, too. She coordinates the details of projects, helps people understand their responsibilities, develops plans and keeps stakeholders accountable.

BEYOND WORK: You’ll find her doing needlepoint.

You work with teams from varied departments and disciplines. Do you ever encounter disagreements about how to execute?

Hyatt: If you’re doing something worthwhile, with people who care, almost everyone will have an opinion about how it should be implemented, which is bound to result in a disagreement or two.

I approach those situations by getting everyone in the same room and facing it head on. But first, I take a step back to remind everyone that we all ultimately want the same thing: we want the product to launch and be successful.

Does PMO have a reputation in the company?

Hyatt: I’m proud to say it does. We’ve garnered the reputation of being vital to the success of any large-scale project. Because of that, our services are in high demand.

Reflect back on when you took this job. Is there anything about it that surprised you?

Hyatt: I was shocked by just how much I would get to learn. I come from a non-technical background. As I found my way into this role, I was worried that I wouldn’t have the technical knowledge base needed. Thankfully, having deep knowledge about a specific engineering area wasn’t necessary.

I’ve been able to build out my engineering knowledge because I’ve worked on such a variety of projects, including heavily consumer-facing projects, projects that are more focused on infrastructure — and everything in between. I get to learn something new about technology all the time, which I absolutely love.

JUAN GARCÍA, CHICAGO PMO LEAD
García spends much of his time facilitating other teams: coordinating meetings, optimizing processes, communicating and making sure stakeholders are accountable. As the team lead, he also ensures that his project managers have what they need to develop as professionals.

BEYOND WORK: García started running to get to know Chicago’s neighborhoods.

Has your team had an effect on the rest of the organization?

García: During the past three to four years, our project managers have helped teams deliver initiatives more efficiently by narrowing communication gaps, optimizing processes and sharing our project management knowledge.

Describe your team culture.

García: We truly care for each other, whether by covering for someone who needs time off, celebrating successes or supporting someone during challenging times.

Personally, the team has shown how much they care about me and my family on multiple occasions. Once, they surprised me with a rainbow cake and a celebration the day after I married my lifelong partner.

Reflect back on when you took this job. Is there anything about it that surprised you?

García: My first impression was that I had freedom to propose changes and improve the way our team worked. Coming from a corporate environment, the difference was huge. Team members are empowered to propose solutions and bring them to reality.

Describe an ideal candidate for this team.  

García: Someone who can adapt to change easily, has a bias for action, is driven to find solutions and get results and enjoys helping others.

ANDREW WHIPPLE, TECHNICAL PROJECT MANAGER
Whipple started as an intern. “If you told me back as a college junior that I’d be a point person for some pretty huge projects,” he said, “working hand-in-hand with senior tech leaders all across the company, under no circumstance would I have believed you!”

BEYOND WORK: He’s a podcast junkie.

In your opinion, why is a group like PMO necessary?

Whipple: Groupon has a lot of teams that do great work, but sometimes there needs to be that dedicated link among all the teams, making sure that everything gets done and everyone is working towards the same goals.

Share something you love about your job.  

Whipple: I love figuring out how best to get technical ideas across, even if I don’t understand them the way an engineer would, to various audiences — and hopefully do it in a way that’s fun.

At this moment, what does your typical day look like?

Whipple: Currently, I’m almost entirely dedicated to one team with members across locations, from India to Romania to Palo Alto. Up to half my day is spent in meetings to keep everyone on the same page and collect the information we need. The rest of the time is emails, scheduling and documenting.

Describe a product launch you enjoyed being a part of.

Whipple: I just wrapped up a project with our IT and multimedia teams to replace our videoconferencing tools, and I’m thrilled to say the project went smoothly. But what really stands out is that the project involved testing the potential solution.

Running that trial was a great opportunity to bring some user research skills that I don’t usually apply in my normal work. The special projects are ones where I feel I can bring a unique perspective and skill set beyond the usual PM toolkit.

How does your team find people who will be a good fit?

Whipple: We don’t limit ourselves to looking at the resume. In fact, I spent most of my internship interview talking about how being a stage manager for a Shakespeare company was like project management. Apparently, that convinced someone!

How the Flux team at Groupon uses insights from the past to predict the future

How the Flux team at Groupon uses insights from the past to predict the future

How the Flux team at Groupon uses insights from the past to predict the future

In case you were wondering, the Flux Team at Groupon is named after the 1985 classic, “Back to the Future,” because its members use insights from the past to predict the future. Fluent in both machine learning and big data, the team serves to translate for the company’s data scientists and engineers, who use vastly different coding languages and approaches. In so doing, Flux makes sure machine learning can be put into use very quickly, whereas in the past it could take months.

Recently, we spent time with the group to find out how they work across the approximately 2,000-person Chicago location (7,000 globally) to keep the “flux capacitor … fluxing.”

FLUX AT A GLANCE

THE TEAM: Four engineers, one manager, an intern.

WHAT THEY DO: Bridge the gap between data scientists and engineers to ensure that insights drawn from data can affect the business faster.

WHERE THEY DO IT: Chicago.

WHAT THEY TAKE SERIOUSLY: The work.

WHAT THEY DON’T: Themselves.

BACKGROUNDS: Most team members have studied computer science. Additional courses of study: machine learning, data science, deep learning.

OTHER CREDS: You’ll also find an MBA candidate, plus a chemical engineering Ph.D who used machine learning in his doctoral thesis.

YOU’RE AN IDEAL CANDIDATE IF: You’re a quick study, able to learn new languages on the fly.

Built In: If you would, explain what your team does.  

SreeRama Jayanthi, engineering manager: We work with about 10 teams across Groupon, helping process data into insights for business optimization.

One specific example is how we work with sales. Between the time the phone rings and a customer rep answers, we look at the customer’s order to see what we can do to help them resolve their issue and remain a long-term Groupon customer.

Derrick Spell, senior software engineer, tech lead for the project: More generally, our team allows good ideas to be put into use faster. Often, there are good insights from Groupon’s data, but the analysis is stalled in trying to implement it. You may spend six months working on one idea, without even having the chance to iterate.

So we’ve built a platform where the data scientists’ ideas can be implemented and immediately picked up by the engineering team. We’ve had models that went from idea to production within a couple of weeks on this platform. It used to take six months.

Built In: Can you give me an example of an idea this team accelerated?

Spell: One example is our work with Groupon Goods, which anticipates sales so that they can send inventory to warehouses strategically. A data scientist built a model that indicated: we need X units in the northwest and only Y units in the southeast.

But it’s hard to bridge the gap between having that insight and affecting the systems that place orders. We worked with the data scientist to put that model on the Flux platform, which provided a kind of ready-made bridge. Pretty much immediately, the engineering team started using that data to place orders.

Built In: What kind of technology is the Flux platform built on?

Spell: We run a lot of our models from Groupon’s large Hadoop cluster. From a program language standpoint, we use Java and Clojure, a Lisp implementation that runs on the JVM. Python is a glue language to bridge the gap between the Java and R. R is the language preferred by data scientists.

Built In: One of your colleagues here described Flux as the Rosetta Stone between data scientists and engineers. What do you think about that?

Bahador Nooraei, engineer: That’s one of our main goals, actually. We do a lot of translating. Data scientists are worried about mathematical rigor. They have their own lingo and tools, like R. Engineers, on the other hand, are like: We don’t know how to use R. What do you mean by “feature”? Or “training”?

It’s hard for the two sides to even talk requirements. That adds to the complexity of making sure engineers can use machine learning models. Because Flux can speak both languages, we sit between the two.

Spell: And data scientists and engineers can, for the most part, stay in their realms of expertise. If a data scientist puts their model in Flux, an engineer can pull out that data without needing to know R even exists. And vice versa, the data scientist never has to worry: “What if the network gets flaky?”

Built In: I love your name, “Flux.” What’s the story there?

Spell: We were originally part of a team called Quantum Lead, which is the pun that you think it is. When we became a platform for machine learning, we threw a bunch of ideas on a whiteboard and started voting. Flux won. It’s a “Back to the Future” reference. Because often, our data include insights from the past to predict the future.

Built In: Groupon seems to do a good job of work-life balance. How do you manage that?

Jayanthi: We take that piece seriously. We’re due diligent about the commitments we make. Once we commit, we make sure that things move. We strike a balance where we are having fun and delivering business value.

Built In: So, what kind of fun do you have around here?

Jayanthi: Actually, we spend more time with the team than with our families, so we do a lot of things to bond. We eat lunch together every day.

Spell: And we have good lunch conversations. Until recently, none of us were natively born to the same country. Our team chat room had the words: “I need coffee” in 12 language — all written without a dictionary. So we talk a lot about language and culture and philosophy over lunch. We also give each other crazy nicknames.

Built In: Do you guys have a reputation as a group?

Jayanthi: Yes. We’re always pushing to be on the edge of the existing system as opposed to staying within it. For example, most of our applications are done in Ruby or Java, but we also identify different tools for different problems.

Spell: We have the reputation of being courageous polyglots. There was once a team that inherited a Scala system. They didn’t know what to do with it. They thought: “Should we completely re-implement this in Java?” We didn’t know it either, but we said, we can learn it. We were able to implement changes for the data scientists within a couple weeks.

Built In: What’s the best part about being here?

Jayanthi: It’s that ability to push boundaries and use a range of tools. We use Scala, we use Clojure, we use Java. A lot of companies cannot provide that.

Xiaohan Zeng, engineer: The engineering culture is great. There is an annual celebration of Groupon’s geekness called “Geekon.” For a week, we can team up with anyone to explore new tech projects, which could end up being beneficial to the company. That’s the place I want to be. I want to be with a group of nerds, because I’m a nerd myself.

Jae Chung, engineer: I’d also say that Groupon is well established, but our solution covers the entire stack from the back to front end. There’s a range of experience to gain. If you lack some of it, you can fill in the gaps as you mature.

Smart people doing interesting work

Join us!

Built In: What qualifications are required for Flux team members?

Jayanthi: We use a term, “data engineers,” a lot. That refers to people who have a combination of software engineering and computer science — but also are very proficient in using and managing big data.

Built In: How do you find people with that unique mix of skills?

Spell: We don’t hire for language proficiency or necessarily for data science expertise. Instead, we try to gauge whether a candidate is a learner. Is this somebody who’s open to new ideas?

Nooraei: That learning aspect is the most important thing. I think I worked on six languages in the past three months, as well as many frameworks, libraries and systems. If that scares you, this isn’t the right fit. But if that sounds exciting, it’s the perfect team.

Built In: That’s what they say about journalism. You need to be excited about becoming an instant expert at everything.

Nooraei: That makes sense. We also have a saying: We have a Ph.D or M.S. in computer science but a B.S. in everything else.

Groupon is a massive data-driven experiment — this team helps run it

Groupon is a massive data-driven experiment — this team helps run it

Groupon is a massive data-driven experiment — this team helps run it

Groupon has tweaked and tested every corner of its e-commerce platform to find out precisely what makes customers click. Its platform is one of the world’s most optimized online destinations, but Groupon is still running daily experiments to add new features that increase business — and get rid of features that don’t.

Comprised of both data scientists and engineers, the Optimize team has built a tech platform for running those experiments with scientific rigor. We spoke with three team members about their efforts to reshape how Groupon thinks about data.

OPTIMIZE AT A GLANCE

TEAM DISCIPLINES: Engineers and data scientists.

WHAT THEY DO: Build tools that help Groupon iterate and improve on its customer experience; promote data literacy across the organization.

WHAT THEY DID BEFORE: The team includes statisticians, an astrophysicist, a music major, an economist and a theological studies major.

DID I READ THAT RIGHT?: Yep.

DEEPLY ROOTED: Optimize was one of Groupon’s founding teams.

INSPIRED BY: Pharma research, which pioneered a scientific way to “peek” at data and end experiments early.

THE STACK: Ruby on Rails, Node.js, Ember.js, Python, R, Hadoop/Hive.

What does Groupon’s Optimize team do?

Kristi Angel, data scientist: Experimentation is essential to product development at Groupon, and Optimize owns the platform for experimentation. Our software is used by product managers in developing new features and improvements on web and mobile platforms. We automate A/B testing, ensuring statistical rigor and provide reporting on experiment results.

I research statistical methodology to implement as features in our software, partner with product managers and leadership to develop a culture of statistical literacy, assist with the interpretation of experiment results and work with product analysts to design sound strategies for experimentation that does not fit within our framework. I also work on special projects related to the analysis of anomalous results and validation of data quality in our pipeline, for example.

Robb Broome, senior software engineer: The driving force is finding out whether the changes we make to our website are benefiting the business or hurting the business. As time goes by, we get better at finding solutions and ways of measuring impact that are more reliable and consistent.

What technologies power your experimentation platform?

David Oliver, engineering and product manager: Groupon’s website is built on a series of Node.js microservices, and our code is embedded as modules in those apps.

So, one of those Node modules that we own is Finch.js, which does two essential things: it buckets users into control or treatment groups, and it sends a message that the user saw the experiment. That message flows through a REST API, into Kafka and finally into Hadoop. We also have two Ruby on Rails applications. One is focused on consuming that data from Hadoop and piecing out the data in such a way that we can easily read it, and the other doubles as experiment configuration and the stats engine that powers our platform. Finally, we have an Ember.js app that our stakeholders use to create and manage experiments, and display experiment results.

If an experiment goes poorly, that can have a real impact on your bottom line. How do you balance those concerns against the need for statistical rigor?

Oliver: We use a technique called group sequential analysis, which was pioneered doing heart valve studies in the 1970s.

Angel: Imagine a clinical trial in which an experimental treatment is actually harming people. Ethically, one would want to stop the trial immediately, but statistically it is a bad thing to watch your data as it accumulates. All measurements have a natural variation and this randomness can easily be mistaken for a signal. We really only want to analyze the data once we know we have enough observations to be confident that what we are seeing is signal and not noise.

Group sequential analysis is a way to “peek” at the data in a controlled way, periodically checking in on the experiment in a statistically rigorous manner that limits false positive results. It turns out, a life-saving mechanism in pharma research is a revenue-saving mechanism at Groupon. We can more quickly capitalize on features that increase revenue and limit exposure to features that lose revenue.

What are the most interesting technological problems your team is solving?

Angel: We are working on arriving at the optimal attribution models across different areas of our business. For example, the attribution of a purchase to a specific experience — a home page feature, an email, a push notification — likely has a different window of time where we can reasonably say a specific purchase is a result of a specific experience.

Features that reduce friction on a site are likely to have a more immediate effect, whereas an email campaign might have an impact over a longer time frame. Mathematically, how do we find that optimal window? Technically, how do we implement and support a number of attribution methods for our framework?

Smart people doing interesting work

Join us!

Groupon has a long history of experimentation, and a lot of data to work with. Does that present unique challenges?

Broome: Groupon is already highly optimized, which means you need better science and better math. In the olden days, it was easy to make huge changes that you didn’t need very sophisticated systems to see. We also have to pay very close attention to whether the data is getting in on time, because there are billions of transactions coming in, and the paths are pretty complicated.

What is one important change to how Groupon works that has emerged from the Optimize team’s work?

Angel: Finch Express, which is what we call our platform, has changed the way Groupon does A/B experimentation. Before its existence, experimentation was a pretty loose concept. Experimenters would monitor results day over day and run things until they looked “good” — usually meaning that the data was susceptible to the experimenter’s biases.

Today, we do not display data about the metric of interest until the experiment’s conclusion. That prevents experimenters from checking the results before enough data has accumulated and limits false conclusions.

How does that impact Groupon’s approach to data?

Angel: Our platform further moves the needle by shifting our organizational culture. It isn’t hard nor is it enough to be data driven. We must also be data literate. By building out a sophisticated platform and committing to comprehensive support for our consumers, we grow data literacy in the organization and as a result we’re able to make better decisions.

What drew you to Groupon?

Oliver: The Optimize team and getting to work both with programming languages I was already familiar with, like Ruby and JavaScript, as well as getting to touch other languages like Scala and Clojure. Our team doesn’t use Scala or Clojure anymore, but I love that Groupon as a whole isn’t afraid to try different languages and technologies — and just as easily move on if they’re not working. I was also attracted to having lots of moving parts and getting to work with all the different teams in the company.

What’s your favorite thing about Groupon’s culture?

Angel: I always felt supported in my personal development. Leadership here has a strong interest in making sure that you’re doing the kind of work you want. And although people are really smart, they’re also really fun. There’s a pervasive sense of humor across the company that I really appreciate, because I’m kind of a goofy person.

What does your team look for in developers?

Angel: We obviously look for technical skills; coding ability matters. Our team works in Ruby and Javascript and is full stack. But a great candidate might actually be a Java developer or have limited experience with front end development. We’re also looking for someone who is curious and humble, with good analytical intuition, and who has a strong sense of ownership, good communication skills and a commitment to excellence.

Oliver: It’s important to us that people are good communicators and who can explain complex concepts in a clear and straightforward way. We also look for professionalism, which is one of those qualities that’s hard to describe, but you know it when you see it. You have to be able to represent the team to the rest of the company.

Harmony Day in Sydney

Harmony Day in Sydney

Everyone Belongs at Groupon Sydney’s Harmony Day

Harmony Day has grown to become a significant annual day for Australians to come together and celebrate our nation’s cultural diversity. At Groupon, we’re a diverse bunch and inclusiveness and diversity is at the core of what we do. Harmony Day is about inclusiveness, respect, and a sense of belonging for everyone and this year, the message of Harmony Day is Everyone Belongs.  

Inclusion and Diversity at Groupon matters. It makes us smarter, leads us to better decisions, and helps us understand the needs of our merchants and customers. We want Groupon to be a great place to work for every employee—a place where people from different backgrounds and experiences feel that they belong and can do their best work to support our mission of becoming the daily habit.  

To celebrate, everyone brought a food dish from their cultural heritage. To pay it forward, donations were required to eat and all money was donated to NASCA (National Aboriginal Sporting Chance Academy) which is a charity supporting Australia’s Indigenous youth community. NASCA designs programs and workshops aimed at responding to various challenges the Aboriginal community faces by empowering them through educational, sporting, and health programs, and instilling a sense of cultural pride to counteract racism. We also had a special Groupon guest speaker: Cesar Comissi from our National Sales Team spoke about his childhood as a migrant coming to Australia from Peru. He also talked about what his culture means to him and how it has shaped him into the man he is today.

Harmony Day links to our value of Respect, Integrity and Inclusion and solving problems the right way together. It’s because of our backgrounds and life experiences that we have different skills and different views on how to solve problems. It’s always amazing when we get to collaborate with people from different walks of life to solve problems together, as we learn new things which we may not have previously known.  

It also links to our Community value, as we have merchants that partner with us from different diverse, cultural backgrounds. We offer culturally diverse deals on our platform including Thai Food, Indian food, Italian food, Lebanese food, Sushi, Thai massages etc. By featuring diverse deals on our platform, we are driving the Community value.

Karishma Patel Buford – VP of Global Talent Management

Karishma Patel Buford – VP of Global Talent Management

KARISHMA PATEL BUFORD

VP of Global Talent Management
Chicago, IL
Joined: 2016

As a global leader, I have found Karishma to proactively get to know each teammate both personally and professionally; she adapts her leadership style to meet individual needs. She also goes “hard” for her team and goes above and beyond to ensure that any obstacles in the way are broken down for their success (and the success of the initiative). She has been a tremendous add to Groupon and a great representation of someone who lives/models our Values every day. – Cassandra Black: Senior Lead, Talent and Inclusion & Diversity

Tell us about your leadership style. 

If you asked my team, I’m sure they would start and end with “driver,” which is always something to watch out for to avoid micromanaging or burning out my team in the process! I’m sure they would also say that I focus on the big picture and making an impact and that I am fearless in fighting the good fight.  

And what’s the most important quality in a teammate for your organization?

Focus on the solution, instead of just the problem. And follow through!

Talk about the time you realized your work was making a big impact. 

Since the question is the first time, I have to go back…way back to a very personal experience that changed my life and trajectory. I was in my 4th year of college and had just decided I was going to transfer out of my Biomedical Engineering major into Psychology. I was testing the waters by engaging in some extracurricular programs like volunteering at a crisis hotline and interning at the psych unit at UVa. It was a Sunday night when I had received a call at the crisis center from a father who had just taken his wife to the ER for a nervous breakdown and had come home to put his kids to bed. With a gun in his hand, he was ready to take his own life. The fact that he called first let me know there was a chance to save him. We spent two hours talking on the phone and at one point, I pointed out some conflicts in his thinking: that he believed his wife when she blamed him for their troubles but never when she told him she loved him. Somehow, simply helping him see the disconnect in his thinking was a breakthrough.

When the calls end in these situations, you never really know what happens next. But, the next day, I went on to my internship to interview a patient who had just been admitted the night before. After a few questions, it was clear that this was the wife of the man I had spoken to only 12 hours before. Two days later, he visited and I watched all four of them playing together with even a sense of calm. I knew then that I was meant to influence others, to change minds, and maybe even change hearts to make a difference in the world.  

How has working at Groupon impacted you?

Groupon has been an amazing ride in two short years. I’ve grown more as a leader and professional in these two years than ever before thanks to new experiences that have stretched me, lots of feedback from my customers and team, and most importantly, an incredible sense of pride for what my teams have accomplished through their unwavering focus and commitment.

Who are your biggest influences?

My family. My father who has taught me about excellence and striving for more; my mother who taught me compassion; my husband who has taught me about forgiveness and resilience; and my kids who have taught me about patience and true love.

Speaking of your family…what do your kids think you do?

Probably summarized as building great leaders. And now, as my role has expanded…hiring them!

What’s the last book you read?  

I just finished Ray Dalio’s Principles. It is spot on in terms of building a culture from the ground up and what really matters in building a high-performance organization.

Describe a unique breakthrough moment in your time at Groupon.

I think my team will be OK with me saying this because it was a great aha! moment for all of us. At our recent Talent Development & Diversity offsite, the entire global team got together. One of our lightbulbs was that in our super fast-paced environment—and though we talk all the time virtually—we really did not have a clear sense of each other’s challenges in different regions of the world. Because Groupon is headquartered in the US, the perception is that things run more smoothly with fewer challenges on this side of the pond. The reality is that we all have our challenges no matter where we sit, they are just different. So it’s important to always ask about what those are, have empathy, and collaborate together to figure out how to support each other as a team.

Describe your job in 10 words or less.

Support the business in attracting, selecting, developing, and retaining great talent. (11!)

Inspired by Karishma's story?

 

Work with her!

What’s the best advice you were ever given?

This is really tough to nail down to just one piece of advice. I have been fortunate to have found many amazing mentors in my career who have given me a great deal of wisdom and coaching along the way. The best advice is played out in the Jim Carrey movie, Yes Man. Say “yes” – even if it’s scary or if it means some short-term pain. Say “yes” to the experience if you want to have a life and career of endless possibilities. In short, own the experience! That was SO not on purpose. ; )

What have you done when you’ve encountered setbacks in your career?

Dust yourself off and try again. (Aaliyah, RIP.)

What’s your favorite local business?

Toss up between Big & Little’s—which is two blocks from my house and a Friday night go-to—and River North Car Detailing that does magic when faced with the aftermath of a three-year-old and a ten-month-old.   

What’s the last Groupon you used?

Team dinner at Sapori Trattoria in Chicago.

We know you love what you do at Groupon…but if you could try any other job for a day, what would it be and why?

Oprah. Meeting and talking with people about their journeys, what they’ve learned, and how they have and will change the world…there’s really nothing more inspiring. 

Bianca Alchi – Partner Development Consultant in Sydney

Bianca Alchi – Partner Development Consultant in Sydney

BIANCA ALCHI

Partner Development Consultant Sydney, Australia Joined: 2015

Bianca and her brother, Mark

So many clubs, so little time. Bianca’s Groupon journey is filled with major wins and she cites her late brother as a source of inspiration for her professional success.

Tell us about your job! What do you do? What do you love about it?

My job involves…

  1. Looking after a portfolio of clients ranging from beauty merchants to top retail storefronts such as Build-a-Bear
  2. Refeaturing well-performing deals
  3. Keeping merchants selling on the site as long as possible

More deals = more sales! I love that I get to talk to a range of clients who are all partnering with Groupon for different reasons. Our value proposition is what I love most.

What’s been the most challenging thing you’ve worked on?

Probably more recently a presentation I had to do for my top client Build-A-Bear so we could secure the partnership and plan their deals for 2018 and beyond! These things aren’t possible without the help of other internal stakeholders either.

What’s your favorite Groupon memory?

My favourite memory would definitely be signing my first-ever deal in sales and ringing the gong as well as breaking an ANZ contract record during my first week of sales!

Who inspires you?

Definitely my late brother Mark. He worked as a door-to-door salesman when he was first starting out his career and decided that owning his own business was crucial to his success. He built up a successful telecommunications business from scratch, eventually employing enough staff and a CEO for him to sit back and enjoy time with his kids. He gave me so much advice during my career and I owe all my successes at Groupon to him!

Your role probably exists at other companies…so what makes your role at Groupon unique? 

I think the flexibility. You’re not just selling the same thing every day…you are literally learning about so many different businesses and how they run their companies. I get to consult and give advice and business owners really appreciate a different perspective. Groupon has given me so many opportunities in terms of career progression and I have learned so much in my almost three years here.

Tell us something that might surprise us about you.

I hate moving desks and have had to move at least six times in my three years here. Everyone calls me a ‘hoarder’ because I have so many things on my desk (partly the reason I hate moving).

So what’d you do before Groupon? How’d you get here?

I worked for my brother Mark’s telecommunication company, I got to do mainly an all-rounder role as well as travel to the Philippines and train a call centre to work for us. When my bro moved his company to Melbourne, I decided to look for a new job and came across Groupon from a friend!

What was your first impression of Groupon as an employer?

The vibe on the floor was nothing like I had ever seen: very noisy, fun, and friendly. The cool breakout room, massages, and cereal were awesome little additions, too.

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

I believe by working with different industries, you are able to bring variety to our customers, even though some deal structures are the same, every business will bring you a different experience and for the right price point, customers will keep coming back on a daily basis to purchase from us.

What’s your proudest Groupon accomplishment?

I am lucky to have had many accomplishments at Groupon but three of my most memorable are:

  1. Emerald Club 2017. Emerald Club is a reward for the top 8 salespeople in the company that finished 100%+ to target for the year. I got to travel on an all-expenses-paid trip with some awesome sales reps to Boracay, Philippines. Although I lost my luggage the entire trip, it was an amazing experience.
  2. The annual sales conference receiving the ‘Sales Rising Star’ award after only being in sales for 6 months.
  3. Joining the ‘Million Dollar Club’ by achieving $1M in revenue since I started in sales July of 2016. It is a huge accomplishment at Groupon and I am proud to have done this.

What do your parents think you do?

I asked my mum yesterday and she said ‘you do marketing for all different types of businesses.’ So I guess that’s not wrong!

What keeps you busy outside of work?

I love playing soccer, I have always played at a high level and continue to this day. Aside from this, I keep busy with my nieces and nephews and dining out!

What’s your favorite local business?

Catch 22 who also feature once a year on Groupon…can’t pass up their lunches!

If you could do another job for just one day, what would it be and why?
I would love to be in the police force as a crime investigator! I think it would be really cool and interesting to be in on the cases.

 

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Sarah Thomson – Business Development Representative in Scottsdale

Sarah Thomson – Business Development Representative in Scottsdale

SARAH THOMSON

Business Development Representative
Phoenix, AZ
Joined: 2017

Hitting sales goals and gongs with Sarah in Phoenix.

What’s your proudest accomplishment at Groupon?

I recently worked with a merchant that Groupon had been trying to close for years. I went into the first call knowing it was going to be challenging, yet a good learning experience. I listened to his hesitations and within a few months he overcame all of his objections and I closed the opportunity.

The best part was that at the very end he thanked me for hearing him out and putting something together that he felt would work for him and his business. He told me I was a pleasure to work with and that I really changed his view of Groupon and how excited he was for his feature to go live. It was really nice to hear and it is something that I will take with me whenever I get those merchants who may be hesitant at first.

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice I ever got was from my dad and I believe it applies to everything, not just work: have a positive attitude! You can’t control a lot of what happens to you but you can control how you react to it. Just staying positive and working hard on the things I can control is really what makes me successful.

What was your impression of Groupon when you first started?

So much fun! I loved the energy and the environment of the Phoenix office, the people are really the best.

How does working at Groupon fit into your life?

I moved to Phoenix only knowing two people and my dog. Groupon quickly became a giant part of my life. I became good friends with a lot of my coworkers and love how many activities are always happening in and outside the office. (Shout out to the Culture Club!)

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

I love talking to merchants every day and learning how I can help their business grow and be successful. I am from Omaha, Nebraska, so I spend a lot of time working with businesses I grew up with. I love to help grow an expanding market by creating deals for the area and others.

Tell us something about you that might surprise us!

I can lick my elbow!

Who are the most inspiring women at Groupon?

I think it is a tie between Grace Litteken and Kelly Light. They both work so hard every day and are so respected for their work. They are easy to talk to and really get things done. On top of that, they both are so caring and understanding.

What do you enjoy about Women@Groupon?

I worked for a long time at a company where I was the only girl. It was so nice to learn that Groupon celebrated and recognized women through Women@Groupon. When I was looking at job opportunities these programs were actually what stood out to me and ultimately made me end up here!

Who is a woman you look up to?

My grandma. She worked hard for many years for everything she had, working with addicts to help them get back on the right track. She never doubted their or anyone else’s success for a minute. She had a heart of gold and really knew how to tell it how it was. She was never afraid to be herself or speak her mind, which are qualities I try to emulate.

What’s your favorite Groupon memory?

When I hit 100% to goal and got to hit the gong!

What’s your favorite local business?

Big Red of the Desert. It’s the best little Husker store owned by the sweetest lady.

Sudipta Chatterjee – Software Engineer in Bangalore

Sudipta Chatterjee – Software Engineer in Bangalore

SUDIPTA CHATTERJEE

Software Engineer
Bangalore
Joined: 2013

We lost count of how many roles Sudipta’s had during her time at Groupon, but it’s quite a few. She gives us the rundown on what her Engineering journey has looked like since joining Groupon as a recent college grad.

Tell us about your job! What do you do exactly? What do you love about it?

I am a Software Engineer and I work on the backend team to provide incentives for our end users. The best part of my job is that any new initiative around granting discounts is directly reflected in conversions. Better promotions mean happier customers, which results in a larger purchase, eventually resulting in higher company profits. So there is always a sense of satisfaction to be able to contribute directly towards my company goals.

I love the fact that we own the service from Bangalore and are responsible for everything associated with it. There is not only high visibility but also recognition for all our efforts. Other than office work, I love the fact that we also work on a lot of fun activities such as festivals, birthday cake cuttings, company-wide outings, and intra-company sports competition, personal development courses, and volunteering opportunities.

What was your first role here? How did you get to where you are now?

I was recruited during my final year of post-graduation and was hired for the Goods team. We worked on a logistics service, built on Python-based Django framework and used Postgres backend. It was responsible for vendor payments, once the product was actually shipped to the end user. After 11 months, I was a part of the Goods sub-teams written in Ruby and Angular JS resp., using MySQL backend. While one of the services was responsible for storing and validating vendor contact details along with deal information, the other service provided a platform for the vendors to put their deal information on the portal which would allow the Groupon buyers and vendors to eventually sign the contract.

Eight months later, I started working on a few platform services around APAC initiatives. The following year, I worked with the Global Marketing team for about three months. I then headed towards a new venture, this time on the front-end technology with Conversions Engineering, whose services were built in NodeJs, using Mustache for HTML templates, and beautified with CSS. I was primarily involved with enabling users to log in and sign up when either on Groupon or when integrated via social communities such as Facebook and Google.

After being part of this i-tier framework-based front-end project for around 10 months, in January 2017, I moved back to platform services and became a member of the Push Engineering Team. In the past almost five years, I have seen a standardisation from raising pull requests over emails, logging tickets in Pivotal tracker, maintaining a code repository on Github, filing tickets in Jira, using test rails for QA steps, and introducing a review process for new services.

What’s unique about Groupon’s Engineering culture?

There are various forums that practice technical discussions, workshops, and hands-on sessions. Engineers working on different teams reach out to each other when they’re stuck on any design problem. As my manager said once, individual contributors here get the opportunity to work in every role. Like in the temporary absence of a Product team, Engineers can become a Product Manager and work closely with the business team in getting the right expectations.

Engineers here strive to keep the coding standards high and follow best practises framed in various guidelines. We have strict review processes for new services, which require a document explaining the challenges the service will solve; the logical and physical design; upstream and downstream dependencies; availability constraints (Tiers); what data flows in and out of the service; and the deployment process.

Every quarter, there are processes carried out to ensure every microservice is confined to its expected SLA and is stress tested to assure it’s capable of serving 2-3x more traffic during holidays. We also have global hackathons arranged each year. There is a creative energy all over, where colleagues come up with many impressive ideas, and some even implement them within the designated time span. While all these might look like very usual stories, I would like to share one unique experience from such events. It was the year 2015, where the winning project contestants from Chennai actually got the opportunity to present their team idea in Seattle in front of the CEO. It was a highly motivating experience!

What’s your favorite view from the office?

What’s the most challenging thing you’ve worked on?

Although I have moved across many teams in the last almost five years, the journey has been continually challenging and I have learnt a lot from it. Out of the many challenges, I would like to talk about one particular instance. It was the time when my journey switched gears from back-end to front-end service when I responsible for providing login/signup sessions to all customers. Switching from Java to NodeJs (Javascript), HTML and CSS was definitely challenging. Playing around with CSS, which provides visual and aural layout was the most challenging part. It was then that my respect for the UX developers grew by leaps and bounds!

So, a few years back, when I was still deciding if I should accept the challenge of working in front-end technology after having worked only in the back-end, my director explained to me that it is always good to take one step further towards being a full-stack developer. Today, when I look back, I realise it was definitely good advice and it makes me feel happy to have accepted the challenge!  🙂

What’s been surprising about working here?

Groupon expands via acquisition of companies, which in turn brings new tech stacks. While there are companies that force their acquired companies to rebuild after an acquisition closes, Groupon does not. What it leaves behind is a challenge to build an ecosystem around these services so that they operate smoothly with each other. Groupon’s North American platform was originally a single, monolithic Ruby-on-Rails application, known as the Primary Web App or PWA. The other platform i.e Berlin/CityDeal is a collection of Java applications that mainly use Spring. These platforms are evolving towards a consistent, global platform termed ‘One Platform’. The global platform is a service-oriented architecture (SOA). The effort of bringing all these services based out of different technologies onto a single platform has been enormous.

What’s your favorite Groupon memory?

One of my favourite memories with Groupon dates back to March of 2013. At that time, I was studying in Pune and hadn’t started working here yet. Groupon had organised a get together for fresh hires in the city of Nawabs, Hyderabad. I still remember how the conference room was filled with curious minds who were preparing to get started on their career journeys and how eager the senior directors and HR were to welcome their young employees aboard. Not only did Groupon fly us down and back and provided a comfortable stay, but the entire event gave us the feeling about how much this organisation cares about its employees!

Tabs of spaces?

Tabs

Vim or emacs?

Vim, simply for the ease it provides to carry out basic required operations.

What’s your favorite programming language?

Java and Python.

What keeps you busy outside of work?

I love spending time with family and friends. When I’m not at home, you will find me checking out new food joints. When I’m at home you may find me singing, dancing or hopping around, and interacting with my Java finches. I just love talking to them! By now, I have gathered a few words to which they even respond.   😉

I get deep satisfaction if I am able to extend my support to anyone in distress. I like watching late-night movies on weekends and feel extremely proud when I still hit the gym on time the next morning. I love dogs of all species, but stray dogs amaze me the most. I can spend hours adoring them.

What do your parents think you do?

Well, my Mom was convinced that we provide the best deals ever – not for the love of anything but onions! So onion prices in India once jumped about 90 percent last year to $0.86 a kilogram up from about $0.46 a kilogram. Groupon India had launched an “onion deal” in September that became so popular that it actually crashed the site! Nearly 3000kgs of onions were sold in 44 minutes, 30 minutes of which the site was down due to the highest traffic ever!

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