Martha Szatkowski – Senior Director, Global Risk in San Francisco

Martha Szatkowski – Senior Director, Global Risk in San Francisco

MARTHA SZATKOWSKI

Senior Director, Global Risk
Chicago, IL
Joined: 2013

If you’re looking for an inspiring leader—or a workout buddy in Chicago—Martha, Senior Director of Global Risk, is your go-to.

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

This is a tough question to answer in a short way! I oversee a Global team that is made up of three main functions: merchant escalations, recoveries, and analytics. That doesn’t totally capture our mission and overall work, of course. I could go on in depth but it’s so interesting that I don’t want everyone coming to me and asking to work on my team.  🙂

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

I am challenged every day in my role. That is what has kept me at Groupon. On the worst or most stressful day, I leave thinking…wow, I learned so much today and I am humbled by all the amazing and smart people that I get to learn from each day.

Who or what inspires you?

Generally speaking, passionate people inspire me–whether it’s a passion for work, family, the arts, etc. If I am getting more specific, my mom and dad have been the most inspirational people in my life. Each of them has a beautiful story–from coming to the U.S with almost nothing to accomplishing so much and more than I could ever imagine both professionally and personally. Their energy, strength, and passion for life have always been contagious.

Speaking of your parents, what do they think you do?

I explain Groupon a lot to my mom and I still don’t think she knows! My nieces and nephews know I work in an office with a cat spaceship and to call Aunt Martha if they ever get in trouble. I think that last part is because my siblings don’t know how else to explain what a lawyer does or what someone in the Risk field does!

Were you referred to Groupon by anyone?

Yes, Silvija Martinjevic!

You recently celebrated your 5-year Groupon anniversary! Take us back to 2013: what was your first impression of Groupon as an employer?

When I first walked in the door on that first day of work back in March 2013, I thought…what am I doing here?! I had always worked in a traditional office environment as a lawyer so the open platform, all the themed areas in Groupon, the cat spaceship…all of it was so different. However, the one thing that struck me above all of the differences was the energy–I could feel the energy of the office and how people enjoyed their jobs!

So after working in a more traditional environment, then coming to Groupon, what keeps you coming to work every day? What makes your work here unique?

The general Risk field is different at all companies. Groupon is unique because if you work hard and want to take on more and things that may not specifically fall into your field, you are encouraged to do it. I have had the opportunity to take on many different tasks/roles within my overall Risk role and more projects than I can count. I work daily with many different cross-functional teams. Why do I stay at Groupon? My extremely supportive manager and awesome team keep me at Groupon. Every day is different and challenging.

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

Part of my job is to get the best merchants on our platform and then to keep our customers coming back to the site to buy amazing deals on all our lines of business.

You probably have a life outside Groupon; what are you up to when you’re not at work? 

I am a spin class fanatic and I love to make my friends workout with me–ask anyone on my team…I’m always looking for workout buddies! I love to cook and have been trying to learn how to play guitar. I have a very big family and we are spread out from the midwest to the west coast so I spend a lot of free time trying to see them all!

What’s your favorite Groupon memory?

I can’t think of just 1 memory that is my favorite…but the most random thing is the day I walked into an elevator with the Abominable Snowman.

There are a lot of amazing Groupon stories. What’s your biggest accomplishment?

Honestly, my biggest accomplishment is being part of building a successful Global team. I have been lucky to work with a team that is so passionate, smart,  and hardworking on a daily basis. I am also proud of being asked to Chair Women@Groupon in early 2017. It has been a wild ride working to empower women (and men) in a time where women have such a strong voice in this world.

What’d you do before Groupon? How’d you get here?

I practiced as a lawyer specializing in complex medical malpractice litigation (yes, I know totally makes sense that I came to Groupon!). A very close friend of mine was and is still working at Groupon–she introduced me to my former boss and after meeting at Motel Bar for lunch 5+ years ago, we left our meeting talking about an open role. The rest is history.

If you could do another job for just one day, what would it be and why?

I love to cook and am obsessed with Top Chef…for one day I would love to know what it’s like to be a real chef in a restaurant somewhere in the West Loop of Chicago.

What’s your favorite local business?

Cycle X in the West Loop and La Colombe in the West Loop. Spinning and coffee…that’s pretty much how I make it through the day!

Tell us something that might surprise us about you.

I used to sing as a kid–from voice coaches to theater to even taking classes in college. I always knew I wanted to go to law school but I thought maybe I could do Broadway on the side! Only kidding, I always knew I wanted to pursue a law career but briefly had a musical passion. Now, all my friends who know I used to sing try to (unsuccessfully) get me to do karaoke!

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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.”

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

via BuiltIn Chicago

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

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.

Groupon Attends Lesbians Who Tech Summit in San Francisco

Groupon Attends Lesbians Who Tech Summit in San Francisco

Grouponers @ Lesbians Who Tech: Two (Lefty!) Engineers Recall Their Experience at the Inclusive & Inspirational Event

WOMEN IN TECH

March 2018

LWT SUMMIT 2018

QUEER

INCLUSIVE

BADASS

JESSICA HARTOG, Software Developer in San Francisco

Taking place in the heart of San Francisco’s Castro District, LWT represents everything that Silicon Valley’s homogeneous engineering community is usually missing. The under-represented minorities in tech (and elsewhere in the world) are welcome on Castro Street and at Groupon. Groupon aims to build up amazing communities like this one — a home office for inspiration, respect, integrity, and inclusion. Acting as the embodiment of so many of the things that Groupon holds as its core values, LWT and the Castro District alike are aligned with what Groupon aims to be. So much of my role at Groupon has to do with helping foster an inclusive community. From working together with other engineers internally, to working with communities in the Open Source landscape, the things that I learned at LWT will help me to engage those communities in a more empathetic, respectful, and inclusive way. Some highlights from the summit were keynote speakers Sally Kohn (CNN Commentator/Activist), Dawn Laguens (Planned Parenthood Federation of America), Megan Smith (Shift 7 & former CTO of the US), and a surprise appearance from Samantha Bee. I was also excited to learn about some awesomely creative open source opportunities like Open Artificial Pancreas System (#OpenAPS), where using open source, engineers can come together to improve the market for care of Type I Diabetics.

KEVIN McINTOSH, Software Engineer & Pride@Groupon Co-Chair in Seattle

I attended LWT because I want Groupon to pay attention to the neglected demographic in the intersection of women and the LGBT space: lesbians in technology. I have partnered with this organization on and off for about four years, so I was excited to help Groupon continue to build the relationship. Groupon is taking greater steps to increase diversity within our organization, especially in tech, and we want to help promote badass women and allies in the tech space.

As an impromptu speaker, I presented a 60-second speech on the importance of businesses being able to consider technology bootcamps as a potential source of high-quality technical talent in addition to the traditional college graduate. On the recruiting side, I had the opportunity to spend some time in the speed mentoring section of the conference, where I ended up mentoring eight individuals on everything from interviews to resume crafting.

One of the highlights was running into Samantha Bee (the comedian from Full Frontal with Samantha Bee on TBS) who was interviewing attendees on the spot! As a key takeaway, I will be considering how to be more open at work. The issue is that by not being more open, you risk alienating candidates as well as your coworkers. Also, bringing passionate people to these events really makes a difference!  🙂

A happy hour fundraiser to benefit those affected by the North Bay fire

A happy hour fundraiser to benefit those affected by the North Bay fire

VOLUNTEERING

December 6, 2017

San Francisco & Palo Alto team up with local organizations

to help victims of North Bay fire

Following the North Bay fires affecting nearby communities—including the famous Napa and neighboring vineyards in October—Groupon’s Palo Alto and San Francisco offices organized charity happy hours the week of November 29th. We purchased wines for tastings from vineyards that were burned down and volunteers were asked to bring in baked goods as pairings. Donations collected were donated to support the Anova Center for Education, an autism school that was burned down, and Rebuilding Together, an organization that facilitates home improvements for those affected by natural disasters. In total, we raised $1,000The event had a great turn out and was an enjoyable event for employees to get together after a busy Black Friday week and contribute to a local cause!

Keren Osman – San Francisco Office Manager

Keren Osman – San Francisco Office Manager

KEREN OSMAN

Office Manager
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 2015

Keren takes her role as the San Francisco office’s go-to person pretty seriously. So seriously, in fact, that even when asked about her dream job, she still imagined herself in a role where she’s helping Groupon employees. As a pilot, no less.

What’s your favorite Groupon memory?

My favorite memory was the day the entire San Francisco office went to the Giants game on Cinco de Mayo. We started everything off at the office a happy hour, including frozen margaritas and an unlimited supply of tacos.

What was your first impression of Groupon?

I literally felt like a kid in a candy store. I was so overwhelmed by all the snacks, drinks, and most importantly the fro-yo machine in Palo Alto. Everyone was welcoming and open for discussion. I felt like I had found my long-lost work family.

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

I come in contact with everyone who walks through the doors of the San Francisco office. I am a very optimistic person with a smile on my face 99% of the time. I also make an impact by spreading the word about Groupon to local businesses I see in my neighborhood.

What’s your favorite local business?

Native Juice Co. in San Francisco.

Tell us what it’s like in the San Francisco office!

Groupon San Francisco has a very welcoming atmosphere in the office. We are like family, we spend most of our time together throughout the day, so I’ve come to bond with the fellow SF Grouponers over the years.

What’s your biggest accomplishment here (so far)?

I am most proud of moving us out of our old Bush Street office into our new location!

Have you won any awards here?

I won Groupon’s Greatest Award in 2015. I am still very excited about that!

Where were you before joining Groupon?

I worked as a Program Coordinator/Executive Assistant at Dev Bootcamp. I really enjoyed the boot camp environment, which led me to work closely with software engineers. I wanted a change of atmosphere but still wanted to work in the tech/local commerce fields.

What do your parents think you do?

My parents think I eat all the free snacks at Groupon and use Groupon deals during works hours.

Who or what inspires you? 

I am inspired every time I volunteer with my colleagues. It feels so rewarding to be able to give back to my community with Groupon’s support.

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

I would be a pilot flying all of Groupon employees to Bora Bora, Bali, and all over the UK.

Tell us something about you that might surprise us.

I am terrified of heights but somehow ended up on the edge of the CN Tower in Toronto last fall 2016.