Varun Sood – Director of Engineering, Consumer Web

Varun Sood – Director of Engineering, Consumer Web

VARUN SOOD

Director of Engineering, Consumer Web
Chicago, IL
Joined: 2015

Former boarding school runaway Varun talks about the unique opportunity to make a huge impact on local communities worldwide alongside engineers who make each other better developers.

What’s your favorite Groupon memory?

It was the first viewing of our new Engineering space in Chicago. From standing desks to pairing stations to state-of-the-art conference rooms, it visually articulated how deeply the company was invested in its engineering and software development teams and processes.

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

I currently support the consumer web engineering group that is responsible for search and discovery, engagement, and the conversion experience on both the desktop and touch platforms. A good portion of my role involves working with stakeholders to align our deliverables with our mission. The thing I love about my role is building solutions that delight our consumers, helping our engineers learn and grow, and providing value to the business. Another thing I love about my job is having 1-1’s with my team members. We have really talented individuals in Groupon Engineering and I always learn a lot from those meetings.

So what was your first role here and how’d you get to where you are today?

I joined Groupon as an Engineering Manager for the web deal page team. I got to my current role by following three principles:

 

  1. Creating and fostering a collaborative environment
  2. Learning from others
  3. Solving problems the right way

“Although we connect local communities, the scale and impact of the engineering and product teams’ work are truly global. Not many companies provide a platform where you are exposed to this sheer volume of users.”

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve worked on?

When I first came to Groupon, there was a big focus on improving the latency of our web platform. Our web experience was great but just wasn’t fast enough. In the last 18 months, we have improved our numbers to match and in some cases exceed industry standards and we added more rigor around best practices related to performance. Working through these improvements was challenging, but the team’s focus was amazing and the results were worth it.

Tabs or spaces?

Tabs for sure.

What do your parents think you do?

I come from a family of medical practitioners, so I am not sure they completely understand what I do. If my mom has any trouble with her mobile, she calls me thinking I can fix anything just because I told her a while back I make mobile websites.

What’s unique about Groupon’s Engineering culture?

We feed off each other’s successes. This creates a very collaborative environment where everyone is rooting for each other to succeed. It also allows each individual to make a bigger impact.

What’s been most surprising about Groupon Engineering?

Although we connect local communities, the scale and impact of the engineering and product teams’ work are truly global. Not many companies provide a platform where you are exposed to this sheer volume of users.

What’s your favorite local business?

It has to be India House in Chicago. It has awesome Indian cuisine and desserts, plus they run deals on Groupon+ from time to time.

Tell us something about you that might surprise us.

I once ran away from my boarding school (I was in second grade and feeling homesick). Luckily the school guards caught up with me, otherwise I was heading home.    🙂

Groupon World Headquarters

Aileen Sandridge – VP of Engineering

Aileen Sandridge – VP of Engineering

AILEEN SANDRIDGE

VP of Engineering, Consumer Platform
Palo Alto, CA
Joined: 2012 & 2015

Overseeing multiple Engineering groups focused on improving the Groupon customer experience is no easy task, yet we think Aileen’s non-smartphone-owning parents do a good job of summarizing her work.

What’s your favorite Groupon memory?

I have great memories from a week-long off-site with a group of great product, design, and engineering folks aimed at coming up with a new mobile product strategy. It was challenging but amazing, the end result was awesome, and we all ended up so much closer to one another. The vision from that off-site has come to fruition in the award-winning mobile app we have today.

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

Connecting consumers with local businesses is the ultimate goal of everything we do. I tend to be very mission oriented, so I want everything we do to tie in with that goal. Whether it is broadening our local inventory, improving customer reviews, helping local business price their deals optimally, or ensuring we have the scale and redundancy we need to make it through our peak holiday season with confidence, it is all about connecting customers and local businesses.

Where were you before Groupon?

I cut my teeth at Amazon and learned a tremendous amount about how both productive teams and great e-commerce applications get built. I spent some time at a FinTech startup where I learned about grit and ownership and keeping your eye on the big picture. When I had the opportunity to scale mobile at Groupon, I couldn’t turn it down: it was already a premier mobile property and it was so exciting to help take it to the next level.

What was your first role at Groupon and how did you get to where you are today?

I was hired as Senior Director of Engineering, focused on scaling mobile development at Groupon. I got to where I am now by taking it one day at a time, trying to always remain focused on making progress against our most important goals and challenges. As mobile shaped up, I added Consumer Web and GAPI (Groupon API) to my scope where I had a big focus on improving latency. After that, I added GAPI (Groupon API), where improving process and documentation has been a big win, and we have some exciting things in the works on the engineering front. Most recently, I have added important backend consumer services to my scope, including Relevance, Orders, Payments, Identity Services, Financial Engineering, and Data Science.

What’s your favorite part of your team’s Software Development process?

I love it when the team gets into a shared flow state: exchanging ideas and solving problems with everyone contributing, not even aware of the passage of time. A team can only get in that state if they have trust and mutual respect, so it also means you have the foundation for a high-functioning team.

What was your first impression of Groupon?

As a customer, I very much enjoyed the Lady Gaga dance class I took — my first Groupon! I loved that Groupon got my friends and me out experiencing new things.

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What’s your favorite local business?

ZombieRunner, a running store/coffee shop in Palo Alto that also sells specialty licorice and chocolate. The coffee is AMAZING — my favorite drink is the cold brew, but you can’t go wrong — and I love that the owners use their business to share their eclectic passions with the world.

What do your parents think you do?

My parents don’t even own smartphones, so this one was tough! Rather than guess, I just asked my mom. She initially responded to my text message with, “We know u r Vice Pres of Engineering, excellent in what is called ‘coding’.” Later, they followed that up with, “You mentor computer programmers, are excellent in coding, analyzing data, creating websites, striving for quality, team-building, leading by example. Sorry, we don’t know too much re technical language/details. We do know u r working very hard and love you so much!” Aww, thanks, Mom. And not too bad on knowing what I do after all.

What’s unique about Groupon’s Engineering culture?

Groupon’s engineering culture is fast-moving and everyone can have a big impact. I love that about Groupon, and know many others who do too. It keeps things exciting and engaging.

Tell us something about you that might surprise us.

I once bungee jumped off of a bridge in South Africa while pregnant. Oops! It was during an around-the-world trip with my husband and I didn’t know I was pregnant yet! I now have a healthy and bright six-year-old daughter, so thankfully, the bungee jump doesn’t seem to have done any harm! I also have a four-year-old daughter. While travel isn’t as easy as it once was, I love being a mom and the trade-off is totally worth it!

What’s been most surprising about working here?

Groupon loves cats, and animated cat gifs feature prominently in our presentations. I love it.

Tabs or spaces?

Spaces

Groupon World Headquarters

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’

PROJECT MANAGEMENT & ENGINEERING

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

30 October 2017

The Groupon Project Management Team in Chicago

Photograph by Chris Murphy

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.”

Read the complete article at Built In Chicago.