Groupon Engineering Ambassadors Workshop

at November 23rd, 2015

On an overcast Tuesday morning in Chicago, roughly 20 members of our Engineering organization gathered together amongst donuts and Chilean Bon Bons to take part in a workshop designed to improve and build upon our Engineering Ambassadors program. The EA program came to fruition as part of ETHOS (Engineering Traditions, Habits, Operations, Standards), whose mission is to develop a strong and inclusive Engineering culture.

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Over the course of two days, the ambassadors participated in improv exercises, games, and breakout sessions to discuss what’s working, what’s not, and how did Jeff Ayars become the sponsor of everything, anyway? While the event was hosted in Chicago, employees from multiple offices came in to lend valuable perspectives on how to ensure our new hires—regardless of location–are all experiencing the same comprehensive onboarding and orientation.

Since the Engineering Ambassadors program was formed in fall of 2014, over 35 members are now active from offices in Dublin, Santiago, NYC, Chicago, Seattle, and Palo Alto. The ultimate goal is to provide a comprehensive, inclusive, and streamlined experience to our new Tech hires. Ideally, new Grouponers should end their first day/week/month feeling like they were welcomed to their team and had all of the resources they needed to be successful.

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Day one of the workshop focused on brainstorming; the group discussed what the typical Engineering onboarding and orientation process entails and what could be added or removed. Ideas for improvement ranged from creating in roads to better understanding of technical standards across the organization, to manager specific onboarding for engineering, to how to spread awareness of the ambassadors program overall. Questions addressed included what should new hires expect by day 30/60/90, does having a best friend at work really matter, and how to get more senior leader sponsorship.

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On the second day, the group focused on more tactical items: who would own what piece of the process, when action items needed to be completed, when and with whom to collaborate, etc. Another key element of day two included identifying whether or not Engineering managers, HR, or ambassadors would take the lead on certain aspects of onboarding and orientation. And, yes, there were millions of sticky notes all over the room.

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Engineering Ambassador, Emily Wilson, shares some insight into her experience being an EA

How did you get involved?

I was nominated to be an Engineering Ambassador a little over a year ago. Taking part in the Engineering Ambassador program kickstarted my career between the connections I’ve made and what they’ve inspired in me.

Through participating in the program, I realized that shaping Engineering culture is just as much my responsibility as anyone else’s. The lesson has been invaluable to my career. It’s taught me two things that continue to lead to success in whatever I do:

  1. To never stop striving for excellence
  2. A bias for action that we tout as a core competency across Groupon.

How have you seen the program positively impact new hires?

I was an internal transfer into Groupon Engineering before the program existed, so I have a lot of compassion for new hires coming from a different company altogether. Culture varies so much from company to company that feeling comfortable with what you know and what you don’t isn’t always an easy transition. The new hires I’ve seen go through this program are more comfortable with their teams and asking questions earlier on, which is not only welcome but necessary to be successful in Groupon Engineering. They feel like they belong and know the importance of honest conversation leading to optimal solutions.

Thanks for reading the People Blog—a blog about people at Groupon. Interested in working with these passionate folks? Check out our current Engineering openings!

Groupon Sales Miniview: Elizabeth, Long-Time Groupon Advocate

at October 28th, 2015

Sales Miniviews feature a face from the Sales organization to talk about their Groupon journey. Today we’ll get to know Elizabeth, who was encouraging businesses to work with Groupon even before she officially joined. (Awesome!)

Elizabeth Groupon SalesName: Elizabeth Lopez

Title: Business Development Representative

Start Date: March 2015

You were a Social Media Coordinator before joining Groupon, what prompted you to pursue a role in Sales? As the sole consultant and marketer for businesses across Chicago, I constantly urged my business owners to work with Groupon. I knew Groupon provided measurable marketing, visibile results, and boosted brand by association with some of the best in their local area. Finally, I decided to pursue a career with Groupon since their form of consultation and marketing aligned with what I believe brings businesses the strongest results.

What motivates you? I am results motivated and this job allows me to see my results instantly: my dials, my talk time, my contracts closed, my appointments set and held… I’m motivated to stand out on my team and to be a continual, constant hard worker.

What’s your favorite merchant story? I called a merchant who lives in Texas and he told me he couldn’t talk because he was on vacation in Chicago. I invited him to the office and he came with his son. We stocked up on candy from the candy pit, drank Dr. Pepper, played foosball, and tried to get the Nintendo to work (sadly, never figured it out). He signed the contract in person that day! It was an amazing reminder that we’re working with real people who have beautiful families and livelihoods. Being able to enter the lives and businesses of people across America on a daily basis is a true blessing.

From Elizabeth’s manager, Keegan Chapman:

“I would like to nominate Elizabeth Lopez [for the People Blog]! She has been crushing it since day 1. She stays focused and positive, and I think she is a great inspiration for new reps on the Sales floor.”

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Thanks for reading the People Blog—a blog about people at Groupon. Want to work with someone like Elizabeth? Click here to get the deets on our Business Development Representative role. 

Tech Spotlight: Shomari Ewing, Groupon Engineer & Dev Bootcamp Alum

at October 12th, 2015

Today, we’re chatting with Shomari Ewing, a Software Developer on the Application Operations team here in Chicago. A Dev Bootcamp grad, Shomari started his career in Sales and decided to pursue his passion for programming through self-teaching and eventually DBC.

Shomari Engineer

What do you do?

I’m a Software Developer on the Application Operations team in Chicago.

What did you do before Groupon?

I attended Dev Bootcamp about a year and half ago and was interning as a software developer at Context Media. I’ve always been a big Groupon user and when it came time to look for something full-time, Groupon was one of the top companies on my list.

When did your interest in programming start? 

I’ve always been interested in creating websites. I would always come up with different ideas for cool webpages and that interest eventually led to me wanting to learn how to build them myself. I began to teach myself programming for about a year before jump-starting my learning by going through Dev Bootcamp.

What’s exciting and challenging about the work you’re doing on the App Ops team?

The most challenging and most exciting part about being on App Ops is that we always have to solve new issues that come up. If something isn’t working right with another part of the site, we are usually one of the first teams to get notified that something is broken and we have to come up with ways to fix it, or at least make sure the correct team knows about it. There’s always something to work on or fix being a global company.

What’s your favorite thing about working at Groupon?

My favorite thing is that everyone here has been very open and helpful. It feels like everyone is working together towards the same goal, rather than a bunch of individuals just coming in to do one job.

Anything else?

My main hobbies outside of work are mostly sports (go Bears?) and gaming.  I’ll end this with a joke that probably won’t work well in print, but…

What are Mario’s favorite type of pants?

Denim, Denim, Denim! (Say it fast.)

Groupon Intern Blog: Anna From Social Innovation Talks Volunteerism, Philanthropy

at October 8th, 2015

The #GrouponU Blog is back for 2015! We’ll regularly feature a Groupon intern or recent college grad telling you about their experience tackling challenging problems and working with our teams. Anna, who was a summer intern on our Social Innovation team, talks about her experience working with passionate, purpose-driven teammates.

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I entered my Groupon internship with an amalgamation of feelings. I was certainly elated to have the opportunity to work in Tech, something I didn’t think was feasible with my career trajectory towards pre-medicine and plastic surgery. I wondered how “corporate” my environment would be; I’ve had jobs at restaurants, labs and studios, but I’ve never sat at a cubicle for 8 hours a day. I was also admittedly hesitant: how does a corporation attempt to generate social change? Are not the ethoses of corporations and social justice activists inherently antithetical to each other?

It was not three days before my close friends accused me of being “obsessed” with Groupon. I couldn’t really be blamed for it, though…I was surrounded by the types of people I previously thought could only be found in the non-profit sector. They seemed to value and take me seriously from the start and there was a literal pit of free candy steps away from my desk. How could I not be obsessed?

At the heart of Social Innovation are three very compassionate employees. Bill is the most vocal, possessing the ability to infuse every remark with a note of authority, but he is also genuinely approachable and hilariously unpredictable. Nick has a peculiar knack to zero in on precisely the heart of the issue of discussion with a single critical comment, usually after his co-workers have talked themselves into exhaustion trying to figure out how to say the same thing. Alicia always has encouragement and a contagious laugh for everyone – seemingly completely unfazed and dedicated even as she stays at work past 7 pm and hosts company volunteer events virtually every weekend. Together, the three feel more like family than colleagues, protective of each other while unafraid to argue generously and honestly about the next new venture. They seem to belong more in a social service sector preoccupied with the welfare with humanity than they do at the headquarters of a tech giant, yet somehow it works. They have grand dreams for what the company can do for the community and local business.

I entered Groupon at a fresh beginning for the Social Innovation team only two weeks after the new Head of Social Innovation, Matt, started. I was afraid I started off on the wrong foot with Matt after I made a blunder and spoke out of turn, but he turned out to be very approachable and levelheaded. It was from him that I learned the value of reigning in one’s hubris.

I probably learned the most, though, from Matt Pennetti, who was patient and helpful with virtually every anxious inquiry I pestered him with. I was exceedingly grateful that the team let me tag along with someone technically not from Social Innovation so that I could learn hands-on the ins and outs of commercial design, typography, and even a little bit of filming. All along the way, I met more talented and enthusiastic people.

The Social Innovation team’s work dips in and out of many other departments as they embark on each project, whether it’s educating and encouraging Girls Who Code, helping host a book drive to deliver over 10,000 books to local Chicago teachers, or running marathons of volunteering with the Employee Volunteer Program. Aside from hoping they can continue steamrolling their vision, I also hope to see them gain more recognition for their accomplishments. Every single person at Groupon (not to mention the public at large) would benefit from understanding how deeply invested the company is in not only helping the surrounding community of each of their locations, but also in pioneering different and unexpected ways of doing so. I’m honored that I was able to contribute a small chapter to the Social Innovation story.

Tech Spotlight: Shane Stanford, Team Culture & Ownership Advocate

at October 5th, 2015

Today we’ll get to know Shane Stanford, a Senior Engineering Manager who leads three Tech teams in Chicago and Berlin.

Name: Shane Stanford

Title: Senior Engineering Manager

Start date: 4/11/2011

What do you do? I lead an Engineering organization that consists of 3 unique teams: Finance Engineering, Voucher Inventory Engineering, and Financial Data Engineering. I spend a majority of my time coaching team managers and senior engineers and guiding those teams through strategic planning and delivery processes.

Finance Engineering – When I started at Groupon, the Finance Engineering team did not exist. Across the world, Groupon paid its merchants using spreadsheets. There was no common way to do this and there were few systems to help. I was one of the founding members of the Finance Engineering team that took on the mission of automating merchant payments globally. Today, this team ensures Groupon merchants all over the world get paid accurately and on time with a payment platform that sends hundreds of thousands of payments to our merchants every month.

That rainbow looks familiar…

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Voucher Inventory Engineering – This team develops the platform that keeps track of the deal options you could buy on Groupon and the vouchers that you actually purchase. So, when you pick an option under the buy button or go to look at “My Groupons,” that’s the stuff this team cares about. Our platform tracks hundreds of thousands of inventory products and millions of purchased units.

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Financial Data Engineering – The Financial Data Engineering team is located in Berlin. Hallo! They work on ETL processes and reporting for our international accounting team. They make sure our business has accurate and timely numbers to report and understand.

What’s challenging about the work your teams do? In a single word: scale.

  • 10,000,000+ requests to our services
  • 300,000 requests to inventory service a minute at peak
  • 100,000+ merchant payments
  • 100,000+ inventory products for consumers to purchase
  • 50 services talking to our services from all kinds of different teams at Groupon
  • 30+ countries relying on our reporting and accuracy

…no big deal.

What do you love about what you do? I really enjoy working with people and helping them reach their goals, both with engineering skills and career planning and advancement. I also like simply being in front of a whiteboard with a bunch of people and solving a problem as a team.

You’re a big advocate of culture; can you describe what your team’s culture like? One of the most important factors in developing a strong team culture is ownership. We do a lot to try to own our culture and talk about our values. For example, we hold quarterly and weekly culture retrospectives where we discuss what’s working and what isn’t. We also conduct a retrospective anytime someone joins the team, as we believe our culture evolves with every new team member.

Something I’m also super passionate about is inclusion and diversity. Over time, we’ve developed some best practices that have helped us better celebrate diversity, such as:

  • Individualizing and tailoring our onboarding process to reflect that every new team member is unique
  • Discussing team culture with new team members so they understand its value
  • Recognizing colleagues’ emotions as important signals and finding ways to address any issues that arise
  • Calling out problematic words and actions and discussing appropriate team behavior and language

How much direct impact can your teammates have on the business? All three teams have significant and broad impact on the business, from internal operations to merchants and consumers. Most consumer purchases and merchant payments are handled by our services as they pass through Groupon.

Is there a lot of ownership? Yes, and not only with culture. I believe engineering ownership is the key to innovation.

Favorite Groupon memory? When the Finance Engineering team rolled out our merchant payment platform internationally, we bought a giant 20’ banner that read “Mission Accomplished!” and hung it haphazardly above our work area. It was a reference to a certain presidential speech… well, you can probably figure it out. Of course there was still tons of work to do but it was great to celebrate the accomplishment. We now use the phrase, “When can we raise the banner?” when we want to talk about what success looks like at the end of a project.

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Groupon Sales: Phoenix and Chicago Sales Team Up, Potluck Ensues

at September 22nd, 2015

Written by: Peter Schirripa, Regional Sales Director in our Phoenix office

The key to success, borrowed directly from SVP of Groupon Sales, Darren Schwartz, is activity x skill. Here in Phoenix, activity is our strong suit. Where we have opportunity to grow and improve is skill.

For the past five weeks, four Chicago-based Business Development Reps have been working in our Phoenix office as part of a newly-piloted transfer program to help with skill development on both the team and individual level. The results were fantastic! Kevin Hahn, AJ Roskin, Shane Bradley, and Mike Lampariello all took a selfless trek to the desert to help grow the ever-expanding Phoenix office.

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Once the Chicagoans arrived, they were assigned to work with specific teams. Each of the four Chicago reps has been at Groupon for at least two years, and their background and Groupon experience proved to be a tremendous resource. Having seasoned mentors in the office helped to expand the Groupon knowledge of every rep here. We decided to throw a potluck to show our gratitude, and more than 60 teammates chipped in by bringing homemade delights (that’s a lot of goodies), but the main focus was sharing memories from their time here.


It was quite apparent that having Chicago and Phoenix reps join forces was incredibly beneficial to the team here. One final thanks to AJ, Kevin, Mike, and Shane as well as everyone who helped contribute to the program (and potluck) in both Chicago and Phoenix!

The Design Depository: Elissa Darnell, VP of Design Talks Leading & Inspiring Creatives

at September 13th, 2015

Elissa Darnell

VP of Design

Elissa groupon design XXUX

Above: Elissa shares insight at the XX+UX event hosted at our Palo Alto office.

When did you start?

Nov 3, 2014

What brought you to Groupon?

After 10 years at eBay, I was excited to join Groupon to focus on the local space. Local is a challenging space and Groupon is a leader in it. I’m excited to learn more about it and help develop our experience for consumers and merchants.

What has surprised you about working at Groupon?

The interesting mix of Technology and Sales enables us to really build a local community of merchants. I’d like to see us use technology even more to help scale this further.

What is your favorite aesthetic and/or design inspiration?

I love Houzz for it’s beautiful and rich content and creative approach to advertising. The “swinging price tag” is actually a paid advertisement but it is so relevant to the content and adds value to the user experience that consumers ask for more of them. It’s rare to find a place where ads are seen as value add to the consumer.

What inspires you? 

I’m inspired by things that make peoples’ lives easier and changes what we think of as the norm. Breakthroughs like DVR (Digital Video Recording) and streaming TV have dramatically changed the way we consume content. The smart phone has further changed how we communicate, stay connected, and access information. Newer innovations like Uber have further reduced friction in peoples’ lives. That’s what fascinates and inspires me.

How do you drive creative inspiration?

I think we are inspired by all sorts of things not just other e-commerce sites or marketplaces. I encourage designers to look at other physical and electronic domains for inspiration.

Anything else about Groupon Design that you’d like to add?

Designers are not all the same – just like not all engineers are the same. We have a variety of skills on our team from visual design, interaction design, information architecture, to prototyping and user research. All contribute to the design of a great User Experience.

Follow @Groupon_Design on Twitter for the latest updates from the Design Union and check our jobs page to see what openings we have that might suit your fancy.

Employee Spotlight: Ella & Goods Photography

at September 9th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 10.23.20 AMName:
Ella Mouria Seet

Title: Goods Custom Photo/Video Coordinator

Start Date: July 1st, 2013

What did you do before Groupon? Acting and voice work mostly…I still do both. I lived and performed in both my hometown of Indianapolis and New York City before coming to Chicago. In between acting jobs, I had ongoing work doing everything from social media consulting to copywriting and writing/designing walking tours. While I was in NYC, I worked at both a high-end toy company in Gramercy Park and a tourism website in SoHo. I was a lounge singer for about a year—it was a fake lounge in a museum exhibit, mind you, but still.

When I first relocated to Chicago, I was working as a concierge in a building on Jeweler’s Row and it wasn’t really my bag. A friend of mine gave me the number of her temp agency, and a few days later I got a call offering me an assignment at Groupon.

How did you get into your current role? I first began temping in the tax department, and after a seasonal job there, I switched over to temp in Goods, where I was placed in what would become my current role. It was a great fit, and after a couple of months I was asked if I would like to stay on permanently. There are quite a few creative aspects of the job that intersect with my background and training, and I really felt like I would be able to bring some expertise to the role.

What does a day in the life of a Goods Custom Photo Coordinator look like? I don’t know if there necessarily is a typical day, which keeps things interesting! Goods Custom Photo is a tight-knit team of three, so we work closely with one another. I’m usually in the office, but I do regularly attend shoots with the photography studios we work with.

When I’m in the office, I spend the bulk of my time:

  • Communicating with photographers and talent agencies
  • Receiving and organizing submissions from the Goods Merchandising team
  • Processing our final imagery to be passed on to Editorial
  • Making sure everyone is on the same page for upcoming shoots

There is a lot of planning involved, and we work closely with Goods Merchandising to get their input throughout the imaging process. We manage submissions for Goods items that will go into production with Groupon’s video team, and we add product videos that are submitted by Goods vendors to the site. Our team also worked with Groupon Grassroots to develop the Goods In-Kind Donations Program, which enables us to provide Chicagoland charitable organizations with Goods donation items.

Can you tell us more about the In-Kind program? My manager Michelle Dunmars and I worked with Grassroots last year to develop the program as a way to match Goods items that are suitable for donation with local charitable organizations that can use them to raise funds through a silent auction or raffle. I’ve really enjoyed running the program and hearing back from organizations who have benefited from the donations. It’s one of my favorite parts of the job for sure!

Favorite Groupon memory? I have a lot of great memories from working with my awesome manager Michelle. We accomplish a lot every day at work, but we also help each other out outside the office when we can. She took me to get groceries after my emergency appendectomy a couple of years back. Before she had her daughter, she was having trouble deciding on baby names, so I suggested looking at Shakespearean character names (she went with one from Twelfth Night, my fave). We make a pretty killer team.