Kevin McIntosh – Getaways Engineering in Seattle

Kevin McIntosh – Getaways Engineering in Seattle

KEVIN MCINTOSH

Software Engineer, Getaways Engineering
Seattle, WA
Joined: 2016

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Rainbow Flag on Apple iOS 11.3

As a leader, innovator, wannabe weatherman, and champion of LGBT rights, Kevin McIntosh is the guy to go to make the connections. He strives to take ownership of programs and progress at work and to provide leadership in being an ally to the LGBT community.

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

At one point, I was introduced (with a group of others) to our CEO Rich Williams. The technical director introduced each person giving their title. When he introduced me, he said: “This is Kevin, and his role is…well, I am not sure, but he does everything.”  And honestly, that is what I do. I am a Full-Stack Software Engineer who focuses on back-end systems for Getaways Engineering (but I never shy away from front-end work) while leading Pride@Groupon (as co-chair), and organizing our Culture Club here at Groupon Seattle, where we coordinate, fund, and organize awesome activities for the office.

Let’s talk about your involvement with Pride. Why is it important for Groupon to champion and support Pride@Groupon?

Because even with marriage equality, there are still issues in corporate America that need to be addressed. Employees still are concerned about bringing their whole selves to work and being able to come out. This includes our transgender coworkers and peers, who nationally still struggle in deciding if they can take the step forward to transition at work. I still recall (even for myself as a gay man) in years past that I have self consciously not talked about my husband at work. Instead, I used the term “spouse” in fear of reprisal. When employees are able to bring their whole selves to work, it has shown that (1) they are more productive and (2) happier. That is why it is even now still important for us at Groupon to step up and support our LGBT employees.

Have you ever worked for a company that accepts, champions, and supports the LGBTQ+ community before? How do you feel about it?

Yes, thankfully I am lucky enough to work in a time where it is not uncommon to be at a company that supports LGBT employees and I have only worked at companies where equality is a part of their policy. That being said, we (all tech companies) still have a long way to go in not just setting policies but adjusting employee and business cultures to fully accept LGBT employees. In my opinion, Groupon still has ways that it can improve, but it is also far ahead of the curve from the competition. 🙂

What makes Pride@Groupon unique?

We are goofy as heck, we have an unhealthy love of RuPaul Drag Race gifs in all of our slideshow presentations, and we support each other unequivocally. We also love a good party and a good drink.  😀

How are you celebrating Pride Month personally? Professionally?

Personally? I will be wandering around Capitol Hill in Seattle, partying, having drinks, and celebrating what makes me, me.   🙂

Professionally? I will be getting Groupon employees to march in the Seattle and Chicago Pride Parades and getting them exposed to the LGBT community. I will also be getting many of our executives to march in the streets with us, advocating for LGBT rights, and showing support for all of us in the community.

Who are some notable figures (historical or otherwise) you’d like to recognize for Pride Month?

Alan Turing – a British Computer Scientist and member of the Allies’ WWII effort.  He was key in deciphering the Enigma Code, which was instrumental in turning the tide of the war. However, years after the war, he was persecuted for homosexual acts, was convicted and later was chemically castrated. Unfortunately, years later, he committed suicide. Even though he was a war hero, his country turned his back on him, so I always find it paramount to tell his story, whenever possible.

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

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to lead a large project where my team was integrating with one of Groupon’s external partners. While the documentation was robust, the direct support by the external team left something to be desired. If it was not for the support of my team, architects, and mentoring guidance from my manager, I’m not sure that I would have been successful. Despite that difficulty, I was able to deliver. In the process, I learned prioritization, how to write emails more effectively, better architecture practices, and numerous tips and tricks in Java.

What was your first impression of Groupon?

At first glance, I thought that Groupon was another fad. After joining, I discovered that it was much more than that.

What do your parents think you do?

Mom: He is an SD2 for Groupon Getaways and really enjoying what he’s doing. In his job, he gets to combine computer science, engineering and analytical skills to design and evaluate software, functionality, and work on teams that are improving the interface between Groupon and the customer. Pretty cool, who knew? Dad: I know that you were hired as a programmer for Groupon’s Getaways. But beyond that, I don’t really know… I could have said that you appear to run the LGBT program for Groupon… at least that’s what I hear.   🙂

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

I work in Getaways, so the daily habit is a bit more “nuanced.” In this case, our goal is to inspire travelers through exploration of our pages and deals. We actually have a lot of inventory throughout the United States and the world (including tours), so there is always something for everyone. I have actually taken a tour through Getaways myself and I highly recommend it.

What’s been surprising about working here?

Engineers have surprising weight in saying what direction the business should go. We build the software, are close to the data, and understand what needs to change. Also, during engineering discovery phases (like designing out systems), we are empowered to make the changes that we see that are important.

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

Our ability to support each other. Got a pull request? Sure, one of us will review it. Don’t understand the process? Let’s schedule a 30-minute meeting to whiteboard it out. Need to go for a walk and just hang out? Let’s go now 🙂

Where were you before joining Groupon? What brought you here?

Previously, I was at Intel in Folsom (outside of Sacramento). While the 4.5 years that I spent at Intel taught me a lot, I found myself yearning for a quicker software cadence that a hardware semiconductor manufacturer could not yield. In addition, I wanted to expand on my full-stack web experience. Groupon was able to meet that need for me.

We're hiring in Seattle!

Vim or emacs? why?

Vim, more straightforward and I love all the keyboard commands. At the end of the day though, I find myself gravitating to Visual Studio Code.

Name your favorite programming language.

Javascript, followed by C#.

Tabs or spaces?

Spaces – let’s be honest, you would say the same thing.

What’s your favorite local business?

Taqueria El Asadero. It’s the best Mexican restaurant I have found this far north. And they let me practice my Spanish, which is awesome!

Tell us something that might surprise us about you.

I have an unhealthy obsession with how weather systems work. Honestly, I wanted to be a weatherman when I was growing up. Currently, in my downtime, I will pull up Google Maps, turn on Satellite View, and look for interesting mountains, vegetation, coastlines, and then cross check it with climatological data I can find online. Then I cross check it with research on influencing factors of that area. Some of my favorite findings was discovering that Colombia has a desert! SO COOL!

Have you won any awards during your time here?

Getaways Engineering “You Rock Award”, for leading and designing a new deployment proposal with production, operations, and senior architects during the post-holiday moratorium.

What’s unique about Groupon’s Engineering culture?

I have three words: ownership, ownership, ownership (it sounds redundant, but it really is that important). At Groupon, we take pride in the fact that we all want what’s best for the company.  However, rarely will things get done unless you own a part of the process. The rest of the engineering team will support you if you take ownership.

For example, I developed a tool (as a part of a hackathon) for detecting flaky front-end integration tests. In my leadership, I was able to show teams where the flaky tests were with an MVP tool I quickly hacked together; a handful of front end teams embraced my results. Eventually, the idea was reformulated, built out, and integrated into our CI systems.  As of today, this solution is one more data point in helping teams understand where the issues are when a build fails. By me taking an aspect of the process and owning it, I was able to make a difference in the end for many of the front end teams through driving change in the process.

What’s your favorite Groupon memory?

My team was really pushing for many months to ship a big change to our Getaways purchase pipeline. It took a lot of work, but we finally succeeded. So, like when all big projects come to a conclusion, we wanted to celebrate our achievement. I came up with the idea of just hanging out at a nearby bar called Flatstick Pub, where we could play some mini golf, have some drinks, and just hang out. As the night went on, I figured out why I love my team so much: these were really genuine people who were all hilarious in their own special way. We stayed there for an hour longer than we were supposed to, learned more about each other’s backgrounds (we are all from different countries), bought rounds of beer and plates of food for each other, and just would not stop laughing (although I am sure that was a little bit of the beer talking).

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

My first role is the same role I have always had: Full-Stack Software Engineer. I was able to take a brief stint as a Technical Product Manager for three months, but in the end, I moved back to where my love is: nerds, coding, and an in-depth technical discussion.

Where can we find you outside of work? What are your hobbies, side projects, or interests?

A friend once told me that my heart is always in the mountains. He was not wrong. When the city is too much, I retreat deep into the Cascades. There, I disconnect and hike my butt off and I have done that for most of my life. When I was young, I started in the Boy Scouts and from then on, I have hiked in the Philmont Scouting Ranch and along the John Muir Trail (220 miles). Later this summer I will have hiked the Wonderland Trail around Mt Rainier (93 miles). I also have a huge fascination with public lands. My lifetime goal is to visit all 59 US National Parks; I am at 20 so far! So if you don’t find me in the Cascades, I’m probably in some US National Park.

Leandro Ariel De Oto – Engineering Manager, Consumer Web

Leandro Ariel De Oto – Engineering Manager, Consumer Web

LEANDRO ARIEL DE OTO

Engineering Manager at Consumer Web
Palo Alto, CA
Joined: 2012

Rainbow Flag on Apple iOS 11.3

When he’s not leading an Engineering team that builds solutions for a frictionless customer experience, you can find Leandro practicing his dance moves in the gym…channeling his love for the Backstreet Boys.

Why did you join Pride? What do you get out of it? Any notable highlights or memories?

I am very passionate about diversity and inclusion in the workplace and I felt this could be a great opportunity for me to contribute to the community. I led Pride Latino at Groupon LatAm a few years ago and I wanted to bring my experience to the US by actively working with the group and learning new things from them. Pride@Groupon gives me so much energy every day because they remind me how much we can achieve if we all work together by leveraging the values and principles we all share. It’s fantastic to have an email or a chat from them every morning where each member gets to be who they want to be.

Why is it important for Groupon to champion and support Pride@Groupon?

Innovation is key for any company to survive in their field. A company that supports not only the LGBT community but diversity, in general, will be more likely to succeed. Exploring new segments of the population that may have a different vision of the world, of the business, and our customers will bring the company a new spectrum of opportunities never discovered before.

Have you ever worked for a company that accepts, champions, and supports the LGBTQ+ community before? 

Groupon is definitely the first company that takes concrete action on the matter. I worked for other companies that were ok with it but I never had the chance to speak up my mind in relation to diversity and non-discrimination the way that I do here. Not that these other companies didn’t support it, they just didn’t talk about it. At Groupon, we have a dedicated space for this and full support to bring these type of topics to the table.

What makes Pride@Groupon unique?

Authenticity, passion, and respect. Pride@Groupon truly believes in changing the world. We truly understand the challenges that the LGBTQ+ community faces every day and that many people just don’t notice. Every person in the group has a unique strength that we leverage to make an impact. We respect each other and everybody gets to be themselves 100%.

How are you celebrating Pride Month this year?

Personally, I am still deciding whether I want to celebrate in San Francisco, Chicago, or Seattle. All their Pride parades are so fantastic that I haven’t decided yet which one I want to go. Such a hard decision! Professionally we are working on multiple initiatives within Groupon to make June a very colorful month.     🙂

Who are some notable figures you’d like to recognize for Pride Month?

I have to say, Freddie Mercury. I wish he could have lived his short life more openly and freely as we all deserve. I love his music (as we all do) and I wish I could sing like him 🙂 #GodSaveTheQueen.

What was your first role at Groupon?

My first role at Groupon was as a front-end developer back in Chile. I was hired to be a front-end developer for the LatAm countries and after a year or so I joined a global team to maintain the front-end for Checkout and My Account web apps worldwide. After a few years in that position, I was promoted to Engineering Manager of the same team. In 2016 I moved to Palo Alto. I have been managing the Checkout and User Sessions web teams for about 3 years.

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

My teams and I are responsible for optimizing the login and checkout experiences for the web platform. We have to build solutions that provide our customers with a frictionless and usable interface customized to their needs so that they can proceed to log in and purchase their favorite deals with confidence and no confusion when using a web browser. I love being a manager because it gives me the opportunity to work on building teams who build great products for millions of users. What I love about my teams is that we all share the same passion for front-end development aimed to solve common problems in the e-commerce industry. Having an impact on so many people is sincerely rewarding. We truly want to build a daily habit for our customers and make local businesses accessible to them.

What’s your favorite Groupon memory?

2012 Groupon holiday party contest: Made a Gangnam Style-like video and we won 1st place.

What’s been most surprising about working at Groupon?

How flexible a big company can be to promote career opportunities among its people. I learned this from my own experience too. I’ve spent half of my professional career at Groupon 🙂

Are you involved with any Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)? 

I am an active member of Pride@Groupon. I led Pride Latino back in Chile before moving to the US. It’s great to see so many colleagues and leaders fostering an environment of diversity and inclusion among our people. That definitely makes us stronger. I have also recently joined Groupon en Español.

What’s your favorite programming language?

Javascript and its allies.

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

If your checkout and login experiences are full of blockers and rocks in the user’s road, there is no e-commerce platform that can survive. We work every day to implement new solutions that would streamline this process based on rigorous analyses and customer feedback. All of these using modern technologies to improve the overall website’s performance so our customers can get their favorite deals with just a few clicks.

What keeps you busy outside of work?

I like taking hip-hop classes and using the gym’s studio to practice some moves.

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

In 2013, we had to redesign the whole web platform to improve the usability and user interface for our new online marketplace. It was the first redesign since Groupon’s launch in 2008. We had to learn new technologies, work with a lot of new people, all this in a language that I wasn’t too familiar with (no, not Javascript but English!). I learned so much during those days and we worked really hard to deliver a project that millions of users would face. The results were successful and very well taken by our customers and merchants.

What was your first impression of Groupon?

“Will I be able to make an impact in such a big company?”

What do your parents think you do?

According to my mom: “You program the operation of the website using codes” and I can also “remove viruses from her computer.”

What’s unique about Groupon’s Engineering culture?

Authentic diversity. Groupon Engineering culture is very diverse and that’s what makes us different because we truly believe that our multiple nationalities, cultures, genders, styles, and accents make Groupon a better place to work at where we all can learn from each other.

What did you do before Groupon? How did you get here?

I worked for some media companies as a front-end developer in Buenos Aires, Argentina. One day I got an email from a Groupon recruiter to interview me for an open position in Chile. I had my interviews but my profile didn’t fit the back-end positions available at that time. Three months later, they contacted me again with an offer for a front-end position. I accepted and I moved to Santiago de Chile three weeks later.

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

When we deliver our features to Production is when I feel most proud about my team’s work and impact in the customers. We call our new features “our little babies.”

Tabs or spaces?

Tabs

What’s something about you that’d surprise us?

I am a big fan of Backstreet Boys.

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.

Smart people, interesting work.

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.    🙂

Aileen Sandridge – VP of Engineering in Palo Alto

Aileen Sandridge – VP of Engineering in Palo Alto

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.

Check out our open mobile positions

 

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

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