Groupon Getaways is the travel arm of our business, connecting consumers with hotels, BnB’s, and resorts across the globe. Today, Noah Spitzer-Williams chats about how much impact Engineers have on the business and also sheds light on the quirkier side of Groupon.
So what do you do?
I lead the Consumer Experiences team for Getaways, Groupon’s travel business. We sell almost $1B worth of hotel and tour package deals a year. My team obsesses about building great experiences for travelers in a dozen countries across both our web and mobile platforms. We’re “full stack” in that we build everything from the user interfaces to the backend services.
My favorite thing about product management at Groupon is how much exposure we get to all elements of the business. In a typical week we’ll work with folks in engineering, design, business development, marketing, customer support, and analytics. We have impact on everything from the “why and what” to the “how and when.”
What did you do before Groupon?
Immediately before Groupon, I ran an action sports video editing startup. We weren’t financially successful but the experience was phenomenal. I learned how much hustle it takes to make it on your own. The Cinderella stories of successful founders you read in the news are not flukes. I also learned that I love building products much more than dealing with finances and legal documents.
What was it that made you want to join Groupon?
Long story short, I had already done both the big company and the startup. I wanted something in between that had the resources of a big company but the entrepreneurial attitude of a startup. I also wanted to work in travel. Getaways was the perfect fit. It was a small team, but they were hungry and had big ambitions. Groupon itself was only 4 years old yet it was making billions all over the world. In effect, Getaways was a startup within a startup.
What’s unique about the work Groupon Engineers do?
There aren’t many companies that provide engineers with as much opportunity for impact as Groupon. Engineers here work side-by-side with product managers, designers, and folks from the business. Our teams are extremely lean and we help our engineers hit the ground running. For example, we have a friendly competition to see how fast new engineers can deploy code to actual customers. The current record is around 48 hours, held by a college hire.
Given Groupon’s relatively young age, we don’t have archaic legacy codebases lying around. This allows us to work with the latest and greatest technologies such as Node, Elasticsearch, and Swift. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of duct tape around when you move this fast, but we work hard to not let it slow us down.
Twice a year the company hosts a week-long hackathon called GEEKon. GEEKon gives our teams the chance to innovate bottoms-up and unleash their creativity and passion for collaboration on new and useful solutions for the company. This year my team shipped Getaways Explorer, a Chrome plugin that displays a beautiful travel deal every time you open a new tab. It was an awesome experience to be part of a multidisciplinary team that went from idea to shipped product so quickly.
How is your role/team different now than it was 3 years ago?
The biggest difference is the product and engineering teams have grown from a dozen to about 50 employees. The scope and scale of our impact is much bigger. It’s great in that it gives you a better means of competing in the market, but it also brings higher expectations and some growing pains.
We also have a much clearer vision for where we want to take Groupon and Getaways. We want Groupon to be a daily habit for everyone, whether you’re looking for great deals to buy, eat, or experience something. Getaways will simply help you to do this outside your hometown.
How does Groupon’s culture resonate with you?
Groupon is a quirky place and we all enjoy a good laugh. Whether it’s growing mustaches for Movember or sending mildly inappropriate GIFs in our vacation mails, we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We make sure to hire people who will embrace our culture and help us evolve it.
On the tech side, my favorite cultural aspect is how teams work with each other. For example, if you’re dependent on a team that doesn’t have the bandwidth to build what you need, they’ll often invite your team to write the code yourself and they’ll review the work. That’s rare in companies our size and it allows us to (mostly) avoid dependency hell.
Anything else you want to add?
Last year Groupon sent me to my 31st country on my 31st birthday. A group of us went to Chennai, India to work with some of our partners out there. It was an incredible experience and as a proud carnivore, I came home with a new appreciation for vegetarian cuisine.
Thanks for reading the People Blog—a blog about people at Groupon. If you’re a fan of the movie “Inception” and want to work for a startup within a startup, check out our current Getaways Tech openings: Senior Product Manager – Consumer Experience, Senior Software Engineer – Front End, Software Development Engineer – Back End.