Anushri Devarmanai – Product Management Intern in San Francisco

Anushri Devarmanai – Product Management Intern in San Francisco

ANUSHRI DEVARMANAI

Product Management Intern
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 2018

Despite what her parents might think, Anu is spending her internship rolling out new deal structures and shipping features to production for Groupon’s hottest product launch. (NBD!)

What school do you go to?

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

What team are you interning for?

Groupon+

What do your parents think you do?

Probably make coffee and run errands for others.

So what do you *actually* do?

I am a product management intern for Groupon+, which is a card-linked offer system where users get cash back on their purchases. Groupon+ as a whole is neat because it eliminates the need for a voucher and makes the process of using Groupon seamless for consumers and merchants. During my time here, I’ve had the opportunity to work on several different features. In product management, we have key metrics that we use to determine to success of our features. My features are designed to improve key metrics like conversion or enrollments.

One project that I’m working on is a new deal structure for Groupon+ deals, called Mesa. In order to get this deal structure set-up, I have been collaborating with individuals in sales, legal, engineering, design, and content. This project has given me an incredible amount of insight into how all the pieces come together in order to create a successful feature. I’ve learned how to manage roadblocks, align timelines, and handle differing priorities in order to successfully keep the project moving forward. It has been quite the ride – and I’m having so much fun! Not a day goes by that I don’t learn at least 10 new things.

Memorable Groupon moment so far?

Earlier in the summer, I spent an afternoon volunteering in Presidio with Groupon. We were removing weeds from a community garden, and it was a competition to see which team could finish their section the fastest. Naturally, the 5 interns banded together into a group, raced to put on our gardening gloves, and began hacking away at the weeds. After about an hour of weeding, we successfully finished clearing our section FIRST! But more importantly, it was a fun way to bond with my fellow interns while volunteering and protecting the environment 😉

What’s been most surprising so far about interning at Groupon?

The culture! I feel so grateful to be working with my Groupon+ team. Everyone is so kind, friendly, funny, and not afraid to bring their quirky personalities to work. My team has welcomed me with open arms, and I can genuinely say that I get to have fun at work because of my coworkers. I was definitely surprised that the Groupon+ team had such a collaborative and supportive culture, but after being a part of the team for 6 weeks, I can’t imagine it being any other way!

What’s the coolest thing you’ve accomplished so far this summer?

I’ve been able to take on a feature from beginning to end. I was able to start by working with the designer on the mocks, kicked off the feature with engineering, worked with the engineering through development to clear any roadblocks, and saw the beautiful end result on Groupon staging. The feature is scheduled to go out into production next week, and you’d best believe I will be showing every single one of my friends and family the feature that I was owned (as an intern!)

What’s the most innovative technology you’ve experienced in your lifetime?

I think the technological advances that are being made in biotechnology are remarkable. For example, telerobotics is an area of robotics that builds semi-autonomous robots that can be controlled from very far away. This could change the future of surgery by allowing physicians to perform medical procedures remotely. With telerobotics, physicians are able to reach patients who are in remote or inaccessible locations without having to physically leave their office. Innovations like this are redefining the possibilities in healthcare, and I am so excited to see how innovation in biotechnology continues to develop in the future.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. It’s short, and very [bitter]sweet.

My Instagram is mainly photos of ____________.

Travel destinations and random artsy stuff.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve experienced in the city you’re interning in?

San Francisco’s natural beauty is so lovely. I recently went on a trip with some fellow Groupon interns to Big Sur. It was a fairly short drive, and the views there were incredible. Big Sur is a rugged part of the coast with big, scenic drop offs and secluded beaches. It was fun to be able to spend time with other interns outside work while enjoying California’s weather and nature.

 

Aria Srinivasan – Product Manager for Groupon+ in San Francisco

Aria Srinivasan – Product Manager for Groupon+ in San Francisco

ARIA SRINIVASAN

Product Manager, Groupon+
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 2015

Jumping from Finance to Product Management is not the most typical career move, but Groupon is full of nontraditional journeys. Meet Aria, who took ownership of her career and forged her own path.

What’s your favorite Groupon memory?

1. Going to Grace Hopper my first year and being incredibly inspired by all the baller things women in the world are doing!

2. All the happy hours and feeling so #blessed to be working with such awesome people

3. Realizing my coworkers have not just turned into friends but truly family!

Tell us more about your experience at Grace Hopper! 

Grace Hopper is an amazing conference celebrating the accomplishments of women in computing and sharing innovative ideas as a group. One of my favorite memories was listening to a panel of four engineering leaders for the Hillary for America campaign. It was fascinating to hear how they all took breaks from their ‘normal’ gigs to do something for the country, the technical challenges they ran into, and the moral and emotional feelings they had after the election.

What was your first impression of Groupon?

I recently came across an old Facebook post from 2011 where I said “I wish I worked in tech so I can just wear jeans to work.” My first impression was how chill the culture was, and here I am still LOVING the culture and wearing whatever I want to work!

 

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

When I first joined Groupon, I started as a financial analyst for the Engineering teams. During GEEKon last year, I reached out to my friend who was leading a project working on a Facebook messenger bot to see if I could be her minion doing some Product Management work with her team. I loved working on it, and the VP of Product at the time reached out and asked when I was going to finally move over to product full time. Here I am!

That’s quite a jump going from Finance to Product…what was that transition like?

After graduation I started working in invest banking. After a few years, I was itching to move to Silicon Valley where I grew up and started applying for companies whose products I actually used. I ended up in a super cool Finance role where I could do all the traditional finance things I had a background in, and learned a ton about large-scale engineering projects that Groupon was undergoing like cloud migration. I wanted to do something more consumer-facing, and my managers recognized that and made it happen.

Since transitioning to Product a few months ago, I am still able to leverage my data analysis skills that I developed in finance, but looking more at customer data like clicks and new customer acquisition, rather than financial data. Being a PM requires me to be really creative and have some daring ideas – something that’s new to me but still really exciting! The coolest part about the messenger bot is that it’s still causing a buzz around Groupon! Just a few days ago I was meeting with our customer service and AI team in Poland to talk about what we did.

 

What’s unique about Product at Groupon?

The Groupon+ team that I work on is definitely the most driven, passionate, and collaborative team I’ve ever worked on. Everyone genuinely loves working on the product and with each other.

What’s Groupon+ all about?

Groupon+ is our card-linked offers deal program and our newest (and in my opinion, coolest!) product at Groupon. I’m focused on enrolling new customers and making their experience of claiming cash back deals as seamless as possible. Because we are a new(er) team, we operate like a startup within the company and really work hard to make Groupon+ as awesome as it can be. We have A LOT of fun while we’re at it!

What sort of business impact does it have? 

Because Groupon+ is Groupon’s newest product, it feels like almost working at a startup which is really exciting. We have our fare share of challenges trying to penetrate the market and educate users on who we are, but it’s also incredibly fun to brainstorm and push the boundaries with my team.

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

I help customers save money in the easiest way possible — just link your credit cards and enroll in Groupon+ for free to start getting cash back at your favorite restaurants!!

We see you were a board member for Women@Groupon, and now you’re a member.  Why did you join?  

I was the Palo Alto chair for Women@Groupon. It helped me meet a ton of women at Groupon globally who I wouldn’t have otherwise met. It was great to hear everyone’s stories and understand what impact they have at Groupon.

Tell us something that might surprise us about you.

It’s my dream to be a rapper.

Where can we find you outside work? 

I am either traveling (#wanderlust) or dancing!

What do your parents think you do?

My parents work in tech so have a good understanding of what I do. My Instagram followers on the other hand think I just mess around at work all day.

How Groupon’s product team connects people to their community

How Groupon’s product team connects people to their community

How Groupon’s product team connects people to their community

Mitou Nguyen understands the power local businesses can have. Growing up in San Francisco, he saw first-hand how companies could serve as an entry point into the various communities and cultures in the area.

These personal experiences inspired him to join Groupon as a product manager, working to help other people build the same relationships with local businesses in their community. We spoke with Mitou and three members of his team to learn more about how they drive product development and make those visions a reality.

Andrew Lisy, Director, Technical Product Management

Andrew Lisy leads the supply and merchant efforts at Groupon. His teams use machine learning to find the best merchant fits, allowing third parties to list on the website and creating new value propositions for businesses to promote their products and services in the Groupon marketplace.

BEYOND WORK: Andrew enjoys woodworking, which allows him to step away from his computer and plug into his craft.

How do you communicate vision to software developers and the business team?

Software engineers want to know how the work they’re doing contributes to the mission and goals of the company. Communicating that vision can’t be a one-time thing. It’s important to constantly bring everyone along with why the day-to-day work is important in hitting the company’s higher-level, more abstract goals.

For business teams, once you’re aligned on the end state, the most important interactions are around communicating the roadmap, hitting milestones and discussing design decisions that support the path you’ve chosen.

How do you navigate disagreements about vision among teams?

The first thing is to zoom out on the disagreement to find the point where you agree. Maybe you don’t agree that the next step is to sell ice cream through Groupon, but you probably do agree that Groupon should broaden its offerings.

Once you find the point where you agree, you can dive back into why each person feels the way they feel. If you’re going after the same goal and you have different opinions on how to get there, then it becomes much easier to discuss your opinions. Eventually, you’ll reach a solution that will hit the goal you both agreed on in a way that’s acceptable to everyone.

How do you find out what your customers want from your products?

We do a lot of customer research and interviews. We talk with our users to see what they love about Groupon, what they don’t like and where they get confused. Using this as a baseline, we build features intended to lean into the areas they love, solve the pain points they don’t like and clarify what confuses them. After we launch a feature, we use industrial-grade A/B testing to grade ourselves and determine if we’ve succeeded.

Navya Reddy Dyavadi, Product Manager

Navya Reddy Dyavadi works on the scalable supply team. Her team helps business partners list their offerings on the Groupon website and mobile app.

BEYOND WORK: Navya enjoys cooking and experimenting with ingredients in the kitchen.

How does your day break down?

I joined Groupon after earning my masters of business administration at Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Before Wharton, I worked in investment banking for five years as a risk analyst, trader and as a member of a financing team that works with hedge fund partners on long-term investments.

I enjoyed thinking about creative financial structures and products that can help address a partner’s needs. I wanted to do something similar in a different context with a larger impact. Product management in consumer tech seemed like best fit. Groupon, with its scale and agility, represented the perfect opportunity.

How do you find out what your customers want from your products?

Data is the biggest and most effective tool in identifying problems, gaps and what the customer wants. We gather data from user study, customer interviews and their interactions with our app and website. We then use these data points to determine our product and feature development. We also rely on experimentation data to test our understanding after feature development.

What’s the biggest challenge your team is solving?

Customer frequency is a key to Groupon’s strategy. Our team is focusing on building a deep supply that can be personal and inspiring for customers. By adding quality inventory at scale, we are looking to address most of each customer’s local needs in one destination to make Groupon an integral part of their daily routine.

Mitou Nguyen, Product Manager

Mitou Nguyen works on the third-party integrations platform team. His team’s goal is to build Groupon’s platform into a comprehensive marketplace, where customers can find everything they love to do and buy in one place.

BEYOND WORK: Mitou enjoys urban dancing and choreography.

What attracted you to Groupon?

Growing up in San Francisco, I experienced so many different cultures through local shops across the city’s diverse neighborhoods. These experiences are crucial in broadening our understanding of different people and their backgrounds, and in establishing global communities.

Groupon connects people to local businesses like the ones I grew up visiting. I was excited — and a little nervous — when I had the opportunity to drive strategic initiatives that could impact millions of customers and help determine how they discover and interact with local businesses.

What challenge is your team is trying to solve?

While Groupon has extensive relationships with many local businesses across the world, there are still many businesses that aren’t on Groupon yet. This means that customers could be missing out on some amazing experiences. Our team is focused on building a robust platform that brings on businesses to Groupon at scale and delights customers through comprehensive offerings.

Is this job what you expected?

I have the opportunity to have a large and measurable impact on Groupon’s success, which motivated me to join the team. I didn’t expect our platform to be interwoven with almost every other team at Groupon.

This can be a challenge, due to the increased complexity that comes with more dependencies and downstream impacts. However, it’s helped me develop a comprehensive understanding of how Groupon operates from both a technology and a business process perspective.

Assaf Eisenberg, Group Product Manager

Assaf Eisenberg leads the alignment and prioritization initiatives that drive Groupon’s central supply strategy. He helps execute external partnerships, define work processes and oversee roadmaps for Groupon’s third-party platform and supply intelligence tools.

BEYOND WORK: When Assaf isn’t spending time with his children, he loves scuba diving. He once dove professionally at a dive center in Thailand.

What attracted you to Groupon?

I grew up in Israel and spent several years in the military. I then studied engineering and held positions in IT, B2B systems and process improvement, which got me interested in the interactions between business and technology.

I received my MBA at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and went into product management because it combines business, technology and people — everything I was looking for. I saw Groupon as a sweet spot between a large international company where I could make an impact and a business with an upbeat, small-company tempo that would allow me to move fast and affect decisions.

What do you love about your job?

The first thing I love about my job is problem solving. If I’m able to solve a difficult problem, especially with a simple and elegant solution, then my entire day (and sometimes week) becomes much brighter.

I also enjoy driving consensus. It’s always a challenge to get into a room with a group of people who have different priorities and opinions and try to find common ground. So it fills me with a sense of accomplishment to know that we always manage to bridge our differences and continue forward as a united team.

How does your team prioritize the ideas you should build?

Our prioritization process can be complex because we have multiple work streams that need to be balanced. This includes new initiatives and partnerships, improvements to existing ones, internal tools and platform enhancements. New ideas can come from anywhere: customer feedback, user research, insights we identify when analyzing data, or just creative thought by our team or colleagues.

When an idea is raised, we formulate hypotheses and turn to our data to find indications of the benefit and opportunity size. We might run a lightweight test or a user study if there are additional questions to answer. Once we have an estimate of the benefit and cost, we can weigh it against all the other items in our queue and make an informed decision.

Why your product will fail without a compelling story crafted and told with data

Why your product will fail without a compelling story crafted and told with data

Why your product will fail without a compelling story crafted and told with data

Laura Hamilton
Group Product Manager
July 18, 2018

Thursday, the Chicago chapter of Women in Product hosted a panel about “The Power of Storytelling in Product Development.” In Thursday’s event, three female product leaders shared with us their stories about how compelling storytelling leads to successful products — and how a weak or missing story will cause a product to flounder or fail.

The event was sponsored by Uptake, a predictive analytics SaaS provider focused on the industrial space. The panel discussion was moderated by Taylor Klassman, Senior User Experience Researcher at Uptake who leads research in the Renewable Energy vertical. In addition to the usual client interviews and meetings with PMs, Taylor “goes the extra 300 feet” (vertically) by climbing wind turbines to watch end users in their daily workflows.

The panel was composed of O’Dealya Price (Senior Product Manager at Uptake on the IoT Edge Team), Kelly Bishop (VP Product and Design at Fusion Media Group), and Shelby King (Senior Product Manager at Venmo).

Human beings have a fundamental need for stories, a need to craft narratives out of data. In fact the human need for narratives is so compelling, so innate, that people routinely craft narratives around random data, creating a storyline where there isn’t one. Parents have been telling stories for babies since the beginning of the human race, using stories as the primary method to teach children about the world around them.

The panelists emphasized the importance of being customer-obsessed, of crafting the product storyline based on data and customer research, and of evangelizing the product story with the product development team. “All of that rich context, all of that data that you have been looking at, all of those conversations that you have had with customers, the user research that you have done, the context you have gotten from leadership on what the business goals are for the next 6–12 months or the next 5 years. Everything you have in your head, get it out of your head. Share it with the people working on your project,” said King. She explained that at Venmo, product managers first write a Google doc that illustrates the customer problem, brings in data to contextualize the problem, then defines the solution and KPIs. Next, she shares the doc as broadly as possible throughout the organization — with engineering, with risk, with legal, with marketing, and with PR.

King shared an example about how she used the customer’s voice to tell the product story to her engineering team to tell the story of the Venmo Debit Card, launched last week. She told us how she compiled a list of customer tweets indicating a customer need for the debit card product. Customers were tweeting @venmo, lamenting the fact that the ice cream truck on their street did not take Venmo. King explained to her engineering team how the Venmo card solved the customers’ problem and provided immediate ice cream paid for by their venmo accounts. “If you’re able to bring through examples of what the customer is saying, that can be really powerful,” King explained.

Smart people doing interesting work

Writing the product narrative can also help with the strategy. Bishop shared with us a story about an initiative that her team was ready to begin work on, but then when she took a step back to write the story concluded that there was no “there” there. “We stepped back to look at the story, and we sunset the project because it wasn’t a good use of the team. Always second guess some of that pressure,” said Bishop.

The product panelists emphasized the importance of knowing your audience, and tailoring your story appropriately. “Knowing your audience is a big part of being a successful story. What I do is try my best to understand what the people I’m telling the story to care about. Tailor your story; everybody doesn’t need to know everything,” said King. It’s the product manager’s job to gather all of the data, all of the customer research, all of the anecdotes and all of the information — and then to edit it appropriately for the given audience. “The most important phase of this,” explained Bishop, “is when you edit your story.”

And it’s important to watch the audience, to see if the product story is hitting home or is missing its mark, and to adjust on the fly. “When I explain things and there’s silence afterwards, that’s an indication I didn’t explain something, didn’t understand the audience,” said Price. But telling the story isn’t just a one-time event that happens at the project kick-off. It’s a continual effort, done through many meetings, emails, slack messages, and documents. A product leader needs to set the project goals and KPIs at the outset, then have regular check-ins to review progress and reiterate the story. These regular check-ins help keep the team energized and also helps to drive improvements and optimizations in the product and processes.

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Laura Hamilton is a Group Product Manager at Groupon. We’re hiring Product Managers in multiple locations. Want to work with us? Browse our current job listings or learn more about us on our Product page.

CTO Colin Bodell’s first of many visits to Groupon Bangalore Dev Centre

CTO Colin Bodell’s first of many visits to Groupon Bangalore Dev Centre

CTO Colin Bodell’s first of many visits to Bangalore Dev Centre

ENGINEERING

CTO Colin Bodell’s first visit to Groupon Bangalore Dev Centre

Colin Bodell’s first of many visits to Groupon’s Bangalore Dev centre instilled great confidence in the talented engineers working far across the globe toward Groupon’s long- and short-term strategies. On the first day of his visit, he addressed all of the engineering teams present in Bangalore: Platform and Data, Goods, Marketing, Customer Support Engineering, and Data Science. As part of his presentation, he introduced himself, his vision, strategy, and philosophy.

The key takeaways were:

  • People and relationships: his investment in people and building relationships in order to build a great team
  • Execution through ownership: his belief in getting cutting-edge execution done through ownership
  • Diversity: why and how he has been a leading proponent of diversity through forums such as Grace Hopper
  • Engineering links back to Groupon’s strategy: seeing how Bangalore engineers’ daily work can tie back to Groupon’s multi-year strategy
  • Communication as a key to success: he talked about his communication tenets

Over the next few days, he spent time diving deep into the major programs run out of Bangalore and meeting one on one with engineers. He listened intently and asked questions to the engineering teams and individuals in order to understand their achievements, aspirations, motivations, and explain his strategy in return. Engineers were super motivated by Colin’s energy and by having the accessibility to an SVP-level leader for the first time in Groupon Bangalore. 

It was not all work though. He also attended a potluck along with the engineering teams, met with all the diversity engineers of WiTB, and offered to extend any sponsorship/support to the group. On the last evening, we had a chance to see more of his fun side during an evening poolside dinner where he shared anecdotes from his past experiences, his journey, etc.

Todd Webb – Senior Program Manager, Engineering

Todd Webb – Senior Program Manager, Engineering

TODD WEBB

Senior Program Manager, Engineering
Chicago, IL
Joined: 2011

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED with Todd Webb.

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

I started as a Product Manager with a charter to automate our merchant payments processes with zero lines of code and two stellar senior engineers. I worked with that team for six years building new systems, growing the team, and cultivating a strong team culture. As my team evolved, I took on a Senior Product Management and Senior Engineering Manager role and we delivered many important new capabilities. Throughout those six years, I had tons of opportunities to learn and grow. In fact, I’m a big believer in continuous learning, so it was a no-brainer when I jumped at an opportunity to work on a multi-year program with our global sales and service teams. That’s the team I work with today, as a Senior Program Manager.

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

As a Senior Program Manager, I serve as a leader, guide, strategist, and connector on a multi-year effort to level-up our sales and service processes around the world. I love being able to connect the right people, to help colleagues discover new ideas and ways of thinking about the problems we are trying to solve and to help avoid hidden obstacles and overcome big roadblocks.

What’s your favorite Groupon memory?

My favorite moment was when my team hung a giant 25-foot—and very presidential—”Mission Accomplished” banner when we reached a major milestone toward the end of a big new release (but we actually weren’t completely done yet). We still have the banner and hang it up now and then.

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

I’m a husband, dad, and avid reader, so if you found me outside of work I’d probably be with my family or buried in a book. I’m also a passionate supporter of Montessori education, and if you caught me in Northern Michigan I’d either be sailing or snow skiing.

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

The biggest challenge I’ve worked on was building a great engineering team and building a global merchant payment system with a dozen different services, paying billions of dollars to merchants, all from scratch.

What was your first impression of Groupon?

I’ve known Groupon from day one. I was an executive at a small consulting company and we helped augment Groupon’s early engineering staff (when there were less than 10 employees). I knew it was fun and crazy, and that was my first impression when we joined forces and I became an employee.

What do your parents think you do?

They think I build great teams that build complex systems.

What’s unique about Groupon’s Engineering culture?

Groupon’s engineering culture has evolved a lot as we’ve grown, but the part that stays the same—and that I appreciate most—is the openness and willingness to help each other.

Name your favorite programming language.

Clojure, because I really dig code-as-data and immutable data structures.

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

My work has always been about doing the right thing for merchants. That’s where I really connect with Groupon’s mission.

What’s your favorite local business?

My favorite local business is A Toda Madre in Glen Ellyn, IL.

Tell us something that might surprise us about you.

I can juggle and ride a unicycle*. Or at least I used to ride one, it’s been a long time. I learned when I was about 14 at a community center where a lot of local professionals used to practice. It was my first experience with a community of people who loved to teach their craft. One of them was a fella named Paul Kyprie, AKA Zeemo. Look him up. He’s amazing!

*Editor’s note: another Grouponer in tech, John Stokvis, can balance three chairs on his chin. So many talents!

What ERGs are you a member of?

Women@Groupon and Parents@Groupon.

Why did you join? What do you enjoy about your participation?

I led Parents@Groupon for a few years. It’s a great group of people who are eager to learn from each other.

Vim or emacs? Why?

Spacemacs (best of both worlds).

Data-Driven Product Management at Groupon

Data-Driven Product Management at Groupon

Data-Driven Product Management at Groupon

Laura Hamilton
Group Product Manager
May 22, 2018

Introduction

At Groupon, we have a very data-driven philosophy of product management. In this blog post, I’ll talk through how we approach product ownership in a data-driven way, from financial forecasting to roadmapping to feature development to experimentation.

Hippo

https://www.howgoogleworks.net/

Financial Forecasting and Roadmap Creation

For every candidate feature, we calculate the projected financial upside according to the following formula:

feature_revenue_forecast =
expected_lift x platform_factor x success_probability x platform_revenue

Where:

  • feature_revenue_forecast is what we are trying to calculate (the expected revenue from the feature)
  • expected_lift is the increase in conversions we expect from users in the treatment group vs. users in the control group. The vast majority of experiments fall between -1.0% and +1.0% lift.
  • platform_factor is what percent of all users of the platform (whether iOS, android, mobile web, or desktop web) are part of the experiment. For example, for a test on the checkout page on mobile web, the platform factor will be 100%—100% of users who place an order on mobile web visit the checkout page during their journey. For a test on the getaways deal page, the platform factor will be much smaller, so the overall financial impact of the test will be smaller.
  • success_probability is a haircut we apply to take into account that not all experiments will succeed. In fact, only about 30% of our experiments are successful. The success_probability for a given feature could be greater than or lower than 30%, depending on how confident we are that the experiment will succeed. For some experiments that are primarily for strategic reasons, such as maps improvements, we will use a success_probability of 90% or 100%.
  • platform_revenue is the total revenue generated by the platform. For example, the platform_revenue for iOS is the total revenue from orders placed via the iOS app.

With this formula, we have a consistent and data-driven way to estimate the upside from each proposed initiative. Then, once each experiment concludes, we compare our estimates to the actual results, and over time we refine our estimations.

We use these estimated upside figures to create product roadmaps. In order to prioritize initiatives and determine the cutlist, we need to introduce another data point—the engineering effort required. Then, we use the following formula to calculate the ROI of each feature:

ROI = feature_revenue_forecast / level_of_effort

We then stack rank features according to their ROI.

ROI is an input into the creation of the product roadmap and the determination of the cutlist, but it is not the only input. I always like to ensure that there is a healthy amount of time spent on engineering excellence (site stability, paying down technical debt, reducing latency, library upgrades, increased test coverage, improved tooling). I also like to ensure that we have a customer focus. Many of our features come directly from customer feedback via focus groups, quantitative surveys, and app store feedback; the Wishlist feature was one of these. I also reserve a healthy amount of time for strategic initiatives that may not provide lift in the short term but that set us up for success in terms of the Groupon 2020 vision.

Dilbert

Image source: Dilbert.com

Data-Driven Features

At Groupon we are lucky to have vast amounts of data that we can use to deliver a delightful product to our customers. We have worked with one million merchants to date; we have pumped more than $18 billion into local businesses; we have more than 1 billion Groupons sold; our app has been downloaded 171 million times, and we have saved customers more than $28 billion.

The Groupon platform handles tens of billions of user actions per month, and for machine learning algorithms that drive core product features our platform needs to make decisions (such as which deal to show the user next) in fractions of a second.

Developing product features that take advantage of these vast amounts of data in a performant way is an interesting challenge.

We use machine learning algorithms in a variety of ways to develop products here at Groupon:

  • Supply intelligence – There are millions of merchants we could call at any time to get onto our platform; how do we pick the best ones?
  • Fraud prevention – Fighting the bad guys in realtime.
  • Discovery and personalization – Selecting which deals to show a given user in her mobile app deal feed.
  • Image recognition – Identifying the best user-generated images with neural networks.
  • Logistics – Getting ahead of the order rush by sending extra inventory to the right warehouse in advance of high demand.
  • Customer support – AI-based chatbots to respond to and resolve customer issues instantaneously.

Groupon Mobile App

To make developing data-driven products faster, we built a generic, extensible machine learning platform at Groupon called Flux. Flux is the “Rosetta Stone” between data scientists and engineers.

Flux capaciter

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Data scientists work primarily in R. Flux models are written in Java and Clojure for stability and speed. Python is the glue that connects R and Java. It all runs on Groupon’s large Hadoop cluster.

To make the process for productionalizing machine learnings more robust, Groupon has an ETL management platform called Quantum Engineered Data (QED). QED reads from any source, and includes built-in data cleaning, error correction, and anomaly detection. Clean data is preserved and made available as a “feature catalog.” QED handles failures smartly, supporting falling back to yesterday’s model when appropriate. QED is able to plug into any source of truth—including streams, warehouse tables, and JSON endpoints.

Smart people doing interesting work

QED gives us a lot more confidence in the robustness of our models. In general, subtle changes to a single data field can seriously impact model performance, and nuances in the data set could look fine to tests but fail in the real world.

machine learning - xkcd

Image credit: XKCD

Monitoring

This blog post would be incomplete without a brief discussion of Groupon’s monitoring tools. We have a healthy suite of realtime alerts on product and engineering KPIs. We use splunk for logging and wavefront for graphing. Each service is staffed with a 24/7 on-call schedule, with escalation handled by pagerduty.

Additionally, each product area and business has an Amazon-style Weekly Business Review, where we look at metric trends longitudinally, identify areas of change or concern, and begin deep dives where appropriate.

The data warehouse uses Teradata and Apache Hive.

Experimentation

There are 100 teams at Groupon that run experiments. At any given time, around 200 experiments are being run simultaneously on the Groupon platform.

Groupon has a dedicated team called Optimize that built a bespoke tech platform for running product experiments with mathematical rigor. The experimentation platform is called Finch Express. Finch Express is built with Ruby on Rails, Node.js, Ember.js, Python, R, and Hadoop/Hive. The team has filed three patents for its innovations on product experimentation.

Essentially, Finch Express uses a technique called Group Sequential Analysis, first developed by Abraham Wald in 1945. Group Sequential Analysis has been used extensively in high-risk clinical trials, such as heart valve studies, where it’s possible that one treatment is actually harming the patients. Ethically, we would want to stop a harmful clinical trial immediately—but statistically, checking the experiment results mid-run or “peeking” will vastly increase your rate of false positives and invalidate your statistical results.

Group Sequential Analysis provides a controlled, statistically rigorous way to “peek” at experiment results at set points during the experiment run. This allows Groupon to end an experiment early if it is losing money, and to roll out an experiment early if it is deemed an early winner (capturing more upside).

Finch Express does all of this automatically. Product managers create the experiment in Finch Express, add a description and screenshots (to save the details for future product managers to reference), and launch the experiment at 50/50. Finch Express does the heavy lifting of dynamically determining the appropriate lift sensitivity for the experiment (based on traffic and conversion rate), performing the Group Sequential Analysis calculations, deeming the experiment a “success,” “failure,” or “flat” (most experiments end flat), and even automatically rolling out or rolling back the experiment based on its results. Then, Finch Express reports on the financial results of the experiment. The experimentation platform prevents product managers from statistical no-nos, such as peeking, unbalanced bucketing, and concluding the experiment too early. As a result, our experimentation processes have a high degree of statistical rigor.

On average, Group Sequential Analysis allows us to conclude experiments an average of 57.53% earlier compared to simply running them to a single final checkpoint. This reduces the cost of failed experiments, hastens upside capture of successful experiments, and allows for much faster iteration and innovation.

To date, Groupon product managers have run a total of 2,500 experiments, thanks in large part to the proprietary and patent-pending experimentation platform.

correlation - xkcd

Image credit: XKCD

Conclusion

Thanks for staying with me until the end! I hope this gives you an idea for how we use big data at global scale here at Groupon to create our product roadmaps, to innovate with new products and features, to monitor product performance, and to evaluate the impact of new initiatives. If you’re interested in learning more about data-driven product management opportunities at Groupon, have a look at our open roles.

Laura heads up product for consumer web, international, and LivingSocial at Groupon. She has a bachelor’s in mathematics from the University of Chicago and a master’s in computer science with specialization in machine learning from Georgia Tech. She has more than 10 years of experience in ecommerce product management at four Chicago tech companies, from early stage startups to publicly traded global companies. She is passionate about using analytics and machine learning to create a delightful customer experience.

Laura Hamilton

Group Product Manager

Laura Hamilton – Group Product Manager

Laura Hamilton – Group Product Manager

LAURA HAMILTON

Preferred pronouns: She/Her
Group Product Manager
Chicago, IL
Joined: 2014

Laura and Groupon seem to be a perfect match. She brought 10+ years of strong product management experience to Groupon. In turn, Groupon provided an opportunity to get scrappy, make an impact, and walk by a cat spaceship every day. (What else do you really need?)

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

I started off as product manager for the checkout page, and I gradually took on more responsibility. I took on Consumer Web in Q1 2016, LivingSocial in Q4 2016, and International in Q1 2017. Today, I head up product for Consumer Web, International, and LivingSocial.

Where were you before joining Groupon? How did you get here?

I have worked in product management for 10+ years, at a wide range of company sizes from founder to seed-stage startup to hypergrowth phase to a public company. I started my product management career at Enova 10+ years ago, where I led the product team focused on new initiatives. We launched several new businesses and product lines during my tenure, including the installment product in the US and the Pounds to Pocket brand in the UK. After Enova, I worked at a couple of early-stage tech startups. Then I joined Groupon in 2014 — Groupon still has the scrappiness, innovation, and bias for action typical of startups, while also having massive global scale.

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

I always try to tie my product strategy and roadmap to Groupon’s mission of being the daily habit in local commerce. Whether it’s adding more structured data to the cards on the browse feed, making our pricing clearer and more transparent, launching new products such as Groupon+ and BeautyNow, it’s all in support of our mission to connect customers with local businesses.

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

In 2016, when I took over consumer web product, our mobile website was very outdated and lacked many key features that the mobile app had. Over the course of 2016, I led a major effort to redesign the mobile website, and we overhauled almost every page in the site. It was a big undertaking that involved a dozen different teams, but after several months and a few dozen A/B tests, we had a much more organized and modern website.

Take us back to 2014. What was your first impression of Groupon?

I think I was going to the Geekfest meetup for the first time, and the instructions said to look for the “cat spaceship.” I was very confused about what a cat spaceship was, and why it would be in an office. I was somewhat nervous that I would miss this landmark; however, upon seeing the cat spaceship, I realized that my fears were unfounded.

What’s something that has surprised you while working at Groupon?

Groupon’s Optimize team, which owns the experimentation framework and methodology, has a novel (patent-pending) process for the analysis of A/B experiments. It uses a technique called group sequential analysis, which originated with heart valve studies in the 1970s. It’s essentially a statistically rigorous way to “peek” at experiment data while limiting false positives. It has allowed us to experiment much faster, which in turn has led to faster improvements in the customer experience.

So what’s unique about Groupon’s Product culture?

Groupon is unique in that Product Managers can take on a ton of responsibility—whole product lines, or product suites—while still operating at massive, global scale. At startups, you can have broad responsibility but not at scale; at most publicly traded companies, you can have global scale but you only own a small piece. At Groupon, product managers can have broad responsibility as well as massive impact at scale.

“Groupon is unique in that Product Managers can take on a ton of responsibility — whole product lines, or product suites — while still operating at massive, global scale.”

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

Software development at Groupon is very solution-oriented. If there’s a bug or production issue, the discussion is immediately around how to solve the issue and how to prevent it in the future. We don’t have unproductive fingerpointing conversations. When there is a production outage, the discussion is around “how do we improve tools and processes to prevent this from happening in the future,” rather than “so and so made a mistake.”

What’s your favorite Groupon memory?

After six months of work across dozens of engineering teams, we successfully migrated the LivingSocial website and mobile apps to the Groupon tech stack and celebrated with a cutover cake and champagne at 3 am.

Name your favorite programming language.

I think it depends on the problem domain, but in general, I am partial to python. The syntax is natural. I don’t need to define variable types or worry about semicolons. Also, python has a very thorough set of supporting libraries, including a lot of machine learning and analytics related libraries.

Tabs or spaces?

Spaces

Vim or emacs?

Vim

What do your parents think you do?

I asked my parents what they thought I did, and their answers were actually pretty close. Both my parents have PhDs in economics. My mother said, “I think you handle the website. I would love to know.” My father said, “Management/analysis.”

What keeps you busy outside of work?

I love checking out new local restaurants and fitness studios. I live right by Restaurant Row, and there are so many fantastic local businesses in my area. There are new ones popping up all the time — it’s hard for me to keep track!

Speaking of local restaurants, what’s your favorite local business?

It’s so hard to pick just one. I love Big & Little’s; their gourmet fast food is so delicious.

Tell us something that might surprise us about you.

I have done two startups – neither of them successful.

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.”

Ana Ananthakumar – Product Manager, Supply Intelligence

Ana Ananthakumar – Product Manager, Supply Intelligence

ANA ANANTHAKUMAR

Product Manager, Supply Intelligence
Chicago, IL
Joined: 2017

Ana describes his job as being an agent for Groupon’s version of the CIA. What does that entail? We’d tell you, but…just read his story to find out!

What’s your favorite Groupon memory?

On the day before Halloween, I was busy at my desk working and wearing a T-shirt and jeans (on that day, my tee-shirt and jeans combo was the most formal attire). I was already enjoying the costumes people around me were wearing. Top Gun’s Tom Cruise (our engineering manager), was sitting with his costume. A few desks away, a fox was coding. I thought that things couldn’t get any more hilarious. As if to prove me wrong, I saw all hell break loose in our office: Freddy Krueger, Jason, and a lot more of the everyday villains that haunted you were walking among us.

Where were you before joining Groupon?

I was born and raised in Sri Lanka. I graduated an Electrical Engineering major, completed CFA Level 3,  and worked for Unilever’s supply chain for four years. Then, I came to Kellogg to get my MBA. This was the first time I lived outside of Sri Lanka. Last summer, I was the product manager for a drone company. Now I am here!

So tell us about your job. What do you do? What do you love about it?

I am the Product Manager for Supply Intelligence. My product—an AI platform—brings in the best supply/merchants into Groupon. I think of it as GIA (Groupon’s Intelligence Agency – like CIA). Think of it as an ‘agent’ going out and looking at all the available merchants in the market, and gathering intel about which merchant would maximize Groupon’s value in the future ⇒ repeat. I love the fact that this is at the cutting edge of technology, and that I get to impact the entire Groupon, both North American and international as well. (This is the intimidating component as well!)

Where can we find you outside of work?

I am on okay cook (Sri Lankan and South Indian cuisines) and an excellent eater. I have won eating competitions (26 pieces of pizza in one instance). I used to play rugby and chess for school/college. I am a singer and a disaster of a dancer. Currently looking for friends who might go to fighting classes, dancing (you’ve already been warned), or climbing with me.

Tell us something about you that might surprise us.

I eat a lot of sweets. One of our team members brought in a bag full of candies that were too much even for his kid (remember, this was right after Halloween, so the bag was really big). I have been constantly eating away all those candies, alone – without the slightest hint of guilt.

I always believed that with the agile methodology things would be fast paced, but at Groupon, I have seen some of the ideas go from concept to implementation within a few sprints.

Tell us about your first impressions of Groupon.

My first interactions with Groupon were with the recruiter, an alum, and the hiring manager. I got the sense that Groupon had a very open and inclusive culture because all of these folks focused on genuinely listening to my story and understanding what I wanted to do. I also felt that Groupon focused more on potential when it came to recruiting, rather than experience (slope vs intersection argument: Groupon hires more so for the slope). This means that not only does Groupon benefit from its employees, but it also has a keen interest in investing in their skills and career development.

What do your parents think you do?

They still can’t wrap their head around the fact that a tech laggard like me is handling a product that involves a lot of AI. “So your product has something to do with AI right? And you still take notes on paper? Son, you’re like from the stone age.”

What’s unique about Groupon’s Engineering culture?

How collaborative and organized the team is. In my team, I could find a textbook example of the Agile process, and every aspect of it. We have an excellent scrum master who works on the finer details of the agile process and drives it like a religion. I remember the entire team instinctively getting up and gathering around his table at 10:30 for the daily stand…even on Mondays, the only day of the week we don’t have that meeting. As the book, “Scrum”, says, he is driving the agile methodology into our bloodstream, as a way of work that would come naturally to us.

What about the Product culture?

Despite being a large organization, I can directly see how my product impacts the business. I have responsibilities that create a meaningful impact on the entire business. This also means that I should be extremely careful about the changes I make to the product given the level of impact it has on Groupon.

What has been surprising about working at Groupon? Or what would surprise candidates to find out?

Surprising to me: How fast-paced things work. I always believed that with the agile methodology things would be fast paced, but at Groupon, I have seen some of the ideas go from concept to implementation within a few sprints.

For external folks: Work hard, play hard culture. I’ve been at Groupon for a few months and already have been with various teams to dinners, improv shows, breweries, and even rock climbing. It is great to see that the teams truly enjoy being together whether at work or outside of work!

What’s your favorite view from the office?

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

My platform brings in the local commerce to the sales reps. Very direct connection.

What are your favorite local businesses?

Horror houses. I visited one and learned that Groupon has a big impact on the incoming traffic to the industry during the Halloween season.

What do you love about your team’s Software Development process?

How well defined the user stories are and how articulate the engineers are about the user stories. The dev team has a good ‘big picture view’ of how some of the changes might have downstream and upstream impact on the business. This makes it easy for me to connect the dev process with the other parts of the business and the respective stakeholders.

One of our software developers created a presentation which illustrated our process end to end. I use it all the time when I present to others about my product and process. Not only was it easy to understand, it was also quite comprehensive. Furthermore, we have a platform called Flux for our machine-learning models. As you might have already figured out, it’s a very hard concept to grasp. The engineer in charge of that explained it to me in such a manner that I could well understand what it meant for my product and for Groupon in general.

We have another engineer who has an amazing curiosity to learn. He makes sure to ask questions to hammer out the details. He sweats the details in meetings and finally when the products are built, there is no question as to any of the nuances being overlooked. I believe that this ability to articulate so well and curiosity, are key ingredients to a successful process.

John Stokvis – Technical Product Manager

John Stokvis – Technical Product Manager

JOHN STOKVIS

Technical Product Manager
Chicago, IL
Joined: 2011

What’s your favorite conference room?

Vim or emacs?

It’s not every day you get to interview a Product Manager whose secret talent is being able to balance 3 chairs on their chin…because they were once a circus performer. Talk about making big career moves!

What’s your favorite Groupon memory?

My favorite Groupon memory isn’t something big or grand. It was actually a small act, but it’s resonated with me ever since. It exemplifies what I think is special about Groupon and is the source of a lot of our success. Around 2013, I was working as an analyst building dashboards. Unprompted, a more senior employee gathered a group together (analysts and non-analysts) for a tutorial on SQL. He created a whole powerpoint presentation and walked us through concepts and small tricks he had picked up. He even scheduled several follow-ups with the group and was always available to answer questions and learn tricks. He wasn’t even on the same team as I was, but saw an opportunity to help us all improve. He’s no longer at Groupon, but I constantly think back to what he did for me. I try to keep that part of the culture alive. Supporting your teammates and making each other look good is pervasive at Groupon. It’s what I love most about working here.

So before joining Groupon you were…

An actor and circus performer. I did some theater and circus around town, as well as the occasional temp job. An actor in one of the shows I was in helped me get a job in customer service and I’ve been here ever since.

If you can remember back to 2011…what was your first impression of Groupon?

I remember it flashing across my consciousness before I started working here. It was this super cool way to get a great deal with your friends. And it just showed up in your email inbox! It’s been crazy to see where we’ve come from there.

You have an interesting career path here…tell us about it!

I started as a front-line Customer Service Rep, helping folks find their Groupons, cancel purchases, and solve issues with merchants. We had a ping-pong table in the office and there were about 10 of us who got pretty good. We all started talking about who was the best and on my breaks, I built a spreadsheet in Google Docs to figure it out (I Googled a bunch of formulas and read about the ELO ranking system – the same one that Nate Silver uses a lot on FiveThirtyEight). Then I got people to enter the results of their matches to determine who was the champion (hint: it wasn’t me). About a year in, there was a special project to use predictive analytics to predict which deals would be likely to have lots of refunds. Because of the ping pong spreadsheet, they gave me a shot and I loved it! I learned all about SQL and analytics, ended up joining the fledgling Risk Management team as their first analyst (there were 4 of us at the time, now it’s a global department!).

From there I moved to Global Operations to help build dashboards and analytics for our efforts to take Groupon’s global footprint and streamline it; at that time, we were operating in almost 50 countries, sometimes it seemed like 50 different companies, all called “Groupon.” After that, I learned about Product and moved over here. I worked on our backend merchant database for about a year and half. When Groupon acquired LivingSocial in late 2016, I joined the small core team to lead the Product effort to rebuild LivingSocial on Groupon’s infrastructure. We launched our MVP in June 2017, and I’ve been working on improving LivingSocial and the multi-brand platform ever since!

What do your parents think you do?

I asked my parents and they got it pretty spot on. My theater friends always give me blank stares when I tell them I’m a PM. So I just tell them I’m like the director and the developers are like the actors – they’re real stars. I just put myself in the mind of the audience (the customer) and point the engineers in the right direction. Then my metaphor breaks down and they nod and change the subject.

What’s unique about Groupon’s Engineering culture?

We’re scrappy. A lot of people forget that Groupon’s origin was as a hack on top of The Point, which was like a proto-Kickstarter. The very first Groupon was a deal for 2 pizzas for the price of 1 at the bar downstairs at our office, but people could only get it if enough people “pledged” to buy it. That sense of “let’s try this and see if it works” and then iterating on that is part of our DNA.

The local commerce or online-to-offline (or whatever the kids are calling it these days) is really tricky. What works for one kind of business doesn’t work for others. Everyone in Product and Engineering is game to try new things, then take the feedback from customers and merchants and learn from it. I think that’s one of the main reasons Groupon has stuck around while others haven’t. Even large companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook have tried to get into this space and haven’t been able to crack it.

Ready to launch awesome products?

And more specific to you, what’s unique about Product Management at Groupon?

The collaboration. A lot of people think of PMs as “mini-CEOs” and some companies have PM cultures that are cut-throat and every-PM-for-her/himself. At Groupon we’re constantly sharing thoughts, partnering with each other on projects, and bouncing ideas off each other. Not all PMs come from a product background. Some do, but many come from Customer Service, Sales, Account Management. There’s a variety of experiences and backgrounds that we collectively draw from and a lot of cross-pollination.

What’s your favorite programming language?

Ruby on Rails. Because it sounds like the name of a small town in northern England.

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

That would be the project to rebuild LivingSocial on the Groupon platform, what we referred to internally as “Project Gemini.” Looking back, it was a truly massive undertaking. We were modifying everything, from backend to frontend, how customer service took incoming calls to how we processed payments. It touched five different departments, impacted more 300 different individuals directly, had more than 60 different workstreams. The core team that I was a part of had to not only keep track of all this action but see how the decisions we made in one place would affect things somewhere else and make the right call. It was super challenging and when we ultimately finished our MVP and cutover from old to new LivingSocial and the 6 months of work that everyone did finally pay off, it was an amazing payoff. Someone even brought a “cutover cake” that we ate at 3 am with some champagne. And that was just the MVP – getting us to the starting line!

Tell us about what your job entails and what you love about what you do.

I’m the Product Manager for LivingSocial, so I focus on the modifying and adapting the Groupon platform for the LivingSocial brand. I work closely with our Engineering, Operations, and Marketing teams to make sure the customer experience is as great as it can be.

My favorite part of the role is simply the breadth that I get to be responsible for. Most teams have a specific area they focus on (the deal page, redemption, or a single vertical like Goods or Things To Do). With LivingSocial, the team gets our hands in every part of the site. This means we often have to work together with other teams to come up with solutions. Every day I get to solve a huge variety of interesting problems, so it’s never boring. LivingSocial is the first time Groupon has tried to run a second brand on the platform, we get to tackle all sorts of new problems that the company has never had to solve before. On top of it all, I’m getting a big picture sense of how the whole system works, I get to see all the connections, which is super cool.

Tell us something about you that might surprise us.

I can balance three chairs on my chin.

What is your favorite part of your team’s software development process?

Our retros. We really dive into the task of constantly optimizing our process. Talking about what worked and what didn’t. Why issues happened and what we can do to avoid them in the future. We try to keep a sense of psychological safety so we can be honest with each other.

Show us your favorite view from the Chicago office!

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

With two brands in the portfolio now, my job is to think about what LivingSocial customers are looking for when they visit the site and help them find it. Groupon and LivingSocial were competitors for most their existence but now they can work together to help customers explore the amazing things to do and see in their neighborhoods.

Tabs or spaces?

Tabs all day long.

What’s your favorite local business?

Antica Pizzeria in Andersonville. Amazing Sicilian pizza (thin crust, not “Chicago style”) fresh out of a brick oven. The best crust in the city. My favorite one is arugula, pistachio, and speck (kind of like prosciutto) and a drizzle of olive oil. It’s delicious!

What keeps you busy outside of work?

I do the occasional on-camera acting gig. My wife is an actor and I’ve still got friends in the Chicago theater scene, so I get to see a lot of really interesting theater. Chicago’s also a great biking city so I try to bike to work as much as I can (it also helps feed my podcast obsession). I love to bake (my favorite is sourdough bread) and we keep chickens in our backyard so we get fresh eggs (no, we won’t eat them and yes, they’re fine with the Chicago winters). Fresh eggs and toast definitely make breakfast my favorite meal of the day.

Andrew Lisy – Director of Product, Marketplace

Andrew Lisy – Director of Product, Marketplace

ANDREW LISY

Director of Product – Marketplace Team
Chicago, IL
Joined: 2014

From bond trading on Wall Street to e-commerce in Chicago, Andrew has taken his high-stakes modeling experience to the more local-focused (and probably slightly less stressful) environment of Groupon.

Tell us about what you do! What do you love about it?

I lead our marketplace teams, which comprise everything related to supply and pricing. In the supply world, we split it into two groups — Supply Intelligence (SI) and Scalable Supply (SS). The SI role is really fun because it’s heavily driven by machine learning models and decision science. I used to be a Wall Street bond trader, so a lot of the mechanics that go into determining the best merchants to bring onto Groupon’s platform are very, very similar to the models I used to use to pick the best stocks and bonds to trade as a trader. On the scalable supply side, I get very involved in partnerships with a variety of companies that do really cool stuff in the local space. We work with these companies to list their inventory on our platform. Finally, pricing is really fun for a lot of reasons — there’s the fun/academic/nerdy/trader/financial side of building out elasticity models, the immediate gratification of seeing our work appear on the front page of the site, and the thrill of working with an amazing engineering and data science team.

What do your parents think you do?

Me texting my mom: “What do you think I do for work”

Mom: “Big data? Head of all data? Analyzes data? Did you get a sitter for Friday?”

So what’s unique about being a Product Manager at Groupon?

More than anywhere else I’ve worked, being a PM at Groupon means ownership. PMs really own their areas and are ultimately responsible for the success or failure of their product(s). It’s an incredible feeling — every day, I come in and influence a big part of a major e-commerce site with tens of millions of users.

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

Incredibly tightly! In order to create a daily habit, we have to have amazing supply and incredible prices. The work I do every day ensures that the merchants we’re bringing onto Groupon are the best ones to engage and delight our customers when they pull the app out of their pocket. If I do my job well, Groupon becomes an indispensable place to check every day to find great merchants around your area.

In order to create a daily habit, we have to have amazing supply and incredible prices. The work I do every day ensures that the merchants we’re bringing onto Groupon are the best ones to engage and delight our customers when they pull the app out of their pocket.

What’s your favorite Groupon memory?

When we launched card linked offers (CLO), we got a group of product managers in Chicago to go bar hopping to 3 or 4 bars that were in CLO. It was grueling work, and we were all in pretty rough shape after several hours of exhaustive product testing (and testing. and more testing). We try to do this sort of thing every time we launch something new. It’s a really fun way to “eat our own dogfood” and have a great time with co-workers.

Where were you before joining Groupon?

I was a trader — I traded convertible bonds at Merrill Lynch, options at a hedge fund, and then worked in strategy at a high-frequency trading firm. I loved the excitement of the markets, but something really clicked when I started building my own trading platforms for me and my trading group to use. One day, I work up and realized that building the platforms was what really thrilled me, and the trading part was just incidental. At that moment, I decided that I wanted to move to Product.

Smart people doing interesting work

 

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

I started as a Senior Product Manager on a product called Quantum Lead (QL). QL was (and is) a very data intensive program and tightly connected with our sales org, so I spent a lot of time with our data science teams and sales teams. After working on that for a while, another fairly quantitative role opened up leading our pricing team, and my experience was a good fit to take that on as well. We’re always looking to give people new challenges and opportunities, and it was a really fun space to dive into.

Where can we find you outside of work?

I like making stuff, toys, and eating. Cooking satisfies all three of these interests, so I’m really into making delicious food. I’ve also been getting into woodworking lately because it’s fun to come home from a long day of making code and jump into making physical stuff out of wood. I like making cutting boards because they’re fairly complicated to make but also can come out looking really nice. Finally, I like photography, so I document both of these hobbies on some small personal blogs I keep around.

And lastly, Vim or Emacs?

nano (/nerdcred). I used to be a pretty heavy emacs user but basically lost all of that muscle memory.