Going Green, Groupon Style

at June 28th, 2012

Editorial intern Leora Sherman spoke with Brett Marlow and Licia Sahagun, co-founders of Groupon’s Green Committee, to get the inside scoop on the team’s greenifying efforts.

When Brett Marlow began working for Groupon’s Editorial department nearly two years ago, he noticed a worrisome trend throughout the 600 West Chicago office.

“What bugged me was that we had Styrofoam cups – a lot of them. It was so wasteful.”

So, Brett decided to take matters into his own hands. Feeling determined, he sent an email directly to Andrew Mason, the CEO, suggesting that the company consider swapping the Styrofoam for a more eco-friendly substitute. To his delight, Brett’s message was well received and all Styrofoam cups were replaced with paper ones.

After inspiring this change, Brett partnered with co-worker Licia Sahagun to found the Groupon Green Committee last August. With over 30 current members, the pair established the committee “to greenify our workspace and inspire others to make changes in their work and personal lives.”

The committee started a mug drive that’s available on each floor and enables employees to swap, donate, and buy mugs as a substitute for paper cups. Other successful initiatives include a pilot composting program, an entirely electronic and paperless HR department, and a host of volunteer-based events during Earth Week this past April.

Interested in learning more about Groupon’s Green Committee or want to get involved? Email greencommittee@groupon.com.

What’s for Lunch?

at June 26th, 2012

We’ve started going up to people and taking pictures of their lunch.

This is what they’re eating.

“Vegetable gyoza from Trader Joe’s with edamame.” – Danielle, Voice Editor

“A delicious taco salad from Burrito Beach.” – Krista, Details Writer


Going the Write Way: Groupon and 826CHI

at June 25th, 2012

Groupon’s writers and editors use their work for the greater good by volunteering with 826CHI, a program that holds workshops and one-on-one tutoring for children ages 6-18.  Editorial intern Mollie Olsem gets the scoop.


When Voice Editor Jill Klosterman bids adieu to her desk in the Groupon offices, she hasn’t taken off her writing hat yet.  She is one of the many Groupon employees who spend time volunteering with 826CHI, a non-profit writing and tutoring program for kids in grade school.

Groupon’s relationship with the organization began when a couple employees started volunteering on their own and brought 826CHI’s attention to the caliber of the writers and editors on staff.  After recruiting a few more of Chicago’s best on to the team, editor Brandon Copple and 826CHI’s outreach director Patrick Shaffner solidified the partnership.

Since then, they’ve held several 3-week workshop series along with single-session workshops helping children find their own voice in their writing.  They’ve even hosted some Groupon-inspired activities, like working on mock write-ups and holding mock-press conferences.  “It was hilarious,” Jill said, “And it helped kids gain practical skills for developing and asking strong interview questions.

Before joining the Groupon family, Jill was a schoolteacher on the south side of Chicago, so she was excited about sharing her writing talents with the kids.  “When Brandon invited me to plan a workshop series, I basically did cartwheels around the office” Jill said.  After working a full day of writing, editing, and managing, she loves to see her coworkers spending more time out of the office doing the same, but in a different way.  With 826CHI, Groupon employees get to impart their writing knowledge with the youth of Chicago and help them explore their own skills.

“It’s just so life-giving,” She adds.  “If anyone needs a morale boost, I’d recommend signing up for a session!”


Grouponiversity Week 3: Alex and Pam and a helmet.

at June 22nd, 2012


Name: Alex

School: Harvard Business School

Wait, so you got a project from our CEO already?
Yeah. I was fortunate to grab the lucky elevator after one of our weekly Town Halls.  Andrew unexpectedly joined me and several other interns for the ride down.  While descending six floors the conversation went something like this:

Andrew – “I knew just about everyone else here, who are you guys?”
Me – “We are your Interns, Summer Associates, or whatever you want to call us”
Andrew – “What are you working on?”
Me – “Working in Business Development with Sean Smyth on a few projects”
Andrew – “I think that I have a project for you”
[Elevator door opens and drops us in the lobby of 303 where Andrew spends about five minutes laying out the specifics]
Andrew – “Got it? Can you handle it?”
Me – “No problem”

The much anticipated meeting happened Wednesday morning and I presented the first part of what is hoped to be a game-changing opportunity for Groupon.

“Moral of the story, never take the stairs.”

What else are you doing?
I am working as part of the business development team, specifically with a power-house duo, looking at how to drive merchant value in new ways.

What else was cool about this week?
Mastering bacon-wrapped dates has been a life-long dream of mine and finally got the opportunity on Tuesday. To build a bit of perspective the interns were treated to a night of decompressing, cooking, and networking at Cooking Fools.    Each of us learned how to cook a seemingly simple dish (Firecracker shrimp, Thai meat rolls, gourmet pizza’s, etc.) that, when put together, were a symphony of tasty finger foods.  The bacon wrapped dates may have stole the show.  We were not disappointed, it was a great evening!

Anything else?
I’m impressed at the speed and agility of Groupon.   It’s an exciting environment to be a part of and gives you the feeling that you are always behind, which acts as an extra boost of motivation.  Here’s to hoping that the presentation on Wednesday leads to others and that the Buffalo Bills can break their playoff drought this season.  Go Bills!



Name: Pam

School: Colgate University

What are you doing? I am working with the Grassroots team, which runs all of the philanthropic “do-gooder” deals. I have a few projects in the works right now, and I am particularly excited about one of them; it is my job to organize an intern volunteer weekend, during which all interested interns can volunteer at both The Greater Chicago Food Depository and PAWS Chicago. It should be a great weekend, and I am so excited to be putting it together.

What’s a typical day like? THERE IS NO TYPICAL DAY. This is my fourth week here, and I can honestly say that no two weeks have been the same. Between team-building retreat days, meetings with other people in the Marketing & PR departments, and post-campaign reporting “field trips,” my time at Groupon has been interesting… and definitely not monotonous.

What are you looking forward to? Lunch-and-learns with the heads of various departments within Groupon… including one with Andrew Mason!

What is cool so far? My first week, I went with my manager, Kyle, to a Chicago nature reserve in order to observe a Friends of the Park’s “Nature Along the Lake” teaching session. The session was funded by the donations of Groupon subscribers, and I was able to see the impact first hand. I even got to write a post-campaign blog post about the experience.

Anything else? I enjoy coming to work every day, and I think a lot of the has to do with the Groupon environment. Groupon expects a lot of its interns, and we all learn a lot as a result (but we are also expected to have fun)! There are several intern-only events planned throughout the summer, including a boat tour and a Cubs game at Wrigley Field.

What are you doing?

at June 21st, 2012

We’ve started going up to people and taking pictures and asking, “what are you doing”?

This is what they were doing.

“I’m working on our ZenDesk. We just added IT Russia. I received translated versions of automated replies to tickets, and I’m putting them in for the Russian team.” – Kelly, Desktop Support Analyst


“Right now I’m creating a label for a shipment and tracking shipments in and out of Groupon.” – Jackie, Front Desk Coordinator

Desk of the Week: sticky notes, anyone?

at June 18th, 2012

This week’s Desk of the Week was submitted by one of our salespeople after she saw last week’s entry.

  • This was done to a fellow salesperson that they like to call “Brown Bear”
  • Brown bears like yellow paper more than honey
  • The entire project used about 2,000 sticky notes and took around 2 hours
  • Brown bear still has yet to find all of the notes, and is now “on guard 24/7”


Brown Bear could not be reached for comment

Grouponiversity Week 2: Chad and Caspar talk tech

at June 15th, 2012

(Caspar is the human)

Name: Caspar

School: Duke University MBA, Fuqua School of Business

Your first day was pretty crazy; tell us about it.

On day one, I attended the Product all-hands meeting in Palo Alto. Seeing both the Chicago and Palo Alto offices in my first 24 hours was awesome.  Being in both offices provided me with a high-level view of Groupon and its HUGE ambitions. During the all-hands meeting, we had the opportunity to meet and work with our counterparts, including the Berlin team, which was both fun and engaging. The best part of the trip was working on technology projects that will alter the way consumers interact with local commerce.  On another note, the Palo Alto office is sweet–snack stations, game room, lounge–enough said.

What are you doing?

I’m excited to be a part of the Merchant Center Products team!   During the summer, I will be defining the strategy for one of our new merchant tools. I will be working with both engineers and designers to develop a framework, outline the functionality and drive the development.

What is your perspective of Groupon as a tech company?

Groupon is a lot of things.  In addition to being a daily deals site, Groupon improves local commerce, has a great sales force, and is working on some of the most interesting technology problems today.  With the acquisition of Breadcrumb (a point of sale system), the roll-out of the Rewards Program and the development of in-house technologies, Groupon aims to change the way customers interact with local businesses. As a part of the products team, I am working on a number of features, which will improve merchant-customer interactions.  In my mind, Groupon is a technological company first.

Anything else?

At Groupon, everyone’s a valued member.  I have been given an incredible amount of ownership and leeway to make the tough calls.  If you have an entrepreneurial spirit and want to make an impact, Groupon is the place to be.

(Chad’s answers below in JSON)

Name“: “Chad”,
School“: “University of Waterloo”,
What are you doing?“: “I am a Software Engineering Intern working with the Deal Experience Team developing tools and conducting various A/B experiments that will help Groupon to better understand and bring value to its users. “,
What was cool about this week?“: “Our team met with Andrew Mason to discuss whether people will respond better upon seeing \”…a Groupon deal showing X versus Y .\” The result so far has been inconclusive, but I for one, am looking forward to finding out more.”,
What are you excited about?“: “Working with a top-notch engineering team on code that will have a huge impact on millions of Groupon users. Just wait ’till you guys see the work we’ve done on the new user-subscription flow!”,
Anything Else?“: “I’m also really excited about exploring the city with my co-workers and fellow interns. Everyone at Groupon is really laid-back and seriously fun to work and play with!”

Bike to Work Week Update: Day 4

at June 14th, 2012

Ladies and Gentlemen, Strap On Your Helmets

This week Chicago commuters strive to be healthy, safe, and all-around-outdoorsy with Bike To Work Week.  The “Active Transit Bike Commuter Challenge” is brought to life by the Active Transportation Alliance, a non-profit advocacy group that is working improve conditions for bikers, walkers, cartwheelers, and the like.

Groupon won the challenge last year and is competing this year against various businesses and organizations such as the City of Chicago Department of Transportation, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the American Medical Association. Groupon’s biggest threat right now looks to be The Field Museum,currently in first place.  Despite our higher numbers in mileage (a whopping 4300 going into the final day), we’re behind in percent participating and in second place.

Jennifer Staben, group leader of one of the 28 Groupon teams, is not concerned.  Her team hails from the Customer Service department, and she says Groupon can easily trump the Field Museum. “However if Trump Towers is doing it,” she adds, “I don’t know if we can trump them.”

Wordplay aside, the company is doing more than climbing the scoreboard.  Staben says that commuting by bike has been great, and she says she “usually find[s] other bikers commuting to work and secretly race[s] them in [her] head.”

Are you thinking about biking to work? Here’s why you should try it!

“Chicago has an abundance of bike paths and streets and is relatively bike-friendly.” – Calvin,  Quality Assurance Editor

“I bike. Everywhere. The best thing about biking in Chicago is flying past gridlock.” – Brad, Marketing Designer

“Why not?” – Nicole, Account Executive

Lake Shore Drive is always a nice way to start the day.  I like looking at all those random lighthouses.  Have you seen the front of that Cloud Nothings album, Attack On Memory?  The lighthouses remind me of that.”  – Dan, Editorial Recruiter/Voice Editor

Groupicnic 2012: A Summer Outing

at June 14th, 2012

International news highlights from this past weekend included the flight of the world’s first zeppelin and the annual Chicago Groupicnic.  Editorial Interns Kevin Kapolnek and Leora Sherman chatted with recruiting coordinator Nicole Paripurana, one of this year’s picnickers, to get the inside scoop.

So what was this Groupicnic all about, anyway?

The Groupicnic is held annually on the UIC campus. There was kind of a Hawaiian theme and we handed out leis. Lots of employees brought along spouses and family members.  The weather was gorgeous; we couldn’t have asked for a nicer day!

Was there entertainment?

Yes – we had a band playing covers and people could go up and sing karaoke. There was also plenty of free food and drink, and people played beach volleyball. There was also a bungee apparatus that the kids had fun playing on.

How did the idea for a Groupicnic come about?

We’ve had them the last 3 years, and they are always a huge success.  Even though Groupon is a pretty chill place to work, office jobs can still be stressful.  The picnic is a great way for coworkers to get together, enjoy the summer weather and unwind from work.

What were some funny or memorable moments?

It was fun seeing the IT team playing games with as much focus as they use when fixing computers. They were pretty good.

Job Hunting tips for Generation Y (and pretty much everyone else)

at June 11th, 2012

Recently one of our recruiters, Lindsay, was interviewed by Kyle Lagunas for the Software Advice blog on various job hunting tips for the new workforce. We’ve included a few excerpts below and you can read the entire article here.

“One thing we’ve always valued at Groupon is a sense of humility, an understanding that you just pull up your bootstraps and do it–and that’s made us very agile.”

Do engage prospective employers.

Social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter offer fantastic opportunities for you to build relationships with a prospective employer. Jump in anywhere. Search for industry forums or targeted Twitter chats, talk with people, ask questions–even if their company isn’t hiring. You may have more to talk about when you finally do land an interview, something many Gen Y-ers struggle with.

Whether in an interview, personal communications or an online forum, the key is to talk about yourself, not just the company or industry. What does Verstegen want to hear? “Talk to me about what you are looking for, and let’s talk about what this specific piece of the big puzzle is, what you could do here.”

Do find a mentor.

If you think mentorships are old school and not worth your time, think again. Having a mentor (or several) is a great way to gain the much-needed perspective of someone who’s been there, done that, and has something to show for it. A mentor can provide guardrails for your career path, and let you know when to hit the gas or slam on the brakes.

A lot of leaders aren’t asked to be mentors anymore, and unfortunately many companies no longer have formal mentoring programs. However, Verstegen says, “Leaders want their stories heard, and want to share their experiences.” It’s up to you to find them.

These are just a few of the many tips out there for job hunting. What advice do you have for Melinnials entering the workforce? If you are a new grad, what is working for you or what do you have questions about?