Erik – Android Engineer

Erik – Android Engineer


Android Engineer
Palo Alto, CA
Joined: 2015

This Engineer keeps himself and Groupon’s top-rated Android app running. We wonder who would win in a race, though? 🤔

What’s your favorite Groupon memory?

My favorite Groupon memory was when part of my team went to New York for an Android conference. Everyone attended the conference and stayed on Wall Street right near the water. The view from Battery Park was amazing, and staying in the city for multiple days reminded me of home! One night the entire group of us went to Koreatown and had food and drinks at a very trendy rooftop restaurant! To round off the trip I re-explored Chelsea with a few of my co-worker grabbing some awesome food and visiting old friends.

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

I first joined Groupon as a level 2 Android Engineer on the Search team. I was mentored by the Android team to learn and get to where I am now. I was lucky enough to have motivated, bright mentors and managers who wanted me to succeed.

What do your parents think you do?

They think I’m a barista at Starbucks.

What’s unique about Groupon’s Engineering culture?

Groupon Engineering teams encourage engineers to learn new technologies, seek out answers, and take the time to find the correct implementation. Unlike many other engineering organizations, Groupon Engineering always prioritizes team knowledge, mentorship, and public speaking opportunities or sharing of ideas.

“Unlike many other engineering organizations, Groupon Engineering always prioritizes team knowledge, mentorship, and public speaking opportunities or sharing of ideas.”

What’s your favorite language?

Kotlin: simple, easy to pick up, trendy.

Tell us something that might surprise us about you.

I’ve been running and competing in track and field events for over 10 years. I started running seriously in the beginning of high school while on the summer track and cross country team. Recently I completed the San Francisco half marathon in 1:27:00, coming in 3rd place in my age group. This was one of the most scenic runs I have ever done, it was truly exhilarating running over the Golden Gate! While in college I was part of the Triathlon team. I still remember the first tri I ever competed in. Standing at 4:00am with steam coming off the lake and looking at the 800m swim in the pond almost made we want to turn and run, however I’m proud to say I was able to complete the swim, bike, and run and was even featured in the local paper with my team. I love to run in my current hometown of Redwood City, from downtown all the way to the top of Eaton Park! Overall running and athletics have a huge impact on who I am!

On that note, we can venture a guess of what other job you’d want to have for a day if you could pick….

I would like to be a personal trainer. I have even considered doing this in the past as I love teaching others and general fitness/health topics.

Who inspires you?

Those who have come from nothing, mastered their craft, and then have helped others truly inspire me. Warren Buffet and Scott Adams are my two biggest inspirations due to their love of their craft and need to help others! I strive to teach and help others in my everyday life just as they do!

Give us a glimpse of your work space!

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

I love that my team takes the time to make sure new code which will be added not only works properly, but does not detrimentally impact performance, follows our style guide, and works on all devices/OS levels. These extra precautions make for a relatively crash-free, solid application.

Vim or emacs?

Vim, because emacs bothers me.


Groupon World Headquarters

Duncan: Engineering Intern and Pokeman Master

Duncan: Engineering Intern and Pokeman Master

Who are you?

Hey, I’m Duncan Deutsch! I’m 20 years old, and I study computer science at the University of Washington. In the fall, I’ll be heading into my final year there and entering the real world this coming spring. I’ve lived around the Seattle area my whole life, but I’m spending this summer at Groupon’s Palo Alto office.

What have you been working on?

I’m working on the Android team, which is subdivided into a few different areas of focus. Specifically, I work on the Groupon to Go (GTG) team, bringing Groupon’s up-and-coming food delivery and takeout service into the mobile application. At the start of my second week here, I received my first feature assignment! I was asked to assist with creating brand new restaurant cards within GTG that would bring them in with the deal cards present throughout the rest of the app. Working on this feature was extraordinary because it was labeled as our high priority feature for the next release, so I really got to feel what it’s like to be a core developer on my team. Three weeks later, my feature was merged into the master branch of the codebase for release in our next update. Recently, I’ve been working on improvements leading up to the release of our native checkout experience, and shortly we’ll be transitioning to more new feature work (which I probably shouldn’t disclose 😉).

What is your favorite part of working here?

I don’t feel like an intern at Groupon. In fact, I’m already preparing myself for the trauma of leaving my team at the end of the summer because I feel so integrated into my role here. Do 8:30 AM stand-ups sound fun to you? Probably not. They don’t sound fun to me either… yet I truly enjoy them. There is a real sense of camaraderie among our team, and it’s always nice to see everyone face to face (physically or via telepresence). Students going through the internship recruitment process know to take it with a grain of salt when a company proclaims “We don’t have ‘intern projects’ here. Here at [said company] you’ll be working on important features for our product.” Every company wants to promise you this and few mean it. At Groupon, they meant it. I get to work with my team on bugs, improvements, and features just like any other permanent employee here.

What do you think you’ll gain from this internship?

Besides the weight I’ll gain from grabbing snacks every time I’m waiting for a build to complete, I’m gaining so much experience in areas I did not expect. Obviously, I’m learning a ton about Android programming. Beyond that, this internship has given me the chance to work with so many tools, libraries, and design patterns I hadn’t been exposed to before. It’s amazing how foreign Java code can become when you throw RoboGuice, Butter Knife, Dart & Henson, Jackson, Glide, and RxJava into the mix (just to name a few). The learning process of an internship is akin to learning a language through immersion. Internships are fast, immersive, and effective at training you to be comfortable with a colorful variety of key industry practices. On the non-technical side, I’ve also been exposed to the application development process from start to finish for an app with 50-100 million installs! Being a part of this process and getting to take a look from the inside is probably the most invaluable knowledge I’ll secure from this internship.

What has your biggest challenge been so far?

The challenges I’ve faced this summer have definitely not been in the areas I expected to find them. Without any previous Android experience, I anticipated being constantly lost. It turns out that learning to program for Android is intriguing, natural, and refreshing. The challenges that I’ve faced have instead centered around becoming one with the various tools and practices that are an integral part of the workflow here. The first week I arrived, I constantly felt clueless. I forgot everyone’s names within seconds. I asked myself: What are these strange words and acronyms I keep hearing? What button do I press to do that thing you said? How do I test this code without buying an actual Groupon? WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH ALL THESE QUESTIONS THAT STACKOVERFLOW CAN’T ANSWER? I could go on for an uncomfortably long amount of time, but I’ll spare you the war flashbacks. It is really important to have faith in yourself and know that it gets better. With some dedication and willingness to constantly be asking, observing, listening, and improving, it doesn’t take long to get comfortable. It especially helps when you have amazing mentors on your team to constantly bother with your questions.  (Shout out to David Luu, Carlos Rubio, and Cody Henthorne!)

Most memorable experience so far?

I can not foresee how far in the future one may be reading this post, so I’ll preface this anecdote by saying that this past month we experienced the birth of Pokémon Go. For a few weeks, lunch with the Android team effectively became Pokémon Go hour. A couple of times, we actually went on field trips to take over a nearby gym together. Spend a moment picturing ten or so adult software engineers mobbing their way down the street to battle Pokémon (#SQUADGOALS). Another memorable experience for me was the time that I accidentally ordered Groupon to Go delivery from a pizzeria in Chicago, but let’s not talk about that one…

And finally… what drew you to Groupon?

Beyond just being a fan of the product, I can honestly say that what made the difference was the zeal of the recruiting staff. When you are waiting 2-3 business days for Company X’s recruiter to respond to a small clarifying question, then an email pops up from your Groupon recruiter within a few hours of inquiry at 11:19 PM, you realize just how passionate about their jobs these people are. From your first day here, they only continue to work hard to make sure you have the best experience possible in your internship. I am so happy that I came to Groupon because every day I feel excited to enter the office, and I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.

What’s it like to send a camera into space? Mike Burton explains.

What’s it like to send a camera into space? Mike Burton explains.

Today, we continue our conversation with Mike, our Director of Mobile Engineering in Palo Alto. Click here to read the first part of Mike’s story! (But remember to come back for the second part. It’s worth the clicks.)

Can you explain some of the key differences between working on mobile for Android v. iOS? 

There are definitely some differences (also a lot of similarities). At a high level, there are a lot of devices on Android so there are many more screen sizes you have to design for. On iOS there are only about 10 to 20 devices, whereas on Android you have hundreds or thousands. Android is more open, so it lets you experiment and do new things that you can’t always do on iOS. For example, we have a lot more control over Bluetooth LTE on Android, so we can experiment with things like Bluetooth Beacons in a way that is a little bit harder to do on the iOS side.  On the flip side, it’s a lot easier to shoot yourself (and your customers) in the foot with Android.

You oversee both Android and iOS teams – are they mortal enemies? 

Only when we play trampoline dodgeball. [Apparently this is a real thing. –ed.]

What initially motivated you to write “Android App Dev for Dummies”? 

I wrote the RoboGuice library and a bunch of companies started picking it up. So I started doing the talk-circuit—going to different conferences presenting on RoboGuice and Android topics—and through there I met people who put me in touch with the publisher.

What has kept you at Groupon and what’s exciting about the future of mobile tech at Groupon? 

Part of it is a personal thing for me. There have been a lot of opportunities for me here at Groupon. I went from being an individual contributor and writing the first Android app from scratch to leading the Android team, and now I’m running Mobile Engineering. From a career perspective, it has been one set of new and exciting challenges after another.

I’m also really excited about the Groupon vision. I like the idea of providing local businesses the same kind of tools to sell things that an online company would have. If you’re selling something online, you’ve got all these SEO, SEM, and advertising tools that give you insight into who your customers are and how to find more of them.  I was recently on a panel for a Meetup about mobile marketing, and it’s amazing the sets of tools you have when you want to market something to people online.

But if you’re a mom and pop shop or a small brick and mortar chain, you don’t have a lot of options for measuring the success of your advertising. You can try putting something in the paper and maybe you get more foot traffic the next day… but who really knows how to measure that? So the vision of Groupon and giving these local businesses the tools to figure out who their customers, how to reach more customers, and drive repeat business to their companies is really exciting to me.

How does Groupon tap the outer space marketplace? 

It’s an exciting time for the space industry! I went to see the last Space Shuttle launch a few years ago, and it’s been fascinating to watch NASA transition from being very big and bureaucratic to having a startup mentality with a lot of different companies partnering up. I would love to see Groupon get into more space-related deals. I would be first in line for a 50% off deal to Mars!

You can read more about Mike’s book Android App Development for Dummies on Groupon’s Engineering Blog!

Thanks for reading the People Blog—a blog about people at Groupon. If you would like to help launch Groupon into space, or just work on our Mobile team for now, click here to view our open opportunities.

Tech Spotlight: Mike Burton in Mobile Engineering Pt. I

Tech Spotlight: Mike Burton in Mobile Engineering Pt. I

Today we get to know Mike, Director of Mobile Engineering in Palo Alto, who has published a book, launched a digital camera into space, and participated in trampoline dodgeball. (Not all at once, however.)

Name: Mike
Title: Director of Mobile Engineering
Start Date: May 2010

From NASA to Groupon: describe your tech journey in 1 sentence:

(Laughter ensues) In one word, it’s been exciting.

What are some similarities between the aerospace industry and Groupon? 

I worked with Dr. Sally Ride on a NASA project to put a camera on the Space Shuttle.  Now the camera is on the International Space Station, but back then it was on the Space Shuttle.  We were enabling kids in elementary schools around the world to take photographs of the Earth from space. It was awesome – I was there for several years and it was a huge character building experience for me and gave me a lot of exposure on how to get things done in a real team. It was very different from what I’m doing now, but many of the skills I learned are the same. Now is more of a career, NASA was more of a “holy crap – I get to work with NASA and Dr. Sally Ride putting things on a space shuttle – this is amazing.”

What were the biggest takeaways doing the NASA project?

That was the first time that I was really on the hook for something. I ran the software team on that project and I got to fly out to Mission Control in Houston to be there during one of the shuttle launches. The takeaway from that was how to build teams and inspire them to do cool things instead of trying to do it all yourself, because no one person can do everything themselves.

Did you ever think about sneaking in and switching places with the camera and going into outer space yourself? 

I was never small enough to fit into anyone’s luggage.  There were so many rules and regulations – just the outline for what the mission was going to do was a 3-inch binder of paper printed front and back. It was completely planned out down to the minute – I wasn’t about to be the first stowaway to get caught.

Can you explain RoboGuice in layman’s terms? (pronounced robo-juice

Bottom line: it’s an open-source dependency injection framework used by Microsoft, Starbucks, Nike, and others. Imagine that you’re building a building. In that building you have things like plumbing and electrical circuits. But what happens if you want to change all of your pipes from lead to plastic? That’s a really expensive and hard thing to do. Dependency injection lets you change the things that are embedded throughout your code, like the “pipes” and “electrical circuits” of a building, by injecting new versions without having to rewrite your whole app.

Continue on to part 2 of Mike’s interview or read more about Mike’s work on our Engineering Blog.

Thanks for reading the People Blog—a blog about people at Groupon. If you would like to help launch Groupon into space, or just work on our Mobile team for now, click here to view our open opportunities.