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’s your favorite conference room?

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.

Mike Erickson – Corporate Recruiter

Mike Erickson – Corporate Recruiter

MIKE ERICKSON

Corporate Recruiter
Chicago, IL
Joined: 2013

You won’t believe what this recruiter wants you to do on a phone screen.

What teams do you recruit for?

Sales in Chicago and Phoenix

What’s your advice for someone interested in applying at Groupon?

Be yourself and only apply to roles that you are most interested in.

Anything a candidate should know about how to work with you during the recruiting process?

Be prepared to tell me why you’re excited about the role: I love chatting with folks who have that enthusiasm for the position that they are applying for!

What qualities do the most successful sales reps have?

First and foremost, ya gotta WANT to be in sales. Sales is tough: you have to know why you want to be in a sales role in order to succeed. Whether you are money motivated or passionate about helping small businesses, that “why” has to be a clear motivator for you to keep pushing through those tough sales days. Once you have that, I find that the people who know how to nail that balance being coachable and being self-sufficient are our strongest sales reps. We have a great team of mentors and leaders here who know how to be successful, but at the same time, they won’t make your calls for you. Striking that balance is key for finding that success.

What’s the #1 thing you wish all candidates did?

Beatbox during phone screens.

What’s your proudest Groupon accomplishment?

Being a Sales Recruiter is usually a lot of crazy ups and downs in terms of volume. One of our craziest times was the opening of our sales office in Phoenix; everyone was all-hands-on-deck to get quality people in the office and making sales and it was all during the holiday season. We filled the office then and I continue to fill it today, now being the primary recruiter for the Phoenix office. I love that office a ton and I’m happy I get to interact with them on a daily basis!

Tell us more about the Phoenix office! What’s it like there?

The Phoenix office has such an infectious and positive energy to it. I’ve visited a handful of times recently, and as soon as you walk in the door it’s hard not to have a smile on your face. I will describe it as best as I can:

As you enter the office, you see the gleaming smile of our Sales Trainer, Jabril Baker, giving some solid sales advice while boppin’ to whatever jam is being played by Marlon Evans, one of the sales managers. I turn to my left and say “WAZZUP” to Kelly Light, the Site Director, and give Sam, the Phoenix HR Business Partner, a high five. I keep walkin’ past all the sales folks, giving as many finger guns as humanly possible, then make my way to the crown jewel of the office; the Coke Freestyle machine. I pour myself a refreshing beverage then head back to my makeshift desk space. As I’m about to start doing some work, my senses are absolutely overloaded with the fresh scent of the peanut-butter stuffed pretzels, the snack of snacks. I grab a handful and try to hold back happy tears. “This is paradise,” I say to no one in particular.

“The only Keane album I enjoyed was Strangeland.”

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

I get to hire people who help small businesses find success in an increasingly big-business world. I’m super into that. I love small businesses and we get to help them succeed.

Talk about your involvement with Blacks in Groupon (BiG) – what does your partnership with them look like?

I’m the talent partner for Blacks In Groupon (BiG). My goal is to provide resources to the group as to how to utilize their networks to bring in top talent, as well as being a resource for current members in terms of internal options if they want to search for a new role at the company.

What’s your favorite Groupon memory?

I do a lot of comedy stuff here in Chicago, and in April of 2014 I had my first live show. I was so nervous to actually perform in front of people for the first time, and a few minutes before showtime, I look out into the audience and my entire recruiting team was in the front row. This was the first time it really hit me how lucky I was to work for this great company. Here was this team that barely knew me, front row of a show in which I danced around the stage like Paula Deen. I’ll never forget that for as long as I live.

Who inspires you?

Folks who wear shorts during the winter because “they don’t get cold.” Hehe, just kidding. I have been inspired by a wide variety of things, but mostly musical theater, baseball games, and my brother Samb.

What was your first impression of Groupon?

Whoa! What a cool place. How neat are these swinging chairs! Let me go to the 4th floor to check that out. Oh god, I am locked in a stairwell.

What’s your favorite local business?

Southside Sub Shop in Elmira, NY. They have the best bread in the world. They also do this thing where they add just a smidge too much mayonnaise, but it mixes with the bread and hot peppers so well that you don’t even care at all.

What’s something that candidates are surprised to learn about Groupon?

The vast majority of the company has breakfast at least a few times a week.

If you could do any other job for a day, what would it be?

My dream job is to be what Andy Richter is to Conan – the late night host’s sidekick.

Tell us something about you that might surprise us.

The only Keane album I enjoyed was Strangeland.

]

Steve – Finance Manager in London

Steve – Finance Manager in London

STEVE

Finance Manager
London
Joined: 2012

Last year, a few members of our Chicago-based Finance team had the chance to relocate to London in order to establish a center of operations for international finance. Steve was one of those lucky Finance Managers who made the move, bringing his expert karaoke skills across the pond to Groupon’s London office.

So tell us about your job! What do you do every day? What do you love about it?

I work in the Financial Planning and Analysis organization, which forecasts our performance and helps communicate our results to senior leadership.  We’re responsible for all countries outside of North America. It’s very interesting to interact with the folks who are running the business day-to-day and to see their perspective on what makes their business tick. Learning happens on both sides of the table. The exposure is great as we have meetings with everyone up to the CEO.

What’s your favorite Groupon memory?

We had a mariachi band come to the office one day to play for us. They were fantastic; it’s the kind of randomness that makes working at Groupon fun and unique.

Who or what inspires you?

I’m inspired by the hard work of the team that reports to me. They have incredible drive, passion, and dedication to moving the ball forward on new projects and making us work smarter every day.

What was your first impression of Groupon?

I was really impressed with how passionate everyone was; my team’s function was relatively new when I joined, and everyone was excited to establish what our focus should be and how we could push forward our team’s mission. I think that kind of “blank slate” made the first few months—which are normally stressful or slow in a new job—super fun and engaging.

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

My team’s work is used by the leadership as a source of truth to help them understand how their decisions are shaping the results of the business. The finance team is always working to understand how customer behaviour is reacting to a change in how we operate or a new product we offer.

What’s been the most challenging thing you’ve worked on in your time here?

I think taking over the international FP&A team earlier this year was the biggest challenge. I had never done FP&A before, and the team was also relatively new to the business. We also need to work across a few different time zones, as my manager is in Chicago and we also look after Japan and Australia.

Your role exists in other companies, so what makes your job at Groupon unique?

For me, it’s always been the great way that finance works day-to-day with the leadership teams operating the business; we aren’t in our own silo but instead part of the greater team. This leads to great opportunities to get your thoughts heard and to help with key decisions.

What’s your biggest accomplishment while working here?

18 months ago, a group of us from the Chicago office relocated to London to help establish a centre of operations for the international finance team. We were able to transfer some of the knowledge and process we established in North America’s business, as well as learn a whole lot from the business leaders in our EMEA and APAC businesses. I think it was a great success and we’ve been able to build a stronger global team from the project.

What do your parents think you do?

I’m not sure, but I hope they think I operate a giant coupon printing press, monitoring ink levels and stressing out about card stock quality…

What’d you do before Groupon and how’d you get here?

I was in investment banking prior to joining Groupon. Investment banking was super presentation-oriented as opposed to a ton of analysis, which was the piece I was more interested in. I wanted to work in a more casual and fast-paced environment, so I was drawn to Tech. I actually just applied straight through the website and got a response the very same day! I remember being the most formally-dressed person in the building when I came in for my interview and was surprised to find that a lot of the other people I interviewed with had similar backgrounds to mine. They came from more traditional finance roles and then switched over to the tech industry.

If you could do another job for a day, what would it be and why?

Maybe a head chef? I love food and wish I was better at making some for myself!

What’s your favorite local business?

It has to be “The Orange Buffalo.” It’s a Buffalo wing food truck in the Shoreditch neighborhood of London, and it reminds us of home!

Tell us something that might surprise us about you.

I am the finest karaoke performer on my team.

What are you up to when you’re not at work?

I love to travel; I just reached 33 countries the other day. Living over here has opened up the door to a ton of cheap flights to great places. Since moving here I’ve traveled to France, Ireland, Poland, the Netherlands, Poland, Morocco, Japan… the list goes on!

]

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.

Varun Sood – Director of Engineering, Consumer Web

Varun Sood – Director of Engineering, Consumer Web

VARUN SOOD

Director of Engineering, Consumer Web
Chicago, IL
Joined: 2015

Former boarding school runaway Varun talks about the unique opportunity to make a huge impact on local communities worldwide alongside engineers who make each other better developers.

What’s your favorite Groupon memory?

It was the first viewing of our new Engineering space in Chicago. From standing desks to pairing stations to state-of-the-art conference rooms, it visually articulated how deeply the company was invested in its engineering and software development teams and processes.

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

I currently support the consumer web engineering group that is responsible for search and discovery, engagement, and the conversion experience on both the desktop and touch platforms. A good portion of my role involves working with stakeholders to align our deliverables with our mission. The thing I love about my role is building solutions that delight our consumers, helping our engineers learn and grow, and providing value to the business. Another thing I love about my job is having 1-1’s with my team members. We have really talented individuals in Groupon Engineering and I always learn a lot from those meetings.

So what was your first role here and how’d you get to where you are today?

I joined Groupon as an Engineering Manager for the web deal page team. I got to my current role by following three principles:

 

  1. Creating and fostering a collaborative environment
  2. Learning from others
  3. Solving problems the right way

“Although we connect local communities, the scale and impact of the engineering and product teams’ work are truly global. Not many companies provide a platform where you are exposed to this sheer volume of users.”

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

When I first came to Groupon, there was a big focus on improving the latency of our web platform. Our web experience was great but just wasn’t fast enough. In the last 18 months, we have improved our numbers to match and in some cases exceed industry standards and we added more rigor around best practices related to performance. Working through these improvements was challenging, but the team’s focus was amazing and the results were worth it.

Tabs or spaces?

Tabs for sure.

What do your parents think you do?

I come from a family of medical practitioners, so I am not sure they completely understand what I do. If my mom has any trouble with her mobile, she calls me thinking I can fix anything just because I told her a while back I make mobile websites.

What’s unique about Groupon’s Engineering culture?

We feed off each other’s successes. This creates a very collaborative environment where everyone is rooting for each other to succeed. It also allows each individual to make a bigger impact.

What’s been most surprising about Groupon Engineering?

Although we connect local communities, the scale and impact of the engineering and product teams’ work are truly global. Not many companies provide a platform where you are exposed to this sheer volume of users.

What’s your favorite local business?

It has to be India House in Chicago. It has awesome Indian cuisine and desserts, plus they run deals on Groupon+ from time to time.

Tell us something about you that might surprise us.

I once ran away from my boarding school (I was in second grade and feeling homesick). Luckily the school guards caught up with me, otherwise I was heading home.    🙂