Why Leave Groupon Engineering for a [Much, Much] Bigger Tech Company, Then Return? Director of Engineering Manish Chhabra Tells All.

Why Leave Groupon Engineering for a [Much, Much] Bigger Tech Company, Then Return? Director of Engineering Manish Chhabra Tells All.

Why leave Groupon for a much [much] larger Tech organization, then return? Director of Engineering Manish shares his boomerang story.

I am one of the recent boomerang employees of Groupon. Like some others who have left and come back, I also decided to return for the challenging opportunities and the engineering culture. In my first role here, I was leading our Goods Engineering team which is responsible for driving the engineering and product enhancements to build the online marketplace where our customers discover and save on amazing products. After more than three years with the organization, I decided to pursue an opportunity at one of the biggest and highly-coveted tech companies, but after a short stint I decided to come back to Groupon.

There are many reasons why someone might seek out a new role; sometimes they find an opportunity that appears to be better for their career growth and other times it’s merely the itch to try something different. I’m constantly pursuing new challenges to solve as the joy and satisfaction of positively impacting the lives of people is immense. At Groupon, we keep our engineering teams at an optimal size and empower our engineers to make a huge impact on the design and outcome of each product.

As an organization, Groupon is continuously growing and evolving in the local commerce domain. With this continuous growth, we are solving a lot of engineering challenges in a fast-paced environment. Some of these challenges include moving away from a monolith stack to Service-oriented architecture or the challenge we encountered while building a real-time analytics engine for our A/B Testing framework, along with many others. 

We have a lot of talented, energizing, and smart employees who come from diverse backgrounds. The culture encourages innovation in order to keep us up to date with the latest technology trends. GEEKon, our global internal hackathon which encourages engineers to create useful solutions for the company in a cross-collaborative environment, is one example.

Ella & Goods Photography

Ella & Goods Photography

Name: Ella Mouria Seet
Title: Goods Custom Photo/Video Coordinator
Start Date: July 1st, 2013

What did you do before Groupon?

Acting and voice work mostly…I still do both. I lived and performed in both my hometown of Indianapolis and New York City before coming to Chicago. In between acting jobs, I had ongoing work doing everything from social media consulting to copywriting and writing/designing walking tours. While I was in NYC, I worked at both a high-end toy company in Gramercy Park and a tourism website in SoHo. I was a lounge singer for about a year—it was a fake lounge in a museum exhibit, mind you, but still.

When I first relocated to Chicago, I was working as a concierge in a building on Jeweler’s Row and it wasn’t really my bag. A friend of mine gave me the number of her temp agency, and a few days later I got a call offering me an assignment at Groupon.

How did you get into your current role? 

I first began temping in the tax department, and after a seasonal job there, I switched over to temp in Goods, where I was placed in what would become my current role. It was a great fit, and after a couple of months I was asked if I would like to stay on permanently. There are quite a few creative aspects of the job that intersect with my background and training, and I really felt like I would be able to bring some expertise to the role.

What does a day in the life of a Goods Custom Photo Coordinator look like?

I don’t know if there necessarily is a typical day, which keeps things interesting! Goods Custom Photo is a tight-knit team of three, so we work closely with one another. I’m usually in the office, but I do regularly attend shoots with the photography studios we work with.

When I’m in the office, I spend the bulk of my time:

  • Communicating with photographers and talent agencies
  • Receiving and organizing submissions from the Goods Merchandising team
  • Processing our final imagery to be passed on to Editorial
  • Making sure everyone is on the same page for upcoming shoots

There is a lot of planning involved, and we work closely with Goods Merchandising to get their input throughout the imaging process. We manage submissions for Goods items that will go into production with Groupon’s video team, and we add product videos that are submitted by Goods vendors to the site. Our team also worked with Groupon Grassroots to develop the Goods In-Kind Donations Program, which enables us to provide Chicagoland charitable organizations with Goods donation items.

Can you tell us more about the In-Kind program? 

My manager Michelle Dunmars and I worked with Grassroots last year to develop the program as a way to match Goods items that are suitable for donation with local charitable organizations that can use them to raise funds through a silent auction or raffle. I’ve really enjoyed running the program and hearing back from organizations who have benefited from the donations. It’s one of my favorite parts of the job for sure!

Favorite Groupon memory?

I have a lot of great memories from working with my awesome manager Michelle. We accomplish a lot every day at work, but we also help each other out outside the office when we can. She took me to get groceries after my emergency appendectomy a couple of years back. Before she had her daughter, she was having trouble deciding on baby names, so I suggested looking at Shakespearean character names (she went with one from Twelfth Night, my fave). We make a pretty killer team.

Irene in Market Research

Irene in Market Research

In 2012, Irene brought her experience in both non- and for-profit market research to Groupon. She loves working with small businesses and is an avid roller skater on the side.

Name: Irene
Title: Senior Research Manager
Start date: June 2012

What did you do before Groupon? 

I started my career in market research in the non-profit sector. After that, I joined a large market research firm. My role at the non-profit allowed me to wear a lot of hats and at the firm I was more of a cog in the machine, albeit a very sophisticated machine. The two roles made for a great background and provided me with a solid knowledge base. However, I was really excited when the Research Manager opportunity at Groupon came up. I wanted to get back into a role where I could be more of a leader and see the impact of my work. When I was in the non-profit sector, I was helping child care providers, a type of small business owner, become more successful, so the role at Groupon seemed like a great fit considering that it’d be on the merchant side, working with small business owners.

What surprised you about working at Groupon? 

When you’re on the Groupon site looking at the deals, you don’t think about how much goes into putting them together. I was surprised and impressed to find out how in-depth the process is for getting a deal up on the site. There’s so much that goes into it: algorithms, which deals are going to work best for the merchant, consumer needs, what’s best for Groupon, etc. It’s a pretty complex process that’s not totally visible from the outside.

What does your role entail?

My team does both quantitative survey research and qualitative research and we like to think of ourselves as the voice of the customer. We try to discover how merchants and consumers feel about us. I try to bring to life the experience that merchants have working with Groupon through satisfaction studies, brand perception studies, product research, assessments on our tools, concept tests, etc.

How does the research process work?

We try to get a big enough sample that represents the diversity of our merchant database. Many of our merchants are willing to participate via surveys, which they can opt in or out of. If they decide to give us feedback, they can typically do it within 5 minutes online. One we collect enough data, we complete our analysis to answer key questions, and we then present our findings to different teams across the organization. It’s amazing how many business owners are willing to give us feedback to help us better serve our merchants.

Do you have a favorite merchant you’ve worked with? 

We’ve done a lot of food and drink interviews in the last couple years, and for whatever reason the folks that own barbecue restaurants are some of the nicest people. On multiple occasions, by the end of the interview they have invited me over to try their barbecue. Some of these interviews are in California or Texas and even though they know we’re in Chicago, they still invite us over! I’m also from Texas, so I have a little bit of a bias for southern food*.

Anything else?

I’ve lived in a lot of cities. I grew up in Venezuela and lived in two major cities there, then I lived in two major cities in Texas. I also have lived in Madrid, San Francisco, and now Chicago. I’m also really into old-school rollerskating; I used to be able to do a bunny hop, go backwards, and “shoot the duck.”

*Irene’s bias does not affect the scientific approach to her research, she promises. 

Thanks for reading the People Blog—a blog about people at Groupon. Check out some of our current openings in Marketing!

Ali on Data Science and Big Data

Ali on Data Science and Big Data

Today’s Women in Technology (WIT) blog entry is about Ali, a Data Scientist in Chicago who will be speaking at the Unstructured Data Science Pop-up event here at Groupon headquarters on June 10th. 

Name: Ali
Title: Data Scientist
Start date: July 2013

In a nutshell, what does your role entail? 

I am on the Data Science team, which works on analyzing our vast heaps of data and on developing models to optimize various aspects of the business. It’s a huge team which is split up into several sub-teams. On my specific sub–team we work on issues pertaining to sales and the Local business. This includes using historical data to determine ways to accelerate growth and increase engagement. We have also worked on modeling both merchants and markets in order to optimize the workflow of our sales force with a system called Quantum Lead.

How did you get involved with Unstructured

I first heard about Unstructured and the speaking opportunity through my manager. After looking up the history of the project and the people involved, I knew that I had to get involved myself!

What’s an interesting project or challenge that you’re working on? 

Right now I’m working on predicting customer values — given everything that we know about an individual customer, can we predict their purchasing habits for the next 90 days, 6 months, or even one year? If we can, then we can figure out when users are starting to disengage or when new users are likely to make their first purchase. This knowledge can help us tailor the way that we interact with each individual customer. It turns out that we can indeed do this, but it’s really hard.  This project has essentially all of the tech challenges that you hear about with data science, especially those associated with “big data.” We have a lot of users who interact with us in lots of ways, which translates into lots of data.

Thanks for reading the People Blog—a blog about people at Groupon. We’re hiring Data Scientists! No football skills required. 

Jenni, Senior Director of Accounting for the Americas

Jenni, Senior Director of Accounting for the Americas

Today we chat with Jenni, one of Groupon’s first Accounting employees.

Name: Jenni
Title: Senior Director Accounting, Americas
Start date: November 2009

You were one of Groupon’s first Accounting employees. How have things changed since 2009? 

It’s so hard to compare then and now, especially in the Accounting and Finance organizations. Back then, I knew most of the sales reps, we used to walk checks over to the CEO to sign…it was really more of a startup. Now, we’re such a big company. Expectations are still the same, but it’s a more scheduled and controlled (albeit constantly moving and chaotic) environment like the early days.

What brought you here?

I started my career in public accounting and got my CPA. I then went into fund accounting and worked for a large bank and hedge fund for a few years. Eventually, I decided that I wanted to go back to traditional accounting, so I went to work for a restaurant group in Chicago. In 2009, people were starting to talk about Groupon and I saw a job posting for Controller. I applied and ended up getting the job, and the rest is history.

Did you know what you were getting into when you joined Groupon? 

To a degree, yes. Accounting in the restaurant industry or at a small company requires wearing a lot of hats. You really do everything, as often times companies don’t have HR or Finance departments. Accounting tends to be some of the first roles you hire for, and those roles take on a lot of back-office responsibilities. Once I started at Groupon, I didn’t know how much we were going to expand. I kind of miss the days where we were wearing tons of hats and figuring out new challenges everyday. Scaling during our high-growth years was especially challenging. We quickly went from 5 cities with 1 deal per day to 100 cities with both a feature deal and side deal. At the time, we didn’t have the robust technology we do now, so everything in Accounting was very manual.

What makes Accounting at Groupon unique?

We’re different than other Accounting teams at other companies because we’re very engrained with the business. I’ve been here for 5.5 years for a reason. Accounting has a lot of routine to it, but when you work for a company like this you have constant challenges and opportunities. At the end of the day, we have a fairly small team and we share a lot of ideas. Just being a tech company in Chicago, we have so many bright people working here and we’re constantly being challenged by the next person who joins the organization. Having the international experience is huge and collaborating with the business is something that doesn’t happen in Accounting at most companies.

Anything else? 

I have a family with 2 kids and I’ve found Groupon to be a great place to work as a mother. I was able to work from home once a week for the first couple years, which was really helpful. From a career perspective, the one thing I like about Groupon is they reward hard workers. I get asked in interviews all the time why I’ve stayed here for so long. When my boss saw that things were starting to get routine for me, he encouraged me to take on the challenge of an additional region, so now I oversee the Latin America accounting teams as well. I was hesitant at first, but he believed in me and it’s been so great for my career and professional development. Your managers trust you and reward hard work, and I try to do the same for my team.

Thanks for reading the People Blog—a blog about people at Groupon. We’re hiring in Accounting! Click here to check out a current opening we have on Jenni’s team.