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.

Mr. Business Talks Groupon Goods

Mr. Business Talks Groupon Goods

Today we chat with Alec, an Assistant Buyer for our Goods Home & Garden channel.

Name: Alec
Title: Assistant Buyer for Goods’ Home and Garden channel
Start date: December 15, 2014

What did you do before Groupon and what brought you here?

Before Groupon, I worked at Abercrombie & Fitch Corporate as an Inventory Analyst. I was in charge of allocating inventory for girls’ sweaters, graphic tees, etc. to our stores across the globe. From there I saw that I enjoyed the merchandising aspect of my role. I noticed an opportunity at Groupon as an Assistant Buyer in Goods, which was a new role in the department, so I applied and eventually came into the office for an interview. The interview gave me great insight into the different categories of Goods and what qualities the team was looking for in an Assistant Buyer. Home & Garden was the category I really wanted to work for, and after meeting Shimool and her team and learning about what they do and their accomplishments, I knew I made the right choice taking a job at Groupon.

And what do you do in your current role in a nutshell?

As an Assistant Buyer, I cater to the needs of the Buyers. I do a lot of competitive shopping to gauge the market. I run shipping costs and help negotiate prices to make sure we have the best deals out there. I run sales data analysis on vendors we work with as well as keeping marketing history. I do requests for deal edits whether it’s adding images, changing the copy, adding inventory, etc. It’s a great opportunity to learn many aspects of merchandising and all of the challenges Buyers run into.

For people who don’t know, what does merchandising entail?

So with merchandising, you work with different vendors who all want you to buy what they sell. You’re in constant communication with vendors to determine a plan for the season and make sure you have the best items that will do well for both your category and Groupon Goods. You also work a lot with cross-functional partners. You work with Editorial to see what kind of occasions and themes they’re pushing in emails so your items can be featured and seen by more customers. You analyze your weekly sales and see how your products are doing. If things are doing well and selling, then you want to keep them going, and if things aren’t selling, you want to re-evaluate. The key takeaways I’ve learned in this role are the importance of communication, negotiation, organization, and accountability.

What are some unique challenges to your role?

Groupon has grown so much and is still so new, so our vendors see us in different ways. Some are really excited to feature with Groupon, and some still are unaware of our reach. But as we progress and become more established within Goods, we have more and more historical data to present to show them how Groupon can really propel their business.

How different has Groupon been compared to before?

The culture is similar to A&F, in terms of it being a young, fresh company. At Groupon, you need to be able to adapt and learn different ways to do things, so you’re kept on your toes a lot. Things also move more quickly here; at Groupon I can plan a week or two out, as opposed to weeks or months at A&F. You can also react to trends and what people buy. I feel like I have more autonomy over what I’m doing, especially with the site. If any Editorial edits need to happen, I can have the content or image changed really quickly. We recently had a Facebook contest over the past few months where we made our own targeted Facebook ads—we got to promote whichever products we wanted, and whoever raised the most money won $5,000…and I won!

What’s next for you?

There’s a lot I want to learn and do! I want to get better at buying and have my own category. I would love to do training and be that go-to person on my team or Goods overall. I’d also like to dabble in social media and help build out brand even more, especially for Home & Garden.

Anything interesting about you that you’d like to share?

I’m a member of Pride at Groupon, and am looking to get more involved over the next year or so! I love Britney Spears – she is my deity. I worked in Italy as an English tutor for a summer camp program, which was very cool. I play piano and tennis as well. I was Mr. Business at the University of Illinois! I studied Economics at U of I, which was not the most fun major in the world, but it did allow me to build a good foundation for business.