Milan McGraw – Senior Manager of Operations

Milan McGraw – Senior Manager of Operations


Senior Manager of Operations
Chicago, IL
Joined: 2015

In all honesty, we weren’t prepared for the amazing stories Milan would tell about growing up feet away from the Groupon headquarters in Chicago, changing jobs from a little ecommerce company in Seattle, and supporting veterans around the country. Enjoy.

Who or what inspires you?

What inspires me the most is looking outside the office window on Larrabee Street and being able to see my old home in Cabrini-Green. Growing up, most folks from the Cabrini Housing Projects did not go to college, so being able to see what remains of it outside my window is a gentle reminder I must continue to do great things and set the example for others to follow. When my family left Cabrini, we moved to Humboldt Park where we still reside today. Each time I come to work, I am reminded of where I came from and inspired to know that with hard work, we can come from any place or from any situation and be anything we want to be.

What’d you do before you joined Groupon?

Prior to Groupon, I worked at a little company in Seattle named Amazon. While a successful company, it’s not the best place to work if you have kids. Having a place to work that provides work-life balance is my number one priority. I always remembered the Groupon folks I came across while working for Dyson a few years ago, and everyone always said great things about working at Groupon. Once I began my search to move back to Chicago, Groupon became my top choice. I could not have made a better decision: Groupon provides a great work-life balance, room for growth, and there is always something new to work on.

What was your first impression of Groupon?

My first impression of Groupon was several years ago while visiting the 600 West Chicago building and seeing everyone in a green Groupon jacket. I was like “Wow, this place must be amazing!” People were smiling, having fun, and were excited to talk about what they were working on. Overall, my impression is still the same: Groupon is an incredible company that changes lives. Simply put, Groupon is a company that wants everyone to have fun and add value to the lives of both employees and customers.

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

My work impacts Groupon’s mission of building the daily habit in local commerce by selling goods from local suppliers on our e-commerce platform, educating vendors about how to set up their supply chain to grow with Groupon’s volume, and assisting in planning the right selection mix for our customers. Everything we do in operations is centered around connecting with local vendors and helping them scale their business on our platform.

“It’s really about coming together as a Groupon family to support one another, identifying the skill sets needed to help grow the business, and cultivating internal talent by providing people with the feedback and coaching needed to learn and grow within the organization.”

What’s your biggest Groupon accomplishment?

One of the most rewarding moments for me was last year when my team learned SQL and Tableau, then started running their own SQL queries without having to seek outside assistance. Team members took a variety of MOOCs, including Coursera and Udacity. It was exciting news the first time I received a message notifying me that a member of my team had completed their first Tableau class. Being able to retrieve, visualize, and display our own data has helped our department become the authority on operations. In the past when we worked on several dashboards and made requests to other teams for assistance, we had to rely on their availability to assist. Today, when we need some advanced analysis, a new dashboard, or an innovative way to communicate a story, our team can build our own reporting structures to retrieve the data. It’s really about coming together as a Groupon family to support one another, identifying the skill sets needed to help grow the business, and cultivating internal talent by providing people with the feedback and coaching needed to learn and grow within the organization.

Have you won any awards recently?

I recently won 1st place in the GLO-BUS: Developing Winning Competitive Strategies Competition. I acted as a senior executive at the best-performing company in an industry setting where a team of students ran companies and crafted strategies aimed at achieving superior financial performance and market leadership; the exercise was conducted in a strategy course at Morris Graduate School of Management.

What do your parents think you do?

My parents literally think I sell coupons…it’s hilarious. Every time I see them they ask “…any new Groupon coupons?” referring back to a time when we used a Groupon to have dinner at Al’s Char-House in La Grange. Hilarious!

So you’re involved with basically every Employee Resource Group as well as the Employee Volunteer Program. Can you tell us about your involvement in some of these groups?

I joined Groupon for Veterans in order to give back to those who have served and continue to serve. I am a U.S. Marine and my daughter is currently serving on active duty at Marine Corps Base in Honolulu. Participation in the Veterans ERG for me was a must for me. Educating others on the professional skills associated with military service is crucial: most people think of diversity based on race, gender, generations and thinking styles, but often forget military veterans. I feel that veterans add a ton of perspective to the workplace; most of us have traveled all over the world and are extremely serious when it comes to getting the job done. I joined G4Vets to continue sharing my military experiences with others, assist transitioning veterans with connecting to Groupon, and translate their leadership skills to the workplace. My most memorable event with our G4Vets was taking ten non-veteran Groupon volunteers to the Jesse Brown Veterans Hospital to volunteer for an afternoon. Most were in awe that such a place exists and were in shock that there were so many veterans who required special attention. We walked with veterans, read the newspaper, and listened to one veteran’s story from WWII—an Army Signal Intelligence Officer—who later became a postal police officer. It was not the volunteering that meant the most to me, but being able to share this experience with others who have no exposure to some of the challenges facing veterans.

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

I would be a fireman because when a fireman gets ready for work, nobody asks, “What do you do?” Kids dig them, they straight up save lives, you get paid to help others, and at the end of the day, you’re a hero.

What’s your favorite local business?

My favorite local business is Yamato’s Foot Massage Bar. There is nothing better than reflexology! Get the Groupon!

Can you write a Groupon haiku?

The best view in town — Having coffee with my team — Making things happen

Tell us something about you that might surprise us!

I run two marathons per year (sometimes more). My most recent 2017 marathons include the Chicago Marathon and the US Marine Corps Marathon in DC, just two weeks later. I run these two specific marathons every year (and will for the rest of my life) so I can run for all those who are unable to run and for those who have sacrificed their lives to keep us safe.

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.