Alicia Koch – Program Manager, Employee & Community Engagement

Alicia Koch – Program Manager, Employee & Community Engagement

ALICIA KOCH

Program Manager, Employee & Community Engagement
Chicago, IL
Joined: 2013

From intern to global-employee-volunteer-program builder, Alicia has taken advantage of some massive opportunities at Groupon all while sledding down active volcanoes in Nicaragua and singing Cher songs during team karaoke outings.

What’s your favorite Groupon memory?

In November 2015, I had the pleasure of traveling to Nicaragua with 5 other Grouponers who won that year’s Volunteer-a-thon (our hyper-competitive month of service held every June). We traveled with Spark Ventures to work with a local organization, Las Tías. You can read more about our trip here. To me, the coolest part about experiences like this is seeing your peers fall in love with service. You see it click; and that moment is the best reminder of why I love what I do. Aside from the volunteer component of the trip, other highlights include volcano boarding (essentially sledding) down an active volcano and zip lining through a coffee plantation—both things I can safely say I never thought I would get to do at work.

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

My role is unique in the sense that I don’t engage with small businesses or our customers on a daily basis, but my work directly impacts our shared corporate values—particularly “Community.” Our whole business is centered around building great neighborhoods and attracting customers to the gems of a local community. The work of our employee volunteers complements this nicely by getting directly involved in these neighborhoods through the work of our nonprofit partners.

What did you do before Groupon and how did you end up here?

This is really it! I had a few other internships with nonprofit organizations and worked on campus in the Student Leadership Institute prior to starting my internship at Groupon.

What’s your biggest accomplishment here (so far)?

Very early in my full-time role at Groupon, the three managers between myself and the CEO left to pursue other opportunities outside these green walls. This initially scared me, but it gave me the platform to turn my role into whatever I wanted it to be. During this ambiguous time, I worked my butt off and took on more responsibility than what I could have envisioned for myself at that stage in my career. I learned a lot about myself personally and professionally and can thank that time of growth for where I’m at now.

What’s your favorite local business?

Rogers Park Social

What makes Groupon a unique place to work?

Here at Groupon, what you do matters. I got my start at Groupon as an intern and have had the opportunity in the past (almost) 5 years to build out a global volunteer program that has engaged over 5,000 employees in over 63,000 hours of service supporting the work of close to 650 nonprofit organizations. Even as an intern, my work and my voice was valued. I’ve gotten to build things. I’ve gotten to make things up. I’ve gotten to try a whole bunch of new things. I’ve gotten to define my own career and what I want to be when I “grow up.” That kind of trust and autonomy in employees, regardless of rank or tenure, is something truly special to Groupon.

Have you won any awards during your time here?

In Q4 of 2016, I won a “Groupon Green Award,” our internal employee recognition awards, for being “Intolerant of Mediocrity”…(award included winning some custom Converse All Stars, see below!)

As well as Awesomeness Tickets from my teammates for “Bringing the Best Snacks” and “Not Spilling Your Coffee.”

“Here at Groupon, what you do matters. I got my start at Groupon as an intern and have had the opportunity in the past (almost) 5 years to build out a global volunteer program that has engaged over 5,000 employees in over 63,000 hours of service supporting the work of close to 650 nonprofit organizations.”

Who or what inspires you?

I get to be a part of a lot of really cool events at Groupon, but the event that continues to inspire me the most is twice a year when we bring together over 100 Girl Scouts for a day of STEM education. Seeing so many young girls geek out over math and science is pretty neat.

Tell us about your involvement with Groupon for Veterans.

I got involved with Groupon for Veterans in the very beginning with a personal goal of building a more diverse and inclusive workforce for my brother by the time he gets out of the military. Little did I know, my involvement in this group would allow me to do one of my favorite things in the whole wide world—connect people. Employee engagement groups have the power to build community and connect like-minded people who otherwise may not have crossed paths. That then leads to people having conversations with and learning from people who don’t look like them, and that is an incredible thing.

What was your first impression of Groupon?

When I started at Groupon, I was a junior in college. My first interview was with a man wearing a tie-dyed Grateful Dead t-shirt, who would later become my manager and now my teammate. Next to my desk, there was an enchanted forest. And down the hall from that, there were swings hanging from the ceiling. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into.

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

I’ve always thought it would be oddly satisfying to be a grape masher at a winery (assuming it’s like what I’ve seen in the movies); but after a day of mucky grapes between my toes, that would be enough of that.

What do your parents think you do?

I think my parents have a pretty good understanding of what I do, with my mom also working in the nonprofit space and my dad having worked in sales and marketing for as long as I can remember; but my younger brother, Sam, is really the one who’s confused here. I get calls from him in the middle of the day starting off with “Leesh, what’s up? What are you doing?” “Umm, I’m at work.” Sam currently serves in the Army and may never see a desk job, so I get a lot of questions asking, “What do you actually do when you’re sitting there looking at your computer?”

Tell us something about you that’d surprise us.

Last summer, I participated in a ten-week competitive karaoke league with other members of my Groupon team, soloing “If I Could Turn Back Time” by Cher and “Soul Man” by the Blues Brothers over the course of the season. Our team was robbed of the first place title but still took home the bronze.

depaul

 

GrouponForVeterans

Groupon World Headquarters

Umang – Engineering intern

Umang – Engineering intern

UMANG BHATT

Software Development Intern
Chicago, IL
Carnegie Mellon University

New Jersey native Umang talks about how self-driving cars in Pittsburgh are NBD and how he slowly came to accept Groupon’s weird obsession with cats.

Tell us about the team you’re interning for.

I’m working on the Supply Intelligence and Dynamic Pricing team. On the supply intelligence team, we work to decide which merchants Groupon should target to onboard next. Using our proprietary machine learning model, we automatically curate calling lists for every Groupon sales representative around the world. On the dynamic pricing side, we are building a pricing engine that handles price changes for Groupon deals based on demand forecasting and deal performance. Intelligent prices drive value for merchants as well as keep customers engaged; our goal is to continuously iterate to derive the optimal price of a Groupon deal.

Describe your internship in 3 words:

Satisfying, eye-opening, Jabber-filled.

What was your first impression of Groupon? 

“Groupon rhymes with coupon; well, this ought to be an interesting summer.” My experience here has been much less interesting/mundane and much more fascinating/demanding. How can Groupon strategize to stay at the forefront of its niche? How can Groupon become a daily habit for all users? These are questions I toil with every day with my manager and mentors, who help make my every day at work intense yet rewarding. An aside: the cat obsession really confused me for the first week or so, but then you become immune to it, don’t worry.

“It’s awesome to see how open everyone is to meeting 1:1 to talk about their work and to get to know you on a personal level. Be it a first-year engineer or a senior director, everyone is welcoming and ready to grab coffee or lunch. All they will say when you ask is ‘toss time on my calendar’.”

Who or what inspires you?

I am inspired in two ways. In regards to my personality and character, I am inspired by my guru, Mahant Swami Maharaj. His humility, patience, and happiness leave me awestruck every day. I strive to emulate his qualities in all that I do so that I too can live a fulfilling and spiritual life. In terms of my career, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Sundar Pichai, Ben Horowitz, and the like keep me hungry for more. Reading about their ethic, focus, and grit shows me what I need to bring to the table if I want to see my product vision become a reality.

What’s the most innovative technology you’ve experienced in your lifetime?

Going to school in Pittsburgh, I feel self-driving cars are no longer abnormal. Aside from the smart phone and the personal computer as hallmarks of innovation, I have to say the self-driving cars I see on a daily basis are one of the most innovative pieces of technology we have today.

Your Instagram is mainly photos of….

My failed attempts of landscape photos of the places I visit and portrait photos of the people I spend time with.

What do your parents think you do?

My mom thinks I code, my dad thinks I’m in Sales.

Favorite restaurant in your current city?

Bad Hunter in the West Loop.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Can you write a Groupon haiku?

Need something to do?

Find the best deals right near you.

Just download Groupon!

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.

Lily – Engineering intern

Lily – Engineering intern

Lily FulopHi there! My name is Lily Fulop. I’m a rising junior at Carnegie Mellon University studying Communication Design. This summer, I’m a visual design intern at Groupon in the Chicago headquarters. I currently live in southern Virginia, but I’ve lived in six different states, so anywhere feels like home. I have a lot of family in the Chicago area, so I really love being here for my internship this summer, and might try to stick around once I graduate!

At Carnegie Mellon, my primary focus is design. In my classes I learn about fundamentals like color, typography, grids, and composition, as well as higher-level concepts like information visualization, systems design, human factors, and user-experience. I love illustration, photography and telling stories through the things I create.

I love design for several reasons. First, I can’t stand it when things don’t make sense. I’m the kind of person who needs answers and clarity. Through good design, I can provide those things to others. Design has the amazing capability of conveying complex messages with simplicity. A user should never have to work too hard or be made to feel like they lack common sense due to clumsy communications or designs. They should be able to trust their intuition to navigate information with confidence. Second, I get bored really easily by convention and routine. I love color, pattern, excitement and surprise. I believe in the power of beautiful and clever design to bring joy and meaning to people’s lives. Finally, I’m a perfectionist. I need things to be done right. I appreciate things made with quality, time and those little details that show that someone cares.

This passion for design led me to my internship at Groupon this summer. At Groupon, I work on visual design and branding for the Food & Drink division. Food & Drink has three sections: Deals (everyday discounts), Card-Linked Offers (a cashback program), and Groupon To Go (a food delivery service). I work on email campaigns and marketing for these products which involves designing across platforms (i.e. desktop vs. mobile and internal ads on the Groupon website vs. ads on affiliate websites). This summer, Groupon has been undergoing a complete change in brand– a new aesthetic, a new typeface, a new message. We’re focusing on bold, fun experiences; like our new commercial says, we’re valuing the “have-dones” over the “haves” and encouraging our users to “own the experience”. It’s been really exciting to have a say in how this new brand direction is implemented in our designs. In addition to working on brand consistency across platforms, I’ve also been faced with the challenge of creating brand nuances between products. For example, the Card-Linked Offers service ought to be differentiated from Groupon To Go aesthetically, but similar enough so that both services can be recognized as a part of Groupon as a whole.

From day to day at Groupon, you can catch me refining typography and composition on Illustrator, searching stock image sites for the best pictures of pizza, helping with in-house photoshoots (a.k.a. launching my hand modeling career!), critiquing designs and discussing strategy. I’ve learned so much here already! My eye for detail has developed, my workflow is much faster and I have a deeper understanding of branding. I know so much more about local commerce and how Groupon operates. It’s been great to see how design functions within such a large company and to learn how to communicate across teams here.

Outside of work, I’ve loved exploring Chicago and hanging out with the other interns. As the only non software engineering intern, I’m having a bit of a different experience than the others at work, but we’re having a great time together outside (and inside!) of the office. Groupon has sponsored some really fun events for us, like going on an architectural boat tour of the city and doing a cooking class with our mentors. A bunch of us also walked in the Chicago Pride parade with the Groupon float, which was an incredible experience. We’ve had fun exploring different neighborhoods and trying to taste all of Chicago’s best food (Jeni’s ice cream in Wicker Park is a favorite!)

This summer has been amazing, and I’m sad to see my internship come to an end, but grateful for the people I’ve met and the things I’ve learned!

 

Lily Fulop_pride paradeLily Fulop_other interns

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Josh: Philosopher and Chicken McNugget Expert

Josh: Philosopher and Chicken McNugget Expert

The #GrouponU Blog is back for 2016! We’ll regularly feature a Groupon intern or recent college grad telling you about their experience tackling challenging problems and working with our teams.

Who are you?

My name is Josh and I’ll be a junior at Northwestern University studying Computer Science. I’m from Cincinnati, OH. I can identify all four distinct Chicken McNugget shapes by taste alone.

What do you do?

At Groupon, I’m on the Goods CX (Customer Experience) team, which basically owns the Goods part of the Groupon website where you can find deals on products. Because that’s a wide net, however, I’ve also gotten to work on code from other teams as well that are used by the Goods team. My main focus for this summer will be working on a dedicated tips page for local deals, which allows users to see reviews, ratings, and advice given by previous customers on a given deal. Since I’m on a web team, I’m writing in the standard languages, but with slight twists (mustache instead of pure HTML, Stylus instead of CSS, Coffeescript instead of Javascript). This is my first time writing a lot of code in Coffeescript, which is really neat and not at all like real coffee.

What’s an internship at Groupon like?

If you’re like me and this is your first time working on code that gets used in a fairly large company, you are going to get absolutely dunked on in your first week by a field you once thought you were on friendly terms with. Jumping into an established codebase and trying to figure out how everything works is a task in itself. Combine that with making changes, debugging, writing tests, and figuring out why code doesn’t work on your machine when it works for everyone else, only to realize it’s because your config files are pointing to staging, when they should be pointing to production. Luckily for me though, everyone on my team has been super helpful and is always willing to put up with my questions (especially my mentor, whom I asked a question probably every ninety minutes during my first week here). Everyone here really understands that you’re here primarily to learn, so they’re very accommodating while you get your sea legs under you, and that’s a huge help.

What’s a typical day at Groupon like?

Josh (right) with Groupon interns and mentors @ the Cucina Bambini cooking class!

I get in around a quarter ‘til nine and have a bowl of Special K Red Berries® cereal with soy milk. I refer to it as Special K Red Berries® because that’s what it’s labelled as on the dispenser, but to be completely honest I have no idea if it’s actually Special K Red Berries® cereal because I’ve never seen any Red Berries® in it, or berries of any variety for that matter. I don’t know what happens to the berries on their journey to its container, but the result is me eating the equivalent of unfrosted Frosted Flakes out of a paper bowl, which isn’t as unappetizing as it probably sounds. Other than that, the constants of my time here have been daily stands, which is how Groupon ensures that you’re not slacking off, and intern outings, which is how Groupon ensures that you’re slacking off sufficiently. I would also say that around 30% of my day is split between asking my mentor to help me, asking someone who isn’t my mentor to help me, and thanking whomever I just asked for help. Besides that, I spend my day taking care of issues that come up every now and then, writing tests followed by receiving and implementing feedback on my code.

Any advice for prospective interns?

Don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know how to do something, especially if it’s Groupon-specific. Seriously. No one is going to think less of you for not knowing how to rebase and squash 15 commits your first week, even if you’ve told them that you’ve used Git before. There are a lot of things that you just don’t get exposure to until you start working. Just go at your own pace and ask a lot of questions…which is pretty much how I’d recommend going through life in general.