Career Check-In with Korina Houghtaling

Korina Haughtaling | Software Development Engineer II

What does your typical work day look like?

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Pre-COVID I participated in a vanpool and arrived to work promptly at 7. Nowadays, I arrive at my desk around 7 or 8 am with a cup of steaming coffee in my hand and my dog at my side. I start my day by catching up on all emails and slack messages. I write down any action items on a TODO list which allows me to get through all emails + slack. This also gives my brain some time to fully wake up! From there, my day is pretty varied. If I am not working on a larger project I will fix bugs in our chatbot, complete small improvements, or prepare demos. My team tries to keep our tasks shorter than 5 days. We have a daily standup at 10 am to catch up with the team. Sometimes I will have meetings with other teams to collaborate and align goals or within my own team for knowledge sharing, or technical discussions.

What have you enjoyed most about working at Expedia Group?

As cliche as it may be, I enjoy my coworkers the most. Every day I am excited to catch up with them on work and even hear about their personal lives. Everyone is open to hearing insights, answering ANY questions in the world, and taking time out of their day to show you how to do something. Our team tries to play games together fairly frequently which really allows us to mesh. My manager also plays a large role in my enjoyment at Expedia Group. She constantly finds tasks that are challenging for me and seeks opportunities for me to work with other people outside of my team.

What makes your team unique?

My team is comprised of all different age groups and we still manage to thrive, laugh, and help each other learn and grow. My manager ensures team events are a core part of our work environment both in person and at home. We have people from all over the world; Ireland, India, China, and France! The diverse perspectives and different cultures that we all share ensure there is never a dull moment. I’ve also noticed we are open and honest with each other. Any bad feelings or disagreements are resolved in a calm, friendly manner since we know everyone has the best intentions in mind.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I am extremely proud of where I am today. I consider myself successful, my life is on an upward stable trajectory, and I am healthy! I was the first one in my family to attend college.  No one in my family is in engineering although my grandpa codes and builds things for fun. It was a really daunting process that many first-gen students have gone through. I almost couldn’t attend my first year of college due to financial aid issues, but my grandparents were able to get me through. That alone made my future possible. Now I am able to help my sisters with college, job searching, financial planning, and even how to buy a house. I am excelling at my career and confident in my future!

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Who has influenced you the most?

Since I can remember, my grandma was by my side, constantly pushing me to be the best person I can be. No dream was too big with her and I wouldn’t be where I am today without her guidance and relentless encouragement. I still call her regularly to share the small day-to-day achievements.

Professionally, it has got to be my manager Olivia or my mentor, Peter. Since I’ve highlighted some of the awesome things my manager does above, I’ll talk about Peter. He was my mentor when I first interned at Expedia Group for the same team I am on now. I asked a lot of questions but he was always patient and pointed me to seek answers outside of my team. Most importantly, Peter could gauge my ability to figure out problems when I thought I was stuck. Over time I was able to trust my ability in solving a task at hand. Even if I feel stuck, I can probably investigate further. This is a lesson that extends past the workplace. He also made himself available to answer any financial questions or fitness questions I have, two other major factors in my life. Overall, he made me feel secure about my future and ability to “make it” as a successful adult after college.

How and where do you find inspiration?

I try to find inspiration from the people around me. I work with such intelligent, intentional human beings so I try to absorb all their habits and decision making processes while I can. Recently I attended a talk with various women leaders in the travel industry. They offered great advice and experiences. One memorable quote was “pressure is a privilege”. That quote is a good reminder that in stressful situations, you are there because someone believed you were equipped to handle that situation. Inspiration finds me in books and podcasts as well. I love to read non-fiction books. One of my recent favorite reads is Melinda Gates’ Moment of Lift. I’ve also been listening to an emotional intelligence and leadership podcast by Brenè Brown. (I was made aware of the podcast through the women in leadership talk!) For me it really is about joining slack communities and keeping your eyes open for experiences to learn from others.

How did you learn to embrace failure?

I am still learning to embrace failure. Failure never feels fun. However, I try to ignore that feeling and become motivated about the opportunity to learn from my failure. Even the smallest failures are chances to learn and improve upon yourself. If there were a lot of things I missed in my pull request, I try to figure out why I missed them and how can I avoid missing them next time? That is what I try to focus on instead of being burnt down and tired from the iterative process of improving a pull request. The same concept applies to any pull requests that get merged and introduce bugs. Why didn’t I see the bugs? How can I try to see them in the future? Even on the rough days when a lot of things go wrong, I find peace in my mind knowing that most of the time I am trying my hardest to be better and it’s okay to not have a perfect day.

What is your favorite piece of career advice?

Currently, it’s “always be able to justify your position”. This concept pushes you to continuously learn. As an intern, this was really hard due to my general lack of knowledge. There was a project I worked on that I didn’t like and I couldn’t explain why. I’ve since heard more experienced opinions on said project, that explain how it was poorly structured. This was the explanation I couldn’t formulate myself as an intern. Fast forward about 2 years, I am now more equipped to challenge my own opinions. This allows me to justify them properly to my team. Following this advice forces you to learn more! Former President, Barack Obama, maintains this mindset as well. It’s a sure-fire way to ensure your intentions and beliefs are in the right place.

If I had to give my own advice, it’s prioritize what you need to reset your mind. For me, it’s exercising. Exercising boosts my mood, clears headaches from a long day at work, and helps me solve complex problems. It completely changes me and makes me ready to take on the world each day. I think everyone needs to find their own mental reset/release and prioritize it to be successful. If those around you care for your wellbeing, they will understand your need to carve out this time

Tell us about your favorite vacation?

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My favorite vacation was hiking (or walking as the Europeans would say) the West Highland Way in Scotland with my best friend from college. It was nearing the end of the year and we were itching to get away from our small college town. We loved the outdoors and flights to Scotland were cheap so we spontaneously booked and planned the hike. Never having backpacked before, we were highly unprepared. A few 10 mile walks before our trip was not enough preparation. When we arrived we ended up shipping our packs to each destination (which was surprisingly common) because we couldn’t carry them! Not to mention we highly underestimated the distance required for each day, and even booked hotels for the wrong month due to the different date formatting. Nevertheless, we still completed the 100 miles in 6 aggressive days!! The walk was incredibly challenging and beautiful. I would love to complete another walk again, but with more preparation and time of course! We also met people from all over the world!

What is your favorite weekend getaway?

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Anywhere in the forest!! Camping, backpacking, staying in a cabin, anything! I love the more secluded areas where my dog can roam off-leash. The forest is a great, versatile location. If I want something physically challenging and especially remote, I can go backpacking. More romantic? I can do a cabin! Then if I’m feeling social I can go camping! A big ol’ campfire is good for the soul. I feel thankful to live in Washington with a wide variety of forests nearby.

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