Nicole Grieble | Director, Software Development Engineering
My career journey at Expedia Group (EG) has centered around one of EG’s core values – “Choose Fearlessly.” It’s something I do every day, but there were a few key moments where doing so helped define the engineer and leader I am today.
My journey at EG started back in 2013 when I joined as an intern. I was a junior at the University of Michigan and had recently changed my major from pre-med to Computer Science. I had fallen in love with the problem-solving and challenges in the CS field. However, since I was pretty new to it, I was somewhat directionless in what I wanted to do with this degree. Today we are surrounded by technology – from online shopping to online banking to social media – but finding a tech company I connected with on a mission level was difficult. Luckily, I stumbled upon Expedia at a job fair. I didn’t grow up traveling a lot, just the occasional vacation to Florida or the Wisconsin Dells like any Midwest family. But I had this curiosity to travel. I had always dreamed of seeing the world and getting outside that bubble. So, Expedia Group’s mission to power travel for everyone, everywhere, really hit home to me. Joining EG would give me the opportunity to unlock travel for myself and people across the globe.
My internship was a blast – I made good friends, went on a cruise of Lake Washington, and got to meet the CEO. I still work with many people I met that first summer, 9 years later, which is incredible. I also traveled to England on my first international trip that summer which was the first of many.
When I came back full-time after my internship, I joined the Lodging Supply team. We were working on the pages used by Expedia Partners, primarily hotel operators, to create and manage their rooms and rates. It took a while for me to learn all the intricacies of rates and inventory in the hotel market, but I got to the point where I was the go-to for my team on questions and large architectural tasks. About four years after joining, I had a couple of promotions under my belt, was on a good path, and driving towards becoming a senior developer. But life likes to complicate things. A friend I worked with on the Expedia Partner Mobile App reached out to me. He was joining a tiger team – which in the tech world is a specialized team of experts brought together to solve a high-priority problem. This group was working on redefining the technology stack used by Expedia’s shopping path. The goal was to make a Progressive Web App (also known as a PWA) specifically designed to be lightning-fast on mobile web – which was an area our existing technology stack was not doing well in. My friend reached out because they needed another backend engineer which was my specialty. Senior, principal, and distinguished engineers filled this new team making it a great opportunity for me to learn. We would be creating this PWA app for the hotel search results and hotel detail pages that serve millions of customers a day. But our ultimate goal would be to prove that this tech solution was good for customers, developers, and Expedia’s future. I was torn on this decision – stay with my team and potentially get a promotion or join this brand-new team and challenge myself. I knew this opportunity would push my thinking and ways of working but I could not help but be excited to learn something completely new. My manager even encouraged me to take the opportunity which I think is also a great attribute of EG. We celebrate challenging ourselves and encourage taking opportunities. So, I chose to jump, to try something new.
It quickly became clear to me that this team was very different from the one I had just left. My previous team had a very clear area of ownership. We had certain applications and pages that we were responsible for managing and progressing. This allowed us to do future planning and large project breakdowns before starting implementations. This new team was building everything from scratch, so it was very difficult to do any type of pre-planning or estimating. In order to be successful, the team had to work quickly in a very agile and candid way. We were hitting issues left and right in this uncharted territory. I started as a backend engineer writing APIs. Then I got my hands dirty in application engineering to unblock production deployments. I became a network engineer to set up all our routing, which sliced traffic by channel. And I even got into the data science world when our test initially wasn’t performing as well as we expected. This team just had to be more flexible to make this work. They also had to be more candid with each other. There were many zoom calls with us debating solutions back and forth. I found my voice quite a bit on this team. I had to; this wasn’t an environment where I could be blocked for days. I learned to over-communicate and throw in my opinion. I was surprised by the number of times my idea was great (less surprised when it was not so great). As I gained confidence, I could see my impact on the team growing. I was a major driver in the last push of getting our platform released due to the data analytics and traffic routing investigations I led. Another major takeaway I had from this team was to congratulate each other and celebrate wins. I had these more senior engineers reaching out one-on-one to tell me I did a good job. We would post slack celebratory messages every time an even minor milestone was hit – like the date picker component being done. Looking back at my previous team, I don’t think this team was better or worse; it was just different. I think this is an area where EG excels – we are empowered to organize ourselves in a way that helps us better achieve our goals. Luckily this project ended up being very successful and is now the base of our entire shopping platform.
Jumping forward a few more years – our tiger team had transformed into the lodging shopping team that we have today. With over 100 people spanning across the world our area of ownership still required a good amount of agility. We had successfully launched our new PWA across mobile and desktop web, and we were now adding a lot of exciting new features on top of it. I was starting to feel comfortable again. I was the go-to for many questions on the team and a point person for new architectural challenges. When a manager on our team was promoted into a Director role on a different team in Expedia, it left a vacancy. I was faced with another choice between switching to management or staying on my individual contributor path. I knew I would eventually have to make this choice, but I had always been torn on what path I wanted to take. Technical problem solving was what originally drew me to computer science but the people I worked with is really what made me fall in love with my career. Luckily after the last time, I felt comfortable being uncomfortable and made the choice to switch and give it my best shot. I think another reason I felt more at ease making this decision was my new understanding of the flexibility at Expedia when it came to career progression. I ended up loving working with my team of engineers. My experience of giving and receiving candid feedback helped me communicate with my team. I could see improvements as we worked through our quarterly connects and annual reviews. I learned through the PWA project how much I enjoyed encouraging others and helping them solve problems.
Now in my role as a Director on the Lodging Shopping team, I have to zoom out a bit more and help drive my team toward Expedia’s vision of building the world’s best travel platform. I must understand where we are going and all the major steps we must take to get there. I make decisions on what problems we go after by making tradeoffs between tech and product enhancements. I also still get to spend a lot of time working directly with engineers and helping them grow. I recently had a new college graduate on my team from the EG Grad Program, and I am looking forward to interns joining my team this summer.
It was also down my path to management where I got more involved in the amazing Inclusion and Diversity programs Expedia takes part in. I was recently involved in the Path Forward, a returnship program, where I found an amazing team member who had taken a few years off to raise their family. I work with my team to complete their annual accessibility training to ensure our site helps everyone travel. I’ve been to multiple recruiting events like Grace Hopper where I get to learn from others in the industry but also promote this great place to work. Expedia Group partners with many organizations because we are dedicated to creating an inclusive environment for everyone. Just like we’re committed to powering travel for everyone.
Overall, my journey at Expedia Group has been one filled with exceptional friendships and challenging problems. If I had been working for another company, I’m not sure I would have had the same opportunities. Each time I made one of those fearless choices, I was unsure and nervous, but the community around me and the teammates I had encouraged and supported me. So, whether it is during your career or any other aspect of life – make bold choices and push yourself outside your comfort zone. You might just be surprised at what you can do.
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