Insights from a Senior Data Science Manager at Expedia Group
From Using Data to Help People Travel Better to How a Career At Expedia Group Can Help You Find Your Passion
If you're not entirely sure what a career in data science entails, you're not alone. It's a relatively new term, and a lot can fall under the umbrella of data science. To understand what data science is, why it's important, and what kinds of candidates are well suited to the field, we sat down with Senior Data Science Manager at Expedia Group, Soma Bhattacharya, PhD.
Soma encourages anyone who enjoys intellectual exploration to take the plunge: "If solving for real-world problems using the power of big data and scientific methodology excites you, then I'd encourage you to jump in and start snorkeling into this ocean… you never know what you might discover."
Read on to learn more about data science, Soma's journey into the field, and why she loves applying her knowledge as a data scientist at Expedia Group. Plus, we got her tips for how anyone (even those without a PhD) can start a career as a data scientist.
So, first off, what is data science?
"Data science is just an industry coined term which really implies using big data and statistics, which was traditionally only utilized in academia," which is where Soma got her start, completing her doctorate in economics.
Now that big businesses have finally caught on to leveraging big data, there's a pressing need for qualified data scientists. That's how, in part, Soma made the leap from research (and over two dozen peer-reviewed papers) to business.
Although some people might initially see this leap as odd, Soma's background in economics gave her a strong foundation in statistical modeling, which is what she's used to solve problems as a health policy researcher, and now as a data scientist at Expedia Group. In her words, "The only thing that changed when I shifted gears from academia to health policy to industry, was the kind of questions I'm solving for."
What kinds of questions is data science answering at Expedia Group?
At Expedia Group, the kinds of questions Soma's answering help provide a better experience to travelers across the world, and that's an Expedia Group foundation that Soma believes in wholeheartedly - bringing the world closer.
Soma's data science team is involved in building chatbots so customers can self-serve for all their service needs, but data science at Expedia Group goes well beyond that. There are multiple teams dedicated to pushing the travel industry forward, leveraging the full capabilities of Artificial Intelligence and Data Science to help customers make the most of their travels.
For Soma, the key is, "helping the customer search effectively… search for what they really are looking for." Because many customers don't know where to begin when planning their travels, data science can help them find what's actually relevant to them, and plan the trip of their dreams, even if they weren't entirely sure what they were looking for.
What's life like at Expedia Group as a woman and a mother?
In Soma's experience, the idea of bringing the world closer doesn't just apply to Expedia Group's approach to customers, but to employees as well. In the same way the company helps introduce travelers to the rich diversity of culture, food, thought, and people that the world has to offer, it brings employees from diverse backgrounds together to, "celebrate and learn [from one another]."
Whether it's training programs for junior women led by female leaders at the company, mentoring programs, or gathering together as a company to celebrate holidays from all over the world (most recently Chinese New Year), Soma feels like Expedia Group goes the extra mile to be an inclusive place to work.
As a mother of two young kids, this has been particularly instrumental in ensuring she can adjust her schedule in order to meet all of her responsibilities as a mother, while still being able to, "utilize my skill sets that I had worked so hard to build to make some meaningful contributions in this space."
Can you pursue data science at Expedia Group even if your background isn't in statistics?
If you think you might like to take the plunge into data science, but you don't have a PhD in economics like Soma, don't worry. When we asked her if Expedia Group offered any paths for folks who want to career pivot, her answer was a resounding, "We highly encourage that."
Expedia Group has early career opportunities starting with internships and training programs for students, and many of these same programs are open to Expedia Group employees on other teams who are interested in trying something new. Soma even leads data science workshops for Expedia employees who are interested in learning more about the field.
Soma also prioritizes training, external and internal, for her team members because in a rapidly changing field like data science, "we need to keep up to date with all the skill sets."
Summing it up: Who can excel at Expedia Group?
As Soma puts it, "At Expedia Group we always have a thirst for great talent. We like to give everybody an opportunity to try out their talents…We believe in the old adage, 'If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.' We believe that everybody has great talents, and it's just finding that right path. What motivates you. What you're passionate about. Where you know you can contribute."
If this sounds like a place you'd like to work, then check out their open roles on PowerToFly - Soma's team is growing! You can see the rest of their amazing benefits and learn more about their culture here.
A Look At The Challenges They've Faced & How Their Companies Support Them
We know that the ratio of women to men in software engineering is overwhelmingly low. Scroll through just about any company's roster on Linkedin and see for yourself. It's depressing.
If you're not in the mood to engage in that little experiment, just check out this PwC study that found that only 15% of employees in STEM roles in the U.K. are women, and that women hold a mere 5% of leadership roles in the tech sector.
However, we also know that diversity is the top priority for 78% of talent leaders. This is good news for us, because our goal at PowerToFly is to close these gender gaps as quickly as possible - and the more companies that get on board, the faster we can do that.
We partner with companies that are not only committed to diversity and inclusion, but to fostering a sense of belonging for underrepresented candidates once they accept job offers.
In the meantime, we know that the struggle for many women and other minorities in tech is still real, and that being a woman in this male-dominated industry is no cake walk. That's why we invited women engineers at some of our partner companies to share their experiences in their own words.
They shared some of the biggest challenges they've faced as women in tech and how they overcame them, as well as why they feel supported and enjoy working at their current companies.
We hope reading about these experiences will make other women in software engineering realize they're not alone in the challenges they're facing, and that there are lots of companies making strides to better support women in tech. We also hope that reading this will inspire more companies to follow suit, especially given that women leave the tech industry at twice the rate of men.
Hats off to these 7 women and to the companies that support their work:
What's the coolest thing Promptworks does to support women engineers?
"One of my favorite things about Promptworks is how all the female engineers support each other. Having an amazing group of colleagues to lean on, vent to, and seek advice from has been vital to me. As soon as I joined the engineering team, I felt immediately part of this amazing family of women who also have my back."
—M.K., Software Engineer at Promptworks
Want to join Promptworks' team of Women Engineers?
- Senior React Native Engineer
- Senior Software Engineer
- Contract Software Engineer
- Software Engineer
- And more
More about PromptWorks:
Promptworks builds custom software for companies by creating amazing technologies that help achieve their vision.
Monthly work-from-home flexibility, Collegial atmosphere with family-style lunch twice a week on us, ergonomic work stations including seated & standing pair programming stations, 100% company-paid medical, dental, and vision insurance, 401(k) plan with company matching and more!
Why did you choose to work at Yelp?
"The best thing about Yelp is the culture. I had an amazing interview process which reflected how much Yelp values their employees. Once I got through, I received a welcome card from my team and AWE group and I still feel very loved at Yelp. Also, I love the people! They are very smart and innovative and Yelp gives us all the freedom to vent out our creativity."
—Supriya, Backend Engineer at Yelp.
Want to join Yelp's team of Women Engineers?
More about Yelp:
Yelp engineering culture is driven by our values: we're a cooperative team that values individual authenticity and encourages "unboring" solutions to problems.
Medical, dental, and vision insurance - 100% covered for Yelp employees, 401k program with company match, parental program: Bright Horizons, mother's rooms, paid baby bonding leave, well being and stress management resources, and more!
What's the biggest challenge you've faced at Ubiquity6 and how did you overcome it?
"One of the personal challenges I've dealt with at Ubiquity6 is imposter syndrome, which was definitely amplified by working with so many incredible engineers. Thankfully, my team is really supportive and I have been able to take ownership over some important projects. The combination of getting great constructive feedback while framing my mindset towards improvement has really helped build my confidence as an engineer."
—Robyn, Software Engineer at Ubiquity6
Want to join Ubiquity6's team of Women Engineers?
More about Ubiquity6:
Ubiquity6 works with the design, infrastructure, and game engine teams to help guide the user through complex workflows involving spatial mapping, dynamic code loading, and game engine orchestration. Their challenge is to tie together all the different pieces of technology in a way that feels seamless to the end user.
Generous PTO, flexible work hours, work-from-home, remote positions, medical and dental benefits including family coverage, and more!
What's the coolest thing Verisign does to support women engineers?
"Verisign has been extremely warm and welcoming. Your opinions and ideas are heard irrespective your gender and position in the company. Verisign has a Women in Technology group which organizes monthly workshops and seminars, encouraging women to participate and demonstrate their skills. It is attended by the entire company and not just women. The company is full of empowering women who constantly motivate you to break the stereotypes and fulfill your passion."
—Shreyashi, Software Engineer at Verisign
Want to join Verisign's team of Women Engineers?
- Senior Engineer - Information Security Compliance
- Mid-level Software Engineer
- Sr. Infrastructure Software Engineer
- And more!
More about Verisign:
Verisign, a leader in domain names and internet infrastructure, enables internet navigation for many of the world's most recognized domain names.
Medical, dental, vision and prescription plans, traditional and Roth 401(k) with company match, basic life insurance, optional life insurance for employee, spouse or child(ren), home and auto insurance and more!
What’s one of the most impactful things One Medical does for women engineers?
"I recently attended a fireside chat with Sheryl Sandberg who pointed out that while there are increasing programs aimed at bringing women into technical roles, there aren't as many women being promoted. One of the most impactful things I see that One Medical does is actually hire and promote female engineers into both senior engineering roles and engineering management roles. Not only are they being promoted, but there is noticeable support before, during, and after the promotion. Growth and learning is a big part of the culture here, and I am excited to take part in such a fulfilling company."
—Vanessa, Data Engineer at One Medical
Want to join One Medical's team of Women Engineers?
- Senior Software Engineer (Fullstack)
- Principal Software Engineer (Fullstack)
- Staff Software Engineer (Fullstack)
- And more!
More about One Medical:
One Medical builds amazing end-to-end solutions to connect patients and our care team in new and innovative ways.highly collaborative environment, not only will you be partnering with designers and product managers, you'll also be sitting shoulder to shoulder with the doctors and nurses who deliver care daily to One Medical patients.
Top-notch dental, vision, and health insurance, paid parental leave, PTO, paid holidays, and sabbatical at 5 and 10 years
401K Match, One Medical membership for you and your family and more!
What's the coolest thing Fair does to support women engineers?
"Gender equity is a big thing at Fair. I once received a Fair-branded jacket that didn't quite fit right in the sleeves and waist. I tried to return it, but my boss wouldn't hear of it, citing Susan Fowler's leather jacket incident. Fair immediately offered to cover the jacket alteration costs for myself and other women in the company. I'm grateful to work at a place that values and includes its female employees as much as Fair does."
—Michelle, Lead Software Engineer at Fair.
Want to join Fair's team of Women Engineers?
- Senior Software Engineer - Search & Discovery Team
- Senior Platform Engineer
- Support Engineer
- And more!
More about Fair:
Fair is looking for highly motivated engineers interested in delivering the next level of innovation to product search and discovery at Fair. You'll be designing and implementing new search features and the systems behind them, including the integration of natural language processing, heuristics, and machine learning systems used to generate and rank search results. You'll work with microservices on AWS, multiple languages, and a great engineering team with a fun culture.
Equity incentives, 100% coverage of medical, vision and dental premiums for employees and their families, 100% paid parental leave for 4 months, 401(k) retirement plans and free lunch 5 days a week for every employee and more!
In moments of self-doubt or adversity, how do you build yourself back up?
"Coming from coding school, my background was not in computer science nor did I graduate from college with a degree in engineering, so it has always been a bit of a struggle to build myself up. I remind myself that everyone is going through a learning process. I have spoken to my mentor about having imposter syndrome when I first started working at Yelp. He let me know that even he has moments of imposter syndrome. It is easier to relate to somebody when you hear that they are going through the same struggles as you and it's a good reminder that nobody is here to judge you. I think it's great that even when you mess up you don't have to be worried about getting fired. Yelp has a very supportive environment. In times of adversity I try to calm myself down and realize that everyone makes mistakes and tries to learn from them to be better."
—Julie, Full Stack Engineer at Yelp.
Scroll up or click here to learn more about Yelp & how to join their team.
Want to see more great roles at companies committed to recruiting more women in software engineering? Check out our job board!
A Look at Fidelity's Approach to Women's Career Growth and Engagement
Whenever I reflect on my experience as one of the relatively few women in the gaming industry, I think of a student I met at a Game Writers' Roundtable the last time I went to the Game Developers Conference (GDC).
"The floggings will continue until morale improves." We've all heard the saying, a tongue-in-cheek way of criticizing workplaces that are neither healthy nor productive — and no employer or employee wants to be that workplace. Create a healthier, more productive work environment with these tips.