As a technology company with a passion for travel, Expedia has a dedicated team tirelessly working to make vacations and trips easier. This month, I sat down with Tracy Grilliot, director of product management, to chat about how Expedia is working to create solutions for travelers that makes Expedia.com a one-stop, holistic travel shop.
Tarran Street (TS): How long have you worked at Expedia and what made you want to work for the company?
Tracy Grilliot (TG): About 4.5 years, I was hired by an old friend and colleague of mine who had some new, different roles that seemed like an exciting fit for me.
TS: You have a wordy title; describe your day job for us in layman’s terms.
TG: When my 8-year-old asks, I say, “I talk to people.” This means I analyze the value of new ideas for scoping and prioritization. As a product manager I consider things such as revenue, scalability, customer experience, and legal liability. I work on a team that entices you to purchase other items after you’ve booked something with us. I also work with another group that analyzes travel marketplace trends on a vast scale and alerts customers about changing trends in inventory to help them make better decisions about when to book a trip. So when you see messages on Expedia that say “5 people looking at this hotel right now,” or, “27 people booked,” you’re looking at one of our products!
TS: What is one of your proudest accomplishments at Expedia?
TG: I’d say working on our payment platform to give our customers more ways to book: With different payment methods, with different currencies, and avoiding fees if possible. It was a big effort across a lot of teams to build the first proof-of-concept for that, but since then I’ve seen it enable more and more functionality across our sites with great efficiency. And it’s cool to know there’s more to be done in this space. Seeing your baby go live and watching it evolve, then realizing how it helps customers—that is a good day.
TS: With so many potential areas to offer that level of detail for customers, how does the team decide what to focus on?
TG: Well, our biggest goals are to ensure customers are aware of all their travel options as the market changes, and to give them all the information they need to make a confident decision to book their next trip. We try one thing and see how it does, then move on to another and compare the results. We’re constantly building on what we know and adding more tests to understand the ripple effects. You’ve got to start somewhere, so taking that first step is easy because we know we could expand on it afterward.
TS: Where did you go to school? How did it prepare you for your job at Expedia?
TG: I went to University of Cincinnati. I studied biology, funnily enough. I moved to Seattle when I was 30. Previously, I was working in a sales position, but I found a company out here that was moving that service online. I had no idea what it meant when they told me they were “pre-IPO.” As I started learning more about software, I fell in love with the logic. Knowing, “if this can happen, then that can happen,” I love the connections between decisions.
TS: So what would you recommend to others looking to get into the industry?
TG: On the education front and potential hires: Be curious, curious, curious. Understand why things work and how they work. Ask questions without shame. If you can understand why something is, you can apply it to the next thing. I also wish more of us were trained to trust logic. To trust data. It doesn’t have to be perfect data, but good data will point you from one idea to the next. And in the business world, having data is incredibly compelling.
TS: Name a tech product example you are addicted to? Or any tool that motivates you?
TG: I feel like I’m on 17 different communications systems: Skype, email, Lync, Telegram, Messenger, and plain old text are ways you can get a hold of me.
TS: Favorite travel destination?
TG: I’m a food-and-drink kind of traveler so New Orleans is definitely high on the list. I have a huge fondness for that place, I’ve been probably 10 times. I love it; it’s like nothing else in the United States.
TS: Complete this sentence: A vacation isn’t complete without ::____.
TG: A glass of wine.