Internship at Hotels.com

Maximilian Mihaldinecz

Faculty: Science & Technology
Department: Computing and Technology
Course: BSc (Hons) Computer Science
Category: Computing and digital technology

5 February 2015

An amazing place is not necessarily behind a professor’s old wardrobe… I found one just down in London! More stimulating than a tiger in the boat, and more empirical than a Vienna Circle meeting…

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...this was my summer internship with Hotels.com[1]!


It all started with a hunger for numbers. My project for the ‘Design for the Internet’ module was to update an existing e-commerce website in order to optimise its sales performance. I was happy with this project, as I worked on a real problem for an existing business. I also received loads of support and ideas from the lecturer Tim Reynolds. While I was working on this, I found myself more and more often diving deep into Google Analytics’ numbers to bring up a shell containing the answer to one of my ‘Whys?’ I found this ultimately more exciting than actually deliver the change what the answer was required.

On one day, I saw it while browsing through LinkedIn: ‘web optimisation analyst’. I imagined myself endlessly swimming in numbers like Uncle Scrooge does in his wealth. I always keep my CV nice and ready, just as Léon the Professional does with his arms. I hoped that I didn’t really have to face with those exemplary[2] interview questions (I doubt their effectiveness), and the phone interview confirmed this entirely. In fact, the on-site interview was as relevant to the day-to-day job as it could be. I also brought the portfolio of my current project, but it was a bit like a three-year-old child showing his drawing to Michelangelo :-). A fun moment from the interview: as part of an answer, I mentioned ‘I am not particularly happy doing things which don’t have a usable or meaningful outcome’. As soon as I said it, I realised that this could be interpreted in very different way, but interestingly the answer was ‘That’s good. We don’t like that either’. And I was just about to experience how deeply true that is…

By the way, you might wonder what a web optimisation analyst does. The keywords you should look up are A/B testing and Multivariate testing (MVT). Also, I would recommend a book[3] from Avinash Kaushik. If you are not into tech, in a nutshell: make changes on the website, run the variations concurrently, analyse their performance, keep the best. (Sounds easy, huh? :-))

The internship started with training by a very enthusiastic colleague, who had the talent to pass over a great deal of knowledge in a continuously entertaining way. The training was mainly about the day-to-day doings, and later on I was provided with a selection of projects I could participate in. My manager had excellent taste to recommend me the ones which are challenging, yet still achievable. I worked on two micro projects within small groups to develop internal tools for the analytics team. I have learned so much from my team members during these projects. What’s more, they made me so interested in statistics that I recently bought a book about it for Christmas. As far as I know, the tools we developed are still in active use. Feels great.

The working culture deserves its own section. International, multicultural and very open-minded. I was very impressed that the intern’s say was welcomed and equally considered even at large meetings. More generally, decisions were based on purely rationality and a winner of an argument always had better facts and reasoning. Yet people are very humble with their opinions and open to new ideas. I also enjoyed the ‘work hard, play hard’ atmosphere. Breakfasts, lunches (I had my largest steak in my life here), birthday cakes, seasonal events, pubbing… there is something for every day.

Best memory? I had the luck to travel abroad for a four days-long MVT event. I was a part of a small ‘commando’ made up people from various teams. We rapidly idealised, designed, implemented and launched numerous tests. It was incredible to experience such a collaboration and productivity. Here I also had the chance to try out myself in all the stages of the tests’ life cycles.

I am so happy that I had this whole experience. Mostly, I am thankful for all those people I have met and had the chance to work with.

[1] http://www.lifeatexpedia.com/brands/hotels-com/

[2] https://nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk/advice/getajob/interviews/Pages/top10interviewquestions.aspx

[3] http://www.webanalytics20.com/
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