Prajakta Amberkar loves meeting new people, exploring new things and takes every opportunity to learn from her surroundings. From enjoying the latest fiction book in a quiet corner to delivering an energetic salsa dance after work — our conversation with Prajakta, was truly down to earth and full of surprises.
The Software Development Engineer has been with Expedia Group for seven years, starting in the Seattle Head Office as a fresh graduate and moving her way to the Sydney office five years ago. For Prajakta, she has the big responsibility of facilitating and implementing solutions for the web services that form the back end of the travel platform — which is pretty much the engine room of the company.
A collaborative environment
Prajakta says working at Expedia Group is fun and very social — no matter where in the world you are. She says, “Expedia Group has a fun, and good team environment. Moving to Sydney from Seattle has been great”.
“I love the collaborative environment where we can put our heads together to solve problems benefitting from the guidance and support of local and international leaders. Even with everyone working remotely this year, we’re still collaborating more than ever. However, the lack of open space at home and the lack of ability to tap someone on the shoulder in an office has made it more challenging.”
Prajakta considers Expedia Group’s encouraging team environment a key driver to her career success. She says,
It’s a safe environment here, and it’s ok to fail. This gives me more encouragement to try new things.
“There is a focus on delivering positive impact to our customers and partners, and there’s a good balance between utilising Expedia Group’s global best practices as well and being open to new things to achieve efficiency and business value. My experiences have been great for my personal and career growth and success.”
Be part of the solution, not the problem
Prajakta is currently working on an important project to further simplify and automate travel booking cancellations, which better serves customers wanting or needing to change their travel plans. This not only helps minimise administration and customer service centre calls but importantly, enables a better customer experience on Expedia Group sites.
“Because of COVID-19, we received a lot of customer centre calls from people needing to cancel their travel plans. I’m working on a system that now automates that process, meaning it can be done by travellers themselves online.”
Prajakta says the great thing about working for Expedia Group is that you’re working with international teams and there are opportunities to move around the company, “Global roles at Expedia Group are actively shared internally, and individual requests to relocate are considered. If you want to explore a different role, you can”.
But if you join Expedia Group, be ready for fast paced environment. She says,
Be ready to be part of the solution in a dynamic environment — instead of the problem. You need to be a glass half full person, and you will be given all the support for your current work as well as your next opportunity.
When asked what role or division Prajakta is interested in for her next challenge, she says she is excited that Expedia Group has engineering teams in Australia and around the world at Expedia Group. “The Brisbane office has an engineering team, so we will see.”
Health and wellbeing are a priority
Prajakta laughs, "My manager is forcing me to go back to salsa dancing, so I don’t get burnt out! He asks me all the time how is your work-life balance? I can see you’re doing long hours’. He is walking the talk by showing he takes breaks as well. He cares for me as a human being".
Expedia Group values employee health and wellbeing. The company reimburses gym memberships, fitness classes and accessories like Fitbits. There are also generous travel incentives, which Prajakta loves since she is an avid traveller.
Prajakta cannot stress enough the supportive culture at Expedia Group. She says,
On Monday mornings, I never feel the dread about going into work! There have been changes in my personal life in the past, and Expedia Group has been very supportive.
On workplace flexibility, Prajakta says, "It’s a flexible working environment here. It’s a trust-based system, and they have never been very stringent with work start/finish times, although everyone puts in their contracted hours. What’s important is that you get your work done. There is an expectation that you attend most of the meetings to collaborate, and some of those may be with colleagues in different time zones around the world".
Opportunities go beyond your role
Prajakta is grateful for the opportunity to give back through empowering the next generation of women, including cis- and trans-women, studying engineering or technology.
“At the beginning of the year, I was involved in a UTS mentorship program called “Lucy”. This program prepares women for a successful career in engineering and technology. It was a fulfilling experience. Even though the program just wrapped up, I’m still mentoring in my own time.”
Prajakta is also part of the WELL chapter, which stands for Women in Expedia Leading and Learning. It’s an employee-led inclusion business group with thousands of employees engaged from around the world. Through her active involvement with the group, she was sponsored to represent the company at a Women in Technology conference.
Final words of wisdom
Prajakta loves her career in STEM.
Her advice to other women who wants to follow a similar path or succeed in their career is:
- It’s ok to have self-doubt. “A little bit of self-doubt is healthy. Sometimes women are reluctant to ask a question because they are worried about being perceived as not intelligent. My advice is never to be afraid to ask a question because no matter how big or small the question is, someone will benefit from the answer.”
- Don’t hold yourself back. “Don’t hesitate to speak your mind because you feel that it won’t be heard. We have an excellent and supportive culture here to give feedback.”
- Don’t sell yourself short. "Something both my Engineering Manager and Technical Product Manager said to me was never to sell myself short."
- Be a curious learner. “I like enjoying the little things in life and take every opportunity to build resiliency and contribute towards my personal growth.”
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