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Expedia Group Arrivals: Archana Arunkumar
We’re continuing the Expedia Group Arrivals series with a warm welcome to Archana Arunkumar, Senior Vice President, Platform as a Product.
Archana, welcome again to Expedia Group (EG)! We’re thrilled to have you on board. For our readers, please could you tell us a bit about yourself and your career journey?
Thanks for the warm welcome, I’m so happy to be here.
When I was in high school, I remember reading a Times article about bioinformatics with the words “SuperGeek” written across it. This was also just a few years after the first Jurassic Park movie. I would say that’s where my passion for tech started. I double-majored in Computer Science and Biological Sciences with a minor in Chemistry, and started my first job at the NASA Ames Research Center building satellites, running life science experiments in space, and working on the Yeast Genome Project with Stanford University.
I decided to go back to school for my master’s in Computer Science and figured out that was where my passions were, so I made the switch over to the ‘dark side’ to become a developer. By dark side, I mean that both figuratively (all you Star Wars fans must get this reference) and literally (I had to start sitting in the part of my office building that was the darkest in terms of access to natural light). I knew I had made the right decision; I truly enjoyed the faster impact I could have in writing code. Biological experiments can’t be rushed and need time for the whole lifecycle, but the speed at which I could move in software development was very rewarding for me.
During the initial part of my career, I grew as a developer working on server platforms in various domains and helped to scale a number of enterprise software solutions. In my roles working in software development, my time was most often spent fixing things after the fact. I realized that I could instead design and build things the right way from the get-go. I made another switch to product-focused roles, which at the time was still a fairly new concept for software platforms. That has led me on the path to building enterprise platforms and is what ultimately brought me to Expedia Group.
What excites you about Expedia Group and what led you to joining the company?
I have always loved traveling and have used Expedia Group’s platform as a consumer. I knew that EG plays a significant role in the travel ecosystem, but there were two specific things that caught my attention.
I’ve always been passionate about platforms and platformization. There comes a point in company lifecycles where they can no longer scale in the current model, and then the focus shifts to efficiency and platformization. However, to be successful, companies need to “align” on the vision AND be able to “execute” it.
Expedia Group is completely aligned on the vision and we have all the building blocks and domain knowledge to become an amazing travel platform. Additionally, there is obvious recognition of the window of opportunity to refocus our attention and build on the unified strategy. This has been one of the brightest silver linings of COVID-19 for our company. This alignment and committed investment make Expedia Group extremely well equipped as travel starts up again.
As Expedia Group enters the next phase of our transformation to a platform business, what is your vision for driving platform strategy?
We, at Expedia Group, have recognized that we need to scale more efficiently and become a platform, tech-first company. Because of how we grew as a company, we obviously incurred more than our fair share of tech debt. However, we now have the opportunity to remove the hurdles – be nimbler in being able to react to our customers’ needs and create a seamless experience for travelers and partners alike. As we build out more modularized components, it becomes much simpler to derive value, both for our existing portfolio of products but also to scale and address new opportunities beyond what we serve today. Platformization gives us the opportunity to have a unified front and also open new channels that allow us to become stickier in the travel ecosystem.
What impact are you hoping to make in your first year?
Platformization requires a lot of pieces to be broken up and reassembled. We know it works, now we need to bring it to the travel ecosystem. This first year my team and I will be very diligent in selecting a handful of use cases and taking them to market, where we can test the travel platform ecosystem.
You are passionate in creating a world that has more women leaders. What is your own leadership style and how do you bring that vision to life?
The most important thing to me is representation. I believe by having more women representation at all levels and the more you see yourself at the higher levels. That creates the space to bring the vision to life.
Where is the first place you want to use your travel perks on?
My goal is to visit a different country every year. I’m excited that after a couple years, I can pick that up and visit a place on my bucket list: Japan for the cherry blossoms festival. If I can fit in another trip, it will be Machu Pichu in Peru!
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