Expedia director of technology Elizabeth Eastaugh talks about her career in tech, her mission to increase diversity in the industry and love of Top Gun
Elizabeth Eastaugh is travel booking site Expedia’s head of technology. When she’s not figuring out how to make your holiday easier and cheaper to book, she’s working to get more women involved in technology, desperate to prove the industry is not just for boys.
A child of the 1980s, she tells us about Tomorrow’s World and the ZX Spectrum as well as her dream of being Maverick from Top Gun
Tell us something about your IT Career
I studied Computer Science and got my degree in Artificial Intelligence at the University of Essex. I originally wanted to be a code breaker or a robotist but landed my first job working for a large finance company. I worked in the R&D department and got to try a ton of different types of programming which led me to find my love of Middleware. Getting technology that doesn’t want to talk to each other was an exciting challenge.
What tech were you involved in ten years ago
I was lucky enough to be involved in the birth of service oriented architecture. I worked a lot with IBM WenSphere and IBM MQ technologies. I also remember being super excited about getting my hands on the installation disks for Microsoft.NET which meant we could finally get rid of the old VB6 applications! BizTalk also played a large part in my day to day activities.
What tech do you expect to be involved with in ten year’s time
As a child in the 1980’s I used to watch Tomorrow’s World and be so excited when they demonstrated a bizarre machine that would automate your house in some way, with Machine Learning and AI technology advancements. I think in the next decade home automation will play a large part in our daily lives. I can already control my lights, heating and music system in my house from the office!
Who is your tech hero and why?
I have two. While he was not strictly technical, Isaac Asimov for inspiring me as a young girl with his wonderful stories of robots and artificial life, and Alan Turing. As a young adult I was really passionate about code breaking, and would dream up codes and tools to break them on my ZX Spectrum.
Who is your tech villain and why?
Any company that has a website where a large giant ad obscures most of the page – it’s incredibly annoying when you are trying to find information fast!
Highway to the danger zone
What’s your favourite technology ever made and what do you use most?
The mobile phone + Wi-Fi! I remember in the early 2000s I got an early palm pilot and I thought it was the coolest thing (although it really didn’t add any value!). Now with a smartphone and mobile data I am able to remain connected to my friends and family no matter where I am in the world. It really gives me a sense of autonomy to balance my work and life in ways I could never have dreamed would have been possible holding that early palm pilot.
What is your budget outlook? Flat? Growing?
Expedia is doing well and helping to drive the travel industry as a whole. We’re constantly evolving products and looking for new ways to make the customer experience easier. Technology is being used to simplify the travel process and put our customers in control. That’s something I love about my job – being able to make meaningful changes that impact the way millions of people plan, book and enjoy travel. If you look at the investments Expedia has made in technology in 2013, we invested over $550 million on technology and in 2014 that grew to over $680 million so we are certainly taking technology seriously and this level of investment presents some very exciting opportunities for us.
Apart from your own, which company do you most admire and why?
Aside from Expedia, the company I admire the most is ThoughtWorks. I had the opportunity to partner with them a couple of years ago and it was great to meet another company so passionate about technology and learning. I’m always looking at their tech radar which they publish and their talks are excellent.
What is the greatest challenge for an IT company or department today?
Diversity – we are just not seeing enough women picking technology or engineering based GCSE’s/A Levels or Degrees. This makes it super hard for companies to hire diverse talent. My biggest wish would be to get more women to consider technical careers. This is echoed in one of Expedia’s key goals as a business for 2015 is to inspire and attract more women into careers in technology.
Women have so much to offer in the technology sector and the best teams are of course representative of the customers that use their products – I’m on a mission to get past the outdated stereotype that technology is just for boys!
To cloud or not to Cloud
To Cloud! Google Docs has changed my life!
What did you want to be when you grew up?
For a while I wanted to be Maverick from Top Gun, and then I wanted to be an engineer building robots.