Jen O’Twomney helped Expedia navigate some of the most acquisition-hungry years of the travel giant’s life.
Expedia gobbled up Orbitz, Travelocity, Wotif, and HomeAway while O’Twomney was serving as Vice President of Technology, a critical role for integrating the new brands.
A year ago, she moved into a different position. She took over as VP of Expedia’s Local Expert business, a job she raves about.
“My team oversees everything from hot air balloon rides in New Mexico to craftsman walking tours in Florence,” she said. “My favorite thing about leading this team is that I get to do a bit of everything — some days I’m working with our engineering team in India (where I currently am) and other days I get to work with our marketing team dreaming up the best ways to showcase to our customers all the amazing adventures and experiences they can purchase on our site.”
We caught up with O’Twomney for this Working Geek, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for her answers to our questionnaire.
Current Location: “Work in Bellevue, Wash. Live in Seattle, WA. Currently traveling in Gurgaon, India.”
Computer type: “MacBook Air, 13-inch display.”
Mobile device(s): “iPhone 6s.”
Favorite apps, cloud services and software tools: “Trello, Dropbox, HipChat, and Slido for work. Expedia, Egencia, and Alaska Airlines for travel. OpenTable, PersonalCapital, and Vida for personal.”
Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? “My workspace is wherever I’m at. At the office, I have one picture of my daughter and a standing desk. Most my time is spent away from my desk talking with people.”
Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? “Do what you need to do for your work and life and don’t expect it to look like everyone else. I always say, think about the toasts you want your friends and family to say at your 80th birthday party. It’s a very helpful way to clarify what matters to you and get rid of the noise. Life happens in bursts. Be ready to say yes to the burst. If you are bored, it’s time for change.”
Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? “While I appreciate social media, I don’t personally like the ‘everyone knows your business’ aspect of it, so I’ve opted out of most personal networks – now I’m more of an observer on Facebook. My family hates this so I have to send them pictures and notes through text often. My professional network is on LinkedIn and I use it to communicate with folks regularly.”
Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? “42, because I just woke up in India and started clearing U.S. emails. I keep a clean inbox.”
Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? “25 meetings Monday-Thursday. We have meeting-free Friday on my team.”
How do you run meetings? “Outline and agree on agenda first. Dig through the topics. End as early as possible. When it’s personal coaching meetings, I prefer walks. People share more side-by-side than face-to-face. And the change of scenery helps people shift to personal reflection more quickly.”
Everyday work uniform? “Jeans, blouse, blazer, boots. We live in Seattle, after all. Sun comes out July-August and I get crazy and mix it up then by wearing some sandals.”
How do you make time for family? “You make time for your family. This means it’s blocked in my calendar to be sure it’s a priority. Mornings, evenings and weekends, I find time to connect. When I’m away, I write love notes to my husband and daughter to open throughout the trip. This helps us stay connected.”
Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? “Time with my family is my best stress reliever. My daughter and husband make me laugh until my sides hurt. Exercise also helps. Nothing like a sweat to clean the insides of your body and mind. Honestly, though, I don’t really ever fully unplug.”
What are you listening to? “Miles Davis’s ‘Bitches Brew,’ Lizzo’s ‘Coconut Oil,’ New York Times ‘The Daily’ podcast, ‘Freakonomics’ podcast, and ‘The Moth’ podcast.”
Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? “Anand Sanwal writes a daily newsletter about capital investment and human trends called ‘CB Insights’ – and at the end of every newsletter, he tells me he loves me. I have to get to the bottom to laugh. I love you, too, Anand! I have no favorite news site right now. Instead, I have nine news apps so I can try to figure out what is happening these days. Damn post-truth world! Huffington Post, NPR, New York Times, Al Jazeera, BBC, Breitbart, and Fox News, all live side-by-side on my phone.”
Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)? “Ben Horowitz’s ‘The Hard Thing About Hard Things.’ David Bohm’s ‘On Dialogue, Fahrenheit 451’.”
Night owl or early riser? What are your sleep patterns? “Early riser. I go to bed between 9-10 p.m. Wake up between 4-5 a.m. without an alarm. Bedroom is ice cold and pitch black.
Where do you get your best ideas? “During quiet times when I can reflect. These days it’s a 5 a.m. run, meeting-free Fridays, and the weekends.”
Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? “I’m three chapters away from finishing Ben Horowitz’s book. I’d love to go for a walk with him to ask questions.”