Connie Chung loves tech and she loves travel. And in 11 years at Expedia Group, the Bellevue, Wash.-based travel technology company, she’s gotten to combine both.
Chung, our latest Geek of the Week, is a senior director of product at Egencia, the business travel brand within Expedia.
A native Seattleite, Chung caught the tech bug from her dad, a “super geek,” as she calls him, who owned a computer store back in the 1980s and ’90s — before you could buy a computer online.
“As a child, I helped assemble hundreds of computers in his shop for fun,” Chung said. “He’s a big reason why I got an engineering degree from the University of Virginia (go Hoos!).”
At Egencia, Chung is attempting to seize on the ample opportunity to innovate in the travel space.
“Travel and booking travel will continue to evolve as technology advances,” she said. “A simple example of how we are making it easier for our customers to book travel is by using machine learning to provide personalized search results. We want to make your top search results the most relevant for you, so you don’t have to spend extra time filtering, sorting, and researching.”
And if she dropped everything and searched for her own vacation to celebrate being Geek of the Week?
“I would love an excuse to take a ‘business trip’ somewhere warm and beachy, like the Greek islands!” Chung said.
Learn more about this week’s Geek of the Week, Connie Chung:
What do you do, and why do you do it? I am a Senior Director of Product at Egencia, the business travel brand within Expedia Group. My job is to deliver the best product to save companies money and keep business travelers happy. Booking a work trip should be as easy as booking travel for your personal vacation. My responsibilities include our business intelligence and data products, along with customer service products. I love solving large, complex problems and feel energized when I can break down large problems into smaller, manageable actions. I often see people freeze when a problem seems too overwhelming. I encourage my team to have a bias for action and to just start moving. Sometimes you may make a wrong decision, but that’s OK. You can learn from those mistakes and pivot quickly.
What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? A wide range of stakeholders present solutions to product managers, and we have to know how to ask the right questions, and steer the conversation towards determining the problem to solve for the customer. Once you’ve defined the actual problem that you want to solve, you often end up with an entirely different solution. The best product managers are able to combine strong technical skills and business savvy, with strategic vision and a heavy dose of emotional intelligence.
Where do you find your inspiration? Nature, for sure. Being a Seattle native means I find inspiration and peace on a hike, or any time I am out on the water. That’s when I get a reminder of how small I am, relative to time and space. It inspires me to reset my perspective.
What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? I couldn’t live without a washer and dryer. It would be someone’s full-time job to do laundry in our house if it weren’t for those machines.
What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? Most days I spend less than an hour at my desk. I’m usually jumping around from meeting to meeting. My desk is not much more than a dropoff spot for my purse and lunch.
Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life. (Help us out, we need it.) Be selective and prioritize relentlessly. There is never enough time in the day to do everything you want to do. You have to know what is critical and what is optional — it’s not always obvious. I am careful in how I schedule my days. By doing so, I am able to leave my work at the office and keep most of my evenings free to spend with my family. With that said, there are occasionally days when I continue to work at home. Sometimes an emergency comes up, or a deadline approaches, and I just need to put in the extra time to make sure my team and I are on the right track. By maintaining a flexible mindset, I have the freedom to adapt how I work based on changing situations at work and at home. For example, when my kids were still babies, I set a rule for myself to never be gone on work trips for more than three consecutive days. Now that they’re older (6 and 4 this year, it’s such a fun age!), I am comfortable with taking week-long trips without stressing about it.
Mac, Windows or Linux? Windows.
Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? Huh?
Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? Transporter. I spend too much time in airplanes and airports. Imagine being able to take a weekend getaway halfway around the world, what a dream!
If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … Change the way travel is planned and booked for families with children. Today I have to spend way too much time reading people’s blogs about “traveling to x with toddlers.”
I once waited in line for … Rollercoaster rides. I love rollercoasters, and it’s one of the few things I will wait in lines for.
Your role models: David Robinson (the former NBA center for the Spurs). I grew up watching a lot of NBA games, and he was at the top of the game, was a stand-up guy, served in the military, and after retiring from the NBA, has used his money and fame to serve his community.
Greatest game in history: Uno. I enjoyed it as a kid, and am rediscovering the joys of it again with Uno Attack!
Best gadget ever: Foot massager. I look forward to coming home each day and tucking my feet inside my foot massager.
First computer: A computer with a 486 processor.
Current phone: iPhone 8.
Favorite app: ClassPass. I only squeeze in about 1-2 workouts a week, but it helps me feel like I have a small chance to fight against the aging process.
Favorite cause: Causes that help foster children, or children in need of adoptive families.
Most important technology of 2019: Autonomous driving.
Most important technology of 2021: Blockchain. In a couple years we will see more widespread adoption of this technology beyond cryptocurrencies.
Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: Be humble and kind. It’s not just what you accomplished that matters, it’s how you accomplished those things that matters even more.
LinkedIn: Connie Chung