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Phani B. - Vice President, Software Engineering

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Kumar

Title: VP, Software Engineering
Location: Bangalore, India
Joined: 2014
Preferred Pronouns: He/Him/His

Kumar is the perfect example of why Groupon’s leadership stands out amongst other big tech companies. Learn about how he grew the India development center from its inception and continues to empower Groupon’s millions of customers and merchants worldwide. 

How has Groupon impacted you?

I work with some of the best minds in the industry at Groupon. On a daily basis, I learn a lot from my team members. I manage the Core Application Platform (CAP) at Groupon. This is the team that manages the kernel of the eCommerce platform— API layer, Orders, Payments, Inventory, etc. Working on high throughput, low latency and resilient systems is what keeps me and my team excited about our work. There are significant opportunities to optimize the systems further and while working on those, contribute back to the industry on our learnings. Groupon provided me with many opportunities and I grew as a stronger engineering leader.

What are you currently reading?

I am in the middle of reading Principles by Ray Dalio. Before that, I finished The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge. It was one of the best reads I’ve had recently as it clarified a lot of principles about “systems thinking” and the importance of looking at things holistically.

Tell a story about the first time you saw your work making an impact.

I joined Groupon in December of 2014 and was managing the technology stack for APAC countries. At that time, Groupon had around 14 tech stacks globally. I was working with many Product and Business leaders in APAC who wanted changes to the application quickly. However, prioritizing those feature changes across various globally-distributed and dependent teams was challenging. I quickly realized that having all the countries migrate to a common technology stack would accelerate feature development, reduce duplication of efforts and overall improve the stability of the platform. Luckily, teams in NA were already working on a project called Unity to make the user interface common across all the countries. My teams and I took up the Platform Parity project and it took a couple of years to completely migrate all the countries to a global stack. Close to 100 teams worked on this project, and when I now look back, our technology stack is much more robust. It now allows us to roll out features to all our international customers quickly.

Describe your leadership style.

Being adaptable and resilient is one of the Groupon Leader Habits. I find that adapting my leadership style to meet the changing business needs and the needs of my stakeholders is more effective than sticking to a singular leadership style. However, this question made me contemplate a common pattern across my own leadership styles. One thing that stands out is the importance of organizational commitment. I have branded this approach internally as #GETMe. #GETMe stands for Groupon, Engineering, Team, and Me – every decision we make as a team follows that order of priority. All my managers have stickers of #GETMe on their laptops.

Describe your job in 10 words or less.

Continuously enhance the application platform to support Groupon’s mission.

What have you done when you’ve encountered setbacks in your career?

I reach out to my manager and peers for advice. Groupon has some of the best people in the industry and they are always willing to help. Setbacks offer an excellent opportunity to learn and connect.

 

What’s your favorite local business?

It is difficult to pick one, but I will explain an interesting experience I had when I joined Groupon, five years ago. I once went to a famous pizza restaurant in Bangalore with my then 12-year-old daughter. The restaurant manager was happy to know that I was from Groupon and spent quite a bit of time explaining how Groupon is sending more customers to them. My daughter was very impressed when she understood what was going on, and how Groupon helps local businesses. It was a proud moment.

If you could do any other job for a day, what would it be and why?

I would love to teach Computer Science and Physics to children. I like both of these subjects and I believe I connect well with children— especially if I could make the teaching process fun and inspiring.

Walk us through your career journey at Groupon.

I joined Groupon in December 2014, along with 11 other teammates as a part of an acquisition. So when I look back on how the Bangalore Development Center started, and how it grew to a 200+ strong team, it gives me immense satisfaction. However, all of this would not have been possible without the excellent support we received from the Talent Acquisition (TA) team. They helped hire some of the best talents available in the Bangalore market, which helped us own more complicated Tier1 services in Bangalore. My managers in the US had unwavering confidence in me and my teams, and it helped us build a fun dev center. We celebrate all festivals, play sports, and participate in many Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities. In addition to all of this, we have successful engineering excellence programs like Bangalore Engineering Excellence Program and Asha, that encourage developers to form a community to share and discuss their technological learnings and challenges.

From the engineering side, we won many important battles— we consolidated several data centers and moved all the countries to the global tech stack. Along with this, we rewrote a few Tier1 services to be more compliant and scalable. I also had the opportunity to be a keynote speaker at NASSCOM Product Conclave. I got a few promotions along the way, but more than that, I am very proud of the teams in Bangalore, and how we all work together well and continue to contribute our best to Groupon.

What’s the most important quality in a teammate?

Integrity is the most important quality for building strong teams.

What do your kids think you do?

My daughter knows my work at Groupon, so there are no surprises there, but my son just thinks I am always on a call!

What do you like to do beyond work?

I like forests and mountains. I try to go to Madikeri 3-4 times in a year; it is a hill station in the Western Ghats of India. I love driving long distances with my family. I also read a lot of books, love bowling, and playing cricket


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