Interviews and Reviews

Tech, Transformation, and Transactions: A Conversation with Expedia’s Ajinkya Ghadge

In our ongoing series of profiles featuring industry experts, we had the opportunity to sit down with Ajinkya Ghadge, a Software Development Engineering Lead with Expedia Group. Ajinkya brings a wealth of experience in building robust payment processing systems and leading engineering teams. Let’s dive into his journey, insights, and advice for aspiring engineers.

Can you tell us a bit about your background and what drew you to software engineering?

My journey into software engineering started during my undergraduate studies at the University of Mumbai, where I earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science. I was always fascinated by how technology can solve complex problems and improve lives. This passion led me to pursue a master’s in computer science at the University of Texas at Arlington, where I had the opportunity to work on some groundbreaking projects, including a few funded by the National Science Foundation. The transition from robotics and AI to handling payments at Expedia was driven by the domain’s global impact. I was inspired by the chance to influence how millions experience travel, enhancing not just a single aspect but the entire payment process worldwide. This shift presented a new challenge and an opportunity to apply my AI background to solve complex, real-world problems on a much larger scale.

How have your experiences across different technology stacks, from robotics to AI/ML and now payment systems, influenced you?

Working with different technology stacks has taught me the importance of adaptability and understanding. In robotics, precision and safety were crucial. In AI and machine learning, the focus was on prediction accuracy and data integrity. Now, in payment systems, security and reliability are key. I’ve learned to value the unique challenges of each field and the importance of diverse teams collaborating and innovating.

What does your role at Expedia entail?

At Expedia, I’m one of the lead engineers in the Pay-In ecosystem of Expedia Payment Services. Our team is responsible for building fault-tolerant services to process payments worth over $100 billion annually.

What are the biggest challenges you face when implementing new technologies in large-scale systems, and how do you overcome them?

Integrating new technologies into large-scale systems presents a unique set of challenges, notably ensuring seamless integration without disrupting the service millions depend on. My strategy to mitigate these risks includes starting with small, isolated tests to gauge the impact of a major change that is released to production. I precede these roll-outs with robust testing and thorough code reviews and extensive consultations with peers to ensure every potential issue is addressed. This careful, step-by-step approach helps companies introduce new technology and ensure they deliver real value to customers and that align with strategic goals.

How do you select a technology solution for a particular project and how do you stay updated with the latest developments in your field?

Selecting the appropriate technology for a project is critical and hinges on various project-specific factors. I look at scalability requirements, security needs, the expertise of our team, and the expected lifespan of the service. Essentially, the decision involves aligning the technology with both the immediate challenges of the project and the long-term capabilities of our team. Staying updated is a crucial need in tech. I try to keep myself updated by reading the latest industry blogs, articles, journals, and networking with other industry professionals.

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to a career in software engineering?

My advice would be to build a strong foundation on the basics and fundamentals of computer science. Try to land an internship and work on open-source projects early on in the career to get a good hand on feel for what it’s like to be working on large scale systems. Always be open to adapting changes and have the mindset to learn new technologies. Find a mentor in the industry who is senior to you, especially with someone you can be free to explore and question. Lastly, it’s equally important to have a good set of soft skills to communicate, build relationships in the industry.

Looking back at your career, is there a particular moment or project that provided you with critical insights or lessons that you apply to your work today?

A pivotal moment in my career was when I led an initiative to build an ETL service at Amplero. This project taught me essential lessons in handling large-scale data processing and machine learning integration. Designing a service that processes over 10 million attributes and generates more than 10 billion decisions daily underscored the importance of scalability and efficiency. Leading a team through the design, implementation, and rollout phases highlighted the value of effective management and collaboration. This experience has profoundly shaped my approach to delivering robust, innovative solutions in my work today.

What’s next for you in your career?

Looking ahead, I aim to further my expertise in cloud computing and AI and contribute to building more innovative and scalable solutions at Expedia. I’m also passionate about mentoring the next generation of engineers and hope to take on more leadership roles that allow me to have a broader impact on the organization and the tech community.

Can you share a fun fact about yourself?

Sure! Aside from my passion for technology, I enjoy working out, reading, playing soccer, and would always be down for a round of golf. I also listen to music a lot and explore different music genres. It’s a great way for me to relax and unwind.

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