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“Women In Tech” Night: Midsummer Event at Yelp

Last month, Yelp’s Awesome Women In Engineering (AWE) group hosted a “Women in Tech” networking event for an evening full of learning, career building, and, of course, delicious food.

We wanted to provide attendees with a glimpse into how Yelp answers the age-old question “What’s for dinner?” for its millions of users. We explored this theme from a product management, engineering, and design point of view, with each perspective inspiring fruitful discussion. The event was attended by more than 70 women in the Bay Area, including people in senior-level tech positions and others looking for a career shift into the tech industry.

What did women connect over?

Yelp’s AWE group started about five years ago with the mission to build a stronger community for women in engineering and their allies. With one of our goals being to foster learning and collaboration with women outside of Yelp, we were excited to host an event that focused on bringing like-minded women together to connect with each other outside of a work environment. During the event, we shared insights into what women at Yelp are working on and offered opportunities for others to share ideas and advice on career development. Attendees looking to make career changes could learn how others’ roles developed, particularly in the fields of product management, software engineering, and UX design.

What did they learn?

The evening started off with a series of lightning talks by Yelp’s Yue W. (Group Product Manager), Wenjun W. (Software Engineer), and Sijia W. (Product Designer), who walked us through the technology behind how Yelp’s users search and select restaurants they want to try. Yue shared insights into the information and factors that influence users’ decisions for choosing restaurants, while Wenjun walked us through the search architecture and machine learning techniques applied to ranking business search results. Lastly, Sijia gave an overview of what the design process is like when developing a dining experience on the app.

The best part of the night, hands down, was the roundtable discussion where women were inspired to share their experiences, fears, challenges, and goals about being a woman in the tech industry. In groups of six to eight, attendees shared a problem that was unique to them, only to find out that many other women have faced similar challenges in their careers. There was a lot of energy and enthusiasm coming from each table as everyone shared their experiences, found common ground, and bounced ideas and advice off of one another.

It was a major group effort to turn this event from an idea to reality, and it blew us away how engaged everyone was. It was rewarding and worthwhile to see women from different companies and roles sitting together to share their personal challenges and offer wisdom. Attendees raved about the event’s positive and encouraging atmosphere, and left feeling inspired. Events like these create a medium where Yelp employees can not only showcase the different problems we solve as women in technology, but also provide a platform that women outside of Yelp can connect with.

Here were some of the most interesting takeaways from the Q&A portion of the event:

Q: Are there specific user journeys that Yelp has found and implemented in its algorithm for choosing restaurants?

A: We do qualitative research to understand why certain things influence users’ restaurant selections. We then use that data at a quantitative level to determine if these are common factors or if they’re unique to a specific user. We generally design for high-priority use cases where a lot of users are looking for the same thing, but also look to support edge cases such as adding filters to refine searches for restaurants.

Q: What would make users choose Yelp when looking for restaurants on search engines?

A: One of our main lines of defense is that Yelp has a lot more content. We have huge groups of Elite users nationwide who are passionate about contributing regularly and who write long, high-quality reviews, which allows us to mine the content and build awesome features like Popular Dishes. In short, we have a lot more depth in content than our competitors.

Q: How do external factors and clients influence changes in product roadmaps?

A: We do competitive analyses and are guided by our company mission to connect users with great local businesses. We look at what users care about and what others are doing, then synthesize it all together to build roadmaps.

Q: Do you have a problem with users writing reviews for businesses they’ve never been to? How do you deal with them?

A: Every review site faces this challenge, and some manage it better than others. We are particularly proud of our approach. We employ two screening processes: one human and one automated. The human screening process means that we evaluate any review that gets flagged by our community to determine if it violates our Terms of Service or Content Guidelines (e.g., hate speech, irrelevance, promotional content). Separately, we’ve built an automated algorithm that analyzes every single review for every single business to determine which reviews should be recommended, and which shouldn’t. You can learn more about our recommendation software here. Between those two processes, we feel really good about the content we show to our users.

Acknowledgements

Many Yelp employees contributed to making the “Women in Tech” night a success! Special thanks to Rachel Z., Rebecca N., and Jorgen A., who helped organize everything from finalizing the agenda to curating the swag and gifts for attendees! Many thanks to our speakers, Yue W., Wenjun W., and Sijia W. for presenting informative, fun, and insightful tech talks for the event, as well as Rachel Z. and Sharadha R. for being wonderful hosts. Jenni S., thank you for sharing key resources for planning the event. And finally, a big thanks to all the AWE volunteers and leads, and to the Facilities, AV, Security, and PR teams for supporting the event.