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  • Writer's pictureAnli Valdez

FinTech Female Fridays: Meet Dr. Anwesha Bhattacharjee, Director, Hotel Pricing Strategy at Hopper

After graduating with an engineering degree in Computer Science, Anwesha worked as a software engineer for a year before moving to Dallas for her MBA and Ph.D. degrees in Information Systems Management. Her first job out of the program was as a Sr. Data Scientist in travel tech at Sabre, which Anwesha thought was a logical next step after graduating as it aligned with her interest in empirical analysis. However, two years in, she realized she did not enjoy crunching data just for those projects to go un-funded for years. Instead, Anwesha wanted to be someone who drove change within a company and brought projects to fruition. 

In a 1:1 with her manager at Sabre, Anwesha was asked if she had considered transitioning into product management. Her manager encouraged her to explore this career path, and when a data science position opened up at Sabre, Anwesha negotiated with the hiring manager for the role to be converted into a PM one. Anwesha was initially apprehensive about not having previous experience in product management, but taking this leap of faith was pivotal to her career. The transition to product at Sabre enabled Anwesha to gain the skills she needed to eventually move to Hopper where she works today. 

Hopper is an accredited travel agency and technology company that partners with airlines, hotels, homes, and car rental providers globally. The company is fast-paced and data-driven with a goal to enable its customers to feel confident they are booking the perfect vacation at the best price. Hopper’s travel platform powers not just shopping and booking travel, but also provides users with innovative travel fintech products like Cancel for Any Reason, Price Freeze, and Disruption Guarantees that allow customers to travel worry free. Hopper’s products have a large competitive edge, with the potential to create an additional $160B in consumer spend globally across different travel segments. Hopper’s success is largely a result of its high bar for talent. Consequently, the company is dedicated to retaining its people, offering a flexible environment that allows employees to work fully remote with unlimited time off. 

Anwesha joined Hopper in 2020, a year of tumultuous change in the world of travel. The team she joined was tasked with generating revenue in an anxious world with pent up travel demand and high uncertainty. The team launched a new Price Freeze product line for hotels and found high product-market-fit within six months. As the product grew, so did Anwesha who transitioned to lead the hotel fintech vertical first before overseeing all of Price Freeze (flights, hotels, and cars). Price Freeze is an innovative travel fintech product that allows users to lock in a price at a good deal and to book the trip later. When a customer freezes a flight, hotel or car, Hopper underwrites the risk and covers the difference up to a certain amount if prices increase. This makes travel more affordable for the value conscious consumers.

After leading Price Freeze for over three years, Anwesha transitioned into her current role as Director of Hotel Pricing Strategy where she now leads a team for Hopper’s consumer and B2B businesses. She constantly challenges and differentiates herself in her new role by listening to customers to understand how to solve their pain points and by picking the hardest problems to solve. Anwesha understands that building products that use data, facts and empathy toward customers, while still maintaining profitability, is tough. Yet instead of being discouraged, Anwesha is motivated by the thrill of leading cross-functional teams to deliver on challenging projects. 

This year, Anwesha is excited about how travel fintech products will evolve, particularly in the embedded fintech space. She sees this as a big growth area for the travel industry and an opportunity to make travel fintech solutions easier to use and understand. To Anwesha, embedded travel fintech has the potential to become so ubiquitous and core to consumers’ day-to-day lives that people planning travel can no longer imagine a world where they do not purchase at least one travel fintech product when they are planning a trip. 

More on Anwesha

Where you currently live: Montreal, Canada

Family at home: live with my husband and a cat

Hometown: New Delhi, India

Favorite hobby: Reading and Choreographing dance shows on the side

What is one piece of advice someone told you that resonated with you that can give to other women in FinTech?     

Be self-aware and stop minimizing your own worth. Everyone has imposter syndrome, but how we manage this feeling can change your growth trajectory. 

It is necessary to take up space in a room where you are the expert. It is okay to want to be in the room where the decisions are made and ask for it if you think you should be there. It is possible to do all those things without being disrespectful. And when you find that your expertise is not valued, or dismissed, it is time to find a place and a culture that will appreciate what you bring to the table.  

What is the most important lesson you have learned from a mistake you’ve made in the past?

Trust no one’s judgment but your own. While building products and leading teams, rapid judgment calls are needed all the time. When you need to make one of these decisions, that could change the course of your product, there will be a group of trustworthy co-workers whose opinion will matter. One of the things I learned is to never make a decision your instincts reject, no matter how well-recommended it comes. I think back to one of these moments, and in hindsight, taking a couple of extra days to mull over why my instinct was telling me to disagree with a decision some of my best team members were recommending, would have changed the trajectory of my product for the better. It could have saved us time and money, and we could have grown the product faster.

Do you have any productivity hacks?  What keeps you motivated? How do you maintain a work/life balance? 

I like to start my day with a cup of coffee and a book, to help clear my mind and focus before the day starts. I usually like clustering all my meetings together and take a lot of notes to help me remember the smaller details I’m likely to forget. I also maintain a weekly to-do list, that I reprioritize and add to every day to ensure I’m constantly focusing on the most important work that needs my attention. I have to be honest, work-life balance is not my thing. My philosophy in life is to always keep doing the things I love, and I love travel, and shipping products that make travel easier and cheaper. For me, work is a series of problems that need solving, and I love obsessing over a problem until it is solved, which rarely happens within a 9-5 construct. When I need to re-focus, I read or pursue other creative avenues (dance/music). 

Daily Diary

As a leader, most of my days are not very predictable. However, a typical day as I would plan it would look something like this: 

7:30 am - 9:00 am: Coffee and reading

9:00 am - 10:00 am: Slack and Numbers review

10:00 am - 12:00 pm: Daily Scrum ceremonies/team meetings

12:00 pm - 1:00 pm: Lunch (typically, we eat as a family and disconnect for a little bit)

1:00 pm - 3:00 pm: 1:1s/ad hoc meetings

3:00 pm - 5:00 pm: Focus time - this is when I write/think 

5:00 pm - 6:00 pm: Mentorship/West Coast 1:1

6:00 pm - 8:30 pm: Dinner and recreation - this is family time, or time for my creative hobbies post-dinner

8:30 pm - 10:00 pm: Catch up on work to-dos and get ready for the next day

10:00 pm - 11:00 pm: TV/Reading to help me wind down 

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