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Presentation: Building a Successful Remote Culture at Scale With Strong Ownership

Track: Building & Scaling High-Performing Teams

Location: Ballroom BC

Duration: 4:10pm - 5:00pm

Day of week: Monday

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What You’ll Learn

  1. Hear about the importance of having ownership of the product one is building.
  2. Find out what are some strategies for building ownership.


When over 55% percent of personal communication is non-verbal, according to a famous psychology professor, how can companies build successful remote teams and foster honest communication? Should we build remote-first or remote-friendly culture as we scale? How does emotional intelligence play a part in managing remote teams effectively? In this talk, I will talk about instilling ownership through delegation and goal setting and differentiating between accountability and ownership. I will share strategies and my experience tackling these problems at Apartment List and previous companies I have worked at. The talk will cover how at Apartment List, we built a career ladder rubric to encourage ownership. How we created room for creativity called A-Time that helped build trust across teams which translated to more ownership of the product and many more examples of lessons learnt.


What is the focus of your work today?


I currently head all of engineering. I'm a V.P. of engineering and my team is about 45 people including engineers, managers, directors, and my focus is, one, making sure that people are happy building and contributing to the product. Second, the process itself, introducing the best practices that help us. Then, thinking about technology, how the technology can scale, what new things that we need to be building to support the business.


What is the motivation for your talk?


I've always seen people struggle with delivering their work, because of a lack of relationship with their work. I believe  ownership is that relationship that makes the work a joy. My approach when I work at companies is that I feel part ownership of the company and I'm very passionate about solving problems that help the business. When you have that mindset, you're not only successful but you're also inspiring others around you. I want to bring that mindset to others especially individual contributors. We've been successful trying out some strategies within Apartment List that has helped. I have had success in the past companies where I have worked at. I want to share those strategies with a larger audience.


How would you describe the persona and level of the target audience?


This talk is for doers and leaders who would like to get things done.  A junior engineer in a startup to a senior level manager or a director in companies large and small. This topic is relevant to all of them. Many times people focus on accountability and building accountability, while accountability is necessary, it is an outcome of ownership. Hence if you start to focus more on ownership, you will actually get the best out of people.


What do you want this persona to walk away from your talk with?


People need to be able to reset themselves as the company evolves so that they can be successful and that they can make the company successful as well. I want people to walk away with strategies on how to reset themselves, how to feel ownership as the company grows and how to make ownership contagious for people around them.


What do you think is the next big disruption in software?


I think there is a lot of focus on AI and ML. It ultimately boils down to interpreting the data the right way where it can help scale the business and applying it thoughtfully. 

Speaker: Sushma Nallapeta

VP of Engineering @ApartmentList

Sushma(Sue) is a technology leader and a growth stage executive passionate about building highly performant and vastly scalable engineering systems with over a decade of experience. She is currently VP of engineering at  Apartment List. She is excited about building a culture where people are constantly learning and growing, implementing and scaling agile processes across remote teams and all levels of the organization, driving diversity/inclusion initiatives & building products that solve people problems. Her motto is “Make a lot of decisions since it enables you to think, learn and grow faster” and she is known to manage chaos with a calm. 

Find Sushma Nallapeta at

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