To Build a World-Class Engineering Team, This Exec Says Go ‘All in’ on Culture

To Build a World-Class Engineering Team, This Exec Says Go ‘All in’ on Culture

Written by Kelly O'Halloran
Published on Mar. 01, 2021
To Build a World-Class Engineering Team, This Exec Says Go ‘All in’ on Culture
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When two companies come together by acquisition or merger, one of the biggest mistakes leaders can make is forcing one organization’s culture onto the other.   

In fact, research shows that 30 percent of mergers fail due to cultural incompatibilities. 

So when realtor.com, the 25-year-old real estate listing platform, acquired Austin startup Opcity in 2018, leaders proceeded with care to blend the cultures from both businesses, VP of Engineering Jason Goldberg said. 

“Getting the culture right is key because there is a massive opportunity in real estate tech right now,” said Goldberg, who joined Opcity as its first employee in 2015. 

How big is the opportunity? Industry reports valued the global tech real estate market at $6.16 billion in 2019 — a number expected to double by 2025. 

“Our people and culture are the most important areas we can invest in,” Goldberg said. 

Here’s how realtor.com kicked off a cultural transformation in an effort to make real estate more digital and user-friendly for consumers.  

 

realtor.com employee in conference room
realtor.com

 

 

What initial steps did realtor.com take to build a new culture alongside Opcity?

We recognized early the importance of becoming one team, which meant we had to build a team culture together based on each organization’s strengths. When I joined realtor.com, I was blown away by their knowledge. Real estate portals are some of the most trafficked properties on the internet. The scale of technical challenges they deal with includes tens of millions of daily visitors, millions of property listings and photos, high-performance APIs, personalization algorithms fueled by data science, and automated defenses against bad actors. 

We benefited from that knowledge during a key time when we were experiencing our own growing pains. What I think we’ve added to the broader team is helping reinvigorate that execution spirit that can sometimes go dormant in a mature organization. I think our cultures have come together quite well.

 

realtor.com
realtor.com


 

Behind the acquisition

When realtor.com bought Opcity for $210 million in 2018, the real estate property listing site added a concierge model to its services. That means that after someone finds a home on realtor.com, the platform can then connect them with a qualified real estate professional to begin next steps.


How has this cultural shift impacted the engineering work?

Increasing communication and transparency across the organization has been an area we’ve invested in heavily. The work the technology team does is incredibly important to our overall strategy and ensuring everyone has the most up-to-date context on our business goals is critical to creating high-functioning teams. That’s been a big win.
 
There are also some smaller but meaningful additions, like shared team rituals. It was a really important ritual for the Opcity team to celebrate new hires and introduce them to the whole organization in a fun way. The broader organization was open to embracing this ritual despite some of the hurdles of pulling this off for a larger team.


Why is getting the culture “right” important to the work you do as a whole? 

There is a massive opportunity in real estate tech right now. Real estate is rapidly evolving as the process shifts to being more digital. It’s abundantly clear there is a huge desire by consumers to make the process more technology-driven and more self-service. We have a huge leg up by integrating the Opcity technology with realtor.com to radically rethink the process. To deliver that kind of technology requires execution, teamwork and a commitment to excellence. Our people and culture are the most important areas we can invest in.
 

If we’re successful, we’re helping people through one of the biggest milestones of their lives. ”


What’s the impact on the real estate industry? 

Real estate sites such as realtor.com are useful for learning about properties in a given market, but consumers are left alone to figure out how to actually purchase a home. I personally experienced this when I looked at my first house. I ended up having to ask a friend what the first step should be despite being in the real estate industry. We’re making huge steps toward closing that gap through technology by offering suggested agents and partners, and helping coordinate the entire process. The potential for impact right now is huge. If we’re successful, we’re helping people through one of the biggest milestones: Buying the house that will shape their family members’ lives.

 

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