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Distributed Work Environments… The Future of Work?

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Blue Chilli

125 York St

Sydney, NSW 2000


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We're not talking about freelancing and we're not talking about off-shore development or customer support and sales teams.

Working from home was the buzz 5 years ago, but you don't hear much about it any more. We've heard that some of the larger companies are discouraging remote workers? Why is that?

This event is all about how companies from start-ups to incubators to established disruptors have integrated remote team members into their companies. We'll look at how they support a distributed work environment and lessons learned along the way, as well as hear from a researcher currently exploring a range of characteristics exhibited by distributed teams including impacts to productivity. And most importantly, this is not the domain of only development teams.

Whether you're a new start-up, a team member looking to work from home rather than commute to work everyday, a manager looking to support team members in a flexible environment or you already participate in this work mode, come along to find out how other people thrive in this environment. Pick up pointers on hiring remote staff, managing distributed teams and how to be a productive member of a distributed work culture.

Speakers and Panelists

Lindsay Holmwood Envato

Lindsay Holmwood is an engineering leader based in Australia. He served as the Head of Technology at the Australian federal government's Digital Transformation Agency, where he was responsible for technology strategy, advice, and delivery. He currently works at Envato leading engineering on Envato Elements.

Since bringing DevOps to Australia by running the second ever DevOpsDays conference in 2010, he runs the the longest running DevOps meetup in the world in Sydney. He regularly speaks on technology culture, DevOps, digital transformation, and building high performing teams. He also won third place at the 1996 Sydney Royal Easter Show LEGO building competition.

Managing remotely, while remotely managing
Distributed teams unlock access to new talent from diverse backgrounds, and create opportunities for more humane ways of working.

But if the benefits are so great, then why are so few teams working this way? Many organisations experiment with remote working practices, but few have successfully operationalised them – let alone at scale.

There is a simple reason – while the benefits are great, it can be really hard to make distributed teams work in practice.

In this talk, we'll look at distributed teams over three distinct phases:

  1. Bootstrapping teams
  2. Growing teams
  3. Scaling remote working practices to the whole organisation

We'll discuss a framework for adapting your remote working practices based on what works for the team and what doesn’t. We'll talk about how to pre-emptively address the darker sides of remote working: lack of focus, overwork, and burnout.

Rebecca Downes Victoria University, Wellington

Rebecca Downes spent nearly 20 years working in the tech and film/visual effects industry, including more than a decade working at Weta Digital Ltd supporting the creation of films such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Avatar. Her professional experience includes working in remote teams, which spurred an interest in distributed work. She is currently completing a PhD researching distributed work in the School of Management, at Victoria University of Wellington.

What Does the Ivory Tower Know About Remote Work Anyway?

Academia can seem far-removed from the day to day of remote work. However, there are academic researchers who study remote work. I’ll share some recent research on remote work and discuss key questions that occupy researchers right now. I’ll also describe my own doctoral research, looking at how remote work affects managers in particular and how information flows may help us understand effective remote teams.

Alexandra Young awe

Alex is an experienced entrepreneur with 20+ years working with emerging technologies, implementing complex multi-device app platforms including educational enrollment and assessment systems, mobile payments and video streaming solutions. The last 12 years she has been immersed in Augmented and Virtual Realities as co-founder of "awe". awe has a fully distributed work environment with team members around the world who collaborate across timezones and with a global customer base.

Hiring for a distributed role

When you have the world as your talent pool, how do you ensure that the people you bring onboard can work effectively as part of a distributed team?

We'll look at effective hiring practices and tips to ensure that you identify quickly through the hiring process that the people you are interviewing also exhibit the traits and skills that enable them to be a productive participant in your distributed team.

Cheryl Gledhill Blue Chilli

Cheryl is a senior product manager working remotely at BlueChilli and a seasoned veteran in the mobile and digital space, having spent the last 20 years working for both startups and corporates in the Australian and US digital industries. From Australia’s first ISP to Virgin Group to running a Mobile Design agency in Seattle, Cheryl’s passion is in creating amazing products that resonate with their users, spark delight and provoke thought. With dozens of apps in the App Store and millions of users of her mobile applications, she brings a wealth of knowledge about the mobile ecosystem.

Working remotely: A tool for diversity

Remote working allows for geographic diversity, but also facilitates creative metabolism, different life stages and neuro-diversity. Find out how BlueChilli's policies and rituals create the scaffolding for successful remote teams.

Panel Discussion:

All speakers will also be participating in an active panel discussion and will be joined by Xingyi Ho, Head of International Growth at Canva.


Donating to Spark Festival allows our continued work to provide free or minimal cost events to the startup and innovation ecosystem. Spark Festival is a not for profit dedicated to providing opportunities for individuals of diverse background, age and gender to pursue and succeed in a career of entrepreneurship.

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This event is part of Spark Festival and upholds the Spark Code of Conduct.

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Blue Chilli

125 York St

Sydney, NSW 2000


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