Building High-Trust and High-Performing Teams at Shopify in a Remote World

The switch to remote-only and hybrid has unlocked so much potential for the world and our companies: we can hire the best, people can live where they want, and we can form teams based on skills and interest instead of location. But, this has also fundamentally changed how we build high-trust and high-performing teams: so much of what “came for free” in-person now requires a completely new level of intention and awareness from our teams, and especially from our people- and technical- leaders. Let’s unpack this together.

Reflecting on my own journey as a leader at Shopify as we navigated the rocky world of transitioning to be digital-only (and all the added weight and challenge of COVID on top of it), I share three key elements of what has made digital and hybrid a win for Shopify in building amazing teams:

  1. Building trust and safety in a remote world, particularly with a focus on why it’s even more essential in a digital world than ever before;

  2. Setting the tone the moment folks arrive at your org, and how critical of a role onboarding is, paired with some excellent lessons in doing this at Shopify-scale; and

  3. How to adapt and evolve in a remote and hybrid world if you want to maintain high-performing teams. Diving deep into how to be more intentional, from focus, group size, and necessary facilitation techniques if you want your teams to be successful and be the best they can be.

There’s so much that goes into building excellent (and satisfied!) teams, but these three areas of focus will set you on the right path to apply all the knowledge you’ve built (or read) as you transition to a digital-first world. Let’s go!

What is the focus of your work these days?

I'm a senior dev lead at Shopify and I have the pleasure of leading a group focused on two main problems. One is around how we extend the system of Shopify to allow for different kinds of data customization and flexibility, which is a very fun and deep space. And the other half is focused on a new product that we're hoping to bring to market in the next six months around content, storytelling, and visual storytelling through rich media and 3D.

What would you say is the motivation behind your talk?

I used to be really against being a remote worker. I actively avoided it and fought against being at any company that was remote for my entire career. And then the pandemic happened. Shopify went all remote and I saw what it unlocked and I experienced that. And so I want to share some of that perspective for people that are maybe a bit on the fence. Similarly, share a lot of the painful lessons learned over the last couple of years I’d love to share so folks can get to a good place faster.

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

I think there's stuff in here that applies to anyone, but it definitely is aimed at leaders, whether they're people leaders or technical leaders. People who have influence within their team. I think there's a lot of stuff that those people are best positioned to do in this transition. But that said, I've had several people on my teams over the last year (including junior developers) that have played a pivotal role in making the transition good.

And you've touched on this a little bit before, but what is it that you like this persona to walk away with after seeing your presentation?

I want them to walk away with a little bit of excitement about what being remote unlocks for them and their teams. And I want them to walk away with a few focused tips or ideas to think about to make that transition to remote, something that is delightful and excellent.


Jesse McGinnis

Senior Development Manager @Shopify and Author of Embracing Uncertainty

Growing Eng leaders at Shopify. Helping leaders and teams be their best. I love solving impactful and complex problems and my favourite challenges intersect software, people, and communication. Authored Embracing Uncertainty, offering practical tips and techniques for building and maintaining high-performing teams.

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Tuesday Dec 6 / 10:10AM PST ( 50 minutes )


Hybrid Work Strategies People and Culture Remote Leadership People Skills Performance Onboarding


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