Over the past year, REA Group \u2013 the digital media company behind the likes of realestate.com.au, realcommercial.com.au and Flatmates.com.au \u2013 has undertaken a major re-platforming program across Australia and Asia.\nThe aim is to ensure all its platforms \u201care built right, built smart, and able to rise to the needs of our growing business\u201d says the company\u2019s chief engineer Tomas Varsavsky.\nA key component of the program \u2013 dubbed BuyX \u2013 has been the migration of the web and mobile \u2018Buy Channel\u2019 experience from a number of legacy platforms onto a single, new platform.\n\u201cSounds simple? Think again,\u201d Varsavsky says.\nThe work has involved a team of more than 100 people in technology and business roles across Australia and Asia, using agile delivery methods.\nIt\u2019s had to happen with no disruption to customers\u2019 property search experience and REA\u2019s core business, a significant challenge considering more than a million people visiting realestate.com.au each day.\n\u201cBuyX effectively protects our ability to innovate now and into the future. Now the project has been completed, our product and delivery teams are able to pivot and quickly deliver new experiences to market, as well as implement changes to existing products faster than ever before. Importantly, this will help ensure we protect our revenue streams for future growth,\u201d Varsavsky explains.\nBehind BuyX is a suite of internal products that provides the common capabilities on which all external products are built. Collective known as Colab, the tools are \u201cthe engine room\u201d enabling customer facing innovation to happen.\n\u201cOur product delivery teams can focus on market innovation while Colab takes care of the hygiene,\u201d Varsavsky says.\nAs well as enabling innovation, solving technology hygiene problems, and the ability to deliver products to market quicker, the project has had a transformative effect on the company. \n\u201cIt has instilled the mentality within the business of \u2018do it once, do it right\u2019 and ensures there is excellent documentation and active custodianship of all products created. It also promotes collaboration across business functions. As one of Australia\u2019s biggest product development companies, this is extremely important,\u201d Varsavsky says.\nColleagues say REA Group \u2013 which like all great technology companies began as a start-up in a garage \u2013 has managed to maintain its start-up culture and feel while becoming a more than $10 billion company.\nTransparent communication\nAt REA Group, the chief engineer role, owns everything that a traditional CIO and CTO typically would.\nVarsavsky \u2013 who joined REA Group eight years ago as a delivery manager before rising through the ranks into a senior leadership position, and now sits on the executive leadership team \u2013 prioritises transparent communication as a key to success.\nWide adoption of Slack has largely replaced email as the main communication channel, while members of the 600 strong IT team are encouraged to share their expertise and experiences on the REA Group tech blog.\nOver the last year, Varsavsky has introduced \u2018Ask me anything\u2019 sessions to ensure all employees have direct access to the leadership teams to ask questions around strategy, changes and anything on their mind.\n\u201cCelebrating both wins and failures is an important part of the REA Group culture,\u201d he says.\nThe chief engineer has also introduced an annual \u2018kick off\u2019 event for the technology community which brings together 450 technology staff for a full day to discuss strategy, collaborate, network, learn new skills and talk all things tech.\nThat cohort is becoming increasingly diverse thanks to initiatives backed by Varsavsky such as: springboard to tech, accelerated leadership and mentorship programme. These initiatives support women interested in technical careers, and those in technical roles wanting to move into senior leadership positions.\nAs a result, since December last year, the company has \u201cmoved the dial on our gender diversity ratio\u201d. The proportion of women in technology roles has risen from 19 per cent to 26 per cent, with further progress expected over 2019.\nBe bold\nDespite his huge successes, Varsavsky admits from suffering Imposter Syndrome, saying that he believed his accomplishments \u201cwere the result of luck as opposed to talent\u201d. He has learned though that \u201ca lot of people learn on the job - even when you\u2019re in a leadership position\u201d.\nNevertheless, he has remained bold, he says: \u201cIt\u2019s a hard leadership trait to learn, but being bold makes you stand out of the group\u201d.\n\u201cBe empathetic and understanding, but also to embrace your own ideas, have original thought, and most importantly don\u2019t die wondering,\u201d he adds.