I’m a UX Designer at Atlassian in Sydney, Australia.
I’ve also spoken about design at conferences & meetups, contracted for a number of clients, and competed in Startup Weekend. I'm the founder of UX Design Day.
Lucy calls everything a cup, even if it’s a glass, or a mug. So I came up with some principles to name any handheld vessel.
This week I started with the design team at Atlassian here in Sydney. It’s been a pretty crazy week for me. There’s a lot going on, the company is experiencing a tremendous amount of growth, and there are so, so, so many problems to solve which makes it exciting and daunting at the same time.
I will be slowly taking over design responsibilities for GreenHopper, Atlassian’s agile project management tool, which has a team of around 12 people.
The first half of this week I spent mainly getting my head around a bunch of the internal systems, figuring out how to use the elevators, and learning people’s names. By the second half of the week I had a number of product-related “real work” tasks to do, and shit started piling up… as well as people’s expectations from me.
A lot of conversations tended to end in “and it’s going your job to fix this!” half jokingly or “this is where we hope you’ll come in” which will prove to be interesting…
In my interviews leading up to joining the company, I had constantly heard about the 5 Atlassian company values:
Many companies have so-called “values” (ie, they’re force-fed and pushed down from management as something that sounds great on paper but isn’t practiced day to day), so I was really interested to see whether Atlassian actually broke that trend and lived their values.
I’m happy to report that my expectations were totally exceeded. While I haven’t been around long enough to see some values like ‘be the change you seek’ and ‘build with heart and balance’ yet, I have definitely seen ‘open company, no bullshit’ and ‘play, as a team’ in my first week.
Some observations on ‘open company, no bullshit’ below. Note (and this is important) that I am not senior at all.
I can ask anyone what they are working on, and they will tell me without hesitation.
There is a directory where I can look up anyone, and see who their managers are, who reports to them, where they sit, etc.
I can schedule meetings with anyone, even the founders (CEOs), and they will turn up and listen.*
I can say what I like and speak my mind, and people will listen and won’t be offended.
Everything in the company is available on the internal network - even daily financial reports, processes, meeting agendas, board meeting slides, that sort of thing. I can see detailed reports on product progress, revenue on a daily basis, hiring quotas, everything. I’ve never seen this sort of transparency before in a company.
Even my team’s current workload is available publicly (aside from security bugs) on a public JIRA instance, like a lot of teams.
Everyone has very liberal permissions for the internal company wiki.
Personal blogging (like this one) is encouraged.
* I haven’t actually tried this yet.
Atlassian say this on their values page:
“Atlassian embraces transparency wherever at all practical, and sometimes where impractical. All information, both internal and external, is public by default. We are not afraid of being honest with ourselves, our staff and our customers.”
It’s actually true. Likewise, some observations about the ‘play, as a team’ value:
Everyone’s input is valued, for better or worse. This leads to a lot of debating during meetings, but also means that everything is thought out a lot and edge cases are catered for.
Teams are small and practice agile development the proper way.
There’s a lot of comadre and socialising - it really feels like a family.
People aren’t afraid to be brutally honest. There’s little internal politics, not a lot is hidden.
One note about ‘be the change you seek’ however - someone told me this earlier in the week:
“If you see a process or policy on [our internal network] you don’t like, simply edit the [wiki] page and make the change you want. The owner will either approve it, decline it, or most likely, come and find you to discuss your thinking.”
This seems to apply to anything - leave policies, project roadmaps, referral schemes, design guidelines, you name it. It’s a little bit insane, but somehow it all seems to work.
You might have also seen some of my posts on Facebook about some of the perks, too. Yes, it’s true - there is beer on tap, a pool table, table tennis table, bicycle racks, shaving kits in the bathroom, breakfast and lunch food in the kitchen, free vending machines, a huge selection of lollies (complete with little white paper mixture bags!) and chocolate, charity donation matching schemes, flexible leave, 1% of company profit is donated to charity, nerf guns, free beer (on tap and bottled), wine, cider, welcome packs, stock options, a kudos scheme (where employees can thank other employees with gifts that the company pays for), a shared library of books, corporate housing, health insurance, 5 paid days of leave a year to do charity work, couches, beanbags, any software and hardware you like, a massive stash of stationary supplies, lots of social events, lots of free T Shirts, awesome Aeron ergonomic office chairs, an Xbox 360 and big screen TV, a Wii, and the list goes on…
To me (some of) these things are more materialistic and don’t matter as much as the core philosophy and culture within the company. But, they are awesome nonetheless. I’m especially a fan of the Atlassian Foundation and the work going on there.
I’m hoping to blog more about Atlassian - particularly how the design team works, challenges we’re facing in GreenHopper, and other general company culture observations in the coming weeks.
I get the feeling I’m going to be worked off my feet, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be happy doing it - great people, great atmosphere, great company, growth, and awesome socialising. And free beer on tap! Who could ask for more!?