I recently joined Atlassian after spending 15 years in large corporates. I was drawn to Atlassian due to its culture and its young, smart people. Indeed, I was one of the younger people in my previous company, whereas I’m now one of the older ones at Atlassian!
I noticed from Day 1 how Atlassian was a different company. Not ‘different’ as intentionally wanting to ‘be different’ but rather having a willingness to ‘think differently’ about how things are done.
Here’s some examples…
The OS of your choice! When I received my job offer, I was asked whether I wanted Windows or Linux. What did I choose? A Mac, of course! There’s no need to use Microsoft Office because we use our enterprise wiki to store information. Fire up a web browser, choose an e-mail client and you’re in business.
Phones optional. When I turned up for my first day, I was asked whether I needed a desk phone. The Atlassian culture is to use Instant Messaging for immediate communications (“Are you in?” or “Here’s that URL”), internal blogs for distributing knowledge and e-mail only for something needing a bit of dedicated thought. Staff are required to read internal blog news feeds since there are no “company-wide” e-mail blasts. So, I declined the offer of a phone – I prefer to actually talk to people!
We have big desks, not cubicles. My desk is a whopping 2.1 metres long and almost 1 metre wide. That’s big enough to sleep on (or under)! There are no cubicle walls — that means its easy grab a chair, sit and collaborate with somebody.
We all get personal Aeron chairs. The traditional chair for dot-com companies, they’re actually really comfortable. Everyone even has their name on their chair, which avoids that awful feeling when somebody changes your personal comfort settings.
There’s hardly any paper in the office. At my last job, we had huge photocopier / color printers that consumed reams of paper every day. Here, all information is online and the scanner gets used more than the printer.
People lunch together. Despite a wide array of food halls nearby, a large number of staff still prefer to eat in the generously-sized lunch room (we get free drinks and snacks, but no free lunches). This helps with staff interaction and its amazing the level of technical discussion that can take place over a tofu burger!
The people are smart. You can tell this by the type of games played over lunch. There’s Carcassone, Diplomacy, Bohnanza and the regular Poker games.
Real discussions happen online or standing up. There’s a company tradition of ‘stand-ups’, which are meetings held in a circle with all participants… you guess it!… standing up! This has the dual benefit of keeping meetings short and not requiring everyone to go to a meeting room! The real discussions seem to take place online in our enterprise wiki — somebody posts an idea, and others respond by adding comments after reading the idea in the read internal blog news feeds (see above). That can generate very fast turn-around of ideas.
There is a true focus on the customer. I’ve come across several cases where doing things one way would be cheaper and more efficient for the company, but instead they’ve chosen a way that is easier for the customer. The developers work regular stints in technical support so that they are in contact with customers and actually feel their pain. Most of the product enhancements in this year’s ShipIt Day were a result of developers talking directly with customers. People often mention legendary service.
Yes, I’m feeling quite proud to be part of the team at Atlassian.

Working at a “thinking” company...