G’day y’all: Founded in Australia, Atlassian says Austinites really know how to enliven a culture

June 19, 2017

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In 2014, Atlassian increased its Austin employee headcount from zero to 150 within 12 months. That is like adding a new employee every other business day for a year straight.

Then again, the enterprise software company knew a thing or two about aggressively scaling. Since its launch from Australia in 2002, the company has expanded to six global locations — including additional U.S. locations in Silicon Valley and San Francisco. It boasts a headcount north of 1,700, and the company continues to add new employees while maintaining its commitment to culture.

We caught up with Atlassian’s Steve Goldsmith, head of Atlassian’s group chat and file sharing team service HipChat, and Kristen Clemmer, head of US/EU talent acquisition, to learn how Atlassian has multiplied its teams without losing an ounce of its rich culture.

Was that first year in Austin, in 2014, the most aggressive period of scaling? What was that like?

Yes, we went from zero to 150 Atlassians in Austin. We started building out the team in February. At the time, we couldn't have guessed that just over a year later, we'd occupy two floors in Colorado Tower. It was a bit of a whirlwind, but also brought a ton of excitement and energy to the office.

How did your team stay connected as you continued to scale?

It was important for us to create local traditions such as Austin Family Friday Breakfast, a weekly event where the entire office gets together for a catered breakfast. We also looked for ways to merge our Aussie heritage with the personality of Austin. "G'day Y'all" became our go-to slogan for t-shirts and signage that could only be found in the Austin office.

From a structural standpoint, we knew that building up local teams as quickly as possible would give us the critical mass needed to create a sense of belonging, which is why we added 150 employees within our first 12 months. Our growth also helped entice people from other Atlassian offices to get invested in and visit Austin.

How was your company culture impacted by your growth?

There was a ton of excitement around the vibe that Austin brought to the global culture. Austin brought different styles and new personalities to a team that had primarily only operated in Sydney, Australia, and San Francisco.

The addition of an Austin office also created new time zone challenges that made Atlassian adjust its own teamwork philosophies. Recalibrating to a new operating model meant that we had to cultivate new leaders who could run global functions from Austin. This helped to build trust and understanding across the organization.

Based on your experience, what's most important for companies to remember as they prep to scale?

For us, having strong company values made all the difference. Atlassian treats its values as sacred things that are the guiding light for all decisions. Hiring people that shared a similar value set allowed existing Atlassian leadership to quickly trust and empower local leaders to make decisions.

It's also important to be prepared to adjust to change. This may sound a bit cliche, but it's absolutely necessary. An office with 20 people is very different than one with 100. Having a growth mindset and ensuring that every person who's hired is flexible and excited by change is critical to success, especially while growing really fast.


Image provided by Atlassian, taken by Casey Dunn.

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