How Atlassian employees are working together, apart

Mixing up IRL and virtual meetings was already the norm for Atlassian’s distributed teams pre-COVID-19. Image: Shutterstock

Working from home is fast becoming the new normal! We chatted to three engineers working at Sydney-based software company Atlassian about the ins and outs of socially distanced teamwork.

New tech was already making working away from a central office more common – then COVID-19 came along and accelerated it. In Australia, working from home (WFH) was encouraged or even compulsory during the pandemic, but even as we flattened the curve and restrictions eased, many offices are staying closed and some – like Twitter in the US – have said employees can work from home forever, if they want to.

For Aussie-founded global tech company Atlassian, the shift was smooth. Distributed teamwork – working as a team, but from different physical locations – was already established.

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Atlassian employees were using chat software like Zoom and Slack, and internal blogging to keep up communication, so the tools were already in place. They’ve also made fun office activities like yoga and cooking classes, and even team lunches virtual.

So what’s it like going from spending 9-to-5 in a cool city office, to working from home? Three Atlassian employees tell us!

1. Ziming Wang, Senior Software Engineer, Atlassian

As a senior software engineer, it’s Ziming’s job to understand the roadmap and requirements for a new software products and translate that into design and implementation. He recently worked on enabling automation in Atlassian’s best-known software platform, Jira. “This update to Jira helps software developers to reduce distraction from routine steps in their workflow, so they can focus on what’s most important and things they enjoy doing,” he explains.

Ziming feels more productive when working remotely.

Loves: Lego, travelling and skiing

Home office set-up: Study room with a standing desk and two monitors. “I’m grateful Atlassian helped us set up our workstation to be comfortable for the long-term.”

Best part about WFH: “I save a lot of time and stress not commuting to work, so I spend more time working. Because it’s more flexible for me to arrange my time, I feel it’s more productive.”

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Best part of a distributed team: “Because we come from around the world, tasks can keep progressing around the clock. It’s good to know someone can keep the wheels turning while you are asleep!”

WFH tips: “Use all the tools available to you – over-communicate if necessary.”

Study and career pathway

2. Isabelle Weber, Senior Software Developer, Atlassian

Isabelle works in Atlassian’s Product Growth Team. “I collaborate with designers, product managers and other engineers to build features and experiences that help our customers discover and adopt a broader set of Atlassian products,” she explains.

On Friday afternoons Isabelle and her team have a social hour to wind down after the week.

Loves: Baking, reading, board games and hiking

Home office set-up: Office with a “large desk, comfy chair, my laptop, headphones and reusable mug”.

Typical 9-to-5: “I eat breakfast while catching up on any missed messages overnight, and plan my day. At 10am my team and I have our daily ‘stand-up’. I do plenty of coding, help review my teammates’ work, and partner with my team’s designer and product manager to make sure I’m on the right track with what I’m building.”

Overcoming challenges: “With full-time remote work, I definitely miss seeing others in person. However, what my team has done is schedule coffee slots on our calendars, where we grab a hot beverage and all hang out on a video call. On Friday afternoons we have a social hour and play games together to wind down after the week!”

Study and career pathway

3. Anushka Mudholkar, Software Developer, Atlassian

Anushka’s job involves working with other engineers on the team, along with the team’s designer and product manager, to build products “that our customers love to use,” she says. This includes building features that make the product simple to navigate and more accessible, for example for people with visual impairments. “Every user should be able to use our products with no challenges whatsoever.”

Anushka breaks up her day by going for long walks in the afternoon.

Loves: Hiking, swimming, dancing

Home office set-up: “I have a desk in the corner of my room, that has a lot of plants and pictures, a big monitor and a laptop.”

Typical 9 to 5: “I wake up at 8-ish and try to do some yoga. Take a shower and prep some breakfast and by then it’s time for my team’s stand-up – where we share updates on how we are going with our tasks.

“After that I get some coffee, code a little, or attend meetings. The meetings usually involve making decisions about the different design aspects of the product. We spar on how we can resolve technical issues, plan for our next ‘sprint’ or I pair program with another teammate – we share our screens and give remote control to the other when we’re working from home, in the office we would just use one of our laptops. I normally go for a nice long walk in the afternoon and code a little more till around 5pm. On Fridays we have some social events with the team in the evening that I always look forward to.”

Best thing about working with a distributed team: “Definitely the assimilation of different cultures – our team works with the Bangalore office in India and it’s heartwarming to see people from the two cities working on something they share a common passion for – it’s a delight to witness and be a part of. I have definitely learnt so much and grown a lot as a person.”

Study and career pathway

This article is brought to you in partnership with Atlassian. This article originally appears in Careers with STEM: Engineering 2020.

Gemma Chilton

Author: Gemma Chilton

Gemma has a degree in journalism from the University of Technology, Sydney and spent a semester studying environmental journalism in Denmark. She has been writing about science and engineering for over a decade.

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