Tech entrepreneurs

    Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar

    By Ben Skuse & Fran Molloy

    When best friends Scott and Mike started tech company Atlassian in Sydney with a $10,000 credit card in 2002, they probably didn’t imagine their business would one day be worth $3.5 billion. Today, they have more than 800 employees in offices in Sydney, San Francisco and Amsterdam, and are regularly on Australian and global rich lists.

    “For the first two years, we could only afford to pay ourselves $15,000 each – we were in survival mode,” says Scott. “But that forced us to be frugal, hustle for business and stay focused.”

    More than 35,000 companies worldwide use Atlassian’s flagship product JIRA – software that helps teams of developers collaborate and build programs faster.

    “One of the best parts of my job is learning about the amazing things our customers do using our software, whether it’s landing the Mars Rover, unlocking the human genome or building robots to aid in natural disaster recovery,” Scott says.

    But it’s not just customer satisfaction that drives Scott. “We’ve aspired to create a socially responsible company that cares for the communities it exists within, as well as those in need. One of my proudest moments was last year when our Atlassian Foundation closed more than US$3 million in donations to Room to Read.”

    Mike adds that Atlassian often does more than donate. “We’ve sponsored the National Computer Science Summer School for a while – high school kids from all over New South Wales go to the University of Sydney for a couple of weeks over summer. I’ve mentored it, and we’ve sent a lot of mentors from Atlassian as well.” The experience blew him away. “I had four Year 10 kids on my team on a coding challenge and they were super smart. I wasn’t doing anything like this in Year 10!”

    Aside from a little tinkering on an old machine at home as a kid, Scott’s tech passion surfaced quite late. “It wasn’t until I got into a scholarship program for a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology at UNSW that I really started to get into computers.”

    Scott thinks the next generation needs computer skills as young as possible. “It changes the way you approach problems and can open up career paths in many industries,” he says. “I know how important CS skills have been for my own success.”

    What’s the best way to get started? “Learn as much as you can and find a mentor in industry – many people are willing and excited to help newcomers,” he says.

    Mike adds that tech expertise will help you in any field. “Technology is the underlying driver for almost all change in business nowadays,” he says. “There’s about 2.5 billion people on the internet now and there’ll be 5 billion by 2020. The demand for tech solutions is rising. We’re on the upswing of huge technology change.”

    STEM Contributor

    Author: STEM Contributor

    This article was written by a STEM Contributor for Careers with STEM. To learn more, please visit our contact page.

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