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Dream Job for a Software Marketing VP @ Atlassian

Atlassian, a fast-growing, successful enterprise software company is looking for a VP of Marketing. I don’t normally broadcast job searches here, but am breaking that rule now for I believe this is a truly exceptional opportunity with a truly exceptional company. (Disclaimer: I have no business affiliation with Atlassian, but admit to being positively biased, as the company exemplifies a lot that I stand for.)

They are best known for two products: Jira, the issue tracking & software project management application was their first hit, putting the company on the fast growth track and establishing a loyal fan-base in the IT community.  Their existing reputation in the IT community certainly helped the second product, Confluence, the enterprise wiki gain traction: it is now equally popular in the IT and business community.  Wikis in general  have become more commonly known in the past two years; once a tiny market niche, today a growing field where new entrants pop up left and right, claiming to be best in this and that….  But numbers talk, and the verdict is clear: Confluence is the undisputed enterprise wiki market leader. 
Atlassian is not sitting on their laurels: in the past year they diversified, acquiring several companies and launching new products on their own.  Frankly, I lost track, but I believe  their portfolio currently includes 8 products, all part of an “IT toolkit”, with the exception of Confluence, which is seeing fast adoption amongst business users, too.  

The customer list is impressive: IBM, HP, SAP, Citigroup, Boeing, BMW, Shell, McDonalds, Pfizer … just about all the Fortune 1000, as well as non-profits, Universities, Government Agencies, totaling over 9000 customers worldwide. (The chart is a bit misleading: Atlassian’s fiscal year starts in June, and the FY08 bar shows the current figure only, excluding projections.)

How did they achieve this?  They must have an excellent sales force.  Wrong! Atlassian has no sales force at all.  They don’t sell: customers simply buy their products on their own.   I often talk about  the pull-model that’s replacing the traditional, expensive enterprise sales process (6-9 months, high touch, flights, meetings, wine-and-dining, entertaining, in the end often nuked by politicssmile_baringteeth) – but that’s typically in the context of Software as a Service, and in the SMB (small business) market.  Atlassian’s products are mostly on-premise (although they now have a hosted version of Confluence) and their primary market is the large Enterprise.  Yet they pulled off what amounts to a small miracle:  essentially took the download.com, tucows style model we all know as consumers, and ported it to the enterprise space. 

Of course having customers try-and-buy through the Internet is not as simple as firing your Sales team ( or not hiring one).  It’s not a matter of a decision: it’ s a consistently applied philosophy, that you have to implement in every aspect of your business.  The key components are:

  • lightweight software
    • well-defined function set, meets specific user need, small user groups can get started
    • ease of use (both easy to learn and easy to use)
    • well documented, well supported
  • transparency
    • features (what you’re getting, no surprises)
    • issues (Atlassian’s bug tracker is open to the public)
    • pricing (simple, upfront pricing, no fill-out-contact-form-wait-for-sales-to-call-back BS)
  • low price (“expensable, not approvable” – to quote a former competitor)

The “pull-model” means customers will need to find you- which is why Marketing is a critical function.  With Sales gone, Marketing becomes sales (actually, Atlassian’s CEO proudly says everyone is in Sales, especially Support).  So if you are a marketing superstar,  or know one, want to be part of a successful team, work for celebrities , you owe it to yourself to apply.

Atlassian is not only about business – it’s about people.  I know, old cliche.. but here it works.  The unique culture this team maintained throughout their super-growth even now that they have 130 people is a large part of their success.

So what is this culture like?  Tough. When he doesn’t make his numbers, Atlassian President Jeffrey Walker is forced to make up for it as ticket-scalper on the street. smile_omg OK, joke apart, this photo was shot last August, when the entire San Francisco office went to see a Giants game together. (Incidentally, just a day before Jeffrey became cancer dude). This wasn’t a rare occasion, either: both the San Francisco and the Sydney teams have a lot of fun together:  Cutlassian, Mission: Atlassian, theme-filled staff events, abound throughout the year.   Their new office  building in Sydney is right next to a pub (hint: when will you guys realize you’d be better off buying the entire pub?beer)  I wonder when the San Francisco office will move into a winery…  Perhaps you get the picture by now: Working for Atlassian isn’t just a job  – it’s a lifestyle.  But don’t for a minute think it’s a bunch of rowdy kids having fun only:  they bring in $30 million a year.  And if you don’t perform, this is what awaits you.

So that’s the magic formula: combine business success with a fun, team-focused culture and you’ve got the makings of the ultimate job.  (Are you still reading, or have you alerted your Marketing superstar friend yet?)

Now, if this is the ultimate job, there’s one question unanswered: How come it hasn’t been filled yet?  I wanted to hear the answer straight from the horse’s mouse so to speak, so I asked Atlassian President Jeffrey Walker, who responded below:

We were inundated with resumes, and found a few excellent capable candidates. Unfortunately, one of the growing pains of companies like ours is we were not quite ready for the right candidate. Incorporating someone of the caliber we need takes preparation. Our search began prematurely. Lesson learned. After the founders and I took another few ‘long walks’, we came out aligned and ready. This time I fully expect to complete the search. Just need the right remarkable individual.

Well, I did not walk with Jeffrey and the Founders, but I certainly hope they will not change a lot:smile_wink.  I have a lot to say on the subject of hiring, but it’s not specific to Atlassian, so I’ll break it out to a separate post.  In the meantime, if you are that “remarkable individual”, what are you waiting for?

Comments

  1. Mate – couldn’t have put it better. Thanks for this write up. Truly an honour for someone to think highly enough of your company to write about it, let alone to try to help you hire a key person. You rock.

    m

    PS Beers are clearly on me next time! :)

  2. Zoli,

    Atlassian looks to be a company with much vision and direction! Where can I apply for the position?

    Thanks for another great post!

  3. William, that’s cute, I thought you were running your own business :-)

  4. Zoli,

    I am currently running several of my own eBusinesses, which I’ve built from the ground up over the past 8 years or so. In fact, I currently own several very successful brands which I hope to soon evolve into Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 platforms, which for the first time combine PHARMACY/HEALTH/MEDICINE in a manner never before seen. I feel they go hand and hand, and unfortunately due to the bureaucracy involved with “online pharmacies”, these industries have not combined and intertwined like they soon will. I look to be on the front of this!

    However, I might would be interested in going corporate for the ‘right’ company for a year or so. Solid infrastructure and emerging technology would allow by personal businesses to continue to run without my everyday supervision.

    Zoli, I’ve always worked for myself and enjoy it very much, but I would like to offer my services and skills to the “right” company! It would be nice to get to see more people throughout the business day and know that I have the infrastructure and support to get things done in timely fashions and see results much quicker!

    Zoli, I’m definitely going somewhere with this whole Internet thing! I’m just thinking about how fun it would be to get involved with a new startup that has good vision and direction and offers great salaries in turn for great leadership, creativity, innovation and work-ethics. A nice location is always a plus too!

    It seems like you probably spend about as much time on the Internet as myself, which is way too much! (lol)

  5. Beer of the Month says:

    Is it such a dreamy job? There are a lot of voices that say it is not like that. And I am also sure that there are many other jobs which have this characteristic.

  6. I took the job, and it is indeed dreamy (although what kind of marketeer would I be if I said otherwise). But I suppose it depends on your definition of dreamy. Here’s how I define it: great products, highly-competitive markets with room to grow and the on-board brain matter to figure out how, a model that gives me lots to learn and play with and a business willing to adjust quickly to wild ideas that pass a collective gut-check, wrapped up in a culture that makes the whole thing a kick-in-the-pants. Not a lot of jobs have *those* characteristics. At least not all of them.

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