Office Hours: I’m Head of Analytics Systems, CSS at Atlassian. I’m Nisha Iyer. AMA!Featured

Hi Elphas!

I’m Nisha Iyer and I’m the Head of Analytics Systems, CSS at Atlassian.

For over a decade, I've been a trailblazer in the dynamic realm of data science. My journey took off long before my tenure at Atlassian, where I honed my skills and embraced the spirit of a self-starter with an entrepreneurial flair.

I started my data science career at a large consulting firm, moved to Discovery Communications and previous to Atlassian was at an ed-tech startup, where I undertook the exhilarating endeavor of building and scaling the technical side of the company. In this formative experience, I championed the development of the tech team, leveraging an array of Atlassian products to navigate the intricacies of AI-based product innovation.

During my downtime, I enjoy eating amazing food with my wife, hanging with our dog, Rex and spending time with family and friends.

Ask me anything about applying ML and AI to industry problems, designing, developing and scaling products, building great teams, leading technical teams, mentorship, or anything else!

Thanks so much for joining us @nishariyer!Elphas – please ask @nishariyer your questions before Friday, October 6th. @nishariyer may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Hi Nisha! Very excited to learn more though your AMA. I'm an online growth marketing analyst seeking to transition into a more technical data-centric role. With your experience building and scaling your tech team, curious if you have hired anyone that was from a non-traditional technical background? For context, I have an MBA with an emphasis in information system management but I have not had a job title that speaks to my interest in product innovation. If so, what were some redeeming qualities that encouraged you to hire them? If not, do you have advice for someone that wants to dive into your area of expertise?
Hi Chloe!I have a VERY non-traditional background and so am always interested in those that are hoping to transition / move into a new type of role. Every role is malleable and I always try and go into a role knowing that I am the key person that will define what it is and what it isn't. Of course, with a technical role, my one piece of advice would be to make sure you do have a grasp on more technical methods, potentially taking a short course or two on an online learning platform. I have hired multiple people, with non-traditional background, into software eng and data science roles. These people were coming from different industries altogether. They had all done some kind of bootcamp or technical ed to catch up to speed - and then illustrated their ability to think about problems and how to propose solutions, from a technical lens.
Hi Nisha, That was a nice and genuine introduction, thanks. I am a analytics leader as well and come from a non- traditional career path. I think being driven and being a hard worker paid off to me to build myself a good career and something that interests me. My current role in the current organization is great but due to some organizational changes I have been stuck in a toxic work environment. Just because of the situation I am in I have been thinking about being an entrepreneur and launch something meaningful to serve for greater good instead of being stuck in a situation. I know it sounds dreamy of me but honestly I want to pursue it. If you have experience around how to navigate this thought process or even any small small steps I should take to turn this in reality it would be great to hear from you.
Love your question and I agree, being driven and a hard worker does pay off :) I think your goals / thoughts are not dreamy - if you are thinking about it, you should go for it. I have, and I can tell you that even any failed business idea that I have pursued has paid off. It's like putting yourself through your own course on how to (try) and start a business. If the idea is good, you have the right partners and the energy and drive (like it seems that you do) it will pay off big time and succeed. I think life is too short to not take chances. If I had tried to take the straight and narrow path, I wouldn't be anywhere close to where I am today - and definitely not as satisfied, career wise. Happy to connect offline, DM me, would love to chat!
Hello @nishaiyer Hope you are having a great week. I have a question about AI/ML product manager roles. What are your thoughts? That is something that interest since I am post grad school now not interested in data analyst/scientist roles. My experience is mix of analytics training, product/project, MBA, and continuing to upskill for generative AI/ML etc. My initial interest was in predictive analytics. Also what groups should one network in to find such a role? Thank you for stopping by. Got to ask how old is the puppy? Have a great weekend.
Hi Lisa! Hope you are having a great Friday ;) I think that PM roles, specifically AI/ML PM roles vary highly between companies. Meaning, the job description and the expectation. I would focus more on what exactly you want to do, and then apply that to whatever roles seem to be open that suit that list. For example, my current role at Atlassian, is adjacent to product owner and therefore, participating in PM like tasks, across multiple products. Because I have seen this large scope in job descriptions around AI PM roles, that would be my take. Happy to chat / connect more about this!
and the puppy is now 7! his name is Rex !
Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us and answer our questions. You have vast range of experiences across industry, big org and small start ups, etc. I wonder at each of your transitions across industry/type of company, what are some factors that lead you to make the decision?
Hi Regine! Thanks for the question, and it's a great one - makes me think about what actually did shape my transitions. I would say that when I was in a role, I would discover everything about that role - and then other roles around it. My curiosity and inability to sit still (haha) drove me to usually tinker in spaces that were not directly aligned to the given role I was in, how to use other areas to innovate and expand on that role. This then would lead me to think about what I wanted in my next position. The biggest leap I think I personally took was to move from a strategic communications position to a data science role. This took a lot of effort, but was well worth it. Happy to discuss more offline! DM me and we can connect.
Hi Nisha! I have two questions. My first question is probably more HR based than anything else, but what is your stance on hiring individuals who are freshers, bootcampers (with/without degrees), or career transitioners (also with/without degrees) and cultivating that talent, and how is that reflected in Atlassians' hiring process? With all the layoffs happening, it seems like those who are trying to get a new or fresh start are often shoved off to the wayside for those with far more experience under their belt. What suggestions do you have for those who are overlooked?
I always look for and have hired all of the above. I have a very non-traditional career path, and so always look out for others that may. I would suggest highlighting how your career, and non traditional path, makes you an even stronger contender for the role. Perhaps it could be ability to think outside of the box a little more, experience and expertise and other subjects that you are now able to apply your technical skills to, so many other ways to spin it too. I think I diverse career background is an asset!
Hi Nisha! Thanks for offering your time. I'm not sure if this falls within your scope – would love for you to also speak on what it means to be head of analytics systems (your day to day, etc) – but do you have any frameworks or advice for defining KPIs?
Hi! Im happy to be here. Elpha is an awesome platform and has helped me throughout my career journey. At Atlassian, I have been involved in defining OKRs, which then help us decide on what key project to focus on for the fiscal year. I take a similar method for defining KPIs. I think about what our goals are, now, 3 months out, 6 months out and even a year out. Working with the team to think through, what metrics would measure success and what success then looks like, as defined by these metrics. Those metrics tend to be KPIs, and may be more specific for the closer timeline and more vague, and iterate-able for the longer out goals.
Do you have any key mentorship moments that have stuck with you throughout your career? What do you personally look for in a mentor?
I do. I have a few key moments. One of my favorites are when I was complaining to my mentor about how every other team at my company was wrong, and I had to protect my team. I thought I was right in my way of thinking - who doesn't want a manager that takes care of their team? Much to my surprise, my mentor walked me through the scenario of being a leader and speaking from the stage. To do this, one must collaborate with other leaders, not be antagonistic and battle them off - so that they can protect the team. This sticks out in my mind because it was humbling. I look for mentors that will be real with me, tell me the truth, have been where I have in my career and are in a place I hope to be, and will humble me. I am constantly learning on my career path and always look for someone that will help me grow, in that way!
What are some strategies you've found to be most effective in building and leading successful technical teams?
Thanks for the question! I have found that, when hiring, I look for skills outside of 'pure technical' skills. It's easy to give coding tests etc and rank someone on how amazing they are technically. I think that when building a team, there are many other pieces at play. I look for things like, are they a good cultural fit, will they be motivated and excited by this role? do they seem passionate or as if they are just looking for their next job? I have definitely had success and failure at hiring the right and totally wrong people. I think that has also helped me, learning from my failures and rethinking what I look for. It's a journey!
To what extent do you feel like an analytics focused leader can, or should, be focused on the company’s strategic execution/ services development? I often find that analytics teams can be siloed into just “providing data” as opposed to contributing to a strategic mindset ie “what” should we be creating and “why”?
Hi! I am fully opposed to silos, and push and will push to be involved in strategic direction. In my current role, I drive a lot of the ML tooling that fuel the proposed path forward and solutions. Therefore, if I was in a silo and was unable to hear the business painpoints, the business needs, and overall if I did not understand that side of the vision - I would not be able to execute a plan where I built the best and optimal tools for the solutions. The way I work with business stakeholders is that I get a seat at the table, as Head of Analytics. We discuss what the problems are, what solutions would look like and then I work with my ML and Eng teams to figure out what a feasible solution would look like.