Office Hours: I’m the Chief Operating Officer at Atlassian, the company that makes Jira, Trello, Confluence and all your teamwork tools. I’m Anutthara Bharadwaj. AMA!Featured

Hello Elphas!

I’m Anutthara Bharadwaj, Chief Operating Officer at Atlassian.

I started my career in tech as a Software Design Engineer for Microsoft where I spent over 10 years until I took on the role of Head of Product at Atlassian, prior to becoming COO. I’m also a Board Member for Outsystems, a Forbes 2021 Cloud 100 company.

Throughout my career, I’ve grown billion-dollar businesses, built great teams, and shipped blockbuster products across high-growth startups and large companies.

I’m passionate about making the world a better place through technology and effective philanthropy.

Ask me anything about product management, leadership, scaling a company, building productive and creative remote teams, or anything else!

Thanks so much for joining us @anubharadwaj!Elphas – please ask @anubharadwaj your questions before Friday, December 3rd. @anubharadwaj may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Hi Anu @anubharadwajThanks for your time here on AMA! Could you please share how Atlassian helps its customers to integrate their products into their customers' businesses? I know that Atlassian has great internal, agile operations; however, many of the corporates that bring on Jira, Confluence or Trello do not have those practices. Is it up to the client to make that work, or does Atlassian get involved in their transformation?And all the best at Atlassian. I love what the business stands for and really appreciate all that the team shares through its blog and playbooks. Kind regards,Temre Green @TemreGreen
@anubharadwaj, thanks for the AMA!1. How does one gain exposure for user acquisition / growth? I'm currently a technical PM (from engineering background) in a B2B company and can handle the delivery without problem, but I'm seeking to grow 'business sense' skills to expand user base and generate $$.2. From your experience, what do you think make a top 1% PM? 3. How well the technical / engineering skills serve you as a PM?
Thanks for doing this AMA, @anubharadwaj!As a young professional, I'm still exploring what I'm good at, what I'm interested in, and how those intersect with market need. I'm curious: - How did you find your niche and build credibility when first starting out? - What are a few things that super-charged your career?
Hi there, I graduated from school as a computer science major and worked at Microsoft straight out of college in India. As a nerd, I thought that it was the best gig ever. At the time, I didn’t have goals like wanting to become a COO or a VP of Product. Instead, I let my curiosity and passion for doing quality work guide me. I started to figure out that what motivates me at work is seeing the positive impact of my work on somebody’s life. As a result. I naturally gravitated towards product management. So whether you’re at a startup or a large company, there are always ways of trying on different hats until you find your niche - and showing that you can consistently produce quality work across a breadth of problems is going to help you build credibility very quickly. In terms of super-charging my career, I have always tried to say yes to the hard and unsexy projects. I enjoy solving hard problems that other people find impossible or uninteresting. An example of this was when I decided to take on our transition from being an on premise business to to making our entire business SaaS based. It really felt like an impossibly hard problem at the time, but leading our journey to cloud at Atlassian became one of the biggest learning opportunities and highlight of my career. So keep an eye out for the ‘unglamorous’ and difficult projects because this is the type of opportunity that might make you shine the brightest ✨
Hi Anutthara, I so appreciate your time in writing this. I love that you let your work and curiosity guide your career steps. And yes to the unglamorous projects! I'm learning how to advocate for them, ask for the help I need, and finally, if all goes well, articulate their value/impact properly. Wishing you a wonderful new year, with lots of stimulating projects in store!
Hi Anutthara! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer questions. I am a huge fan of Atlassian, it is one of my dream companies. I have a non-traditional background working primarily in nonprofits and am trying to break into product management, does your company primarily focus on having a traditional background or transferrable skills? Do you know if you ever offer entry level product management roles? What would you say are the main skills that PMs should have in the early stages of their career? Thank you again!!
Hi Amber, It’s great to hear that you love our products. That makes me really happy. It’s also exciting to hear that you’re making the leap into product management. We absolutely do have an Associate Product Management program - check it out here: Our APM program does not require you to have a computer science degree. We hire for future potential. We look for individuals who have a burning desire to learn, intellectual curiosity and adaptable problem solving skills. When we recruit APMs, we want you to apply your existing learnings and skills, whether it’s from school or your passion project or a previous internship, to solving a software product problem. Think hard about how your unconventional skills can add value to solving the customer problem. For example, maybe you did a journalism degree that trained you to ask great questions and really connect with people, and this has taught you how to probe deeply to understand the customer problem and needs. Or maybe your experiences working with nonprofits has taught you how to wear multiple hats and solve a lot of problems in a scrappy way. No matter your background, we want you to find creative applications of your skills to the customer problem, and this is going to be a key skill that will serve you well as a PM starting out.Best of luck with your transition!
Oh wow!! Thank you so much for the in depth answer!! I truly appreciate you taking the time to not just provide the link, but also how non traditional backgrounds can work in your favor. I was probably selling myself a little short so thank you for the reminder. :) Happy Holidays :)
What would you say were the most useful tools in getting you where you are? Did you utilize: coaching? Finding sponsors? Mentors? Coworker alignments to create a pod?
Hi Jess - Yes - I have had coaches, sponsors, mentors and supportive co-workers. Each of them has helped in different ways. In my experience, coaches have helped identify blind spots and offered an objective view of the world. And this doesn't have to be external coaches - it can be your manager or a peer that is committed to your success. I have had the good fortune of having great mentors that have helped with specific problems I have run up against through my career. Remember, you own the responsibility of identifying the right mentor for your specific situation and getting the most value of their time. I always enjoy it when mentees act on my advice and come back and tell me if it worked or not. It's helpful to be specific about what problem you are looking for their help with and close the loop on past discussions. Most people want to help and they appreciate it when you make it easy to help them. I've also found it helpful to have different mentors for different areas and different stages of life - it's ok to have bursty conversations with mentors, they don't have to be perpetual.Coworkers have a big impact on your overall success and wellbeing - after all, they are the people that you spend most of your workday with. I have had incredible teammates that have helped form a supportive and caring community, which has helped me deal with ups and downs at work. Solving problems together, getting second opinions on gnarly issues - just reliable people who have your back and you have theirs - this matters a ton. It is not always easy to build that sense of camaraderie and easy collaboration with all your teams, but it is 100% worth the time and energy to invest in it. Be the first person to make an effort to build a relationship - in my experience, this has always helped.
What an incredible background @anubharadwaj! I'm curious about your hiring of leaders: what characteristics are you looking for to fill out your leadership teams?
Thank you Crystal!Ultimately someone is a leader only if they have people willing to follow them =) Ability to influence, persuade and enroll people onto a shared mission is a key trait I look for. Plus raw intellectual horsepower coupled with a high EQ and integrity are table stakes. Over time, I have experienced the outsized impact of having diverse perspectives on teams. I mean diversity not just defined by race and gender, but also diversity in cognitive function and life experiences. On my team I have founders, someone who was a refugee and soon to be published novelist, lawyer turned tech PM and CSS engineers turned business managers. Successful leaders will come from all walks of life, so I try not to limit myself by confining my search solely to specific skills and schools. Creating a balanced team is important because you’re always going to have individuals that are very spiky in certain skills but weaker in other areas. So finding leaders that can round out the skills and personalities on a team helps create healthier dynamics in the org.
Love this, was talking about exactly this issue yesterday with our recruitment team. Diversity of personality types is so important. Having a focus on diversity is great but it's so much more than ethnicity and gender, successful teams need people who think differently working together.
Hi @anubharadwaj - thanks for sharing some of your time with us! What do you think are the biggest challenges hybrid/remote working poses for company culture as we move into year 3 of the pandemic? While I love working from home, I know a lot of my clients and colleagues are less keen and I'd love some perspective from a C-Suiter!
Hi Angela,Timely question. We just published our internal research study on this topic. Check it out here: An important challenge is managing employee burnout in a hybrid/remote environment. We’re all experiencing the worst version of remote work at the moment because we’re still living through a pandemic! While I don’t know when we’ll return to normality and what that new norm might look like, we’re trying to encourage our teams to lead with empathy and flexibility as much as possible to help their teams get through the pandemic. We’ve supported our leaders to organize team-wide recharge and meeting-free days. Our rituals support asynchronous collaboration wherever possible, and record events like town halls so people can catch up when they’re out on a walk or running an errand. We try to give people as much flexibility as possible to sustainably structure their work life in a way that works for their situation.Helping our teams feel like they belong at Atlassian is also more challenging in a fully distributed workforce. Before the pandemic, Atlassian had a very office-centric culture. We regularly gathered in person for our town halls, we ate lunch together and enjoyed our holiday parties together. Our Workplace Experience and People & Practices teams have done a great job at recreating some of these events virtually. We’re also trying to create the best onboarding process possible so new Atlassians feel like a part of the community from day 1. These are just some of the tactics we’re trying to implement in response to the challenges we’re seeing with distributed work.
Thanks @anubharadwaj for taking the time to do this AMA!I’d love to better understand how your famous product led growth model works— and the role your product, marketing, and sales teams each play in making it successful. Where do their responsibilities start— and where do they hand off?What are the challenges you experienced with the model (that vary from perhaps other sales models) and how did you overcome them as an organization?Do you have any tips for a team just getting started with its product led journey, and how to align the ‘big 3’ - sales, marketing, and product?
Hi Rebecca, Check out the article that our CRO Cameron wrote about the flywheel model here: We experienced some challenges when we moved upmarket to target more Enterprise customers. We didn’t want to blindly copy others and hire a large sales team or exclusively build enterprise features for a small subset of customers, so it required some careful thinking on which pieces of our DNA we wanted to change. We went for a mixed approach of innovating on how we price and package to enterprise features, while ramping up our customer support, product and support engineers to be a part of the enterprise customer loop. They were always ready to support our sales teams on these calls. Coming from a product background, I truly believe that the big 3 functions all need to have skin in the game by getting in front of the customers as often as possible. It is not just the responsibility of sales to talk to customers. Ensuring that your marketer, product manager, designer and engineer have exposure to customers will help everyone on your team develop deep empathy for the customer problem, and build better products as a result.
Hi @anubharadwaj, thanks for joining us! What are your top tips for a recent software engineer grad to excel at their career? What kind of skills would be useful and activities useful to get involved in?
HI @anutthara, we are currently about to launch the world's first study on researching the soft skills of software engineers with some of the world engineering leaders. I'm curious to find out on your career journey what programs, resources, tools, mentorships, coaching, leadership training did you do to help you advance your career?
Hi @anubharadwaj,I'm curious to hear more about what motivated your switch from Head of Product to COO? How has your day to day changed?
Hi Sara,I try to look for ways to solve problems that will have the biggest positive impact. I also enjoy stretching across different functions, having learned a lot from my shift from engineering to product management. So operations seemed like a good next step for me as Atlassian grew so quickly over the past 2 years and there are so many opportunities for us to scale our operations to support our growth. I’d love to find ways to bring product and operations closer together so our teams are always focused on the right priorities and executing well. My day to day certainly looks different as a result. I’ve spent the last few months immersing myself in all things operations, in addition to running product teams. Instead of wearing a different hat every few years, I now have to wear different hats everyday.
Hi @anubharadwaj thank you for your kindness! I´m the VP of Ops of a Web 3.0/Blockchain company, and as we are finishing our Seed Round we must scale the whole company. I´m wondering in your experience what are the top 3 insights you could give when going through that process! Thank you :)
Hi Diane,Congratulations on your seed round. I hope your company is very successful! A couple of insights:Define who you are as a company and learn from others but stay true to yourself. It helps to know what type of company you aspire to become and the values you want everyone to follow. Writing them out might be helpful for your existing teammates and the newcomers. Hire carefully - your earliest employees are powerful force on shaping the culture of your company. Being selective is going to help you keep the bar high and help you bring more quality candidates through the door.
Hi @anubharadwaj! I am also from a CS background but am going straight into consulting. I'm wondering what the transition from engineering to product and now operations looked like for you, and if you have any recommendations for someone interested in general management eventually. Thank you!!
Hi @anubharadwaj thank you for hosting the office hour! I'm a fan of Atlassian and I want to know how does Atlassian's product & engineering team stay agile as it grows into a 100B company? What are the tools/processes your organization have implemented to counter the inertia of a big corp and continue inventing?
Hi Amber, Yes, we are in the midst of scaling - we crossed 2B in revenue and have nearly doubled our workforce despite the pandemic, hiring 3500 people remotely, bringing us up to ~8000 Atlassians. A key factor in our successful scaling has been our products and values. Our products are centered around teamwork and our company values include “open company, no bullshit” and “play as a team.” Our culture of openness permeates our processes and how we use our products to collaborate. A tactical example is how we use Confluence as a company wiki as well as a place to share your work early and often. By capturing all of our ideas, plans and even rough thoughts in their early stages on Confluence, we make it easy to discover and share input on each other’s work. This leads to natural curiosity, cross-pollination of ideas, and remove the typical walls and layers that prevent teams in a big organization from iterating quickly and feeling like a tightly connected team. It also encourages a writing culture, which is key to scaling large orgs instead of being bottlenecked by sync meetings.Some of our other tactics include using a standard decision making template that clearly appoints a single approver for the decision. We also share our project updates and OKRs frequently and broadly via one of our new products, Team Central; visibility and real-time status updates are so crucial for effective collaboration. We're moving to a quarterly planning cadence instead of annual planning so we can remain agile in what we work on. We consciously try to design and nurture innovation in our culture. We’ve been holding a quarterly innovation day called “ShipIt” since 2005, where we encourage teams to self-assemble and work on whatever that inspires them for 24 hours - this could fixing a bug, installing a community library in the office or inventing a new product (Jira Service Management was born from a winning ShipIt idea!) When the day is over, we regather as a company and vote for the winning ideas. Everyone buzzes with energy and creativity that sustains them when they go back to work. We also set up an internal product incubation program called Point A. Similar to ShipIt, we encourage folks to self-assemble teams and pitch product solutions to problems and needs that they have identified. We green light a certain number of products per cohort, and give these teams the resources to build and bring their product to market. There’s no silver bullet that can magically fend off the inertia of working at a megacap tech company, but there are definitely tactics that you can deploy to nurture innovation and agility.
Thank you truly @anutthara ! Giving employees agency and fostering a creative, collaborative culture are so important; we all have a lot to learn from Atlassian's practices!
Thanks for sharing your time and expertise AMA, @anubharadwaj. I'm in the minority in this group. What are the top three tips would you give to the older worker who is in the midst of changing jobs and is applying at Atlassian? Thank you so much.
Hi Rita,That's exciting! Thank you for applying at Atlassian =) We are obsessive about hiring for value-fit at Atlassian. We don't look for culture-fits, we hope you will join us and help evolve our culture, so we don't need new hires to match our culture exactly, but we do want new Atlassians to share our values. So, if you are applying with us, please look up our company values on our website and evaluate if those resonate with you. In your interview, it helps to proactively tell us what resonated with you and why. Since you mentioned being an older worker, my personal advice would be to use that as a strength. Your work and life experiences give you a unique perspective. Coupled with a growth mindset, that is a super power to have on any team. Finally, it can be daunting to make a job switch. Just know that tech workers are in great demand right now, so you are in a great market to be job hunting :) Good luck!