I’ve quit my job to join a start up.

A few months ago, I remember having lunch at work, chatting with my colleagues about working in start ups. I was reminiscing fondly about my first job out of university, working as a developer in a small web design agency, in a team mostly made up of graduates or people a couple of years out of Uni. There were times when it was frustrating and hard, but I look back fondly on it being a lot of fun, the steepest learning curve, and among the most pride and ownership I ever felt in my work.

I left that job to go and find out how bigger companies worked, then I went on to work in a consultancy because I still didn’t have enough of a breadth of experience. And then the start up bug came knocking.

Somewhere along the way, I had got used to earning a good salary, travelling, living well, got financial responsibilities; then I moved to Australia and became dependent on having an employer to sponsor my visa. Those things aren’t really conducive to working in a start up. And yet, that bug was still there, nibbling away at the corners of my brain.

The perfect opportunity turned up … at a decidedly inconvenient time. I was waiting on my new visa, and had just taken on a management role in a team that was taking on a new project with all kinds of demands for learning new technologies as well as leadership skills – and so, it nearly passed me by. Somewhere deep down though, I couldn’t let it go – I had to try, and if I failed, at least I’d know it wasn’t right.

I had fallen in love with the idea behind You Chews almost instantly – a catering company providing quality, artisinal food for corporate events and meet ups – probably because I’d eaten pizza at so many meet ups, and encountered the mystery meat sandwich at many training courses, conferences and meetings. Or perhaps it was just the idea of being able to sample new suppliers … mmmmm.

I just had to convince them that I was worth waiting for …

Fast forward a little, and here we are: in two more weeks I will finish up to go and dedicate myself full time to You Chews. We’re in the final 20 for both muru-d and StartMate, so the next six months could take us anywhere. It’s exciting, and scary, and it’s pushing me to learn and do things at a speed I haven’t experienced in a long time. It’s bloody fantastic.

We’re part of a community of people who all know what it’s like, and even though they’ve probably got to do lists as long as both of their arms, they’re willing to spend time to talk about our difficulties and lend their advice – from investors, to fellow founders, nobody is too superior or too busy to lend an ear.

I’m on board the crazy start up ship! Let’s start the next adventure :)

First impressions, four weeks in.

A few days after moving to Melbourne, I started this blog post with the intention of writing about my first few days on the new job and in the new city. But then, you know, life happens, and suddenly I’ve been here nearly four weeks and I haven’t even finished writing my post yet … so now it’s going to be a bit more of a mix, of first impressions and how I feel after four weeks in.

With all the excitement of the move, I didn’t have much time to get nervous about starting a new job. I was due in around 9:30 on Monday, so we didn’t have to rush, in fact there was plenty of time to enjoy a cup of tea and some breakfast before heading out to the station.

My new office

My new office

One of the reasons I wanted to work for Lonely Planet was that the developers work a lot in pairs, in fact all of the workstations are set up for it and nobody has their own computer, which has the added bonus of not having to spend any time getting software and stuff sorted. I spent most of the first morning working with one of the other developers, trying to cram as much information into my brain as possible. It was overwhelming, as it usually is starting a new job, but things seemed to be making sense at least. I joined in for some meetings and even spoke a few times, which I was rather pleased about.

Travel books everywhere

Travel books everywhere

I met the CTO in the morning, and to my surprise he greeted me with a hug – I didn’t even have time to protest that I’m British!

Although the office isn’t really close to anywhere, the cafe onsite is really nice, so I went in for lunch on the first day. Since then, I’ve mostly brought my own lunch, but I’ve discovered that the chips (fries, not crisps) are really good, so quite often I balance a healthy salad with the less healthy option :) This week, there was also a free BBQ lunch with sausages and salad, which was pretty yum!

Outside lunch area

Outside lunch area

They even have a huge pot outside where they grow herbs and veggies that they use in the cafe. There’s one ripe strawberry in there right now, not sure who’s going to get that one.

Veggie patch

Veggie patch

The people on my team often eat together upstairs, which is pretty nice. I’ve finally broken the habit of eating lunch at my desk … my poor keyboard at Atlassian was getting quite disgusting. When the weather’s good, we sit outside, although it’s usually pretty windy. The views from the cafe are amazing: I can see right across the river to the city, and out as far in the other direction too – some days, I’ve seen rain coming across, heavy enough to blot out the city skyline.

View from the cafe

View from the cafe

On my first day, I got to have a look around the onsite gym. It’s small but pretty well equipped, with decent showers and room to keep toiletries. There’s a small soccer pitch outside on the roof, although soccer games are not allowed there though, because of the risk of balls – or people – going over the side. After a couple of pretty pleasant workout sessions there, I decided to cancel my Virgin gym membership – I can’t face stopping off in the city just for the gym, and it’s pretty cool being able to go whenever I want during the day, even mid-afternoon. I was really enjoying warming up and cooling down outside, until the door suddenly started getting locked :( so I tried one afternoon session down by the river, but felt a bit looked over by the offices opposite! Maybe next time I can find a better spot …

View across the river

View across the river

Walk to work

Walk to work

Walking back to the station at sunset

Walking back to the station at sunset

It’s been an interesting change, going from travelling from Manly to Sydney CBD, to travelling from Prahran to Footscray. Prahran has much more of a city feel, with plenty of people, shops and cafes, and a buzz in the air. Although Footscray is close to the city, it feels more like a distant suburb. As I get off the train, I walk down residential streets lined with trees, bursting with new green leaves, and grass with wildflowers. Unlike walking to work in Sydney, stuck impatiently behind a dawdler who doesn’t walk at my speed, and weaving through the crowds at the Wynyard exit, the streets are almost empty – certainly nobody to slow my pace!

The roads are mostly quiet – my short walk from the station takes me straight down to the river, then a half kilometre by the water, along old, disused train tracks. On the far side of the river, there is a busy wharf, with the constant noise of traffic and huge containers loading, arriving and leaving.

Inside the office, one of the first things I noticed on my first day was the noise of the seagulls. I thought that it was somebody’s ringtone, the noise was so close! Turns out the roof of the building is thin enough to hear the gulls as though they are right next to me – and when it rains, it patters on the roof as loudly as though I’m in a caravan. The noise from the wind is something else too – and Melbourne springtime gets pretty windy – there’s a legend that one corner of the roof once blew up in a very strong gust, but since I’ve been there, it’s been pretty secure. I love hearing the noises of nature, especially the rain, and with the birds it sometimes feels almost like working outside, it’s great.

The rain often hammers on our roof at work

The rain often hammers on our roof at work

So those were my first impressions, mostly. Since that first week, Silvio’s spent most of his time working in Sydney, which is ironic, since it was his project in Melbourne that really pushed me to make the move here. Our weekends have been filled with trips to IKEA and Bunnings, picking up bits and pieces to finish off our home, and we’re almost there – if only I could convince him that we really do need more cushions …

Armed and dangerous

Armed and dangerous

We have made time for some fun though, especially some good food – there’s nothing quite like getting stuck in to a massive brunch after a Saturday morning trip to the gym. The food tastes even better after working up an appetite – and it’s guilt free!

Brunch at Yellowbird

Brunch at Yellowbird

I’m enjoying the new job – having suggested in a retrospective on my first day that we spend a week paying off tech debt (aka Engineering Week at Atlassian), I’ve been enjoying getting stuck in to some refactoring this week.

My second week in was spent on firefighting duties, during which time I released code to the production site, a pretty terrifying prospect so early on; this week I’m on call and praying that my phone doesn’t go off – I have definitely jumped in at the deep end!

Evening drinks on the balcony

Evening drinks on the balcony

The technology has been a refreshing change, and a refreshing challenge too – so far, I’ve found Ruby a lot of fun, and I’ve barely touched the CoffeeScript stuff! But that’s enough tech talk – I’ll try and find time to add something to the tech blog one of these days.

Last week, Andrea came to visit. After too much wine and plenty of gossiping and catching up when she arrived on Monday, she made an amazing barbecued barramundi on Tuesday night, which went down beautifully with, yes you’ve guessed it, WINE.

Out with Andrea

Out with Andrea

Later in the week, we headed out to discover the Mexican culinary delights of Prahran. Andrea is apparently known as a Mexican food snob, and despite not being impressed initially, she was won over when our food arrived at Fonda!

Crazy basil cocktail

Crazy basil cocktail

We headed out afterwards in search of a bar, but as we walked past San Churro, the chocolate smell was too tempting … we had to go in for some churros and chocolate dips. We had also persuaded Andy Tam – who was on his way home, having left Prahran earlier that evening – to come back out, and he showed up just as we were digging in, and ordered more churros, with an amazing caramel sauce. As Andrea says, I think living in Melbourne is a recipe for becoming fat and broke!

Churros!

Churros!

Saturday was for shopping! I finally got to meander down Chapel Street and poke around in some of the shops – I found a lovely vintage 50s dress in a fantastic vintage shop called “Shag”, perfect for Yolly’s vintage themed bridal shower next weekend.

Later that evening, we headed out for “salumi” (I still don’t really know what that is) at Ombra bar in the city. The food was incredible, in both the taste and the price … some of the best antipasti I’ve eaten, my mouth is watering just thinking about it! We finished off with sharing four deserts including a tiramisu cake, profiteroles, and a peach tart, before Andy insisted that we go next door to ?? for chocolate souffle.

It was very upmarket, so posh in fact that when you quietly mention you might need the bathroom, somebody materialises by your elbow to show you the way (yes, that actually happened). They brought our souffles in tiny individual pans with chocolate sauce, so delicate, and totally delicious, with glasses of dessert wine.
It was an amazing, amazing meal, one of many in this city I hope!

So that’s how my first few weeks here panned out. There is one other exciting thing that I’m saving for the next post, which has been my new commute – cycling to work!

New job – two months in.

On the first day of my new job at Atlassian, after a couple of fairly intense but pretty standard induction presentations, I was shown to the desk that would be mine for the next couple of weeks. It was in the middle of the 16th floor, in a pretty spacious office (especially compared to London standards) with windows all the way around, so I could look across the room and see across the city. Pretty nice :)

On my new desk was: a branded t-shirt (a pretty nice one actually), a box of Lindor chocolates (didn’t last long), a bag of jelly beans (didn’t last much longer), a cup for my tea, shiny new Mac Pro with two huge brand new monitors, and a notebook and pen. It was such a nice welcome!

First day

Most of my first week was spent doing two things: attending “Boot Camp” presentations, and slaying dragons. Not real ones … but that was the name of the exercise! As part of my induction and in order to learn about the different products I’d be working with, I had to set them all up on my computer, which actually took quite a while. Apparently, I can now get a t-shirt proclaiming myself as a dragon slayer :) There is a big culture of having company branded stuff here which I really like.

Aside from that, I spent a lot of time getting lost inside the maze of articles and blogs on the wiki. Like ThoughtWorkers, Atlassians often have quite a bit to say (so if you judge me by this blog, I’ll fit right in) so there is a lot to keep up with.

What with the dragons, presentations and wiki, by the end of the week my brain was buzzing with all the new information I’d taken in – so much so that I woke up on Sunday morning from dreaming about JIRA (the product I’ll be working on).

On Friday evening, I headed downstairs to the 15th floor, where the rest of my team was located. I was supposed to sit in the bootcamp area for my first two weeks, but after spending half an hour or so downstairs I didn’t want to wait any longer – it was nice to be around the people I’d be working with, and a bit cosier and noisier than upstairs.
By Tuesday of my second week, my new desk on the 15th floor was arranged. One of the advantages of being a female in IT is that you can usually get people to help you move your equipment :) Actually I managed most of it myself, except for the Mac Pro, those things are heavy!

Moving all my stuff

So over the last few weeks, I’ve settled in rather nicely. It’s a nice change to have a permanent desk, and to be working as part of a product team again, rather than always being the outsider working on a client site. Over the time I’ve been at Atlassian, I’ve completed their induction program called “Bootcamp”, an overview of all aspects of the company and the products and their development, culminating in a short “graduation” presentation last Friday.

The talking token

I’ve started out working in a team for the Bonfire product, and now my days are now mostly spent coding in JavaScript. What’s really cool is that we have a REAL SWORD that we use for a talking token in stand up meetings – the product started out known as Excalibur, so that’s where the sword came from. We’ve already completed one new release, and the next one is nearly ready to go – it’s very cool seeing things that I’ve worked on ready to go out to the customers, I just hope they like it!

We have a real sword!

One of the other amazing things about the office is the amount of free food. I’ve grown accustomed to free fruit, crisps, snacks and chocolate at ThoughtWorks, but here there is cheese, ham, and salad stuff for lunch, breakfast cereal, even some microwave meals. I was warned that most newcomers put on weight, and so far I’ve stuck mostly to the healthier snacks, although yes I did nail those chocolates on my desk within two days.

There are also vending machines for drinks, which is pretty special, there’s something cool about not having to put any money in before you press the button and get a drink.

The view from my desk

I’m now just starting to not feel quite like the new kid anymore, although when I mention my upcoming holiday people keep telling me I’ve only been here five minutes, and how can I have a holiday already?!

As for what’s coming up: I was originally allocated to a team known as Kick Ass, who work on the JIRA product, but after a shift in priorities I’m going to go and work on Greenhopper instead, in September when I get back from my long trip to the UK. I’m looking forward to getting the chance to get into some Java code as well as the front end stuff!

A big change.

I think my feet first started itching in early February, but they had been tingling for a long time. After nearly four years working for ThoughtWorks, the time had come to make a change.

The last time I started looking for a new company to work for, I wanted to get out and work across a range of different projects and companies. I wanted to see how things were done in different environments and work with people who truly believed in Agile software development. In every interview at ThoughtWorks, I was asked if I minded travelling, told that this was a key part of the job. I had no ties, no reason to stay in one place, and although it sent butterflies through me, I was excited at the prospects. Before I even started, Heather called me to tell me that my first project would be in Dublin, and those butterflies went mental.

Nearly four years on, I’ve spent time working in Dublin, Manchester, Berlin, Edinburgh, Sydney and many parts of London – around the corner from Borough Market, within walking distance of the Wimbledon tennis tournament, and in the heart of the west end. I’ve had some incredible opportunites and I’ve made the most of them all – and the memories are all over my Facebook timeline (am I the only person who actually likes it?). Most of all, I feel like I achieved the goal I started out with.

Somewhere along the way, I decided to switch from doing business analysis back to writing code. It was the hardest career move I’ve made – at least starting out as a developer after university with very little experience, people had much lower expectations. ThoughtWorks helped me get there though, and I haven’t looked back since.

But goals shift, and always being the outsider on a client site eventually wore me down. I missed being part of a team, I missed seeing and working directly with my own ThoughtWorks colleagues every day, and now I want to spend more time writing code and get really, really good at it. I never quite managed to get used to the uncertainty that goes with consulting, of “where will I end up next and what will it be like”. My poor mum, she had to listen to me worrying about the next unknown project time after time.

So eventually, I started to take notice of my itchy feet and look around. I knew I wanted to stay in Sydney, and I also knew there was a very specific kind of company I wanted to work for – one with a culture with many things in common with ThoughtWorks (as I described it to Steve Gilles “the kind of company that keeps beer in the fridge in the kitchen”), where I could do hands on coding, work with really smart people … and one that would sponsor my working visa. I was really lucky that I already knew a company that would fit that bill, and they were recruiting: Atlassian.

Three months, seven interviews, a whole heap of stress and a brand new visa later … and I am almost ready to start next week!

As a bonus, I wasn’t assigned to a project when I resigned, so for the first time in my life I had “Garden Leave”. I haven’t spent much time in the garden though.

On my last day at ThoughtWorks, those three empty weeks loomed ahead of me like a big void. I had some ideas of how I would fill them: I booked a trip to see Yolly and Claudia, I wanted to finish Seven Languages in Seven Weeks, read some technical books, lots of exercise, cooking nice food, maybe blog a little.

It didn’t take long to get used to getting up after nine am and catching up on TV (MasterChef Australia started just in time …)

I did make it Brisbane though, and I also managed to do quite a bit of exercise, including some circuit sessions on the beach and meeting Viviana for a bit of boxing with an ocean view! But I have to admit that most of my other lofty ambitions went out of the window fairly fast. It only took a couple of days for my brain to switch off completely and go into holiday mode, and I didn’t fight it. I’m hopeful that I will feel very refreshed next week.

With just one week left to go, I’m heading off to Malaysia for a pretty special trip tomorrow, before I have to get my brain back in to work mode next Tuesday. Hopefully, I’ll have enough time before that to write a quick post about the time I spent with the girls in Brissie.

Wish me luck :)