“I Work in Pajamas” at Atlassian Summit 2013

How do you keep your team motivated? How do you avoid being sidetracked? When you work from home, how do you know when you’re done for the day? I was honored to answer these questions and more as a speaker and panelist at this year’s Atlassian Summit 2013.

“Woah.” You’d be surprised how much I heard this uttered at the recent 2013 Atlassian Summit in San Francisco. This wasn’t your typical tech conference. At the opening reception, strangers meeting over beer and sliders shared anecdotes on how Jira, HipChat, and Confluence had changed their companies. And according to keynotes from the founders, our favorites tools were only getting better.

That’s why I was thrilled to speak at this celebration of Atlassian. Thanks to these tools, our fully distributed team at Intridea successfully works together on design and development projects every day. And perhaps more importantly, we get to know each other. Watch the video below or on the Atlassian Archives:

My favorite part of giving talks is always the Q&A portion. The audience had some fantastic questions! Now free of time constraints (and giving way to the next great speaker), here’s a little more on each answer:

How do you keep your team motivated?
We’re always asking what individuals are interested in, whether it’s Javascript, Backbone, mobile, responsive design, or something we hadn’t heard of yet. We then do our best to match those interests up with fitting projects. We also encourage personal ideas, especially if they contribute to open source. We pair the team member up with a “stakeholder” to map out deliverables and a roadmap, assemble a small team (1-2) when needed, and give dedicated time to launch the project in one month or less. Our latest idea, called State.ly, was launched in less than three weeks and met with incredible response from fellow developers and non-profits.

How do you avoid being sidetracked by news sites and articles?
It’s true, distractions exist! But just like asking your deskmates for help, our team asks each other for tips and advice in HipChat before falling down a rabbit hole of Stack Overflow and blog posts. But what about other forms of distraction, like cat videos and y u memes? Well, we share those too. They go in our “Watercoolr” room, where folks hanging out during downtime can enjoy during a lunch break or waiting for a server deploy.

How often do team members see each other face-to-face?
We have two annual retreats: one in the US, and another overseas. Instead of long work sessions and trust falls, we make food together, explore the sights, and bond over old school video games. Aside from these large get-togethers, individual Intrideans see each other at conferences and meet-ups. Each Intridean gets one sponsored conference ticket a year, and conferences are always more fun with a coworker in tow. Contrary to what you might think about distributed companies, we know the value of face-to-face connections, and we’re constantly brainstorming new ways to bring our team together.

When you work from home, how do you know when you’re done for the day?
When you love what you do, it is easy to tinker far too long or accidentally while away hours ignoring the pups. Towards this, we try to foster a company culture that encourages work-life balance. Our CEO takes time to play with the kids when they get home from school. Need to step away for a doctor’s appointment? There’s no HR to consult first. We remind new employees to not pay too much attention to when other people are working, because we vary over six timezones. Not to mention we work when we’re at our personal best: whether we’re a night owl or an early bird. We also strike a balance between defined schedules and autonomy. Often our best hires are those who come from a freelance background, where time management is key.

Thanks again to Atlassian for hosting a wonderful Summit!