Atlassian recently opened our San Francisco office doors to engage and connect with the local design community, seemingly in the most informal of settings. AIGA, the professional association for design, hosts an annual Design Week in several cities throughout the US, wrapping up their Bay Area edition with a Studio Crawl; part open-house, part bring-your-friends-to-work-night, and part bar-crawl. Atlassian was honored to be a stop on the Crawl for the third year in a row, and we’ve realized over the years that we always have to come together as a team in some unexpected ways to get ready for it.
Hosting this event has become a milestone for Atlassian’s Creative Team, providing an opportunity for the Design Organization at Atlassian to come together, celebrate our past year of work, and talk with fellow designers in the community. This year, over 200 guests passed through our doors, and we collected over 400 responses to some burning questions we had for the design community.
Introducing Atlassian’s Creative Team
While our Product Design org is mainly centralized in Sydney, Australia, where the company was founded, the Creative Team, mainly centralized in San Francisco, supports the marketing design for our full suite of products, as well as our overall brand and events, practices, and community. Anyone familiar with our team knows us to be one of the hardest working in-house agencies in tech and also somewhat of an enigma — we actually enjoy working with each other so much, we sign up for extra work together. Beyond the benefits mentioned above, it’s a great opportunity for us to learn about each other’s talents outside of our day-to-day work.
We work, as a team; We play, as a team
One of our most beloved Atlassian values is “Play, as a team” and we take this quite seriously. Preparation for the Studio Crawl was no exception. We started by sparring our initial ideas about how to pull off this event with our entire Creative Team, just as we would any other piece of communication we were working through. We gathered diverse expertise on what we could offer and how we could execute. We then reached out to the entire SF office, as well as the global creative community of Atlassian for help, and involved as many interested parties as possible, with the caveat that they take ownership over whatever they chose to contribute.
Insisting that each person claim ownership signified an invitation for us all to trust ourselves and follow our instincts.
Let’s start with the essentials
Living la vida boba
To begin with we considered what sort of experience the attendees would be looking for, and how to provide it in our own unique ways. For example, when it came to the food and beverages we would provide, we took the opportunity to express our team culture rather than merely going with the status quo. Atlassian’s Creative Team has a history of ordering large amounts of boba tea for delivery, and we also host a natural wine club once a month, so we chose to share those rituals with the world through a custom boba bar and our favorite natural wines. With over 300 boba tea orders served, we like to think they were a hit!
Vive le swag
The attendee experience didn’t stop at food and beverages. We are very aware that when people visit a tech company, they expect to leave with some swag. But we also know that the last thing we all need is one more thing to carry around for an evening of perusing different studios and offices. We knew that we wanted the swag to be useful, and also thought it would be cool if attendees could create their own swag, as part of their experience. We landed on screen printing tote bags, knowing that living in SF means bringing your own tote bags to grocery shop, so you’re always in need.
Expressing who we really are
One of the most crucial aspects of successful teams is that people feel that they get to be who they really are when they come to work.
We not only allowed the SF design community to learn who we are as a team, but also encouraged each other to share our passions if we wanted! Each year, we’ve had one of our teammates DJ the event, knowing that many of us are passionate about music since we always have our big noise-canceling headphones on while we work. One of our partners runs a screen-printing business on the side, and another has been the photographer at the event. One of our teammates is passionate about woodworking and was determined to build us a house-like structure that attendees could move through to observe a compilation of our most visually compelling work. Curating our work required collaboration across the entire Design Org spanning five countries. Good thing we’re a collaboration software company, am I right?!
This collaborative approach to event planning enables all of our team members to have a say and makes it much more personal and exciting for us to work together on something. There were late-night layout-design and plotter printing sessions, as well as early mornings at the SF Flower Mart to get the best prices on monstera leaves for the decor (a critical component). And of course, we had to ensure our signage, and conversation-starting name-tags would be on-brand. There are too many people to mention, but we all use this opportunity to bring our full selves to share with each other. We enjoy thinking through the details and executing strategically. It helps us develop our prioritization skills, and makes us all realize how much stronger we are when we can work, and play, well together.
Though it may sound like it was all ease and flow, it was a grueling process on everyone. It takes a lot of energy to pull this kind of event off. But sure enough, just when we felt most drained, the truth behind our company’s values began to shine. In the final days leading up to the event, when pressure was mounting, we came together as a team. There was still so much to be done, and everyone was slammed as usual with their everyday workloads, but ultimately the weight wasn’t just resting on a few. It was shared by all.
I know it sounds hokey, but seriously people — as a TEAM, we rallied together and made it magic. We needed everyone, and everyone took initiative. We organized ad hoc leadership to make the necessary decisions. We supported each other as well as led our own charges. I didn’t even know we all had the skill sets that I saw in practice. I believe that this is the greatest reward for doing this kind of work. It takes extra effort, and sometimes people will doubt whether it’s worth it, but it always is. You always learn something new. You always stretch farther, even if you have to acknowledge failings. I know that as a team, it makes us all proud. Not only the end result but also the accomplishments we experience when we get to be creative in ways that we don’t often get to. This is one of the ways we celebrate as a team, reflect on our accomplishments, and see how far we’ve come in just a few years.
Look out for us on next year’s Studio Crawl! Until then, if you want to learn more about us and how we work together, our team was recently tapped to share a framework for “How to build a happy team” and we’d love for you to check it out.
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