If you know anything about Atlassian, you would probably be aware of our reputation for looking after our employees, so much so that we were named Australia’s best place to work. But don’t be mistaken, it’s not the fully stocked kitchen, table tennis tables and other office perks that make Atlassian a great place to work for graduates — it’s a great place to work because Atlassian understands, unlike many today, what graduates actually want from their employers.
While I was studying at university I worked for a number of small digital agencies. As a bright eyed design student looking for an entry into the design world, I took to these roles with enthusiasm and excitement. The size of these agencies meant that I was involved in every aspect of a project and quickly found myself growing a varied design skill set. I was drawing up wireframes and taking these to high-fidelity concepts and developing my designs into responsive websites. These roles were great in that they exposed me to a variety of work and proved to be invaluable to the development of my technical skills as a young designer.
But soon after I graduated and continued to work in these kinds of roles, it started to feel like something was missing. I no longer felt challenged by the work I was doing, and I began to feel that the artefacts I was creating lacked meaning and purpose. I felt a disconnect between the design thinking that was instilled in my classes at university with the reality of my day to day practice as a designer. While these workplaces had creative and relaxed atmospheres that were great to work in, I longed for mentorship and professional development.
It wasn’t until I started at Atlassian that it became clear to me what young design graduates want (and need) from their employers to truly thrive and succeed, and it isn’t table tennis tables or free lunches.
Purpose-driven work guided by real values
During my design education, many of the classes took focus on design thinking and how design practice can be used as a vehicle for change to address social needs. Students were encouraged to explore design practice beyond just form and function, and were instilled with the belief that they should be practicing purpose-driven design. We were cautioned to design without losing our soul, and do work that aligns with our own personal standard of ethics.
At Atlassian, the design team is creating meaningful work every day. Our mission to advance humanity through the power of software is seeing our products being used to help mankind explore space and return hearing to the hearing impaired. But what drives our work doesn’t just stop at our mission, it is extended by the five company values that motivate how we design on a day to day basis.
For example, Open company, no bullshit has fostered a culture where everyone is free to view what everyone else is working on, and voice their opinion on your work. You should expect feedback on your work and to be questioned on the design decisions you make. As a graduate designer, you learn the skills you need to effectively communicate with confidence, take criticism and grow your designs from the feedback that you receive.
Similarly, Be the change you seek encourages everyone, regardless of your title or position, to create positive change and improve the company for the better. Design graduates are empowered to drive change within Atlassian and are given the creative freedom to explore and execute their own ideas in company initiatives like ShipIt.
These values should not be dismissed as corporate PR nonsense that isn’t actually practiced every day; they’re important in guiding the work we do at Atlassian and are fundamental in championing a culture where everyone feels like they are sincerely making a difference in improving how our customers do their work.
Mentoring and growth
From your very first day at Atlassian, there is a noticeable feeling that you’re being invested in. In my team, I was tasked to practice Shuhari, a Japanese martial art concept that details the stages of learning to mastery. This onboarding experience sets the expectations for your growth and development at the company from day one.
You start your journey as a graduate by taking the time to shadow and learn from the teachings of a mentor while your cup is empty. Graduates are paired with senior designers on the team and are given the space and time to learn from a master. As you seek to understand why, you begin to build a foundation of the principles and theory that influence design at Atlassian, and slowly you grow an appreciation and understanding of how designers do their work, which begins to inform your own practice as a graduate designer.
Mentorship and growth also come from building a stellar team. Design graduates want the chance to work alongside talented designers who are subject matter experts. We naturally want to work with smart people, and to be pushed forward by these people. Graduates at Atlassian are fortunate in that the design team has grown an all-star team full of incredibly talented and intelligent designers, and is continuing to invest in hiring the best talent from all over of the world.
Be careful not to lose sight of what really matters to design graduates. While table tennis tables and other office perks can make graduates feel valued and attracted to your organisation, these perks are ineffective if you’re not also considering what we are really crying out for — purpose-driven work, proper mentorship and professional development.
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