Monthly Archives: April 2007

How to Recruit 40 Employees [On Atlassian]

whiteboard-recruiting.jpg

Here’s the white board in our HR Director Flanagan’s office with 44 hires we are planning in Sydney and San Francisco. Notice the stern warning at the top: “You can delete but not add!”

How do you recruit 40 employees? Step one: write down the roles you need to fill. If you put it on a white board, then the goal becomes visual. And when you are doubling in size every year like Atlassian, the goal can be intimidating.

Step two: work very very hard. 🙂

If you’re passionate about your work and want to work with like-minded individuals, learn more about Atlassian and what we are looking for.

One More Reason Paul Graham is Right: Microsoft is Dead

Paul Graham’s latest insightful and controversial essay declares Microsoft is Dead. Some people didn’t get it: it’s a metaphor. Microsoft is not going out of business anytime soon, but it is ceasing to matter in terms of the future of software.

Paul points out the four big reasons Microsoft is Dead: Google, Gmail, Broadband, and Apple. Open source is missing from this list. Open source is screwing with a lot of traditional software companies, not just Microsoft.

But there’s another reason: how people choose what marketing to believe. Microsoft represents the Old World of Marketing. In the New World, word of mouth, reputation, and trustworthy information matter more, particularly in technology.

Word of mouth trumps bad, expensive marketing. What marketing even reaches people? No one reads direct mail, solicitors waste their time cold calling or are legally prevented, DVRs eliminate TV ads, spam filters are serviceable, blocking popups is a default, and even Flash can be blocked on your browser. Advertising has a lot of heat on it because so little gets through.

What about Apple’s expensive marketing? There’s one fundamental difference between their’s and Microsoft’s. Microsoft’s sucks. Have you ever seen the Steve Jobs keynote introduction of the iPhone? Can you even imagine this out of Redmond?

If marketing is going to get through, it better be damn good, because expense will not ensure success. Witness the Microsoft “Wow” campaign. It is doomed for two reasons: bad marketing and product problems. Even brilliant marketing won’t save a bad product. Which brings me back to the power of word of mouth.

Robert Scoble started using a Mac recently. Ironically Robert told me when we were at Microsoft’s Mountain View campus. What does that have to do with Microsoft being Dead, you say?

Scoble is all about word of mouth. He is word of mouth. He has thousands of followers on Twitter who know when he installs this utility or that progran on his new Mac. In the tech world, he is the Big Dog if you measure the sheer Blizzard of Bits emanating from the man through his Scobleizer blog, the Scoble show, his tweets on Twitter, and God knows what the man produces via IM and email. It’s frightening. He is a self-fulfilling prophecy of the new tech world.

The point is: people listen to him because he is insightful and authentic. He has far more influence than “Wow” on a billboard, or another crappy Microsoft marketing campaign that cost a fortune. Microsoft doesn’t get word of mouth because it starts with great products.

Great products start with first experiences. Buy a Dell Windows computer and a Mac. Side-by-side, take them out of their box, turn them on, and set them up the way you want.

After a few hours with your new Dell and your new Mac, compare the time you spent answering pop-ups you didn’t want, turning off annoying reminder features, and getting your security software working non-intrusively. There is no security software on the Mac. With the Dell, there is a good chance you will never control the pop-ups because it takes patience, or an engineer friend. If you are converting your data from an older model to a new, then these first few hours are brilliantly simple with the Mac. The OS X utility for migrating data stuns people used to Windows.

I haven’t done this exercise with Vista, but five minutes with Vista was one of my Worst All-time Computer Experiences. Nor would I recommend you buy Vista yet until Microsoft sorts through the initial problems, some of which are dangerous.

The killer app of marketing today is word of mouth and reputation, and Microsoft has lost this game.

Tips on Recruiting Executives Part I [On Atlassian]

grateful-dead-cartoon.jpg
We are in the midst of recruiting for a vice president of marketing. Even though we are still working on it, I thought I would share some of what we do during the initial stages of recruiting. Here I am concentrating on attracting candidates, finding candidates, and filtering resumes.

Here are eight key elements to how we start the recruiting process:

  1. Write a great ad – Why do companies continually forget how important this is? Be specific about why your company would be a great place to work at, what’s so interesting about the job, or what is it about the scope of responsibilities that will challenge someone. Make it compelling. I believe this job we’re recruiting for is a great job, so I tried to make it sound like it. I wrote our ad on Linkedin which will expire soon, so it’s here.
  2. Remember Karma – How do you like to be treated when you look for a job? Well, that’s how you should treat applicants. Answer every single email application. Even if you get swamped, do it; if you’re late, apologize but do it eventually. You should treat any candidate at any level with respect. Because industries are small, you are more likely to run into senior people again in your career, so act accordingly. Three of the applicants for our VP job included: a well know Silicon Valley blogger who is a good friend, a local industry analyst who knows our space well, and a founder of a software company where I once interviewed to be CEO. Tables turn. Don’t forget Karma.
  3. Don’t rely on ads; leverage your best networks – We have had 75 applicants, many very good on paper, through Linkedin. But our best candidates came through referrals from Mike’s network, and Anthony’s.
  4. Filter, filter, filter – The higher the expectations and the greater the responsibility for the job, the more important it is to be exacting about filtering resumes and not wasting candidates’ or your time. I do believe in the Best Athelete theory which says the best person may not be the one with the perfect functional experience, but instead the brightest, sharpest, highest potential one. With senior people, however, you are hiring experience, so this needs to dominate your initial filtering.

    Occasionally I let a left-of-center candidate through because there is something compelling in her/his background. But experience dominates the first filtering. Executive search people say, “the best indicator of future performance is past performance”.

  5. Bad resumes tell a lot – I hate bad resumes, and that generally means most of them. My three biggest annoyances on resumes are:
    • Lists of skills, strengths, accomplishment, and capabilities, instead of background by job. Experience matters, and not a candidate’s interpretation.
    • Vague chronology. I like seeing jobs by month and year. If you have ever been interviewed by executive search recruiters from firms like Heidrick & Struggles or Korn Ferry, they get precise chronology.
    • Long resumes. This is partially a US thing because in other countries long resumes are common, but I hate them. One of our applicants is a SVP from a Top 10 tech company, and his resume is two pages. Most mortals fit on two pages.

    Cover letters are where it’s OK for candidates to sell themselves, although the degree to which someone reveals some understanding of us matters a lot. Bad cover letters say a lot. If a candidate does not take the time to write a good cover letter, then how much do they really want this job?

  6. Filter with email questions – If you just received 20 resumes, and aside from the one really good resume, and the eighteen that don’t fit, what do you do with the one that’s interesting but borderline? Send them an email asking three tough questions. My favorite question is: what challenges do you think Atlassian faces? This forces some thinking, and is a great question in a first interview as well.
  7. Network with some candidates – I generally make a few Linkedin connections during a search because the person has some interesting skills but we do don’t need them now, or I may know someone who could use these skills. This relates to the Karma Rule above.
  8. Have a backup plan (if you can afford it) – Before starting the search I lined up a great executive recruiter who I have trusted as an employer and as a candidate. I gave us 45 days to succeed on our own. So far, so good. Executive recruiters are painfully expensive, and most of them are not worth it. But at some point, if you have a critical hire, such as this one is for us, you cannot screw around.

I’ll blog Part II when we complete the search.

Twitter Twatter

Okay, I give up. There’s a twitter wiki. Including 13 mashups, 33 scripts and libraries, 4 browser plugins, 5 mobile apps, 10 Mac apps, 10 Windows apps, and Oh… forget it. Some of the spine-tingling highlights:

  • Sounds like something I want in my band… Twapper: WAP browser for Twitter so you can keep up with Twitter on your mobile without the barrage of SMS interruptions. Something I perhaps (?) should worry about.
  • Try saying this fast 3 times… Twit Twoo: plugin that allows you to update your Twitter status right from your WordPress blog. Well, I like WordPress.
  • The deftly named… Spaz: multiplatform Twitter client for Windows, Linux and OS X
  • And for those with too much time on their hands… MyChores: keep track of your household chores and send automatic Twitter posts whenever you complete a task. Why? Please…

A Twitter in Training

twitter1.pngI’m not sure I get it. This Twitter Thing. I’m trying because the sheer weirdness of it demands some attention. I have Twitter Searched, Twitter Vision-ed, and Twitterriffic-(k?)ed. I am a Tweeter in Training I am afraid. This much is clear:

There is no end to social networking. If you tried to explain Twitter to most people in the world, they would think you were daft. Yet it is incredible to look at Twitter Vision and watch the tweets popping up all over the world real-time (there is some latency I discovered if you want to watch your own Tweet). What has come to us? Are we just desperate for another form of communication?

Twitter is a feature set in Social Software Land. It’s really a feature, but Twitter Search and Twitter Vision give it dimension, I guess. If I ever saw something that Google or News Corp. will acquire, boy, does this smell like it. Advertising is the logical next move, but someone else will be much better positioned to monetize this insanity.

Twitter is an interesting way to watch the Silicon Valley Bloggers talk to each other. Scoble, Arrington, Winer, and crew tweet away. Of course I could just wait and read the blog. But the color commentary is amazing. No surprise, but Scoble’s tweets can be interesting. Arrington is more of a self promoter, but hey, I don’t blame him.

Although I have succumbed to listening for Tweets, I don’t really get it yet. So far I see limited value:

  • You might cross paths with someone. I almost ran into Stowe Boyd when we were both in Palo Alto. Schedules did not allow but Twitter made it possible.
  • You can stay in touch with people who rarely see without any real commitment. It’s passive. I listen to probably the best tech industry analyst, James Governor of Red Monk, who also bought me a Guinness once and is a great guy, but Way the Hell away in London.
  • If you want to ask a bunch of people for advice, it’s one way. Scoble told me he likes it for that. He of course has around 2,100 followers so someone has dismantled a nuclear bomb or built a TwitBox. Yes, there is a TwitBox but nevermind… We are into self-fulfilling prophecies here in Silicon Valley.

Other than that, I still don’t get it. I remain faithfully a Twitter in Training.