Monthly Archives: January 2008

How to Win the Atlassian T-Shirt Competition

Disclaimer: We have not formed a judging committee, I have no idea whether or not I will be on the committee, and the decision could be made by a couple of engineers over a lot of beer in Sydney. These facts do not prevent me from giving you, Dear Reader some valuable insights into this hotly contested competition.

As an employee I am officially disqualified from Atlassian’s T-Shirt competition, which irks me to no end as I would whip everyone’s ass in this competition. Nevertheless, I am compelled to dispense potentially useful information on how you might stand out from the crowd pounding down our doors with spectacular designs and ideas. Here are some possible strategies for you Closet T-Shirt Designers:

Strategy #1: Design something a woman might wear. Being engineers and being men generally, we have a terrible habit of designing things that are questionable when written across a woman’s chest. The original clean, simply designed Confluence T-shirt is one of my favs but as you can see…

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This is a risky, breakout strategy as our founders are 28 year-old Australian men and of course, engineers and opinionated at times. But I think the timing is right to do the right thing by women, as Kathy Sierra pointed out a long time ago.

Strategy #2: It’s all about a clever, funny tagline. With this strategy, the design is irrelevant. Take our most coveted JIRA T-shirt. To this day, people love the tagline:

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Strategy #3: Get edgy. This is risky as you might go too far. Here’s an example of one of our more recent T-shirts which may have gone too far:

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This one may say something about engineers who spend too much time in front of their monitors, but I’ll let you draw your own conclusion.

Strategy #4: Make something retro and timeless.
The problem with retro is it is in the eye of the beholder, and I’m not sure there’s anything retro about a 5-year old software company. My favorite example but a really sweet T-shirt is this beauty I got from Ted Leung:

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[Disclosure: I used a Newton for 18 months. I still own it.]

Strategy #5: Sex. That’s right. Sex would be a cheap trick but Hey, stooping to the lowest common denominator works often. Here’s Yelp who in a lot of their branding uses some of the same tricks as American Apparel:

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Yelp can get a bit frisky with their marketing of their apparel:

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Would this cheap tactic work with a bunch of young engineers in Sydney? You decide.

How to Write a Bad Resume

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There are three surefire ways to write a bad resume:

  1. Make it too long.
  2. Obscure your background with your interpretation of your strengths and skills.
  3. Give a vague chronology.

Kicking off our search for a VP of Marketing this week made me ruminate about bad resumes. For this role, the problem is that marketing people can make anything look good, or more accurately: they can talk at length about anything, even if it’s irrelevant. So, the primary problem is long resumes that put you to sleep. I thought this a good opportunity to get crabby about resumes in general.

The three best ways to write a bad or a good resume:

1. Length

Most mortals can fit their background on one page. After about ten years of experience, you might merit a second page. Maybe. But think hard first. It might take 15 years before we need to hear it all. I have seen some resumes that creep onto a third page that are well written, but these are people with 20 or more years of experience.

Four pages are uncalled for unless you are from a foreign country where the sheer weight of your resume is part of the Feng Shui and culture. In spite of this habit overseas, it is a practice that is doomed in a world of impatient, ADD Type A’s who spend more and more time on the Internet. Get over it. Practice using that delete key, Champ.

2. Identify Your Background, not Your Skills and Strengths

Let the facts speak for themselves. Nothing is more annoying than resumes that start with a half page or an entire page summarizing someone’s background and skills. Your experience is what counts, not your interpretation. I have seen good resumes that start with three pertinent bullets highlighting key experience, but unless you merit a two or three page resume, try to skip this. Your work history and specific accomplishments are what matters.

Here are two actual examples from resumes I received today:

  • “I am a marketing master that can develop unlimited campaign ideas from the fertile right side of my brain.” I kid you not. A Master with a Fertile Brain. Save me.
  • “Strengths (Source: Gallup Clifton Strengthsfinder): Maximizer, Ideation, Strategic, Self-Assurance, Activator.” Is this necessary? Aside from being very unclear on what a “Maximizer” exactly is, or for that matter an “Activator”, what God-Help-Me is the Gallup Clifton Strengthsfinder?

3. Specific, Clear Chronology

If you have ever interviewed with Heidrick & Struggles or any of the major executive search firms, you know that competent, highly paid recruiters are exacting about chronology. Even if you are a CEO, these recruiters will carefully go through every crevice, so no stone is unturned.

That means month and year, start and end to every job. Yes, the month matters. It demonstrates you are a concrete, specific person. Remember, this is your career. Here in swashbuckling Silicon Valley where folks go through jobs like hot knives through butter, a string of jobs all less than two years is not uncommon. Therefore the month becomes material.

Always show the year you received a degree. Vagueness can make one wonder what you are hiding. Did you get lost at a Dead concert for a few years? (There’s an appropriate way to describe this career move.)

If you can get these three things right: 1) brevity, 2) background not strengths/skills/functional nonsense, and 3) clear chronology, you are off to good start.