Monthly Archives: September 2008

I Remember Hayward

I never thought I would write an obituary on my blog, but then I never thought I would write about cancer. Last week, my dear friend since 1964, Buzz, or formally, Hayward Sylvester Blackledge III died at 56. This is my eulogy for the wake today. In tribute to Hayward, I have interspersed album covers I made up to honor this wonderful jazz musician.

I remember my first impression of this skinny, tall kid in 1964 from the West side of Providence. He seemed so young at 13 but so self-assured, particularly about girls. I had a dance party that year at my house and I knew then that Buzzy had something special with the girls, and I should pay very, very close attention.

When I remember Buzz, I think of when we played with the Fowler brothers band, the Soul Sounds and wore matching blue satin shirts, and did steps. We practiced in the Baptist church on the West side of Providence. It was 1966. The black kids in the neighborhood would come into the church and ask, “Why is that white guy playing in this band?” and Buzz would always defend me. Buzzy’s favorite tune was “Cold Sweat” because it was all about the drum part.

I remember when he came into my house on Olney Street one day so excited to play a new record, something he did very frequently, but this time was special. He put a new album on my record player, and he played “Fire” off the first album of Jimi Hendrix. I keenly remember he did not play “Purple Haze”, because “Fire” was a drummer’s tune. He announced we were going to see Hendrix at Brown University, which we did March 8, 1968.

When I remember Buzz, I remember all the times we would stay up until the morning listening to music. Hayward introduced me to jazz, and we would listen to Roland Kirk and Ahmad Jamal and Horace Silver all night long. We would want to play and I would take out my guitar, and Hayward would get some pots out of the kitchen and use them as bongos. We played until we were so sore.

When I remember Buzz, I think of all the concerts and music we took each other to over the years. He took me to all three Hendrix concerts in Providence – once with counterfeit tickets that cost $8 – but we got in. I remember all the music at the Newport Jazz festival we went to. I remember going to the old Jazz Workshop in Boston with him. But then I remember when he played the Jazz workshop with Victor Brasil and Buzzy was playing at an incredible level. I was so proud of Buzz.

When I remember Buzz, I remember living with him in 1981. He let me move in for several months when I was having girlfriend problems, about which he was much wiser. I remember his cooking. His signature dish was a slow cooked lamb with allspice. I had never seen someone be so patient to cook something for so long, and then when he ate it, he ate it slowly. I gobbled it up, it was so good. But Hayward could out-slow-eat anyone on the planet. He would push his dish away half eaten and you would find him at one in the morning nibbling on a few more spoonfuls.

When I remember Buzz, I remember his years obsessed with clothes. So many clothes, his closets were full and he had racks of them hanging in his Cambridge apartment. He took me shopping for platform shoes and flowered shirts, and he convinced me to buy platform sandals with 4-inch heels and a pair of High black boots with 3-inch yellow heels and a yellow stripe up the side. Hayward, I still have those boots, but I will never ever be as cool or as hip as you were then.

When I remember Hayward, I remember my best man. I think of him playing at my wedding, and coming together with my musician friends from college and later in life. He looked so handsome. He played with finesse. He was so excited about playing with my accomplished friend Dan Siegel. I will cherish that last time I played with Hayward forever.

When I remember Hayward, I think of all the times we never thought Hayward would live to be 56. Hayward lived on the edge, and he scared us many times. But then something happened. What changed everything was this woman Angela came into his life. For the first time Hayward settled down. For the first Hayward had peace. Hayward adored Angela and was enveloped by this incredible, warm, wonderful woman who had so much love for him. Angela is why Hayward made it so far and had a great life, a life we can all honor now.

I remember Hayward.

Starting a New Chapter in Atlassian History: Amsterdam

The new Limited Edition Atlassian Old Dutch bicycle seen on the canals of Amsterdam this week.

The new Limited Edition Atlassian Old Dutch bicycle seen on the canals of Amsterdam this week.

Opening a new office in our business is a special moment. It’s that chance to relive a start-up and the Primal Basics. Atlassian B.V. is official. We have leased an incredible new office on the Herengracht (Gentlemen’s canal) in Amsterdam. Just last year I snapped a picture of Herengracht the day of our first Amsterdam User Group a few meters from the pic above, in front of Atlassian’s new European headquarters.

Why this office? We’re here because European customers, who represent 35% of our business have been asking us for support and more direct access. We’re in the Netherlands because we found it to be a good tech community, centrally located in Europe, with outstanding language skills. Amazingly the Netherlands is our 6th largest country in sales.

And so, if you wish to work here…

Just down from Leliegracht, the new Atlassian location.

Just down from Leliegracht, the new Atlassian location.


… we’re hiring in Amsterdam right now.

Here’s a complete view of the new office, the neighborhood, and our time last week setting things up.

Josh love IKEA

Josh loves IKEA

We’re lucky to have two employees already in Amsterdam. Joshua Wold, who runs our worldwide team of sales engineers moved to the Netherlands, and in addition to screwing together new furniture and hooking up phones, he’s eager to meet folks in the local community.

To head up our European technical support team, Sherali Karimov, one of our senior developers and team leads in Sydney has agreed to relocate. Just Friday he arrived with his family ready for a new adventure in Amsterdam.

Sherali fresh off the plane from Sydney

Sherali fresh off the plane from Sydney

These mates are looking for some great technical support engineers, sales engineers, someone to head up our European channel business, and a customer service specialist who can also help out with the office administration. We love referrals.

Josh and Sherali are looking for people who want to build the next great Atlassian office and chart a new path in Europe. We’re looking for people who love building things from scratch. You might have to screw your desk together, but then, it’s your desk!

We’re looking for people who want to look out this window at Herengracht 124 – 128 and start the next chapter…
The view from the 4th floor

The view from the 4th floor

Tips on Recruiting Executives Part II [On Atlassian]

Daniel Freeman who runs product marketing and Jay Simons, new head of marketing, chatting with Mike Cannon-Brookes (back) in our new SF office. That’s Jay’s weimaraner named Sydney, also a great API developer.

In May, we completed the search for a vice president marketing which I wrote about last year. I promised to blog about the search when it was done, so here’s Part II on tips for recruiting executives and senior people.

1. The best candidates are referred by friends.

Our new head of marketing Jay Simons was referred by Kathleen Reidy of the 451 Group, a really bright industry analyst I had the pleasure of meeting last year. Analysts can be a great source of information because they frequently get briefed. James Governor of Red Monk gave me advice more than once.

VC’s are another good source. Some are protective of their network, so it helps to have good relationships. A VC we trust referred our director of product marketing Daniel.

All but one of our best candidates came from referrals. One came through Linkedin. Your network matters, but it requires more than blasting referral emails out to hundreds of people.

2. Use Linkedin as chum.

Think of Linkedin as a big bucket of fish heads, or chum. Chumming is when you throw a big bucket of fish heads and guts in the water to attract fish to your boat. You probably won’t find the candidate through Linkedin, but it’s a great way to announce your intentions. Kathleen Reidy learned of our intentions through my Linkedin email blast.

We received 50-75 resumes for each ad. The problem is filtering these is rough: marketing people are Pro Bullshit Throwers, and their resumes look very professional. Reading these resumes requires a healthy dose of Mike Cannon-Brookes-style skepticism.

I targeted a few candidates by doing People Searches on Linkedin and sending blind emails. I targeted some companies that were in transition. Always be thinking of companies who might be going through a transition. Coincidentally Jay came from BEA/Plumtree, which was being eaten by Oracle. Munch Munch.

3. Best athlete trumps best functional fit.

It’s easy to get wrapped around the axle about candidates meeting all the tick boxes on your list. Silicon Valley executive headhunters can be obsessed with candidates meeting every functional requirement, and to a fault. One problem with executive search is that because they get paid so much, they have to do this to earn their pay. Within reason, of course, you don’t.

The best candidates were not necessarily the best on paper, and did not meet every wish we had. For example, at Atlassian finding business people who have experience with highly technical products like our developer tools is tough.

An analogy is when an American football team goes into a draft looking for a Tight End [Tall guy that can catch passes and run short routes]. If presented with a top athlete in another position and who could be a game-changer, it may be foolhardy to pass. Coincidentally we ended up hiring the youngest of all the best candidates.

4. Interview intensely and spend considerable time.

You can’t spend too much time interviewing key hires. I sat down with the best candidates three times or more. Once I interviewed for a CEO job in a six-on-one interview format that lasted over two and a half hours; CEOs should be able to handle this. Any critical hire should. We interviewed one candidate three-on-one in Sydney.

In another case, Daniel who now runs our product marketing took three of us through a case study of another company to determine any lessons for Atlassian. Not a typical interview format, yet a great way to learn how someone thinks.

5. Source your own references, and get the most senior ones.

Find out who were the VCs on the person’s board at his or her last company. Always ask to talk to the CEO. Board members and CEOs tend not to suffer fools. Start checking as soon as you start to like a candidate, while carefully observing the person’s confidentiality. This may mean checking former execs at the company, or someone you know and trust. If the person is in a senior business role, find out what the senior engineers thought of the person. Good business people should command the respect of technical staff.

6. Always have an executive search backup.

There’s a reason why VC firms use executive recruiters. They don’t want to waste time. If you find yourself wasting time, be ready to hire a strong executive recruiter. I had one on alert from the start.