Creating a culture of innovation with Shipit

I found out today that my Shipit was selected for the founder’s death match, which means we will be presenting in front of our co-CEO’s at Atlassian. For those that don’t know, Shipit is a 24 hour hackathon which we have quarterly. You form a team, build something and then pitch it to an audience made of your co-workers at your local office. People vote on it and the top 2 winners go on to the next round.

We ended up winning the whole thing in Mountain View office! Its an exciting feeling to have come first in the office based on votes by your co-workers. Now we’ve been selected in the top 2 around the world to present in front of our CEO’s. Hence its called the founder death match!

I can’t tell you my idea because then I’d have to kill you 🙂 Its top secret haha. But I wanted to write to tell you what I like about Shipit and what it means to me.

Me at Shipit 45!

I’ve participated in 10 Shipits over my 3 years at Atlassian. I’ve found that Shipit is a great time to innovate. To stop what we are doing now, take a break for 2 days and work on something new. Sometimes we’re knee deep in a project and its great to have a mental break.

However, I have also found Shipits to be exhausting because of the time pressure and trying to make your idea work in 24 hours! You’ve got to bring together people that might not have worked together, define requirements, build something very focused, pivot and then trim away at your idea that’s too big!

Shipit is a great time to try something new. I find that its great for
* Fixing something that’s bugging you
* Working on something that didn’t make the roadmap but you wish you could work on
* An out of the box idea that could make your product better
* Trying something completely outside your comfort zone by working with new people, new tools, new skills or new domain areas.

These hackathons and shipits create a culture of continuous innovation. For me, its a great time to personally grow and learn new things. From the business’s perspective, it can generate new ideas and collaborations between people. So I’d highly encourage your workplace to try it!

I’m going to start writing some shorter blog posts more frequently to share my thoughts, so please give me feedback 🙂

I’m out like Shipit,
Matthew Ho

March Madness – Road To The Final Four

I had an incredible experience at the March Madness NCAA College Basketball tournament in San Jose. Its definitely a special moment and one to check off the bucket list to see a March Madness game. Its a college basketball tournament where the 68 top college teams compete for the championship. I have to admit that I don’t know a lot about college sports. Nevertheless it was exciting to attend and be a part of it. Having gone to college (or “uni”) in Australia, I don’t have the same connection to a college in the US or the connection to college sports as people from the U.S. College sports was never a huge thing in Australia. In the U.S its a big deal. People travel from all around the country to attend these games and they passionately follow the colleges they graduated from.

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What I’ve been up to

A friend asked me for my podcast recently and I realized after looking at the date of the podcast that I haven’t done one for over a year. I also haven’t blogged since April. Its tough because I’ve had other priorities and that thing called life got in the way. I was inspired by my friend’s Ned Dwyer’s quick and short update on “Now” so I’m going to do something similar. Typically I would do this update at the end of the year, but why not kind of over half-way through the year? So here it goes….

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Day 282: Living between San Francisco and Mountain View (inbetween state of mind)

The past 24 hours have been juggling several balls. I’ve had to ruthlessly prioritize what I need to do. The first thing was to order a bed so I can completely move in. In the past week, I’ve read lots of reviews about mattress in a box products and tested out some Ikea beds. I didn’t have enough time to check out other stores or go back to Ikea to put in an order when everything arrived.

Luckily you can order online so that’s what I did. I also knew from testing it out that Ikea won’t deliver stuff til next week. Which is annoying in that I want it now and my last day is this weekend in my current place! Anyhow I’ve ordered a bed frame, mattress and a chair.

I went with a white theme. As I read that white looks brighter and makes a room look more spacious. Whereas black color attracts light and draws you in, making room look smaller. My room is a reasonable size, but it’s not huge. So I’m conscious of the space. I also discovered there’s a smaller built in cupboard that’s great for things like my hat collection!

Unfortunately, there’s no upsell option on IKEA website to do assembly. Even though they list it as a service on their website. I decided to use TaskRabbit as I have used them before. I hired a tasker. I know from assembling Ikea beds and other furniture in the past that it takes like 4 hours or so a piece. It’s frustrating and tiring. So I have hired someone else to do it.

I’ve realized that it costs like ~$200 extra when you count the delivery fee of Ikea and the cost of assembly. Should I have bought one of those mattress in a box companies and one of their foundations? My setup is still a few hundred dollars cheaper and it includes a chair.

Personally, I don’t like the idea of spending a lot of money on furniture. I’m ok with spending a bit more on the bed. But I’m not convinced yet that Casper, Leesa, Purple is a better mattress and worth twice as much. If I don’t like my current mattress I can always return it as IKEA has a 1 year guarantee and their mattress comes rolled up too. I also wanted a frame with storage to make more use of the space.

When you’re an expat living in a foreign country, you might not know how long you’ll stay there. My plan is to stay in the U.S for minimum 3 years (up to Day 1095). My L1 transfer visa is valid for 5 years. So I want to review my situation after 3 years. So I don’t want to spend a lot of money on furniture. I also want the flexibility to be able to move around. I love the fact that I can pick up everything in one car and go from San Francisco. Check out the name of my podcast – This Mobile Life!

Now I have to buy stuff like pots & pans, pillows, towels, bed, sofa, tables, chairs, and more! It’s a lot of money to invest upfront. I’ve decided to buy the minimum set I need – MVP yo! Plus I need to get a car too. The bed costs $1,000 and doesn’t include sheets, pillows, comforter, duvet. You’re looking at a few hundred dollars for that too.

I was fortunate to get a combination of hand-me-down furniture from a colleague who was downsizing and lives in the same complex. I got an old table, cutlery, plates, tangine pot, and sushi mats. From the building manager they gave me the demo furniture they use for display apartments when showcasing the place. They placed a sofa bed and table in my place. They needed to put it somewhere and they realized that I didn’t have anything (maybe they felt sorry for me!). Anyhow I now have a dining table, sofa bed, computer table, and basic kitchen setup I can eat from! To their surprise, I asked them for more demo furniture. I asked for chairs. But they don’t have any. You can’t have any shame – that’s how I live my life. Ask for what you want 🙂

I’ve been looking for the bedding stuff. I ordered the Amazon basics sheets set for like $30. My friend was horrified that I bought it as it’s made of micro fibre. She says that it’s like sleeping in a plastic bag. To be honest, I don’t really care. I’m happy to sleep in any condition. But I will take her advice and upgrade them to something better!

Last night I’ve been reviewing articles about what to look for in a pillow and comforter. The conclusion I have come to for a pillow is that it depends how you sleep. Are you a side sleeper, back sleeper or stomach sleeper? My preference is to get a natural material like feathers or goose. I’m going to stay away from latex, memory foam or synthetic as it may get too hot. I’ve been looking on Amazon and it’s really confusing. I’m overwhelmed by the 1,000 choices available! I’m probably going to go to a store like Bed Bath & Beyond, Ikea or SF Linen outlet so I can touch and feel them. That way I can get what I want and take it home, and start using it.

The last thing on my priority list is organizing a cleaner to clean my old place. It’s been tricky finding someone for the weekend and at a decent price. I’ve been getting quotes from Yelp using their quoting feature. I can see their reviews and ratings too.

A lot of cleaners are already booked up, not available on Sunday or can only give me a 2 hour time window. It’s annoying. I also need to make a 2.5 hour round trip if I want to be there and review their work. I know I need to lock in something soon.

I know the next week or so is going to be busy running around both places to organize stuff. I’m in that inbetween state of mind.

But I know the end result will be good. I’ll be saving a 2.5 hour commute each day. It will also involve lots of ice cream to celebrate!

However it doesn’t end. I’ll also need to find a room mate and rent a car. Then do my US tax return called W-2’s. I also need to organize my personal finances in the U.S. Of course there’s a blog post to come about those topics!

I’m out like moving out,

Matt Ho

Day 275: The relationship between cooking skills to free food (In da eatclub edition)

“You can find me in the eatclub, with enough food to fill a tub” –  inspired by 50cent

I was speaking to my colleagues and other people at big tech co’s (total sample of size of 8) and the consensus was that like me, they don’t cook much either. If at all. For myself, I can get breakfast and lunch at work. In addition, if there’s left over food from lunch, I can get a free dinner too.

We have this system called Eatclub where you pre-order your lunch for the week. So I get my own meal from a daily selection. Its like a corporate Grubhub/Deliveroo / Delivery Hero. Your employer pays for it. Its usually 80% the same stuff with some new varieties each week. Its not bad. I’d give most of them a 7/10. In fact, i’ve rated a bunch of them 3 or 4 out of 5. These are some of my meal adventures that I had this week:

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How to update internal stakeholders on a weekly basis

Its a typical hot, dry Christmas weekend in Sydney, Australia. What better time to write a blog post about product management? 🙂 This topic has been bugging me for a while. So thought I’d write this to you whilst in my too cold air-conditioned living room.

A common question I get asked is how do I update people in my organisation on a product I’m working on. I’ve been asked 3 times in the past 3 weeks, so obviously there’s something here that others want to know. I get asked by:

* Founders / CXO’s wanting to know how to get their teams to report to them
* Product managers on how to report up to management or other stakeholders in their org.

I’ll discuss why we provide updates, principles, cadence and a template that you can use. This is a format I’ve been using in the the past 5 months for my team at Atlassian. I would like to detail how I do it and hopefully it can provide you some insights that can help you!

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Pledging 1% of my time with Atlassian Foundation for CSA

The company I work for, Atlassian has a corporate philanthropy policy of pledge 1%. Its a movement they founded inspired by Marc Benioff of Salesforce. We pledge 1% of our profits, equity, product and employee time to not for profit causes. As an employee I’m thankful that the Atlassian Foundation enables me to take 5 days paid leave to volunteer. I wanted to share my experience volunteering and pledging my time to a local community organisation.

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