After 3.5 years in San Francisco, Elizabeth and I decided to move to Australia. It was time to get Orla close to the grandparents.
Happy and sad to be moving back. We leave an amazing community in San Francisco, we’ve met wonderful people we already miss. We leave behind fantastic organic produce at cheap cheap cheap prices. And so much more. On the plus side, Liz finally got a KitchenAid, we’re a ten minute walk to the beach, and we no longer need to step over poo or homeless folks on the way out the front door.
Below I share my experience on our time in San Francisco and the decision to move back in the hope it is valuable for other Aussies thinking of returning to Australia. Here goes…
Product Manager, Cammeray, w/ Partner
In 2011 my then missus, Elizabeth, suggested we head overseas and live somewhere different.
At the time I was happily working away with the GreenHopper team in Sydney (subsequently JIRA Agile, and now JIRA Software). I was in a role that was so demanding, due in large part of GHS-1800. I loved the role and the team so much. This was my first product management gig and after a couple of years I was starting to feel comfortable in the role. I was also hosting meetups and enjoying the community around them.
We were living in Cammeray, a lovely spot just north of the Sydney CDB. We went to the markets on the weekends.
Liz suggested that San Francisco would be a nice spot to move. I was travelling to San Francisco anywhere from 4 to 6 times a year and there was an easy relocation path as Atlassian has a San Francisco office. The move would mean changing roles and learning something new. We knew there were farmers markets in San Francisco and organic food.
Ken Olofsen and Daniel Freeman (leading JIRA Marketing and Atlassian Product Marketing) decided to take a chance and had me join the JIRA Product Marketing team, focused on the Agile space. It was a space I knew well as I was responsible for Atlassian’s agile product. It was not a role I was familiar with.
Okay, let’s do this!
Product Marketing Manager, San Francisco, w/ Fiancée
Liz and I quickly sold the bulk of our stuff and put the rest in storage. We were on a flight in no time and over to San Francisco on E3 visas. The first few weeks were the regular moving headache – find a place, get furniture, buy appliances, etc. Liz owned this and made us feel at home super quick.
Once we got settled I got to work understanding the product marketing role and the landscape for agile products. To boost my understanding I took part in SprintZero – Agile Marketing and learned how to fuse the traditional product marketing role with the agile mindset that I was familiar with. Heavy on the experimentation and data.
After SprintZero I set to work growing a community of like-minded folks with Austin Walne. Today that community is San Francisco Agile Marketing and it has over 3,500 members. What a wild ride that was.
Towards the end of the year I got plugged into a customer of ours, Twitter, that was growing fast. I had met with tons of companies over the course of the year and often found that when they said they were agile they were nothing of the sort. Twitter was no different, except that they recognised this and asked me to come help them fix it.
Hard to say goodbye to Atlassian after 5.5 years. Such a brilliant ride and one that will be very difficult to beat.
Agile Coach, San Francisco, w/ Wife
Liz and I returned to Australia, got married, and then promptly returned to San Francisco so that I could take on this new role at Twitter. Honeymoon would have to wait.
Talk about fast growth. My intake had 40 people in it. In the first year Product and Engineering added over a thousand people. Wild wild ride.
Talk about Silicon Valley excess. I’d never experienced anything like it. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. As many guests as you want. Meeting all these new exciting people. An IPO.
IPO! Wow. Look at that stock price. Look at everyone focus on it, weirdos. Oh damn, now I’m looking at it. Riding the financial wave. Weird experience.
Agile Coach, San Francisco, w/ Mother
Scaling this company was hard work. Constant re-orgs meant there was no stability at the group or team level. These re-orgs were largely a results of the CEO not knowing which way to direct the company. He wanted everything and wanted it now. Which caused thrashing at the team level and meant nothing got done.
I learned a lot about these challenges and how others were addressing them from the wonderful participants at the Agile Industry Consortium. Amazing opportunity to learn from those folks, so grateful.
In May 2014 Liz and I welcomed Orla to The McDoons. This was a pleasant distraction from the constant re-orgs at Twitter and bloody hard work in its own right. Talk about not knowing what you’re doing! Probably took about six months to get into the groove of being a dad.
Of course, it was all happening too fast at Twitter for the company to effectively scale. The CEO was a micromanager, not a leader.
Based on my experience at Twitter I would say when the problem is at the top you can do little except wait for that person to change. Otherwise you just frustrate yourself at the lack of progress. I worked with some of the most amazing smart people at Twitter and for the most part they couldn’t get shit done because of the environment they were in. Such a waste.
Anyways, Jack appeared in a temporary CEO capacity in July to great relief. However with Orla getting older and no end in sight for the rubbish at Twitter it was time to move on.
Unemployed, Homeless, w/ The McDoons
So, after 3.5 years in San Francisco and handing in my badge we had 10 days to get packed and get out (E3 visa restrictions, even with an American daughter). Such a beautiful country with so much potential. So many internationals coming to Silicon Valley to try and make a break for the big time. So much we can learn from this place.
Deciding to come home was a pretty easy choice in the end. We leave behind financial security and a scale I’ll never see in Australia. We just had to accept that. On the other hand Australia is also a beautiful country, and it also has tremendous potential.
We took off, eventually, from America and landed in Sydney. From there it was two months on the road visiting family and figuring out where we would settle and what we would do.
Founder, East Corrimal, w/ The McDoons
We arrived at creating a company that satisfied customers and employed a few people. We settled on East Corrimal as it is just south of Sydney where friends and family are, it is comparatively affordable, it is on the beach, and it is close to iAccelerate on the UoW Innovation Campus.
It is day four at iAccelerate and this week Arijea launched a product – Instant Websites for Confluence – which I hope will resonate. I’ll be honest, there hasn’t been a tremendous amount of customer validation on this idea. It was more of a “let’s do it!” mentality as Atlassian is running their yearly Codegesit competition and there was a deadline. If you’ve got this far, I would love you to vote for it and help me win the Peoples Choice – thanks!
I’ve learned quite a few over the years. If you’re interested reach out and we’ll chat.