Why Atlassian’s Distributed Working Policy Gets Real Results For Women At Work

Why Atlassian’s Distributed Working Policy Gets Real Results For Women At Work

When the world stopped moving during the COVID pandemic, billions of workers were directed to vacate their offices and work from home instead. Once restrictions were lifted, the return to the office was gradual but highly controversial.

A range of global companies started to issue distributed-working policies with arbitrary rules. Some allowed a single day per week at home, others two or three. Some companies allowed certain roles or entire teams to choose their working arrangements, leaving them to figure out how they would collaborate in this new world.

Atlassian, however, saw and continues to see things differently. Its Team Anywhere distributed workforce philosophy gives staff the freedom and responsibility to work when, where and how it works for them. Some choose to be in the office full-time, some choose to work remotely full-time, and others choose to change up their locations depending on their day.

To some business leaders, allowing staff to work entirely on their own terms might seem risky. However, Atlassian’s Team Anywhere innovation is bringing significant benefits for its entire workforce — especially women — as Karina Moraes Da Silva explained to WLT.

The World’s Longest Commute

“In 2017, I left my family in Brazil and was focused on building an international career and expanding my experience,” Moraes, currently a Senior Engineering Manager within Atlassian’s Open Toolchain team, said.

“I had to balance the long-term benefits that moving overseas would have for my career with being close to my loved ones. I chose the former.”

Moraes grew up in São Paulo and, after enjoying maths and physics at school, chose to study Computer Science at university. This decision was made following a chat with an enterprising cousin, who explained that the demand for computer skills was set to increase. So, in 2010, Moraes got her first job as a developer, however having not graduated from university, she had to balance a full-time job with her studies in the evening. Combined with commuting three to four hours per day, this certainly wasn’t easy.

Karina Moraes Da Silva, Senior Engineering Manager, Atlassian

By 2015, however, Moraes’ career was truly up and running. She was managing a team of six male developers who were all more experienced in the industry and had spent more time with the startup than she had.

“It was a very intense period, and dealing with the imposter syndrome was a challenge,” she explained.

“I started being more aware of my strengths and stopped comparing myself to others. Instead, I focused on what my unique skills could bring to the team. I honed my leadership style, which included being vulnerable, personally caring for every team member and empowering them by working to their strengths. As a manager, you can create magic when your team feels they are seen and that they have the right environment and autonomy to do their best job.”

But, having more than doubled the team’s size, Moraes decided it was time to move on. She first joined Atlassian as a Quality Engineer in 2017 and moved to Sydney to pursue the opportunity. In July 2018, she made an internal move and became a Backend Software Engineer in the collaboration software firm’s Saiyans team.

“After a year and a half working with the team, I decided to move back to Brazil due to the cost of travelling 13,000 kilometres each way to spend incredibly short periods of time with my family,” she said.

When COVID hit, everything changed. After working for a fintech startup back in Brazil, she moved back to Sydney to escape the public health situation in her homeland and rejoined Atlassian in December 2020. From there, it’s fortunately been onward and upward for Moraes.

Promotions, Programs & Performance

After COVID restrictions were lifted and Atlassian introduced its Team Anywhere approach to distributed work, Moraes now spends two to three months per year working from São Paulo. She can spend quality time with her family, as well as share the parental responsibilities with her partner for his six-year-old.

10 months after rejoining Atlassian, Moraes was promoted from a Senior Software Engineer to an Engineering Manager. She has also taken on extra strategic projects, cross-functional company responsibilities, and grown her team, as well as taking part in multiple leadership programs focused on female engineers. In October, she was promoted once again to Senior Engineering Manager.

And she’s not alone in her promotion. Since the inception of Atlassian’s Team Anywhere program, women have been promoted more often and with increasing frequency — promotion rates were up 17 per cent in FY22 and almost a quarter in FY23. At a time when many companies are finding it challenging to retain staff, Atlassian’s approach clearly shows that a better way is possible.

The company focuses on outcomes, rather than the way people choose to work. The company prioritises communication via Confluence, Slack, email and other written mediums, and teams are set up to run asynchronously to accommodate staff like Moraes in different time zones and working arrangements.

Training sessions are now all run virtually, allowing modules to be consumed by staff whenever and wherever it suits them best. In terms of training and development, Atlassian also offers distributed mentorships and sponsorship programs — including ‘LeaP’.

“LeaP is a leadership program for women with offerings for all senioritis,” said Moraes. “From junior engineers working with senior engineers to senior engineers and early career managers with senior leader sponsors. It’s a great way to connect and collaborate with people from other parts of the organisation that you wouldn’t usually work with.”

The company also offer employees the ability to organise Intentional Togetherness Gatherings and get-togethers designed to help staff connect with their teammates, work friends and the Atlassian culture. Considering more than 40 per cent of the company’s workforce live more than two hours from an office, this kind of initiative is hugely important.

When Atlassian teams do come together, they do so with intentionality. Moraes’ Sydney-based team members have regular team lunches and other social activities, while Melbourne-based staff travel up once a quarter. Teams also come together for learning, sharing and cross-team collaboration sessions.

“But it’s important to note that no one is required to travel and spend face-time with their team. They do it if it makes sense to their life at that moment,” said Moraes.

Without the social pressures and norms of office work — such as women being less likely to speak publicly or have informal conversations to decide often quite significant work issues (as men often do) — Atlassian’s Team Anywhere approach to distributed work has empowered its female workforce to flourish and feel fulfilled in both their careers and their personal lives.

“Team Anywhere has improved my personal life and my family’s,” explained Moraes.

“COVID was the main driver bringing me back to Sydney and Atlassian, but Team Anywhere is definitely what has made me stay.”

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