Leaving Adaptavist

Back in July of 2014, a recruiter messaged me on LinkedIn and asked if I would be interested in interviewing for a position working with Atlassian software. I normally rejected such messages, but I decided to accept the call.

It took 20 minutes for her to mention that the company recruiting me was Adaptavist. I was absolutely floored. I had been working with Atlassian software for 7 years at that point, and Adaptavist was a big deal in the space. I had been looking at some of their plugins for a while and I admired them as a company, so I was shocked that they wanted to recruit me.

2 months and 6 interviews later, they offered me a job and I joined in October 2014. I actually started working with my first consultancy client in September, covertly taking calls from my office at the university because that client was so desperate to get me in. For the first time in a long time, I was doing interesting and challenging work that I enjoyed and that was valued by my customers and colleagues. And I was doing it within the boundaries of 40 hours a week and didn’t have to work nights or weekends.

When I attended my first Atlassian Summit in 2015, Adaptavist was asked to stand up during the partner day keynote, and we were recognized while everyone applauded. I felt like a friggin’ rock star. I had arrived, and I hoped never to leave.

But things fall apart. In any job, my goal is always to work my way out of the job. And my experience over the last 19 years of working in IT has been that this lets me always move on and up to more interesting work. We automate, internalize, and make routine the work that was once challenging, and I empower my teams to grow and take on more responsibility. I then help them turn that new and challenging work into a routine so we can grow again.

I have successfully done that at Adaptavist, and I achieved that goal with most of my teams by the end of 2020. But at this stage in Adaptavist’s journey, that didn’t result in moving up. I had suspected for the last few years that I wouldn’t be able to move up (figuratively to more interesting and challenging work, or literally in the org chart which often brings that kind of work) without living in London, and I felt like that was confirmed in January of this year when I was passed over for a position. The position in question was literally my current job plus running support (the type of work I did at MSU for a decade), and the reasons given for preferring the other candidate didn’t hold water in my opinion. I really think it came down to geographic location.

I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong with that. There can be good reasons to have a geographic preference for staff. I don’t agree with it in this case, and I wish the hiring manager had just stated that (I actually was told by both the recruiter and the hiring manager last summer that being based in London was a top priority, but location wasn’t one of the reasons given in January when I was told I didn’t get the job; I’m pretty confident location was a high ranking factor), but whatever.

April has been telling me for over a year that I have outgrown Adaptavist. I don’t mean that as a slight against Adaptavist as a company… if anything, it’s the opposite. I have learned so much and grown so much in the last seven and a half years. When I look back at what we have done, I’m very proud. I helped multinational companies and exciting startups, and I built a department and several teams from scratch. I learned how to develop and hone a vision and strategy, and how to communicate it so that a wide and diverse audience could understand and align with it.

Beyond a tremendous amount of professional growth, Adaptavist also gave me a supportive and safe work environment where I could heal from what I experienced at MSU. I have made lifelong friends and worked with some of the most brilliant people in the world when it comes to Atlassian. I have developed a deep and valuable specialization and discovered, much to my own surprise, that I’m one of the worldwide leading experts when it comes to Jira and Confluence.

Walking away from that specialization is hard. Walking away from my teams is harder. When I was telling the Education team that I was leaving I also shared that, even if I stayed at Adaptavist, I wouldn’t get to work with them anymore. And that’s when I started crying, which completely caught me off-guard. I’m very excited about where I’m headed next and I wasn’t feeling a lot of sorrow, but my throat closed up and the tears came because I love the people I work with and I am very sad to leave them. But with my boss’s boss giving my job to someone else, it didn’t leave me any other option. This promotion wasn’t just a promotion–it was literally my job, plus one other function. Not getting it means that I wouldn’t have any work to do in my current role after the new person starts.

Our CEO was very kind and supportive of me through all of this, and he had proposed another role for me at Adaptavist. But building a Sales Enablement department just didn’t light my fire… it was an interesting problem to solve, and as he told me, I’m good at building teams of smart people and he trusted me to do the job well. But I was leaving my current team either way and having the opportunity for a fresh start at a different company is a huge relief.

That’s the emotion that has most emerged over the last couple of weeks since I accepted an offer at Stride Learning: relief. I’m sad to leave my teams and move out of the Atlassian space, but I’m also excited for the new challenges and opportunities for growth, and I think I’m going to play a meaningful part in growing an exciting platform. I feel valued by the people who have hired me and the people I am joining in a way that I haven’t felt valued by my bosses at Adaptavist for years.

A song by Lawrence came out last fall that really resonated with me. Over the summer, I had interviewed with a couple of other companies in the Atlassian space and gotten quite far in the process. I had 7 interviews with one and was all but told that they were going to make me an offer, and 8 interviews at another who did offer me the job… and then rescinded the offer at the direction of their Chief People Officer.

Neither company would tell me exactly why they didn’t hire me, but multiple people at multiple companies with connections in the Atlassian space told me they learned that these two companies were worried about upsetting my CEO. Because Adaptavist is such a huge player in the Atlassian space, they were worried about hiring a senior person away from Adaptavist. This despite me getting it in writing from a senior executive that there would be no repercussions, and me knowing that our CEO wouldn’t hold a grudge over me going to another company.

It was so frustrating, so when Don’t Lose Sight by Lawrence came out, it spoke to me.

Are you kidding me?
I’m getting sick of the industry
I’ve had enough of the make believe
Oh please, oh please
Am I lost or found?
I’m getting sick of the ups and downs
No need to give me the run around
I’m out, I’m out

Are you kidding me?
I’m getting sick of the in between
Running in place isn’t interesting to me, to me
Am I good enough?
Does that even matter or is it luck
I’m checking the prices on giving up
Now what? Now what?

This shit’s going to kill me, but I won’t let it
And I try to give them hell, but they don’t get it
So I tell myself when I sleep at night
Don’t lose sight
Baby don’t lose sight

The song concludes with the refrain,

And this shit ain’t ever going to change
It ain’t ever going to change
It ain’t ever going to change

That’s the conclusion I came to last year, and getting passed over for a promotion this year that was 5/6 of my current job confirmed it. The only way for me to grow, and to move up and on, was to leave the Atlassian ecosystem.

Tomorrow, I’ll post about the job I’m going to. Today is my last day at Adaptavist, and this post is about leaving what was once my dream job. When I accepted my current role in December of 2016, I was able to write my job description and define my work. I have set my own objectives and achieved them. I am especially proud of what we’ve accomplished in the last two years, which has both been excellent work and demonstrated my teams’ ability to own their future. I am sad to leave Adaptavist, but I know that I leave it better than I found it, and you can’t ask for more than that.

When I joined, I was around the 40th person in the company, and #6 in North America. By hire date, I’m now #21 out of around 540 employees, and we have something like 120 in North America. We have grown and won. I am hopeful for Adaptavist’s future.

And I am excited about my future too. Be sure to check back tomorrow for my blog post about joining Stride!

2 thoughts on “Leaving Adaptavist

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