Science & Technology



Running away from home taught Atlassian exec Jay Simons a valuable skill

Tracey Lien, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Science & Technology News

Learning to communicate

Simons ended up spending a year in Myanmar. He also did piano-playing stints in South Korea and Japan. During his time overseas, he perfected his Harry Connick Jr. impersonation. In his spare time, he tinkered with a personal computer, teaching himself to code. He also believes his years living in countries where English isn't the primary language helped him become a better communicator.

"When you don't have the benefit of verbal communication, you have to compensate in other ways," he said. "You have to be super aware of body language and how people react."

It's a skill he later parlayed into his work in the technology industry when he had to manage people. "A lot of the time people don't fully comprehend you, and because it's uncomfortable to say 'I don't understand,' they say that they do understand," Simons said. Having had years of practice reading the body language of people who didn't understand him, Simons said he's gotten good at figuring it out based on facial expressions.

Be interdisciplinary

When Simons returned to the States in 2000, he got an entry-level sales job at a software company called Plumtree. As part of his job he did stints in Sydney, Australia; Singapore; and London. When the opportunity to do marketing work arose, he jumped, even though it felt like he was starting from scratch by switching disciplines.

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"I probably could have gotten a great job (in sales) paying a lot more, but I think spending time in sales made me a better marketer, and spending time in marketing made me a better salesperson."

Having that unique blend experience later made him a shoo-in at Atlassian, where he was able to serve as a bridge between marketing and sales teams.

Sticking it out

In his post-piano career, Simons has only worked at two companies: Plumtree and Atlassian. His mom's rule might have something to do with it.


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