Matthew Stublefield is the head of education and a lead product manager at Adaptavist, the largest Atlassian services provider worldwide. He's looking forward to the birth of his second child and paternity leave later this fall and talks about that as well as the unlimited leave policy and what that looks like for him and his employees. Adaptavist is primarily a remote-work company based out of the UK, though they do have offices in several US cities, including Springfield, Missouri, where Matthew lives. His work requires some travel, and he goes to the local office on occasion to meet with colleagues; however, he has been primarily working from his home office for the past six years. He talks about how he left his previous job, where he was often putting in 60 to 80 hours a week; and he also shares how he negotiated a 40-hour workweek at his new job, even as a busy consultant. Matthew reveals some of his secrets as to how he has maintained this schedule as he's worked his way into new positions with more and more responsibility in a growing company.
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You can find Matthew on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mstublefield/
Adaptavist homepage: https://www.adaptavist.com
Things Matthew and his teams work on:
Some items Matthew uses and recommends:
Rowing machine: https://www.concept2.com/indoor-rowers/model-d
Chair--Matthew says: "Holy moly, they're expensive now! I got mine for $1000 and felt like I overpaid, but I do sit in it for sometimes 12 hours a day, often 6-8, and have had it now for 6 years." https://www.steelcase.com/products/office-chairs/leap/
Desk--"Strong recommendation for longevity, stability, etc": https://www.btod.com/btod-vertdesk.php
Boom arm "Love this thing": https://amzn.to/30H7JcH
Current pop filter "It's just okay." https://amzn.to/3cMPDe5
Shock mount: https://amzn.to/2Gh4u4y
Monitor mount "Great to keep desk more open": https://amzn.to/36sbO82
Wrist pad for keyboard "The branding is meh, but this wrist pad is fantastic": https://amzn.to/3l39315
Current Keyboard: https://mechanicalkeyboards.com/shop/index.php?l=product_detail&p=3541
Current mouse: https://amzn.to/2Shrbbc
Childproof lock for door: https://amzn.to/30pGuTK
Matthew also added: "Something we didn't talk about, but I only have 1 monitor (I have a laptop tray on the second arm with the laptop closed most of the time). For me, a single monitor helps me focus on what I'm working on and helps me single-task. But I know my tech writers like having two monitors so they can compare multiple documents, so everyone's different on this."
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April Malone 0:19
Hello, hello, my name is April Malone. And I am with Yes, I Work From Home; and this is the podcast. I have Matthew Stublefield with me. Thank you for coming, Matthew.
Matthew Stublefield 0:30
Nice to see you, April.
April Malone 0:31
Yeah. So, I have a few things about Matthew, I'll just go ahead and introduce you. So Matthew is the head of education at Adaptavist, the largest Atlassian services provider worldwide. He oversees the development and training and product documentation and leads a team of 10 people, I'm gonna let you go ahead and keep going with this. Tell us what you do. Matthew,
Matthew Stublefield 0:51
Okay. So, even though the software we work with is used by more than half the Fortune 500, probably more than half the Fortune 1000, it's still something it's not a lot of people know, it's not a household name. So, there's this company in Australia, named Atlassian, they make software, that when they started out was for software developers, but now a lot of different people are using it, and Adaptavist is the largest Atlassian services provider worldwide. So we do consulting, we do hosting, we do licensing, training, which is what I do, we do custom development, and have a number of plugins for Atlassian software that extend their functionality. So, I also oversee the documentation for those add ons. And then we're starting to branch out past Atlassian. So, as head of education, training, product documentation, anything that really helps users know how to use our products better, that's what I do.
April Malone 1:45
Right. And I wanted to lead in with this, because the other day we were--I posted a picture of me recording something, and you mentioned something about a boom mic. And I'm like, "Why the heck does Matthew have a boom mic?" Do you use that for your online meetings, or what? And then I find out you have a podcast, too.
Matthew Stublefield 2:04
Yeah, yeah. So I got a boom arm a few years ago, because the guy I was doing the podcast with had one and said it was very helpful. And it helps, you know, kind of eliminate any sort of weird sounds you get. And it's fun, in particular, because I do a lot of client calls, or I'm talking with different people; and they always compliment on my audio and the sound that I have here. I've just started using it for everything. So whenever I'm on Zoom, on calls with people. We do a podcast every other week, which people can find at adaptavist.com/podcast, though, only of interest to you if you use Atlassian products. It's the Atlassian Ecosystem Podcast, we talk about release notes and updates to the software every two weeks. Otherwise, you probably don't care. And I use it for online gaming. So, I am using this mic, you know, sometimes 10 hours a day. But, yeah, I'm quite fond of it. It's been a very, like, very nice quality-of-life upgrade for me, in my meetings. It's nice to always have clear audio for the people that I'm talking to.
April Malone 3:07
I won't lie, I'm a little jealous; because, I'll just say this, when I went ahead and purchased my microphone, I walked into a Best Buy. This is so embarrassing. I'll just say it, though. And I talked with a guy extensively, and he was like, "Oh, I highly recommended the Blue Yeti." And as soon as I bought it, I was reading all of the reviews about it, and everyone's like "Don't buy it." And I was like, oh no, I've already purchased it; and I let it sit in a box long enough before I started using it.
Matthew Stublefield 3:35
That's a good one.
April Malone 3:35
It's way past--it's like I can't return it, so I'm just stuck with this until I'm ready to upgrade. But--
Matthew Stublefield 3:40
No, no, I mean, that's a fine mic. I mean, the key is, do you want something that picks up the whole room or something that picks up directly in front.
April Malone 3:48
Matthew Stublefield 3:48
And, yeah, Blue Yeti's fine.
April Malone 3:51
It does have a setting so you can just adjust it for one person, and I received advice from someone who would know better, he used a Yeti for a long time, Justin James; and he just said, on a Blue Yeti, you just have to turn the gain like way down, like way off. Otherwise, it picks up all the, like, reverberating sounds from the room. But, yeah. I am a little jealous. I mean, it's like front and center here, everyone can see it if you're watching the video of the podcast, it's like right in my face; but I'm just gonna get over it and keep going.
Matthew Stublefield 4:20
Yeah, no, it's all good.
April Malone 4:22
So let's chat a little bit about how we know each other. Let's take it to the personal level here.
Matthew Stublefield 4:27
April Malone 4:27
We knew each other back in Springfield, Missouri; and that's where you still are, right?
Matthew Stublefield 4:32
Yes, yeah. So, I'm in Springfield, which is right in the middle of the country, in Missouri, in the United States. And my wife and I bought a house in sort of central north Springfield, and we decided to check out this church that was kind of in walking distance and met April, who, it turns out, lives--lived in the same neighborhood like, I don't know, three blocks from us or something.
April Malone 4:55
It was five blocks to the church and probably, maybe, six or seven to yours. But we were in--
Matthew Stublefield 5:01
It was pretty close, yeah.
April Malone 5:02
--in the same neighborhood. And we both like showed up to the meetings and stuff like that, trying to be active in the community.
Matthew Stublefield 5:02
And April was always very kind to invite us over to her house for fire pits and movie nights and dinners. And, so yeah, we don't live in that neighborhood anymore; but we do miss living near you.
April Malone 5:23
So, Matthew and his wife ended up coming to our church, and they're still there. And his wife is also named April. So, if that doesn't get confusing--and what was funny is that, some of the things that I was helping, like lead, kind of in charge of when I left and moved away, when my husband had to go to grad school somewhere else, April took over some of the same things that I was doing, playing the keyboard, and helping organize like the Saturday night meals, Dinner at Six, or whatever we called it.
Matthew Stublefield 5:48
We did that for awhile, yep, yep.
April Malone 5:50
Yeah. So, April was still in charge. And now you guys have a little one. Do you want to talk about your family?
Matthew Stublefield 5:57
Yes. Yeah. So, our baby boy, Simon, he--so we are recording this. I know it will go out later. It's September 23. He turns two years old in six days which is very exciting. So, yeah, Simon is almost two, full toddler mode, tons of energy, language explosion. It's delightful and fun. And, because I work from home, he occasionally joins my meetings and hangs out with my coworkers, and that's always a good time. And then we have our second child on the way, and he will be born beginning of November, hopefully. So that's, that's very exciting. So yeah, I'll be taking some time off the end of the year. But, you know, we'll have our second here soon.
April Malone 6:42
So, September is a big birthday month in our family as well. John and I both had birthdays, and I think you just had one as well, so.
Matthew Stublefield 6:48
Yeah, mine was last week. Yup.
April Malone 6:49
I think it's one of the most popular birthday months for everybody, at least in the US. So let's go back and talk about your company, like what will you do when you have your baby? You said you're taking time off? Is that a benefit that you get? Or are you scheduling that?
Matthew Stublefield 7:04
Yeah, so, I am just tremendously blessed; and, like, it's very exciting working for Adaptavist. So, Adaptavist is a company I knew about back in the day. I used to work at Missouri State University, here in Springfield. I worked in higher education for a bit over a decade. That was a pretty traditional, go into the office, eight to five, you had to be there. If there was more work to do, you did it after hours--
April Malone 7:29
And did they let you work from home?
Matthew Stublefield 7:30
It didn't matter how many hours you worked. Officially, no, it was like--officially, it was not allowed to work from home. And, yet, when I had to do a server upgrade between midnight and 6am, I was doing that from home. If the university was closed because of inclement weather, I mean, I still had to process payroll for my employees. I still had to, you know, make sure servers were running. I worked in computer services, and Atlassian tools were part of what I did there, running those servers; but I also managed facilities, I had about 50 employees under me and--
April Malone 8:05
Matthew Stublefield 8:07
April Malone 8:07
If they expected you to not work from home and you had to do server upgrades from midnight to 6am, were they expecting you to, like, drive in and sit there in the middle of the night?
Matthew Stublefield 8:17
Oh no, no, no, no. It was totally known that I was working from home; but, officially, I was not allowed to. Because here's the thing, when you are officially facilitating work from home as a sort of a traditional employer, you have all kinds of things around workers compensation, and other things that you have to take into account. So, like, I'm working from home right now, during work hours. If I trip over my Ottoman and break my leg, workers compensation comes into effect. If I was at the university on campus, and I trip and break my leg, workers compensation comes into effect; but if they don't officially allow work from home, and you're doing work and you hurt yourself, they don't have to pay for anything for that. So there's a bunch of laws that go into, you know, sort of managing this; and, so, yeah, at the university, I wasn't officially allowed to work from home; but I did that. And, you know, I was there for a bit over a decade total, part time and full time, came to Adaptavist in 2014. And Adaptavist is actually based out of the United Kingdom. And, so, even though I live here in Springfield, Missouri--
April Malone 9:17
And you mentioned Australia?
Matthew Stublefield 9:20
Well, so Atlassian was founded in Australia. Adaptavist was founded out of the UK; and, so, our benefits at Adaptavist are much more similar to United Kingdom, you know, European benefits. So, we get lots of time off, we get maternity and paternity leave. We--
April Malone 9:42
PTO? Do you accrue PTO. How does that work?
Matthew Stublefield 9:47
At Adaptavist, no, actually, we have unlimited leave. So, we just take off time. There's no--
April Malone 9:55
Matthew Stublefield 9:55
Yeah, like, for my employees, I tell them, I typically recommend they take at least 30 days off per year of holiday. I recommend at least two weeks contiguous, preferably twice a year. If they want to go to three weeks contiguous, that's fine. Once it starts hitting four, eh, we kind of got to talk if they're going to take a solid month or five weeks off--it's kind of, you know, it's pushing it a little bit. But it's it's really about, are you delivering? Is the work getting done? Are things taken care of? Do we have sufficient coverage if they need to take off which we, you know, we make sure we do. So like, as long as that's the case, it's fine. And, so, I've been at the company for--in just a couple of weeks, it'll have been six years. Our paternity leave--it is a little weird, because we have unlimited leave but also paternity leave. But like, it does scale up, the longer you're with the company. So, I actually get 40 days off of paternity leave.
April Malone 9:58
Matthew Stublefield 10:57
That's just separate from holiday stuff. And it was really, really nice when I emailed HR and said, "Hey, we're having our second baby; and we expect the due date to be this day in November." And it was just like that. I looked at the HR system, they'd already blocked off eight weeks. Like, I didn't do anything else. It's just like, yep, sounds good. You're gone.
April Malone 11:20
Leading into the holidays! That's awesome.
Matthew Stublefield 11:18
I was just gonna say, the downside is it means you've got to be really disciplined about taking time off. Like, if you have unlimited leave, there's always work to do. Right? There's an unlimited amount of work. And, so, one of my jobs as manager is to make sure people take time off so they don't burn out. It means I have to. I've really struggled with that this year. I've had a lot of extra projects. It's hard to kind of excuse myself and to leave.
April Malone 11:25
It's like the policy can almost be abused in directions. Like not enough or too much.
Matthew Stublefield 11:56
Yeah, so we try to kind of set minimums; and, in the past, I've had to tell employees, like, we're not assigning you more work until you take vacation.
April Malone 12:04
Matthew Stublefield 12:05
Like, you need to like, get some space. It's not necessarily--it's not like their work is suffering or anything like that. But, I just, you know--this is a mental kind of creative type of work, any type of technology work, anything where we're--you know, it's not physical labor, right? I think almost every type of work takes some creativity to it. But especially what we do at Adaptavist and what my employees are doing, whether they're technical writers, or the instructional designers or the graphic designers. Like, that takes mental energy that gets depleted the longer we work. You've got to recharge, you've got to get away.
April Malone 12:39
So not just, like, your daily breaks, but like you're yearly, you know, refreshing, recharge,
Matthew Stublefield 12:44
You need a longer--Yeah, yeah, you got to get some space.
April Malone 12:48
Okay, let's talk about what kind of role were you in when you first started at Adaptavist? How did you get persuaded? Like, what made you leave the--can you say it? Why did you want to leave MSU?
Matthew Stublefield 12:59
Yeah, why did I leave the university? That was real easy. So, Adaptavist. I'd known about them while I was working at the university, because I was running the Atlassian systems; and they made some really cool plugins, and I'd read some about them. A recruiter found me on LinkedIn. Adaptavist was expanding into North America; 70% of their revenue at the time was out of North America, but all of their staff were in England and Europe. So, timezone challenges were happening more and more. So, they were just trying to recruit people with sort of a geographic dispersal across North America. And I was found in the Midwest, because I listed on LinkedIn, I'd worked with Atlassian, with JIRA, and Confluence, specifically. So I was recruited as a consultant. I really wanted to be a project manager. That was--I actually had sort of started looking for a new job from the university; so, I'd been polishing up my LinkedIn a little bit and looking around. And the part of my job I loved was project management. It was a relatively small portion of my job. I had been working anywhere between 60 and 80 hours a week for a while, just really getting burnt out. I'd gone to my boss at the university and said "I need 40 hours a week." He said, "No."
April Malone 14:13
Matthew Stublefield 14:14
And I said, "Okay, well, with respect, I gotta go find something else." I mean, I was just--I was burning out. And so, yeah, I had been looking a little bit; but a recruiter found me on LinkedIn, connected me with Adaptavist; and I was hired as a consultant. But because of my background and experience, I mostly consulted with project management organizations. So, I was helping them.
April Malone 14:37
So had you already studied project management at that time?
Matthew Stublefield 14:42
I had started. Yeah. When I realized that was what I really enjoyed about my job, I decided to start working on a master's degree in project management. And Missouri State University had a program in that, so one of my benefits there was free classes. I could only take two a semester but--so, I started my master's with six credit hours a semester, 12 total a year, working on my master's in project management. I think this is pretty typical at most tech companies, they don't really care about your degree or education. You know, when I was interviewing at Adaptavist, they didn't care about my my master's degree. They wanted to make sure that--if it was a thing I cared about that working for Adaptavist wasn't going to interrupt me on that, which I thought was very kind for them to care about that. But they cared about the outcomes. They cared about what was in my portfolio, what I had accomplished, what I was doing. So yeah, I joined Adaptavist as a consultant; and my first gig was working with a PMO at a multinational auditing and accounting firm that was doing a pilot of Atlassian. And, so, because they're multinational, a lot of their employees were also working remotely. They have very large offices in many countries. But a lot of people were remote, and their pilot group to determine if the Atlassian tools will work for them was about 20,000 people. And, so, I was helping their PMO get a handle on this giant pilot project to roll out across North America, EMEA, APAC, to connect all of their users.
April Malone 16:18
Had there already been employees hired across the US, or were you like one of the first?
Matthew Stublefield 16:25
I think I was No. 4 in North America and number, or no, maybe I was No. 6, it was pretty small back then Adaptavist was pretty small. Back then there were only maybe 40 people total in the company worldwide when I joined.
April Malone 16:42
But you said they have large buildings now, or large offices now?
Matthew Stublefield 16:46
So Adaptavist. I was talking about my first client, that multinational auditing accounting firm, they were all over the place, they were remote. Adaptavist had like 40 people when I joined the company. It was, and that was like, at that point, felt large. Like they'd grown a lot, you know, it was created by three people and then had just sort of grown. And, so, when I joined, you know, we're up to about 40. We now have I want to say around 350 worldwide. I think we're operating in seven or eight different countries at Adaptavist.
April Malone 17:12
When you were hired, and you were one of six, across the USA, did they even have an office? Or was everyone expected to work from home?
Matthew Stublefield 17:19
No. Everybody worked from home. We had a guy in Toronto, me in Springfield, two people in the Chicago area, though they lived in very different parts of Chicago. We did--I think our first office in North America was in Chicago. It was this tiny, like, broom closet of a place we were renting. It was crazy expensive. I only visited it once, and it was when we were getting ready to exit that office, because we were spending all this money; and nobody went to it, because, like, it took an hour to get there, you know, to get in the center of Chicago. So, yeah, we mostly work remote. We do have an office in Springfield now. We're actually up to,I want to say, 13 or 14 employees in Springfield. And, so, we've got this really nice office downtown that we all really enjoyed going to and haven't been in it since March. So, we're looking forward to, I mean, at this point, it might be--it's probably gonna be next year, before we're back in the office regularly. But it's nice to see each other and have lunch together and do some brainstorming things like that in person.
April Malone 18:24
How often were you going in?
Matthew Stublefield 18:27
I would typically go in, I try to go on once a week, maybe twice. It's hard for me because my teams are also distributed across the world. So, I spend most of my day on Zoom; and it didn't make sense to go to an office and then just be on Zoom, like I had to lock myself into a private conference room and not see anybody in person or otherwise I'd be bothering them. So often Wednesdays are kind of lighter days for me in terms of meetings, and so I'd go to the office on Wednesday, work with some people in person, just take one or two calls. We'd all have lunch together on Wednesdays, play board games together. And, so, it was just sort of a nice connection time. Now, I go to the office once a week on Thursdays to water the plants and pick up the mail, and that's the only office connection we've got.
April Malone 19:13
Are you the office manager? Why are you in charge of the mail and the plants?
Matthew Stublefield 19:19
We don't have an office manager and, as both the most senior person in the Springfield area and one of the most senior people in the US--there's technically a guy who's been at the company two months longer than me--but, like, I have the only company credit card for the United States. Springfield's the headquarters, so checks get mailed here and have to be scanned and deposited and other, like, official documents that have to be signed for the US, when they require a signature by a US citizen, I'm the one who signs them, because I'm here.
April Malone 19:57
Was that part of your job description?
Matthew Stublefield 20:01
No, no, it's not. It's just something that's grown up over time. I mean, similarly, we've got a big swag closet in Springfield of t-shirts and things; and I got stuck with shipping things around the country when need be for swag. Because that's the other fun thing about being in management, is you are defined as overhead. So, like, the software programmers, they're doing very important things. The accounts people, they're making sure that our customers are taken care of. I'm a manager.
April Malone 20:30
So, help with the plants.
Matthew Stublefield 20:30
So, you know, my time is very flexible. I could water the plants, and I could ship t-shirts, and also develop our strategy for the next 18 months across the entire product portfolio and make sure that everything's getting done appropriately.
April Malone 20:31
You were saying that when you were at the university, you were working 60-80 hour weeks, What about now? How many hours a week would you say you're working right now, as a manager, with all these extra hats that you're wearing?
Matthew Stublefield 20:51
Mm hmm. Yeah, yeah, 40. It was something I was really specific and clear on when I joined Adaptavist. The university was just so toxic, and I decided I wasn't going to work someplace like that again, no more than 40 hours, drawing a hard line. And I also made a decision when I joined Adaptavist that I was going to treat it like, I don't know if this sentence will make sense, but I decided to treat it like a place I want to work. So, for instance, one of the first things I did, I got involved with a project without being invited, I just saw a thing that needed done; and I just started working on it. And I thought, to myself, somebody might not want me to do this; there might be some territorialism, they might, you know, they might be upset that I'm just jumping in here. It was completely the opposite. Like a few days in, the CIO sent me a message; and I was like, "Oh, here it comes." And he was like, "Hey, I saw you got involved in this. That's fantastic. Let me fill in a few gaps, and we, you know, really appreciate you contributing on this project. And I just decided, you know, that's the type of place I want to work. I want to make Adaptavist like that, I'm just gonna assume it's like that; and I decided back then if it wasn't, I would leave. So I tell my employees, "Work about 40 hours a week, no more than 40 hours a week, make your meetings. Other than that, I don't care what hours or days you work. If you want to work the middle of the night, if that's what works best for you. If you want to, you know, take off Mondays and Tuesdays. As long as, like, you're meeting with your stakeholders, you're delivering, you know what you need to deliver; and the work looks different. Yesterday afternoon, part of my work day was taking a two-hour walk. Sounds like "Oh, I'm just blowing this off." But like I had a really challenging problem I was trying to work through and figure out the next step. Sometimes I've got to move to do that. Sometimes I'm listening to music really loud and banging on the keyboard for hours on end. Sometimes I'm in meetings for six hours. So, you know, sometimes you've got to step away for a bit and take two hours off and then come back to work. I think that flexibility is really important.
April Malone 22:53
So, I know a few people now who work for your company, because of our mutual friends; and, so you've recruited some of these people in the Springfield area, at least.
Matthew Stublefield 23:03
April Malone 23:04
And it just sounds like a wonderful place. They've even tried to recruit me a few times. It sounds like a great place to work.
Matthew Stublefield 23:10
Yeah, and one of the benefits of coming from the university was we've been using Atlassian software for a while. So, I had a pool of people who I knew we're experienced and knowledgeable. So, yeah, I've recruited some of them and then some other people around, and it's pretty nice. We also had an internship program for a while and recruited out of that. Springfield just has a really good--with the universities here, and, I don't know, the work ethic, it's just been a really good place to hire out of.
April Malone 23:41
We wanted to stay there permanently, when John and I started having a family, we wanted that to be where we were going to raise our children. We wanted to be close to all of you, and, I won't lie, Silver Dollar City, like that, all of it. We just loved it so much, the community that we had, the cost of living was amazing; but they just didn't have a job for my husband there, so we had to leave. But my heart is still there, I won't lie.
Matthew Stublefield 24:07
April Malone 24:08
So, let's talk about your family again, a little bit. How does that work for you having a baby in the house? Like, who's watching the baby?
Matthew Stublefield 24:18
Yeah, so April is. And, family with Adaptavist is interesting. I like to tell a bit of the history and the story of it; because, when I joined the company, you know, I was having to travel some for work. And, actually, before I joined, they weren't clear on how much travel would be involved. It started off with like, "Ah, you know, no more than twenty percent, well, maybe fifty percent." I was like fifty percent, that's a lot. And I talked to my wife, April; and she went, "I mean, I'll probably still see you more than I do now." Given how many hours I was working. I was like "That's a fair point." You know, if you leave on Monday and you come back Friday, and you don't have to work over the weekend, that would be more than she was seeing me. So, you know, I accepted the job and was traveling some; and April would actually come with me on some of the work trips. So, a lot of our pictures that we have from those early years, like, April's an honorary Adaptavistian. She's there at the pub with us, we're having dinner. And that was just a lot of fun. I remember one trip in particular, in London. I was working for this company in California. So, I was having to work late while in London, and April would, you know, do some stuff during the day. She'd show up at the office at like four or five in late afternoon. She'd go to the pub with my coworkers, I would keep working till seven and eventually join them. And, so, like, we really, we used to have much more of this sort of family aspect. Now, we're over 300 people. It's different. But, early on, she was kind of part of that, and she was part of the company. And, so, now that we have a kid, she's a stay-at-home mom, she, you know, both takes care of our son and teaches him a lot and is really active with him, which is awesome; and, because of the flexibility of my job, it makes it, you know, easy for me to--I can see him in the morning, I don't have to rush off. I typically get up about 6:30 each day and spend about an hour and a half with him. I start my workday. I'm kind of a traditional eight to five is what I like; so, I work eight to five with a lunch break. That lunch break typically falls during his nap which works out nicely. Then, I get off work at five and hang out with him until I put him to bed at seven. So, we share. Like, I try to share the parental duties as much as I can, given that I'm working eight to five. But it seems to be working, you know, pretty well. I do have--you can kind of see it on this video--I'm trying to see if I can get it on the camera--this lock on the door I found. It's a little clip that goes on the handle, so he can't open it from the outside. I actually have two doors to my office, I have to make sure that they're locked and closed. Because, if they're not, he will come in during a meeting or something. But, what's been cool about the time of COVID, like the silver lining of this, is that nobody cares if the kid comes in, everybody's experiencing this right now. I feel like meetings, in general, these days are less tense, like I'm not dialing into a boardroom. We're not having to pitch to a bunch of people sitting, you know, with their suits on while we're working at home in a t-shirt, you know? Everybody's dealing with this and just like--it's just a bit more chill.
April Malone 27:38
Bring it down a notch.
Matthew Stublefield 27:40
Everybody's got their kids, you know? It's all right. We're all just people. I feel like that's it's been one of the really nice things that having everybody else also work from home for a period of time. It's a good influence.
April Malone 27:50
You were talking about coordinating meetings with people in the UK when you were on California time and, like, the timezone difference. Can you talk a little bit about how you guys communicate as a team? Is it all video? Or you mentioned Zoom? How do you guys handle the asynchronous stuff, too?
Matthew Stublefield 28:05
Yeah, so we've been using Zoom for probably five years now. I'm actually the one who evaluated a bunch of different web conferencing software and picked it for us, back in the day. We use the Atlassian tools, JIRA and Confluence. JIRA is work management, you create tickets, assign them to people to do. Confluence is a wiki; so it's documents with a lot of other functionality; and, then, we use Slack for instant messaging now. Slack has been a really nice improvement. Before that, we were using HipChat which was made by Atlassian; and Atlassian decided to get out of the instant messaging game. They're now a Slack partner instead. Or, they developed a partnership with Slack, like a strategic partnership, they call it. Adaptavist is actually a Slack partner. We do development on Slack apps as well. So, combining all these tools, I think there's a lot of work that it's fine for it to be asynchronous. I really think meetings should be used for, like, collaborative decision making, or if we need some brainstorming; but I try not to just have meetings for meeting's sake. I think a lot of stuff can be done through a Confluence page or through Slack. But, you know, we've got daily stand ups; and we've got other meetings we do over zoom. And, today, it's a Wednesday. One of the things we do on Wednesdays is a meeting I called team catchup. It's 45 minutes. My team is not allowed to talk about work. It's just time to spend with each other on Zoom. Because, when you're working remotely, you actually have to be really deliberate about relationship building. You have to be really deliberate about spending time together. And I think that often gets overlooked; but, if you don't spend that time to develop that relationship, you don't develop trust. And, if you don't develop trust, then you can't come together as as a very productive group. You're never going to really be able to improve your productivity. And, so, sharing some about ourselves that's not just, here's the work that's being done, the end. It's important to make time for that.
April Malone 29:23
And you did this every week?
Matthew Stublefield 30:12
Yeah, so like, we--for those of you who are listening and who are familiar with, like, agile project management methodology, Scrum has this ritual of a daily standup. It's typically recommend to be 15 minutes long, each person talks about what they did yesterday, what they're doing today, and blockers. Our online stand ups are 30 minutes long which just gives us a little bit more time to talk about like, you know, here's other things going on, just create some space there. We do this weekly catch up for 45 minutes. We do, every other week, a sprint review. We're not actually doing two-week sprints--or, one of my teams is, but another team isn't; but we all get together for a review which is like a show and tell of just "Here's what we've worked on, let me show it to you." And it's just--like, it's not for critical feedback, it's not--like, this is kind of finished work. Let me just show you guys what we're doing, and it helps bring us together and connect us. We do a lot of things as a company the same way. I don't attend most of these, because I'm too busy; but, like, there are scheduled coffee breaks where you can dial in the Zoom and just sit and have a cup of coffee with people. There are yoga things, like lessons going on, where you can dial in and, like, cameras are off; but somebody's demonstrating and walking them through doing yoga. We've been doing music sessions.
April Malone 31:32
I like the camera off part.
Matthew Stublefield 31:30
Yeah, yeah. I've heard that it's a really positive experience, people who've attended have really enjoyed it. It's, like, I make time for my team; but, beyond that, I'm just really busy;so, I haven't attended most these things. But it is one of the things of remote work, it can be very lonely, it can be very isolating. Particularly for us, where our headquarters is in the UK, even though people are working from home, that timezone is sort of like a gravity well there. And those of us in North America can often feel very disconnected from the rest of the company and from the key decision makers, you know, all the C-level executives.
April Malone 31:30
Matthew Stublefield 31:30
And, so, creating time is really important.
April Malone 31:33
This is something I've heard multiple people say, when I was doing my market research and as I've been doing interviews as well, is feeling like you're gonna miss out on opportunities to expand or to grow or to improve your position. You said you started off as a consultant? Is that still your title now?
Matthew Stublefield 32:10
No, no. So--
April Malone 32:26
You're head of education! How'd you do that?
Matthew Stublefield 32:30
Yeah. I haven't had that issue. Um, so, I don't know how to say it without being arrogant. I did it by being really good, I think, at what I do. And here's the thing, I mean it with no arrogance, I find it totally perplexing. Like, I think of myself as this kid from Southwest Missouri, where, when I started working there, it was called Southwest Missouri State University. It was a regional university, and I worked in computer services as a centralized user support specialist; and I ran the stuff. I was promoted to management, with the title lab support administrator, but like, a kid from Southwest Missouri, who did some Atlassian stuff. That's what I think of myself. And I start working at Adaptavist as a consultant, and now I'm working with a multi-billion dollar company, that was my client, you know, as a consultant. So, I'm employed by Adaptavist; but I'm a consultant working for these other customers that are huge. They're listening to me. You know, I tell them what I think they should do; and they do it, because they're paying a lot of money for my opinion; and, therefore, my opinion has value. But I started working with Atlassian directly on some things. So, Atlassian had a program called Atlassian University to deliver training. I delivered some of their training for some of our customers. I got invited to deliver training at their summit conference; and, so, I taught classes there at summit, which was a fantastic experience. In 2016, they launched a certification program; so, they wanted to facilitate people taking high stakes certification exams to get certified as a JIRA administrator or somebody who does agile development with JIRA software. So, I was part of the first group to create the blueprints for the certification exams and start writing the questions for them and the answers for those questions. Over the next couple of years, I ended up writing the majority of the questions and answers for those and all of the study materials, and we sort of discovered along the way that I was uniquely qualified for this, purely by happenstance; because writing these types of materials is really cross discipline. You know, and I happen to have a lot of history with Atlassian. At that point, I've been working with the tools for, I don't know nine or ten years; so, I had that historical knowledge. I had the depth of knowledge from doing a lot with it and working with customers on it. I knew best practices, having worked with multinational customers and helped them use the tools. My undergrad is in religious studies which you wouldn't think would be applicable, but a bachelor's degree in religious studies is a lot of reading and writing and critical thinking and pulling together lots of disparate information to draw new conclusions and then communicating those thoughts concisely. So the writing skills that I gained, they were really helpful for me. And then, with the Masters in project management, which is a lot of working through case studies, Atlassian wanted their study materials to be presented as case studies that people worked through.
April Malone 35:46
It says here that your masters also had an emphasis in conflict and dispute resolution?
Matthew Stublefield 35:53
Yes, yeah. So like, just this whole weird mix of things kind of made me unique, you know, for the stuff that I do. And, so, back at the end of 2016, our head of training left; and, at that time, it was part of operations. The chief of operations called me and said, "Hey, we want you to take this job. Because you've been doing the certification work, you've been doing the training, you've been doing all this stuff; and, so, it seems like a good fit." And I said, "Eh, I don't want to deliver training as career." And he said, "No, no, we don't want you to deliver training, we want you to build a training business." And I said, "Okay, well, I don't know, maybe. Maybe, I'll think about it." And then an hour later, the CEO called me and said, "Hey, I want you to take this position." And I said, "Yeah, I don't want to deliver training as a career." And he said, "No, we want you to build a training business. Here's what we want." I said, "Okay." Well, at that point, I was going to be in London about two weeks later; and, so, I created eight pages of bullet points of what I wanted to do. And I met with the COO and with the CEO and gave them my list of things I wanted to accomplish and how I was going to measure success. And they said, "Yep, sounds good. Write us up a job description and make up a title." And that's what I've been doing since. I think that, you know, my education, my experience--I've been managing people now for probably over 15 years. The education in conflict and dispute resolution was tremendously valuable in terms of learning how to really hear people, help them feel validated in what they were saying, to understand where they're coming from, to see things from different perspectives, mediating conflict between employees, between their priorities and the business's priorities, negotiating compromise, like, that was tremendously valuable. And a lot of education and project management is about ethics of project management, and how to make sure you're working ethically. And, so, it was, something I was interested in; but all this was also kind of like kismet, like these things just really kind of worked well together.
April Malone 38:01
Do you have any advice for people who are nervous about their potential for advancement in a company where most people, if not all people, are remote? Especially during this year, when people are unexpectedly at home?
Matthew Stublefield 38:13
Yeah, I do. Yeah, over the last few years, one of the things I've seen that has worked consistently is you have got to advocate for yourself. You have to be--like, especially, if it doesn't come naturally, it will feel brazen; and it will feel uncomfortable, but if you don't toot your own horn, if you don't advertise what you're doing, no one will know. No one sees you. And, so, like--
April Malone 38:42
I know that it's not really your personality type, to get in people's faces. Like, as a friend, you're more introverted.
Matthew Stublefield 38:49
Yeah, I'm super introverted. I can go weeks without talking to people before it starts to bother me. I struggle with it. And I really like being behind the scenes. That's where I prefer to work. But, with this type of thing, you know it, you've got to. So, like, one of the things I do at my company, I send out a kind of like a monthly newsletter. Every month, I write up a blog post on our intranet. "Here's what our teams have been doing this month," I send an email the company like, "Here's what we're doing, here's what's going on, here's what we've delivered." And, you know, I've had to have this talk with my bosses a few times over the years of just, where I would just ask them, where do you see my career going? Here's where I see it. And here's what I want. It's really hard to say here's what I want. The thing I found, and I think this is maybe counterintuitive to a lot of people because they feel like, oh, if you're pushing, it's gonna make people uncomfortable. They're not going to like it. I find that people really respect that. Similarly, one of the things I know people struggle with is saying "no." Oh, if I say no, if I turn down things, it's--you know, they're gonna think I can't deliver, I can't do the job. One-hundred percent of the time, my experience has been when you say no, people respect you more. If it's with good reason. If it's because, like, you're delivering on something else, you've got these priorities. If you say it's a no, but, you know, here are the priorities. So, we change things, and it's fine. And so, you know, especially when I have an idea of what I want to do; and I am fairly introspective, and I reflect on, like, what do I enjoy? One of the conversations I had with my bosses earlier this year was I want to work more at a strategic level across our product portfolio to look at where we're going over the next 12 to 18 months, set quarterly goals with the people below me, and then have them handle the day-to-day work. I can do the day-to-day work and the day-to-day management. I've been doing it for a long time. But we need someone as a company who's tying all of this together across 30 products, with an eye towards education. What is our education strategy? How do we help our users better understand how to use our products? And how do we make all this work together and be consistent? And how do we prioritize one over the other? I can do that. And I want to do that. Now, what we need to do is set up the infrastructure that allows it. We've got to get the right people in the right places that frees up time to allow my time to allow me to do that. And, so...
April Malone 42:19
It sounds as though you kind of created this. Do you have other people that you can collaborate with at the same level? Or is that--
Matthew Stublefield 41:27
No, not really. Yeah, I--in one sense, I would say I've been my own boss for a long time. And I have a great boss at Adaptavist now. I love working for him. But, when I was at the university, I had, like, a lot of work assigned to me I to do, that's why I had to work all the hours; but, like, there was no micromanagement. Like I did my stuff, I set my priorities, I figured out how to do it. I'd teach myself everything. Day to day, I mean, my boss had no idea what I was doing. He knew I was delivering, he saw the outcomes. The outcomes were what mattered. When I started as a consultant, I was working with this one customer. I brought in my next several customers; and I brought them in, and I figured out the contracts, and I built up the business; and I took it from being four-day engagements to six to eight- to twelve-month engagements, and built this up and closed it down and moved it out; and, so, like, again, I was just managing my work. And with my current position as head of education, it's the same thing. I had a vision of what I wanted us to do, I built it; and I moved it forward. I still have to--I have to get buy in. But I kind of describe education within Adaptavist as almost--it sort of began like a startup, with our CEO funding it by paying me and letting me build a team; but, like, I've been running this little startup inside of Adaptavist for a while. And now we've really kind of hit a level of maturity across the business that's that's exciting to see. And, so, now I'm pushing to take that next step. But, so for the people who are nervous or that they don't feel--I think, first off, you've got to advocate for yourself, you've got to talk about what you're doing, you've got to make it visible, you've got to record it and write it down. You've got to bring it up at least annually; but I think it's better for it to be every three to six months, like a quarterly-type thing is good, of putting it out. Like I said, I do it monthly, I say here's everything we're working on, because it's a ton of stuff. But then having a clear idea of where you want to go; and it's all about going to something, not going away from something. So, like, I know where I want to go. I know how we can get there, and I can describe that. I think that's been a big part of my career success.
April Malone 43:40
So, I'm gonna change gears with you, like really a lot. I've been asking everyone about their home office situation--
Matthew Stublefield 43:47
April Malone 43:47
--their home office setup. I can see--you said your room has two doors, and you keep them locked. So, I take it you're not in a high traffic area? Can you tell us, how did you decide how to set up your home office, and are there any tools that you use in there that are especially helpful or that have made your life easier?
Matthew Stublefield 44:06
Yeah, so I've mentioned I've been at Adaptavist for six years. Before this, at the university, I had to occasionally work from home. I did have kind of like a home office at our old house. It was kind of high traffic, like it was right inside the front door on the left there. It had two doors, one was to the living room, one was to the master bedroom. The house was kind of like a circle of doorways; and, so, like, it was okay. It wasn't ideal. It didn't have a closet. It didn't have storage space. It was just this weird little room. So, when we were buying a new house when we decided to move, one of the things I looked for was a home office. I knew that was important to me. This door is actually to the kitchen, so, you know kind of high traffic; but the other side is to a hallway. And things I was looking for in a home office was that it, you know, had to have doors that closed, ideally would lock, that if it wouldn't be super loud. It needed to have enough space. I really wanted a good amount of space in here. So, I've actually got like a little sofa over to that side that I'll occasionally sit on with a laptop. I have a TV mounted on the wall here.
April Malone 45:20
Matthew Stublefield 45:20
For gaming or watching TV. I've got a rowing machine in here; and, so, I will row. I was actually rowing during a meeting on Monday, because it was a meeting I was passive in. And I was just listening and watching; and I was like, let's do some exercise while I do this.
April Malone 45:24
Matthew Stublefield 45:28
Yeah, camera was off. But I was just, you know, rowing. One of our other employees, he's got a treadmill desk. So, like, he'll have his camera on; and you'll see him walking during meetings. As you can see, I'm standing. One of the best investments I made a couple of years ago, this is relatively new, but I got an electric--you push a button, and the desk goes up and down. Tremendously helpful. I have a bit of scoliosis, and I struggle with sciatica; and being able to go back and forth between standing and sitting throughout the day has been tremendously helpful.
April Malone 46:06
My husband just got one, and I've been totally taking my laptop out there and standing at his desk. Sometimes I'm standing there while he's working, and he's like, "This is probably not gonna work long term--Do you want your own?"
Matthew Stublefield 46:20
Yeah, it has been really, really good. I did a bunch of research on standing desks before I got one. I wanted one that, like, would last a long time that would be very stable, because I knew we're going to have small kids, they're going to grab, and they're going to pull. I needed it to be really stable; so I did a bunch of research on that. I've got a really nice chair, office chair, that--I've got a Steelcase Leap V2 that I bought several years ago, and that's--Because I will, there will be days I'm sitting here for 12 hours a day. I try not to sit 12 hours straight now, I try to stand. So, like, my home office. I've got art on the walls. It's painted these dark colors, because that's why I like. Like, this is--other people were like, "Oh, that's your man cave." And I'm like, I guess; but like this is, like, this is my place, this is my kind of sanctuary. At the same time, I have to get out of here. I try to never eat lunch in here. I've got to go to the living room. I've got to go to somewhere else in the house. I really miss going to coffee shops. I wouldn't do it very often; but, once every couple of weeks, two to three weeks, I would go to a coffee shop for just an hour or two of working. Just, like, getting out a little bit was nice. I miss that. So, I love my home office, I think it's good to have a space. I think that you also have to get out of it. At the end of the day, you need a transition of some sort to get out of that headspace of working.
April Malone 47:45
So, what is your secret to limiting yourself to 40 hours a week? Because I know a lot of people, when they work from home, they feel like they need to prove to their boss or to their company that they actually--Well, I guess it can go both ways. Some people try to get by with as little amount of work as possible. They're like, you know, "I only worked four hours this week, but I got my work stuff." How do you find balance? And how do you keep from getting burnt out, even in those 40 hours?
Matthew Stublefield 48:09
Yeah, so I think there's sort of two things there. One, in terms of being like, I could only work four hours this week, and I got my stuff done, the end. I think part of career advancement is I do 40 hours. I'm efficient. I get a lot done, but that's how you you grow your career is you demonstrate you're able to do a lot with the time you've got. So, I think there are weeks I could work fewer hours, and I just--I find other things to do, and I make progress on that. These days, though, I mean, until recently, I had eight different hats. I'm starting to get some new people on the team to reduce that, but there's an unlimited amount of work to do. And the only way I know, what works for me, and I know it doesn't work for everybody, but it's just self discipline. It's just--I try really hard to not start before eight. I have no work notifications on my phone. I've started, like, I don't carry my phone around the house. I try not to look at it. I've stopped using my iPad as much, because there's just like, it's so easy to click on Slack. I've got the apps installed, because I need them sometimes. It's so easy to click on email and see if anything has come in and, like, I'm just gonna check this and archive some things. So, these days, like, I will carry my Kindle around the house. Oh, I have a few minutes here. You know what, I'm just gonna read. I'm just gonna read for a few minutes, like that. I got a few minutes, I'm gonna get on Facebook--Nope, I'm just gonna read a book. You know, at 5pm, now I've got a toddler. He has to see me at 5pm. So, like, that actually helps a little bit with like forcing the stop, but it's just kind of self discipline. And it is helpful with my particular company, on weekends, I don't get emails. Nobody else is working. But, during the week, it's kind of 24 hours. Like, we're now opening offices in Kuala Lumpur. And so, it's the exact opposite timezone. You could work late into the night. You could. I could get up at four in the morning, start working, there'd be people active. You just have to set a boundary and live by it, and kind of force yourself. I do start early some days, actually the next two days, I'm starting with 7am meetings. It happens, you know?
April Malone 50:26
Is that because of the time zone difference?
Matthew Stublefield 50:27
Yeah, yeah. I've got a team in Madrid I'm working with now. They finish work at 3pm their time, which is 8am my time. To meet with Madrid, I gotta start at seven or six sometimes. But then I take off early. Yeah. And then I take off early that day, you know, I'll take off at two or three in the afternoon, and that's fine. So, it's really just self discipline. I think there's also, the other the other tip, is recognizing how it would be if you were in an office, and then just having grace for yourself. So, one of the things I really struggled with when I started working for Adaptavist is I was used to thinking in like 15-minute increments. So, if I took a few minutes to go, like, do something in another room or to use the restroom, I'd be like, well, now I need to work until 5:15, now I need to work till 5:30. And it took a little bit for me to go, like, I was in an office, I wouldn't be staying until 5:30, like that. Yeah, but working at home, like, you start to feel like, if I'm not at the computer. And I apologize, for those of you who are listening, you may be hearing this in the background, my lawn is being mowed right now, which is one of my things I paid for myself in terms of getting time back, I have somebody who mows my lawn, which saves me an hour a week that I can spend on other things. I think a lot about time value and the opportunity costs of time, taking care of the lawn was one of those big ones for me. So, you know, giving yourself some grace of like, if I was in an office and I went and got a snack from the break room, or I stood at somebody's desk for 10 minutes or something, I wouldn't be staying here till 5:30. You don't have to stay at your computer until 5:30 either. And, again, drawing boundaries and communicating them clearly, and, like, getting your job done, everyone has always respected. I've not had a problem with it, particularly with consulting. I know consultants who do a bad job of that, and their customers totally take advantage of it and will get really demanding and say, like, do this all the time. And, like, I know people who've tried to do their own, you know, work from home, like personal assistant business or things like that; and they end up working all hours. Whenever I've had a customer, I go in as a consultant, and I say, "I work eight to five, Monday through Friday. If you want more, you pay more. But this is what I do; and this is the boundary." Every time, they've gone "Okay, I get it." You draw clear boundaries, and people will respect that. It hasn't been a problem for me.
April Malone 50:58
Wow, this has been great. Thank you so much, Matthew, do you have any final thoughts you'd like to share with our listeners? Anything that would be helpful for people who are just getting started out?
Matthew Stublefield 53:11
Yeah, I mean, that one's tricky, because it kind of depends on the industry. I think something that's equally applicable for everybody is, and it's even the last thing I said, people aren't going to respect you if you don't respect yourself. And you have to communicate your respect for yourself. If you want to advance in your career, that's true if you're in an office or if you're remote. But if--You have to recognize that what you're doing provides value. Like, that's why they're paying you. It's the same thing I say when we're looking to hire somebody and we're interviewing them, and, you know, I always communicate, we're interviewing you, but you're interviewing us too. Like, you have to decide, are we worth your time? Are we worth your effort? Because your time and effort have value; and if you don't recognize that and you don't communicate that, no one else is going to get that. You've got to advocate for yourself. So, I think, working on some self esteem stuff and, like, building that up will make you so much more successful, whether you're in an office or you're working remotely, it's equally applicable.
April Malone 54:14
Wise words! Thank you so much. We're gonna call it, and I will see you next time.