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Building a Career in Atlassian Jira Administration

Wondering what are the most sought-after skills on a Jira administrator’s resume? As Rachel Wright-entrepreneur, certified JIRA Administrator, and author of ‘Jira Strategy Admin Workbook’-walks us through her inspirational journey, aspirants get a glimpse of the roles, responsibilities, and beyond..

Rachel Wright’s bio could easily read: Eats, drinks and breathes Jira. Setting standards of excellence in a domain as challenging as Jira administration, she is a brilliant example of how passion and profession can fuse to drive success in a dynamic career defined by constant innovation.

In a candid interview with #TrundlTalks S02E02, she talks about her growth trajectory as a Jira consultant, and shares inspirational insights for those who aspire to build a career in JIRA and Atlassian administration. Read on..

Glimpse into the Jira Administration Journey

Rachel has been a consultant for as long as she can remember. Starting right after high school, the author of ‘Jira Strategy Admin Workbook’ has always had an inclination for web development, and eventually ventured into a small business of her own. This continued through college, and it is through web development that her tryst with Jira began around 2011. Rachel consolidated her position as a Jira project administrator in the industry in 2013, and completed her certification in 2016.  Today, she helps companies grow, boost operational efficiency, and optimize workflows with confidence. “I’m trying to help other users so that they don’t make the same mistakes with configuration, because believe me, I’ve made them all!” adds Rachel.

Enriching Experiences

It is not uncommon to spot too many admins on the site or too many custom configurations in a consulting agency. The worst case I saw had 123 application level admins,” recounts Rachel. Needless to say, it was a royal mess as everyone was changing everything every day. “As a consultant, the first thing I try to do is to listen. What are the problems you’re encountering? What are you not getting out of Jira that you should be getting? Every company should enlist such questions first before scouting for solutions,” she affirms, laying stress on reporting as instrumental in driving the configuration. 

Helping Organizations with a Jira Consultant’s Key Insights

“A lot of companies come in and start executing configuration changes immediately,’ she observes. It strikes them much later that they can’t get this information out of Jira because everyone’s doing it differently. “My job as a consultant is to gather that information, understand what their pain points are, what they’d like Jira to do for them, and then help them visualize how far they are away from achieving that goal,’ she highlights. It is critical to explain how far they’ve strayed from the default configuration, and guide them on small clean-up steps that could be undertaken now and then to facilitate the fulfilment of their long-term goals.

The Change Conundrum

It’s always interesting to collaborate with companies that are ready to change, usually because they’re just not getting something that they know Jira can do for them.  Jira can solve so many problems, but if your configuration isn’t set up to solve that problem, the pain points persist. These organizations are probably more likely to follow the advice, and implement changes as suggested.

On the other hand, there are other organizations that harbour a strong conviction about their configuration, which makes the Jira administrator a tad hesitant to initiate a transformation. The key is to make them understand that those very mistakes have been committed by the Jira administrator before, and elucidate how they too, can overcome the challenges with flying colours like him/her.

Rachel also emphasizes the need for guiding the admin to take the onus of solving their own problems. “I don’t like to come in and say: I’m the admin now, and I’m going to rescue you out of the mess,” she points. Training the admins and sharing her perspective about how to go about cleaning up, having them do it and then making configuration changes is much more effective. “That way they learn much more and besides, they certainly know more about their organization than I ever will,” she admits.

Tools vs Processes: Striking the Right Balance

The focus, when we’re discussing Jira, is specifically towards processes and tools. As a Jira admin, how does she draw a balance between those tools and the processes and teams that are using them?

Rachel doesn’t identify as ‘Anti-Agile’, and although she is yet to experience it, believes that Agile can be done well. “ In times ahead, I’d love to work with a company which is benefiting from it, getting everything out of it that was intended and really loving the process,’ she shares. For her, approaching Jira as process and methodology agnostic has revealed that it is possible to have a specific process (or no process at all), and yet solve an array of problems. It is a function of the methodology the customer is using, what they’re comfortable with, and what they’re advancing towards in the future. “The critical question is, what do they want this application to do for them in five years? “ she states.

Building Sustainable Solutions

When using Jira as a single source of truth, does she work around the requirements, or does she propose that these are some changes that teams ought to implement in terms of processes because those are required when she is looking for the reporting capabilities?

“This is one mistake I made early on,’ admits Rachel. I tried to get my organization to use Jira the way it was built and not necessarily configured the way we worked.” Her tip for aspirants would be to always remember that Jira is flexible and infinitely customizable, and it doesn’t mean that you can’t use whatever your processes are in Jira.

Her second recommendation is to not necessarily focus on mirroring one’s process to the hilt. If you’ve ever seen a workflow that has 40 steps, they’ve probably tried to mirror every little thing they do in the real world and it works. Guess what? It’s not necessarily the best way to do it, as  users generally hate clicking through a 40 step workflow.

It’s good to have a process, but your process can be a subset of your real-world process. The key is to not shy away from using Jira where it really makes sense. “Steer clear of trying pull off a one-to-one mapping because I’ve tried that and it didn’t work,” she adds.

Keeping Abreast with Latest Atlassian Trends

Innovation is an integral part of the Atlassian ecosystem. The Jira space witnesses an array of new launches every other day-some new add-on coming up on the Atlassian Marketplace, new plugin updates with the end of service sale announcement, so on and so forth.

With the advent of Cloud, adapting to rapid changes to suit modern IT needs is the name of the game, feels Rachel. Sounds overwhelming?  Interestingly, the acclaimed Atlassian admin feels the best way to always stay updated is to actually use the tools in real life via the most imaginative, interesting yet simple ways. For instance, she has Cloud instances as well as Server instances, and uses both for different purposes. While she uses one Cloud instance to track the work that she’s doing for her company, a different confluence instance comes handy for tracking her adventures outside of work.

Rachel and her partner are full-time travellers, live in an RV and has made the road their home since the last five years. “Everytime we change locations, there’s a confluence page for it. There’s a template where we enumerate all the information we need to know about a particular location, be it accommodation, expenses or directions. You’re forced to see the changes and find ways to make them work,” avers Rachel. Isn’t that the most fun, pragmatic and easy way to always stay updated?

Embracing Other Tools from the Atlassian Domain

For most Atlassian enthusiasts, Trello and trekking may not even be remotely related. But when a passionate Jira admin like Rachel combines the best of both worlds with aplomb, it evokes little surprise. “During my Spain trip two years ago, I planned my entire hundred mile trek on Camino de Santiago in Trello,” shares Rachel. It is the unfamiliarity with the tool that encouraged her to dabble in Trello. Since Confluence was a safe space for planning trips and adventures already, she decided give Trello a chance for a hands-on experience.

Cracking the Atlassian Consultant Code

Being an Atlassian admin one may work with organizations and get a grip over ways in which various teams and tools work. Being a consultant, however, is a completely different ball game altogether, feels Rachel. One has to be empathetic to understand what the customer is trying to say.

“Start small. Help out a non-profit company on the weekend, set up a new Jira instance for the company that just opened up down the street, or give assistance to somebody who has been using the tools for the long-term, but  struggling with  one small project,” advises Rachel. She encourages novices to embark upon their Jira journey as a volunteer, and then use those skills to not just gain foothold in the consulting space, but also create individual processes.

The Atlassian Community and its Impact on Her Work

Rachel has been a member of the Atlassian community since 2013, and feels there’s no existence of an ‘industry’ in the strict sense of the term. “If your focus is to only make big bucks as a consultant, I don’t feel you’re going to be very successful,” she opines. The entrepreneur and author roots for an approach defined by generosity instead. “The idea is to prevent people from making the mistakes you’ve made already, and being part of the community gives you the ability as well as access for accomplishing the same. You have colleagues to talk to, and work through problems,” signs off Rachel Wright.

Five Success Mantras for Jira Administrators & Consultants

1. Start out with an approach to help fellow users avoid the same mistakes that you’ve made earlier.

2. The first thing you should do is to ‘listen’, and then ask relevant questions like: What are the problems a team is encountering? What are they not getting out of Jira that they should be getting?

3. Steer clear of trying pull off a one-to-one mapping.

4. Share your expert perspective on how to go about the clean-up, train the team’s admins, and then have them change configurations themselves.

5. Use Atlassian tools in your daily life to keep up with innovation. It could be things as simple and easy as planning a trip or figuring out your budget.

Know Your Expert:

Rachel Wright : Rachel Wright is an Atlassian consultant, author, speaker, trainer, and certified Jira Administrator. She started using Jira and Confluence in 2011, became an administrator in 2013, and was certified in 2016.

She helps companies grow, get organized, and develop their processes. Rachel also uses Atlassian tools in her personal life for accomplishing goals and tracking tasks. Her first book, the “Jira Strategy Admin Workbook“, was written in Confluence, and its progress was tracked in Jira!

Strategy for Jira® and the Jira Strategy Admin Workbook are projects of Industry Templates, LLC.  Explore Rachel’s work here.

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Trundl

Your atlas for all things Atlassian

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