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About

Here you will find articles on an ambitious plan to travel from Singapore to Morocco overland, i.e. without flying.

I will use buses and trains to travel through South East Asia, China, Mongolia, Russia, and Europe.

Read about The Plan So Far.

Four Years Working for an Australian Startup (SafetyCulture)

Written by Joshua Fuglsang on .

Filming for the Recruitment Video
Filming for the Recruitment Video - Copy­right © Joshua Fuglsang

Introduction

This is an ar­ti­cle about my jour­ney work­ing for the Aus­tralian based start­up; Safe­ty­Cul­ture. For four years I worked at Safe­ty­Cul­ture and saw it grow from 8 peo­ple in the founder’s garage to 140 across of­fices in Townsville, Syd­ney, Man­ches­ter, Kan­sas, and Mani­la. I worked for Safe­ty­Cul­ture from when I was 23 to 27.

Application

Dur­ing the sec­ond half of 2012 I be­came fas­ci­nat­ed with mo­bile apps and mo­bile games; they rep­re­sent­ed a new op­por­tu­ni­ty for de­vel­op­ers and en­trepreneurs. This fas­ci­na­tion even­tu­al­ly lead to me help­ing my uni­ver­si­ty friend build an app for his PhD, which was to help stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties find di­rec­tions be­tween the var­i­ous cam­pus lo­ca­tions. I thor­ough­ly en­joyed my time build­ing the app as it in­volved many skills; de­sign, re­search, col­lab­o­ra­tion, and en­gi­neer­ing. Af­ter fin­ish­ing work­ing on the app I de­cid­ed I en­joyed iOS en­gi­neer­ing so much that I want­ed to find a job do­ing sim­i­lar work. I re­spond­ed to an low-key ad and with­out so much as a sin­gle tech­ni­cal ques­tion land­ed a job pret­ty much straight away at Safe­ty­Cul­ture. Next thing I knew I was on the morn­ing flight from Bris­bane to Townsville. I have a strong mem­o­ry of touch­ing down in the tiny air­port and find­ing Luke right next to the board­ing gate wav­ing at me with a smile. We drove straight to “the safe­ty­plex”; a cor­ru­gat­ed iron shed be­hind Lukes house lined with Macs. Here I met the team, in­clud­ing Alan who I would work close­ly with over the next cou­ple of months. For the first two days I worked on my first fea­ture; a trash can for your doc­u­ments. I picked it ar­bi­trar­i­ly from the project back­log, which was bul­let point list of ideas in a google doc. I fin­ished the task in the two days mak­ing Alan and Luke hap­py and giv­ing me a new job.

Graduation

Be­fore Safe­ty­Cul­ture I was work­ing for my Uni­ver­si­ty full time as a Pro­gram­mer / An­a­lyst. I spent the ma­jor­i­ty of my time build­ing back­end data­bases for the var­i­ous stu­dent sys­tems and run­ning re­ports for the Uni­ver­si­ties busi­ness units. I start­ed there be­fore I grad­u­at­ed and com­plet­ed the fi­nal por­tion of my stud­ies part time. In the first few weeks of my work at Safe­ty­Cul­ture I grad­u­at­ed with a dis­tinc­tion.

Remote Work

My first year at Safe­ty­Cul­ture was spent work­ing re­mote­ly, pre­dom­i­nant­ly in a small of­fice where I lived at that time in Bris­bane. The work in those ear­ly days was high­ly dy­nam­ic - we had no ded­i­cat­ed de­sign­er, just us few de­vel­op­ers. I would spend part of my day sketch­ing out pro­to­types and get­ting feed­back on them from my fel­low col­leagues. We had a lot of cre­ative free­dom over the prod­uct, for bet­ter or worse. In the morn­ings we would have a team stand up which had the en­tire com­pa­ny in at­ten­dance, in­clud­ing the CEO. To the unini­ti­at­ed re­mote work sounds ter­rif­ic, but it didn’t com­plete­ly gell with me. In the morn­ing my house­mate would leave for work and I would go up the street to get a cof­fee; or­der­ing cof­fee was my last in­ter­ac­tion with a re­al life hu­man be­ing un­til Tim re­turned from work. The mid­day heat of Bris­bane could be sti­fling, at times mak­ing it hard to con­cen­trate. On the hottest days I would have to seek refuge in the air con­di­tioned state li­brary. Even­tu­al­ly I de­cid­ed to spend the hottest part of sum­mer with my fam­i­ly in Tas­ma­nia be­fore mov­ing to Townsville in the win­ter to work at the new Safe­ty­Cul­ture of­fice. The move it­self was en­tire­ly spon­sored by the com­pa­ny, which was ex­treme­ly ap­pre­ci­at­ed. It was acts of gen­eros­i­ty such as these which re­al­ly made me ap­pre­ci­ate my time spent there.

In those days we had quite a large num­ber of re­mote de­vel­op­ers, not quite 50% but pret­ty near to it I think. Hav­ing a re­mote team meant quar­ter­ly vis­its to Townsville, a cul­ture that the com­pa­ny still tries to main­tain. Those trips had a re­sound­ing­ly pos­i­tive im­pact on the com­pa­ny cul­ture; the team got to re­con­nect with each oth­er and work on projects to­geth­er. The trips were a lot less hec­tic than the lat­er half-year­ly Ship­It weeks in that we could ac­tu­al­ly get work done. At that time since there were so few of us we had a re­al­ly strong sense of com­mu­ni­ty. Ev­ery­one was high­ly fa­mil­iar with ev­ery­one else. Ev­ery evening the en­tire team would have din­ner to­geth­er be­fore spend­ing hours in the ho­tel chat­ting. In some ways it didn’t re­al­ly feel like a job. I think most peo­ple con­sid­ered their co­work­ers to be friends as well as col­leagues. To me this time was kind of the idyl­lic start­up.

Northward Bound

Juliettes on The Strand
Liv­ing on The Strand - Copy­right © Joshua Fuglsang

Even­tu­al­ly the time to move to Townsville had ar­rived. I packed up my house in Bris­bane and shipped most my things down to Tas­ma­nia for stor­age, leav­ing two bags and my push bike to come with me to Townsville. A short time be­fore the move I had start­ed a re­la­tion­ship with Julie, which was tough as I had com­mit­ted to mov­ing to Townsville be­fore meet­ing her and didn’t want to lose her. Julie came up to vis­it me a cou­ple of times in the ear­ly Townsville months and on one of her trips she de­cid­ed to look for work. Luck­i­ly she found a po­si­tion as a Busi­ness An­a­lyst at the lo­cal coun­cil and was ac­cept­ed for the po­si­tion more or less straight away. Soon she was pack­ing her things for the north­ward mi­gra­tion.

For the first few months I was liv­ing in com­pa­ny ac­com­mo­da­tion; an apart­ment sit­u­at­ed right at the foot of Cas­tle Hill. Cas­tle Hill is a bit of a mec­ca for vis­i­tors and the ath­let­i­cal­ly in­clined lo­cals, it is a 250m high hill in the oth­er­wise flat, sea-lev­el town. My morn­ing rit­u­al con­sist­ed of run­ning up and down the stone-laden, in­fa­mous­ly-named “goat track”, with a best time of 19 min­utes to the sum­mit and back. I prob­a­bly don’t rec­om­mend this ac­tiv­i­ty for too long, as it is quite rough on your knees and has a high risk of an­kle in­jury. None­the­less it was an ex­hil­a­rat­ing ex­er­cise rou­tine. While liv­ing there a small trop­i­cal cy­clone hit the town, which, large­ly be­nign, flood­ed most of the apart­ment. My col­league and house­mate, Ol­lie, slept through the en­tire or­deal. Fun­ny side note about Ol­lie is that he named the high­ly suc­cess­ful Aus­tralian start­up, Can­va.

Soon af­ter Julie and I de­cid­ed to find a place to­geth­er and we rent­ed a small, ex­treme­ly hu­mid, one bed­room apart­ment which was right on the wa­ter­front, The Strand. We stayed there for about 6 months be­fore find­ing some­where less hu­mid, but al­so on The Strand. The next place we found we stayed at for al­most 1.5 years; it was a beau­ti­ful apart­ment and looked di­rect­ly over the wa­ter to­wards Mag­net­ic Is­land. We con­sid­ered our­selves to be very lucky to have found this place and both look back at our time there very fond­ly.

Growing Company

Dur­ing my time work­ing for Safe­ty­Cul­ture I saw it grow through in­cred­i­ble suc­cess­es. Start­ing out there were just 8 of us and when I fin­ished there were more than 140. When I start­ed the com­pa­ny was based in the founders garage but with­in my first year the com­pa­ny moved from the garage and in to a trendy new of­fice in the cen­ter of the town. The of­fice, the new Safe­ty­Plex, fea­tured a bas­ket­ball court, a the­atre, ping pong ta­bles, a cof­fee ma­chine and more; it was the ide­al­is­tic start­up of­fice. Soon af­ter the Townsville of­fice an of­fice for cus­tomer sup­port was opened in Kan­sas. Next came an of­fice in Syd­ney, which was ini­tial­ly opened with just four peo­ple, but we quick­ly out­grew it and up­grad­ed to a larg­er one in to the cof­fee-hub of Sur­ry Hills. We quick­ly filled out that of­fice as well and over took the floor above us. Then we took a floor across the street from us. And fi­nal­ly when I re­signed the of­fice had spread across four floors. Syd­ney slow­ly be­came the main de­vel­op­ment of­fice, but a lot of the orig­i­nal team were still based in Townsville, so R&D was es­sen­tial­ly split be­tween the lo­ca­tions, which made for a lot of flight time for some of the team mem­bers. Fi­nal­ly an of­fice was cre­at­ed for cus­tomer suc­cess and cus­tomer sup­port in Man­ches­ter for the Eu­ro­pean cus­tomers.

WWDC

In 2014 I was lucky enough to be able to at­tend WWDC with my fel­low col­league at that time; Alex. He had three friends who al­so got tick­ets and so we all trav­elled there as a group, rent­ing an apart­ment to­geth­er in So­Ma. The con­fer­ence it­self was great; it was a big one due to some fun­da­men­tal tech­no­log­i­cal changes, no­tably of which was the in­tro­duc­tion of the new pro­gram­ming lan­guage Swift. I will al­ways re­mem­ber the au­di­ences com­plete sur­prise to Tim Cook’s an­nounce­ment of the new lan­guage. At the event I met many en­gi­neers from com­pa­nies such as Twit­ter, Foursquare, Drop­box, Bliz­zard, At­las­sian, and of course Ap­ple. One of the guys in our group print­ed “Do you even Swift” on t-shirts. We caught Craig Fed­erighi in the cafe­te­ria op­po­site the event venue and gave him one of our t-shirts.

ShipIt Weeks

Winner of the ShipIt Event
Win­ner of the Ship­It Event - Copy­right © Joshua Fuglsang

Af­ter some time our quar­ter­ly Townsville trips were re­placed with bian­nu­al Ship­It weeks. They were the same as the old trips but with the ad­di­tion of a hackathon in the fi­nal two days of the week. With the com­pa­nies enor­mous growth they be­came more and more hec­tic as time went by, fi­nal­ly out­grow­ing the Townsville of­fice for the first time af­ter I had left.

The hackathon was an event where the en­tire com­pa­ny com­pet­ed in teams to see who could build the most cap­ti­vat­ing project in 24 hours. The scope of the al­lowed projects was pret­ty loose; most peo­ple ex­tend­ed the prod­uct in some form, but oth­ers de­signed mar­ket­ing cam­paigns or reimag­ined the sup­port work­flows. For the 1st and 3rd Ship­It events I was lucky enough to be in the win­ning teams. How­ev­er, it be­came hard­er and hard­er to win as the com­pa­ny was grow­ing quick­ly in both size and tal­ent be­tween events.

Dur­ing one of the bian­nu­al Ship­It events one of my co­work­ers, Manoj, pro­posed that we pro­duce a re­cruit­ment video. The video starred Manoj, Tania, and my­self; where we per­formed ac­tiv­i­ties at Townsville’s icon­ic sights such as Cas­tle Hill and The Strand, and were each in­ter­viewed about what we most liked about our work. You can see the fi­nal video here.

Dur­ing one of the Townsville meet­up events, the en­tire com­pa­ny got in a bus and went and played paint­ball to­geth­er. It was an fan­tas­tic and mem­o­rable event, and one that I doubt will hap­pen again.

Growth Team

Dur­ing the sec­ond half of my term at Safe­ty­Cul­ture the com­pa­ny de­cid­ed to es­tab­lish a Prod­uct Growth Team. I was a part of the team’s ini­tial in­cep­tion and even­tu­al­ly be­came the team’s tech lead. We worked with an ex­per­i­ment, da­ta driv­en work­flow, the first of which in the com­pa­ny. I won’t talk about that ex­pe­ri­ence too much here, but I will re­lease a sep­a­rate ar­ti­cle in the fu­ture.

From Tropical Paradise to Concrete Jungle

Five laps up Castle Hill
Manoj and I fin­ished five laps up Cas­tle Hill - Copy­right © Joshua Fuglsang

Af­ter 2 years liv­ing in Townsville Julie and I de­cid­ed that it was time to ex­plore some­where else in the world. We re­al­ly liked liv­ing in Townsville and would cher­ish our time liv­ing there for­ev­er, but it was a lit­tle too re­moved from the rest of the world. It would take more than 8 hours to trav­el to see my fam­i­ly, for ex­am­ple. We were sat­is­fied that we have ex­pe­ri­enced most of what North Queens­land had to of­fer and in the end de­cid­ed to move to Syd­ney. There at least I could con­tin­ue to work for Safe­ty­Cul­ture and Julie could more eas­i­ly trav­el back to her home of Tai­wan.

The last fi­nal months in Townsville were some of the most en­joy­able; Navin, an­oth­er iOS en­gi­neer, and I in a flur­ry of ac­tiv­i­ty tried to ex­plore as much of the state as pos­si­ble. We saw the long­est sin­gle drop wa­ter­fall in Aus­tralia; Wal­la­man Falls, camped on Mag­net­ic Is­land, watched the stars with back­pack­ers on the beach in Cape Tribu­la­tion, and watched a fam­i­ly of four Cas­sowaries cross the road al­so in Cape Tribu­la­tion.

Dur­ing these fi­nal months Julie had gone to trav­el through south Eu­rope and in the mean­time I stayed at an AirBnB in Wes­t­end where I or­gan­ised the move to Syd­ney. A few days af­ter Julie re­turned from hol­i­days the re­movals truck ar­rived to pick up our things and took them to Syd­ney. With all of our things ac­count­ed for, Julie and I went for a road trip down the east coast to Syd­ney, camp­ing all along the way.

As a fi­nal say­onara to Townsville Manoj and I de­cid­ed to set up a lit­tle chal­lenge for our­selves, dubbed the “Cas­tle Hill 5”. The chal­lenge worked like this; on Mon­day we had to cy­cle up Cas­tle Hill once, twice on Tues­day, three times on Wednes­day and so on un­til Fri­day when we had to do five laps, mak­ing for 15 laps in to­tal over the week. We com­plet­ed the chal­lenge much to the jeer­ing and cheer­ing of lo­cals. The fi­nal day took us more than 2 hours to com­plete, but was well worth it.

One Year in Sydney

Going to a meetup
iOS de­vs catch­ing the train to Co­coa­Heads - Copy­right © Joshua Fuglsang

Julie and I ar­rived in Syd­ney in the mid­dle of No­vem­ber af­ter a week of driv­ing. We stayed with my aun­tie in Lon­goueville for the first month while we looked for our own place. While stay­ing there I was cy­cling to work; the best part about this was the route crossed the har­bour bridge so ev­ery­day I could en­joy the view of Dar­ling Har­bour and the Opera House.

Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, and my Bike
Opera House, Syd­ney Har­bour Bridge, and my Bike - Copy­right © Joshua Fuglsang

I tried to make the most of my time in Syd­ney and spent a lot of time go­ing to Mee­tups, learnt sail­ing in the Syd­ney har­bour, tried a lot of dif­fer­ent restau­rants, and ex­plored Syd­ney’s sub­urbs and sur­rounds. I en­joyed my time liv­ing there but wished I had se­lect­ed a more icon­ic sub­urb to live in. Un­for­tu­nate­ly such sub­urbs are ex­trav­a­gant­ly ex­pen­sive to live in. Syd­ney al­so has atro­cious cy­cle-ways which was a pet frus­tra­tion of mine.

In the first few weeks of liv­ing in Syd­ney the Townsville Growth team came to vis­it for a lo­cal con­fer­ence; Start­con. In the con­fer­ence a lot of fa­mous Growth Hack­ers and founders pitched their tips for grow­ing com­pa­nies, and some their prod­ucts (un­for­tu­nate­ly). Some of the no­table ac­tors were An­drew Chen of Uber, Sean El­lis the fa­ther of Growth hack­ing, one of the found­ing Al­iba­ba team mem­bers, a mar­keter at Sur­vey Mon­key, Casey Win­ters of Pin­ter­est, and a mar­keter from Twilio. It was a two day event set in the Rand­wick race­course.

Resignation & Final Days

The New Hustle Premiere
The New Hus­tle Pre­miere - Copy­right © Joshua Fuglsang

At the start of Au­gust in 2017 I had a meet­ing with my man­ag­er and told him of my de­ci­sion to re­sign; he ac­cept­ed with an ex­claimed “Oh-No!”. It was a bit­ter-sweet de­ci­sion, see-saw­ing my mind from trep­i­da­tion to ex­cite­ment.

Over the next month while wrap­ping up my work I re­ceived a tremen­dous out­pour­ing of love from the peo­ple that I had got­ten to know over the past four years. It was both elat­ed and a de­press­ing time of my life. How­ev­er, I knew that I would stay in touch with many of the peo­ple here for years to come.

On my fi­nal day the of­fice man­ag­er, Kase, threw a par­ty and here I said my farewells.

The day af­ter my res­ig­na­tion date was the Syd­ney Pre­miere for The New Hus­tle Movie. It was a doc­u­men­tary about the Start Up In­dus­try in Aus­tralia, which was pro­duced by Luke of Safe­ty­Cul­ture, and fea­tured a lot of the jour­ney which I had par­tic­i­pat­ed in over the past four years; it was a beau­ti­ful co­in­ci­dence to be able to watch such a thing on my fi­nal night in Syd­ney with Julie, and to re­ceive best wish­es on my jour­ney ahead from Luke. The next day I drove down to Mel­bourne for the next chap­ter of my life.

Fin!

Thanks for mak­ing it this far! Work­ing at Safe­ty­Cul­ture was a long and rich jour­ney for me, one that I’ll re­mem­ber fond­ly for the rest of my life. Thanks to ev­ery­one who made it such a mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ence.

My next ad­ven­ture will be as a Dig­i­tal No­mad, which you can read about here.

I would love to hear your thoughts in the com­ments be­low.

About

Here you will find articles on an ambitious plan to travel from Singapore to Morocco overland, i.e. without flying.

I will use buses and trains to travel through South East Asia, China, Mongolia, Russia, and Europe.

Read about The Plan So Far.