Thomas "Awesome Author" Schlegel's take on Jira, boardgames and beyond

@Thomas Schlegel literally won an award for his contribution to the Atlassian Community, thus making him an obvious choice to Showcase. In the article, you will be transported to the age of Thomas' first forays into Jira, the Baltic Sea, Atlassian Summit, Hollywood in the 80s, and back again. Read on! 
 
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Describe the first time you ever used an Atlassian product. How has your opinion on Atlassian products changed over time?
 
The first Atlassian product I ever used was Jira, of course. I think It was in 2005 when we decided to get rid of all these Excel files and various databases we used for administrating issues throughout our projects and use a common tool for all of them. I worked (and still do) for HanseMerkur, a medium-sized German insurance company. We develop our business software on our own and implement projects and teams for every single software we use. But in these days, every project had their own way of working with issues. Bringing them all together on one common platform with a common workflow was like herding cats and from time to time, it is still like that. In the beginning, I spent a lot of time understanding the concepts of workflows, fields, the various schemes, notifications, permissions, conditions, post functions and all these things that make Jira so extendible but also hard to understand for beginners. The next big challenge was, convincing our people of Jira and teaching them how to use it.
 
Today, more than ten years later, no one needs to be convinced of Jira anymore. Jira is the standard tool for issue management in our company. But I'm still teaching people how do get the best out of Jira. Jira changed a lot since 2005. With Scrum and boards and additional apps, Jira became even more popular.
 
We started using Confluence in 2007. First, we used it as a documentation tool for our IT department, but soon, other departments wanted to have Confluence spaces as well. Introducing Confluence was easier than introducing Jira. People wanted to use something like a wiki. One of the major challenges was to teach them the Wiki Markup Language - and as soon as they learned to deal with it, teaching them not use it anymore :-)
 
Atlassian products changed a lot over time. Not only the user interface (If I look at old screenshots, I'm glad it did!) but there were also major functionality improvements up to now. Jira became a project management software, Confluence changed from a simple wiki to a collaboration tool. And that's awesome. Also, the marketplace provides more and more add-on functionality for Atlassian's software. That's great, but the corresponding increase of license costs for apps is something, we are concerned about.    
 
As an active Community Champion, what's your favorite Atlassian memory to date? 
 
My favorite Atlassian memory is, of course, meeting @Monique van den Berg and all the other Community Champions and Atlassian people in San Jose at the Summit 2017. I spent four awesome days there, but my most favorite moment was when I got an award for my articles on the community platform. It came as a total surprise for me. Until it started, I didn't even know, that there would be something like an awards ceremony. Then, after some prizes were awarded already, I heard  Philippe (he moderated the ceremony) talking about the "Admin's Tales", my series of articles. Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar, the founders of Atlassian, handed the "Awesome Author-Award" to me. I was very excited. The rest of the evening, I felt like I was on cloud number nine. Back in the hotel, I sent a photo of the award to my boss in Germany, just to say thank you for approving my trip to San Jose. Business travels around the world are not usual in my company, I've been the first one (except for the IT leader themselves) who was allowed to take such a long-distance trip. And when I came back to the office, a lot of people came by for congratulating, the news had just gotten around the whole office...
 
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Describe (or link to) your favorite moment where you helped another user figure out their problem
 
Well, it's difficult to highlight just one moment. There were so many of them since I began answering questions years ago. Every time, a questioner says thank you, is a great moment.
 
That's my reward, that's why I am doing this here. Some people are more enthusiastic ("Whoo, you really saved my day") than others, but any feedback on answers or articles makes me happy.  The worst feedback is no feedback at all.
 
Have you also worked in the Insurance industry? Do you think that Atlassian products are well suited to supporting Insurance workflows?
 
Yes, I also worked as an officer in an insurance company. After school, I served my apprenticeship in an insurance company and worked several years in the department for car insurances. Then I went to university, studied computer sciences and came back to the insurance industry, but returned then of course in the IT department, so yes, I know both sides. We use Jira in all our IT-related projects, but we also have very special complex workflows for insurance-product development and approval of hard- and software orders.
But when people ask, if Jira could be used as a tool for non-IT-intentions, you have to convince people even more. For years, we used Jira only in technical projects, so people think of it as a tool for technical projects. And this is very persistent in people's minds...
 
Confluence, on the other hand, is widely used in almost every department. Our Confluence is hosting spaces used by one department only, spaces for projects, spaces for classes and conditions of insurance, spaces for general information and a lot more. We created our own HanseMerkur Confluence dashboard and almost every department has its own internal space today.
 
Years ago, we decided to move from our MS-Word-based knowledgebase to Confluence. For months, we imported and redesigned insurance manuals for a lot of departments and this was a big turning point. Since then, a lot more people used Confluence as their knowledge base. More and more departments even went a bit further and use Confluence's blog, meeting notes, diagrams, team calendars, etc. They use it as a presentation layer for Jira's data and as a collaboration tool.
At the moment, we are thinking about using Jira Service Desk at some departments and Confluence for our intranet. But both are work in progress…
 
If you could go back in time to give yourself one tip before embarking on your career as a System Admin, what would it be?
 
If I could give myself only one tip, it would be: don't try to please everyone. Do not create another workflow, if there are only slight changes to another one, do not create hundreds of custom fields and dozens of issue types, try to keep your system clear. Sometimes, you have to do that, but every workflow you don't have to take care of is a good workflow.
 
But, to be honest, no one said that to me 12 years ago and so we have way too much of everything in Jira...  
 
What do you like to do for fun?
 
Board games are my favorite leisure activity. Every week, I meet friends of mine and we play board games the whole evening long. But I also play with other friends every four to six weeks, usually, we meet after lunch and then play until midnight. I own about 120 board games and additionally at least 100 card games. 
 
But of course, playing board games is not everything. I love to go to the theatre and love musical shows. Hamburg is Germany's musical metropole #1, there are four big musical theatres. Every year, there is at least one new show. The last musical show I saw was "Kinky Boots". It was awesome. I like watching movies and tv shows, especially if they are a little bit weird, e.g. films directed by Peter Greenaway, David Lynch or Tim Burton, or the TV show "Lost". I like music and concerts (Jazz, Indie Rock, Alternative music, R&B, strange musicians like Björk), walking on a stormy day with my husband at the shore of the Baltic Sea. We live near the Baltic Sea and the shore is a great place to walk. Not only on stormy days. I love laid-back days at home, sleeping, cooking, pet my cats, reading books in my hammock but also traveling around the world. This year we will visit Great Britain and Stockholm.
 
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What's your favorite board game and why? 
 
Only one? This is so hard. I like cooperative board games which tell a story. I love games with challenges and surprises, solving riddles, working together as a team against the game. But again, there are so many great games matching this category, so highlighting one is really hard. Sorry, "Mice and Mystics", "Pandemic Legacy" or "Robinson Crusoe" (so, I've mentioned them at least), but my most favorite game is "Time Stories".
 
The game is called Time Stories because you and your team travel through time and space to a specific destination. In the beginning, you don't know anything about the story. You have to explore the environment, speak with people, find out, what is going on there and finally solve the case and come back to your own time and space. The basic game was released in 2015 with a story about an Asylum in the 1930's, then there were expansions with zombies in the 80s, a fantasy story with dragons and elves, an ancient Egyptian case, a horrible expedition in Antarctica, another journey back to the 15th century Spain, and the latest one: Hollywood in the 80s. And we have not even reached the end. I really, really love it.
 
Would you like to nominate another Atlassian user to be Showcased?
 
I would like to nominate you! Tell us more about yourself! Recently I've seen your homepage and your paintings and that was really interesting. 
 
^^I'm flattered, Thomas, and will think about it ;). I guess it is only fair!

15 comments

Erica Moss Community Manager Feb 26, 2018

My theater twin! So pumped to see you featured here — the community would not be the same without you. 🙌🏼

Thomas Schlegel Community Champion Feb 27, 2018

Thank you @Erica Moss, if I ever come back to visit New York, we have to do a theatre marathon!

Erica Moss Community Manager Feb 27, 2018

@Thomas Schlegel Obviously. 😄

I'm wondering how many board-games we might sneak into another Summit...

Thomas Schlegel Community Champion Mar 05, 2018

@Nic Brough [Adaptavist] Hmm, the suitcase weight limitation on the flight might be a problem... 

Omar Herrera Community Champion Mar 06, 2018

Hi, next to you I'm baby in atlassian world, our company at the end 2013 decided get three atlassian products searching a tools that adapted to agile development since then I'm impressed with quality of those products.

Its continuous improvement helps us adapt quickly to changes in the industry.

Thanks @Thomas Schlegel

Thomas Schlegel Community Champion Mar 07, 2018

Thank you, @Omar Herrera for your friendly words :-)

@Nic Brough [Adaptavist] and @Thomas Schlegel, I promise to pack a game or two!

@Thomas Schlegel Opinions on Eldritch Horror and Quelf?

Thomas Schlegel Community Champion Mar 28, 2018

@Heth Siemer Shame on me, I never played Eldritch Horror. I know (and like) the classic one: Arkham Horror and even more Arkham Horror - The Cardgame. But I heard that Eldritch Horror is better than Arkham Horror.

And also, I don't know Quelf. I googled it now, but I think, it's not my kind of game.

Maybe @Monique van den Berg, my soulmate, is knowing the games you mentioned.

There is a thread where I posted more of my favorite games:

https://community.atlassian.com/t5/Off-topic-questions/Friday-fun-what-are-your-favorite-games/qaq-p/651547

Do you like games? Which are your favorites?

😃

I haven't played Eldritch Horror or Quelf either! I just looked them up and I think I have friends who would enjoy both :) 

@Heth Siemer I also want to know more about your favorite games! 

I enjoyed reading this post about your experiences, @Thomas Schlegel.

And you board game taste sounds good as well. I also really enjoy playing Time Stories. The only thing is that you have wait for so long until the next story is released. :) But there are also some good fan expansions on boardgamegeek, in case you did not know. Pandemic Legacy and Robinson Crusoe are also part of my collection.

Reading about your board games passion and that so many other people (including me) share it - why not have a board/card game evening at the next summit? I'd love to combine passions - playing board/card games with people who share the passion for Atlassian's tools.

Like 1 person likes this

Moin Matthias,

so bad that Stuttgart is too far away from Hamburg for a boardgame night. Yes, there are quite a few people here playing boardgames. After US-Summit 2017, I met @Monique van den Berg and her friends, we played "Terraforming Mars". In Barcelona I had "Sagrada" with me, but found no time to play. Where else if not in Barcelona should you play this game? 

Maybe we should create a new Boardgame group here in the Community?

BTW, please replace the rounded paranthesis in your username with the square brackets: "[ ]". There's a problem with the round ones on Community: you can't be mentioned with the @  sign.   

Hi @Thomas Schlegel,

you are so right about playing Sagrada in Barcelona. Did you know that in San Jose next to the convention centre there is the world's largest monopoly board? I'm happy to play some board games next time.

And thanks for the tip about the mention. I changed it in Atlassian ID, but it seems to take a while until the community picks up the change.

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