'I have a way closer connection to the people I'm helping': Eucalyptus' Head of Engineering Davina Adisusila reflects on two years of startup life

Bronte McHenry
October 8, 2021
Eucalyptus Head of Engineering Davina Adisusila
Eucalyptus' Head of Engineering Davina Adisusila

When Davina Adisusila quit her job at Atlassian and accepted a job at Eucalyptus, she was prepared for and excited about a change.

“My partner Brad Ayers is the Co-Founder of Dovetail. He knew I was looking for a new challenge, so he reached out to Nick Crocker to see if there were any engineering roles in the Blackbird portfolio. Nick forwarded him the Eucalyptus newsletter, which Brad forwarded to me. It really piqued my interest,” Davina tells me.

“I then saw that Nicole Liu worked there. We met at uni, so I reached out and we reconnected. One thing led to another, and I joined the team.”

But, of course, nothing can really prepare you for startup life.

You take a job as a Senior Developer, eager to build something from scratch, and you end up the new Head of Engineering, leading teams, participating in customer discovery calls, revelling in your autonomy and involved in every facet of the business… 

In the hope Davina’s story will inspire confidence in those considering making the leap from scale-up to startup, I’ve documented her three biggest realisations about startup life.

The whole shebang

When you’re working at a scale-up, you’re often hyper-focused on a specific, vital element of the business. But this can leave employees siloed, Davina says. 

"At Atlassian, my work was usually scoped to the technical side, and there was limited opportunity to engage with stakeholders such as business decision-makers or the marketing team."

On the flip side, Davina says she gets “the whole view” at Eucalyptus. 

“Personally, I wanted to experience building projects from the ground up, without the abstractions already in place in big tech. I also wanted to be truly passionate about the customer problem while doing so,” she says. 

“At a startup, the steps involved in building something and getting it out to customers are so much shorter. Everyone is usually involved in customer interviews too.

“There are so many benefits to working in a smaller team and being closer to the business. You’re seeing how what you do affects X, Y, Z.”

Taking the lead

Since joining the Eucalyptus team, Davina has discovered a passion and talent for leadership and building teams. She joined the team as a Senior Developer, worked her way up to Engineering Team Lead and is now Head of Engineering. 

​​"I knew the acceleration of my career growth at Eucalyptus was going to be faster than what I would have experienced if I had stayed at Atlassian, because bigger companies are usually more measured in that regard,” she says. 

“I wanted to be thrust into opportunities and challenged outside my comfort zone. I wasn't going to get that if I stayed.

“At Eucalyptus, they just said, ‘we need this, you seem great, go for it’.

“In startups, there is so much open space for you to take initiative and to drive what you think is important. There’s this element of trust and transparency and encouragement to just be yourself.”

And now, Davina is passing it forward, fostering a culture of opportunity in her own team. 

When an engineer shows leadership potential, she works with them to craft a career path that may work towards a team lead or tech lead position. “These people have ended up being amazing managers, who truly understand the business mission, customer value and people they work with,” she says.

With a little help for my friends

Davina was exclusively working on dev tools towards the end of her time at Atlassian, so with a few exceptions, she was quite removed from the everyday consumer.

“There were the odd couple of people who understood what Jira and Bitbucket was,” she says. “But today, I'm actually a customer of what I'm building in a personal sense.”

It wasn’t until Eucalyptus launched a social media campaign for Kin, however, that Davina truly realised just how close her new customers were. 

“My friends started messaging me saying ‘Kin is all over Instagram; that's so cool!’ And I had people messaging me thanking me for providing a more convenient service,” she tells me.

“My friends and family get excited about the product I am helping to build. I’m actually helping the person who lives with me.

“This was when I realised, wow, I can actually work on something people care about. I can use my tech skills to work on something meaningful.

“I now have a way, way closer connection to the people that I'm helping.”

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