Design degrees are fast becoming the new must-haves in the booming 21st century tech industry, as these three alumni will attest.

Three UNSW Art & Design alumni are leading the charge in design at Australia’s richest tech firm, Atlassian.  

Design Manager Matthew Delprado is now a team leader at Atlassian, the Sydney-based software company established in 2002 by UNSW Business School alumni Scott Farquhar and Mike Cannon-Brookes.

After joining the company about two years ago, Mr Delprado has launched two hugely successful versions of Atlassian products. This included the Portfolio project management tool for Jira, which is an issue tracking product popular with big names such as Blizzard Entertainment and Westpac.

He says studying a Bachelor of Digital Media at UNSW (2005) instilled in him three attributes: a structured approach to creativity; confidence to push through the awkward ‘starting at a blank page’ phase of projects; and an ability to communicate an unformed idea. 

“The most powerful thing design can bring, from my point of view, is a discipline of exploring many solutions to a problem in a structured and iterative way,” Mr Delprado says.

That discipline has helped him design the recruitment process for hiring team members and making products such as Jira Software easier to use.

The design-degree-to-tech-company route is one also tread successfully by Mr Delprado’s fellow Design Manager, UNSW Bachelor of Design graduate (2003) Alex Skougarevskaya.

'It’s also about adaptability and practice in learning new skills, given there is constant change in our industry both in terms of technology and ways of working.'

The UNSW alumnus was headhunted by Atlassian about five years ago to create a unified design language for the company’s Jira Software, Jira Service Desk, Confluence, Bitbucket and Stride.

Today, she is known as the go-to person “who gets things done”.

Ms Skougarevskaya says a big part of her secret to success is building and maintaining trust in relationships, which helps her delegate tasks to key people in the team of five she now leads.  

And studying design at UNSW broadened her options in the jobs market by giving her those industry connections and foundational design skills.

“That traditional background really grounds me in the decisions I make, the hiring part of my role and my output of work,” she says.

Her role with the company now is to train, grow and enable her team of designers to do their best work, drive Atlassian’s Platform strategy and advocate for the quality of design.

Mr Delprado and Ms Skougarevskaya’s colleague at Atlassian, Stephen Mok, has been with the company for about one year and today manages a team of software engineers. They are tasked to create ‘familiar experiences’ for their customers in design language, reusable code components and a suite of other design tools.

Mr Mok says the cross-disciplinary education he received while studying a Bachelor of Digital Media at UNSW (2007) has given him “crucial empathy” for working with colleagues across the field.

“It’s also about adaptability and practice in learning new skills, given there is constant change in our industry both in terms of technology and ways of working,” Mr Mok says.

He is also keen to credit being part of the team that founded student organisation Arc @ UNSW for developing his leadership skills and expertise in responding to complex challenges.

“So, my background, of being exposed to many new and evolving ideas at UNSW, set that scene well,” he says.