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Atlassian's former engineering head explains why he left his post to join the AI startup Algorithmia


Ken Toole, vice president of platform engineering at Algorithmia

After over a year of working as Atlassian's engineering head, Ken Toole wanted the opportunity to build something from scratch.

Atlassian was actually a first step for him. Prior to Atlassian, Toole had spent over 13 years at Adobe and also six years at Microsoft. At those companies, he enjoyed building organizations and teams from the ground up. He wanted to continue doing that, but at a smaller scale, so he took a job at Atlassian and relocated to Australia. 

But after over a year there, he hoped to move back to Seattle with his family and work somewhere smaller. 

"This is really a continuation of that trajectory," Toole said. "I knew that was the direction I wanted to go. What I wanted was not quite there. I had undershot in how early stage in development I wanted to be at. I'm excited to be at a company that's right at that stage."

On Thursday, the startup Algorithmia announced that Toole joined as its vice president of platform engineering. Algorithmia creates artificial intelligence products and algorithms for companies to use for data science applications.

"What I really like is that it's a low-ego but high-energy kind of environment," Toole said. "There's a lot of clarity around what the company is trying to accomplish and a huge focus on making our customers successful. Those are things that come through immediately."

A 'different level of inertia'

Toole liked that Algorithmia is building artificial intelligence products for its customers, including the United Nations.

"Algorithmia's vision of bringing machine learning to the masses and making it an everyday reality is compelling," Toole said.

Read more: Here's how tech companies like Atlassian, Microsoft, and Red Hat are revamping their interview process for developers today

He says that with his past experiences at Atlassian, Adobe, and Microsoft, he managed engineering teams that delivered software to "very demanding" customers. He plans to bring this to Algorithmia as well.

"I was very much involved in the early process of how do we build the solutions necessary at a fairly large scale," Toole said. "From a cloud engineering perspective, I had seen many of the challenges and difficulties."

Toole says that a challenge will be to "always keep an eye on the customer," while balancing it with growing Algorithmia's team and hiring more engineers.

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