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CIO upfront: You can have a global technology career while living in NZ

CIO upfront: You can have a global technology career while living in NZ

Technologists can live in places like New Zealand without any compromise to their career because increasingly local companies are deeply vested in AI and machine learning so that they may innovate at a rapid pace, writes Anna Curzon of Xero.

The diversity in our current development team shows just how wide we’ve had to hire in the past to build up our innovation muscles.

Anna Curzon, Xero

The growth of the technology sector has in the past meant many of our talented professionals leave New Zealand, searching for the best-in-breed opportunities so they can build a career that’s right on the cutting edge of innovative developments.

However, in the past year we’ve crossed a significant threshold where with the advancement of platforms like Amazon Web Services, you can build skilled tech teams right around the world.

The need for your development teams to be sitting in Silicon Valley, so that they may soak up the latest in research and development, is no longer necessary. Technologists can live in places like New Zealand without any compromise to their career because increasingly local companies are deeply vested in AI and machine learning so that they may innovate at a rapid pace.

With our move to AWS, we will be able to harness this transformation and coach our own people and our new talent that we can attract through innovation and development. Other New Zealand companies need to be fostering these types of skills in their own workforce. Building tech companies that create and grow talent and challenge a skilled workforce will, in turn, help the nation compete for the massive growth around the world in data science, technology, and Artificial Intelligence.

While New Zealand companies are just getting to scale, that scale is beginning to be globally significant.

For example, last year Xero processed over a trillion dollars of financial transactions and as early adopters, we are using the broad range of AWS features. We also have nearing a third of all New Zealand businesses on our platform, so what we are doing here in business to government computing is world class. It’s not just that we are doing world class work, we are actually doing best in the world work in areas such as fintech and banking.

Building a successful tech company in New Zealand means the developer community can have it all - live in one of the world’s most beautiful countries, where the cost of living is competitive, the food is good, and career prospects and success is comparative to anyone working for a big tech company in the Valley.

Anna Curzon - Managing Director, Xero New Zealand
Anna Curzon - Managing Director, Xero New Zealand

We're putting our money where our mouth is - investing in the nation’s technology community and boosting the talent force in New Zealand.

A recent McKinsey Report suggests that the current disruption caused by technology is happening 10x faster than the Industrial Revolution, with 300x the scale. So the revolution we are in now will have 3000x the impact of the Industrial Revolution. This will have a massive impact on the distribution of work and the skills required to keep our economy competitive.

We’re partnering with industry leaders, including AWS, to attract and develop highly skilled developers.

We’re investing in a world-class space in Wellington, and we’re showing our commitment to New Zealand and putting our money where our mouth is - investing in the nation’s technology community and boosting the talent force in New Zealand. While ICT jobs are high on Immigration NZ’s Long Term Skills Shortage list, we’re also looking for the next generation of local talent, encouraging stronger STEM skills with more than 40 graduates per year on our grad program.

We currently have 800 people working on Xero in New Zealand. We’re on the hunt for 50 new people to join our product team in Wellington by Christmas. That, in addition to our Auckland hiring, is a 10 per cent increase to the product team today.

Titles we’re looking for are software developers, web developers, senior software developers, team leaders, Agile team facilitators and people with experience in AI and AWS.

The diversity in our current development team shows just how wide we’ve had to hire in the past to build up our innovation muscles.

Read more: Anna Curzon of Xero: ‘Speak up and make a difference’

We’re partnering with industry leaders to attract and develop highly skilled developers.

Anna Curzon, Xero

Fay Pickering, a Brit who now resides in Wellington, has been a front end developer for more than six years. Starting her career at an ad-serving company, she’s traveled the world, working in London, New York, San Francisco and since joining Xero has relocated to New Zealand’s North Island.

“I happened to have a couple of friends who lived in Wellington. I thought while I was traveling, I could get a development job or a barista job - I didn’t mind. When I got here, I realized how much I missed the development community. I walked past Xero HQ, saw what they did and that they had a few jobs - I applied and have stayed nearly three years,” she said.

“In that time, we’ve grown immensely. As we’ve grown, we’ve taken on new technologies. It means that everyone’s had to upskill at the same time and because of that, we’ve all had a huge influence on how the app is going to development and given autonomy to make decisions.”

Fay says there are a few reasons why she stayed in New Zealand all those years ago.

“It’s surprising how many people in the city are part of the technical hub. It’s like a Silicon Valley at the bottom of the earth,” she said, adding you get all the benefits of a city without the traffic.

“You’re in a city but can walk everywhere - it’s not a huge commute - I walk to and from work,” she said, adding that she now has more time in her day to pursue side projects and passions. Recently she launched a small business with a friend, a candle company.

“Because Xero supports small businesses, we both wanted the experience of running a company. We could have all of that learning outside of work; we can talk to other business owners, it’s given me the freedom to be able to do that. I can now turn around to my team and give them feedback as a developer and as a user - because we use the platform,” she says.

Self-taught programmer and comedian, Gerard Paapu, has been at Xero for nearly three years. He picked up programming quite young. His dad, a school teacher, was passionate about technology, exposing his sons to early computers and basic programming from primary school.

Before joining Xero, Gerard wrote a lot of code to show or animate something on the page, but he wanted to move towards building applications.

“At Xero, I got to work on a product that people would actually use,” he said. “HQ is a really exciting place to work at Xero - it’s our historical and cultural home. You’re close to the decision making, and the product direction flows out from here to the other regions.

“When we started 10 years ago, people weren’t building products this big. At Xero, a lot of the technical choices we made back then make the challenges we face now unique.

“I've had the opportunity to work on the types of problems that would never have come up in any other company - the product is just that big now. I get to apply business logic and work with huge amounts of data.

“Accounting doesn’t seem super interesting, but it’s not really an accounting platform - it’s a platform for small businesses. Invoicing and ledgers are a part of it, but we’re writing tools that enable small businesses to operate better. If you’re working in an environment where your goals are very arbitrary, at Xero it’s refreshing because it’s customer centric and design orientated.”

Xero NZ Managing Director Anna Curzon; Small Business Minister, Craig Foss; and ASB Chief Economist, Nick Tuffley at the launch of Xero Signals.
Xero NZ Managing Director Anna Curzon; Small Business Minister, Craig Foss; and ASB Chief Economist, Nick Tuffley at the launch of Xero Signals.

Anna Curzon is the managing director of Xero NZ.


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Tags leadershipinnovationmachine learningwork life balancecareerfintechexpat cioxeroglobalisationdiversityAIglobal cioCloudskills shortageAnna Curzonwomen in technologystrategysoftwaregraduate programmeartificial intelligencementoringfinance

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