Xero, the fastest-growing software company in New Zealand, is building its talent pool and staff capability with interns and graduates – a sustainable way to grow the industry.
“Attracting talent is a war,” says Andy Burner, Xero’s Head of People Experience. “If you don’t have the best people, then you won’t be the best software company. We put a lot of energy into identifying the right potential.”
Founded in 2006, Xero employs more than 1,250 people in 18 offices around the world, and has become a global leader in cloud accounting markets. The Auckland office employs more than 200 people.
At Xero we believe in growth, creativity and innovation. That focus is creating employment opportunities for Auckland’s young talent. We want to inspire a new generation of Aucklanders to embark on careers in technology. Signing the Youth Employer Pledge is really a continuation of the things we have already been doing, and a commitment to do more where we can.
New Zealand Managing Director, Xero
Finding the right young talent
Xero’s graduate employment process begins with visits to university campuses and meeting New Zealand’s talented technology and business students. The company’s recruitment and technical staff also attend career expos and industry networking events.
Siobhan Warren, Xero’s Graduate Experience Manager, says “we want to find young people with the right fit for the company, people who have good technical chops. They are passionate and keen to learn, and they do beautiful work. It’s so amazing going onto the campuses and meeting students in their early 20s who know what they love doing.’’
Xero's graduate programme
Xero formally implemented its graduate programme at the start of 2015. Successful candidates are invited to a full-day assessment session in the Xero offices, where they complete a range of activities, speak about their ambitions, and have a chance to look around the office and meet key staff.
In 2015, they took on 26 graduates, as well as 14 interns who gained valuable work experience from November to February before returning to their studies. Senior technical staff pair up with graduates and interns to give them one-on-one mentoring and peer development to help them learn and grow.
Newly-employed graduates spend the first 12 months rotating between the different areas of business, before taking a role in the area of the business they enjoy most or are best at.
“We are increasingly investing in youth and building a pipeline of talent,” says Andy. “We will keep going into the schools and universities to show what Xero is all about and inspire them to join. We are also focussed on encouraging young women in to the technology industry.’’
It’s the challenges that matter for Suraksha
It was the innovative people Suraksha met at a campus career day that led her to apply for a job with Xero.
Xero is on top of new technologies. I can see how we can add value to the business and that’s what I’m going after.
Graduate employee, Xero
The Xero staff who visited Auckland University that day made an instant impression. “Xero sent technical people who could communicate – they were personable and seemed to really enjoy their jobs,” says Suraksha, 22, who graduated with a Bachelor of Computer Systems Engineering (Honours).
After successfully applying, she attended an all-day assessment session in July 2014. “The nice thing is they did the assessment on site – you met people and saw the office. They promoted the company culture – it was not just about building product but how you fitted in.”
“The assessment was pretty gruelling. I did things I haven’t done before, like public speaking and making a presentation. Other exercises made you think outside the box – they were looking for transferable problem solving skills.”
What does the future hold?
Suraksha, who attended Auckland Girls’ Grammar, joined Xero on the graduate employment programme in January 2015 and is completing three-month rotations in each of the development areas – user interface, back end programming and testing. For her fourth rotation, she’s keen to return to the back end work, the engineering infrastructure that holds software programmes together.
“Xero is on top of new technologies and as we grow there are going to be plenty of opportunities,” Suraksha says. “I can see how we can add value to the business and that’s what I’m going after.”
And because Xero is a global company that wants to retain its talented employees, it might even mean a job placement overseas for Suraksha.
*Case study developed 2015.