Ollie Chiang joined Xero in April 2014 as a product manager in Auckland. He looks after parts of Xero’s practice product suite.
What are the reasons you chose to join Xero and are they still relevant today?
Being a proud Kiwi, I’ve always wanted to work for a Kiwi startup that has a global impact on businesses. Xero is a company that does great things; it speaks a lot of the Kiwi value; and while it continues to grow, we all do our best to remain nimble to preserve our great culture. I love our product. I wanted to work in an environment where change was rapid, where feedback was measured, and where mistakes were accepted as the way to learn and get better. All of those reasons are still very relevant today and why I stay.
What’s the best part of working for Xero?
The people. It’s true that great companies attract great talent and I have had the privilege of working alongside very talented individuals who focus on delivering value.
What are the technical challenges you enjoy the most?
Solving tough problems! We have lots of technical challenges – and then we also face challenges around scale and having to think about all facets of a problem such as security, performance, scalability and the general functionality.
How would you describe your team?
Diverse: We’ve got people from different backgrounds, cultures and countries all working towards the same goal.
Passionate: We live and breathe in the accounting space – we offer great products for our accounting partners and we are passionate about delivering value to our customers. Our developers are always looking at what issues customers are facing, and coming up with solutions to address them and improve the product.
Fun: We’re a tight-knit product team who participate in events every quarter. Some of the activities we’ve done together include archery, laser tag and bumper carts.
What is the best thing about Xero’s agile culture?
Every team has an agile coach or facilitator working alongside it, and they guide us in industry best-practice and help to make sure all team members are fulfilling their role. They’re not afraid to call out where there are gaps and we’re always looking at continuous improvement.
How would you articulate the great opportunities for career growth at Xero?
The great thing is that we’ve got a pretty flat structure which means that anybody in the team can voice opinions about gaps and then do their bit to fill the gap. I often wear multiple hats – there is no cookie cutter process – and there are load of opportunities for you to discover and take up.
How would you describe our Xero culture in three words?
Human: We’re all able to contribute and voice our opinion.
Startup DNA: We’ve just gone through a massive growth phase with lots of interesting challenges and opportunities. We’ve been able to preserve our startup DNA with high-levels of trust amongst our teams and autonomy. This empowers each team to make key decisions in the space they’re in. It’s an attribute of the culture that’s key to Xero’s success to date.
Innovate: We’re always working with our design team, our engineering teams – and with our small business customers to come up with new ideas and features to make their lives easier. And that’s been happening since day one.
What autonomy do you have to determine which technology choices are used in software development?
There are architectural guidelines we have to adhere to but, within those limits, our work group has a lot of freedom with technology choices – web layer, application layer and database layer. As long as you’re confident with tech choices and can justify the decisions Xero is very open to test and try out new technology.
What are the best perks of working at Xero?
For me personally it’s the flexibility of work hours. As long as you can get your work done, Xero are accommodating. Also the paid paternity leave policy, which helped tremendously when my first child was born in December 2015.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I play a lot of sports including basketball, and I play golf with a few mates from work. I also enjoy playing the guitar every now and then. With the newborn, I now most enjoy spending time with him and my family.
If money was no object, what would you do?
Travel around the world! I’d probably start with America, follow that with Europe, and then head to South East Asia.
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