As with many of my IT colleagues, my career has been shaped by years of working in large multi-national corporations. While there’s certainly a lot of valuable experiences and knowledge to be learned along the way, you sometimes witness what I would call “cultural train wrecks”. These become even more apparent once you are out of the big corporate game and running your own gig, or at least overseeing something on a much smaller scale. Hence you promise you will do things differently.
Taking the reins of Xero in Australia in February 2011, I felt both excited and a little anxious about having total responsibility for shaping the culture and personality of a new and fast growing business and team.
With the acquisition of Paycycle and more sales and support staff we recently moved to an office in Hawthorn, which we hope will be the next phase of expansion in Australia.
Work hard, play hard
One of the best things has been to transform a 100 sqm data centre on Level 1 to a full blown rock ‘n’ roll music studio. Try that in a big corporate.
I’ll admit my influence here, but with at least 5 other Xero staff boasting various musical talents, this became an obvious use for a space otherwise reserved for racks of servers and cables – hardly something we needed when everything we do is in the cloud. Jam sessions (pictured) are emerging as a feature on a Friday after work.
Building our community
Another epiphany was setting up a hot desking area with the view that Xero is “open for business”. For example, we’ve just started sub-letting desk space to one of our accounting partners who needed extra room. We will also be offering further desk space to a small number of Add-On partners that have solutions which integrate with Xero and who want to establish a footprint in Australia, but minimise startup costs.
We’d also like to encourage our accounting and bookkeeping partners to come and visit us whenever they are in our neck of the woods and need somewhere to work. Xero is richer for its partner ecosystem and this philosophy should extend beyond the product to the people we support, and those who support us.
Symbols of informality
As for how Xero staff work, this is much like a start-up environment. There’s a complete absence of any individual offices. It’s open plan all the way, with breakout rooms used for making private calls. The 2nd floor is also scattered with beanbags, posters, coffee tables and funky seating areas. And there’s a staff room where the team can chat over lunch or enjoy a social drink at the end of the working week whilst shooting it out on Xbox Halo… I’m told Kinnect is on the way.
It’s amazing how much impact you can make without spending a lot of money.
Help name our office band
But back to the band… we know there is a great deal of talent out there so we will be recruiting musicians from across our many partners to form an all star band to play at Xerocon 2012. We figured we would need a band name, so why not send us your suggestion? The line-up so far includes Bachman-Turner Overdraft; Clouded House and my favourite Joel Hanna and the Bad Debts.
We’ll pick the best suggestion and announce it in the lead up to #Xerocon 2012.