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Disrupting my career (in a good way)

Me, Spencer Christeck and Ian Vacin in our open office incubator.

Companies come in all shapes and sizes, but the two I’m most experienced with are incumbents and disruptors. Incumbents tend to be large, old and set in their ways. Disruptors, on the other hand, are newer, fast-growing companies that take fresh approaches to old problems. Xero is an example of the latter.

After I graduated with an accounting degree, I went and worked for an incumbent firm as an auditor.

It’s no wonder lots of accounting graduates work for (or apply to) incumbent firms. You gain so much knowledge at an exponential pace, and it looks great on your resume when you decide to leave (evident by all the headhunter calls and emails I received during my years there).

There was a lot of pressure on auditors to fit a mold — unsmiling, authoritative and extremely deadline-driven. This meant lots of stress, as we rushed to meet deadlines. I enjoyed being able to influence and make a difference when it came to auditing a company’s financial statements, but there came a point where the stress was outweighing my enjoyment.

There was also the age-old problem of office politics. In order to get things done and do well in the organization, we needed to know who to talk to and how to deliver our message. For what it’s worth, office politics taught me how to have thick skin and deal with all sorts of people, from admins to CFOs.

Now that I’ve been at Xero as a Partner Enablement Specialist for three months, I know that disruptors are for me. I could tell the difference when I came to my first interview. Prior to my interview I got an email telling me to wear casual clothing. Casual? I had to call and clarify that the statement was correct.

And we do dress casually. We also work in an incubator, an open office we share with other businesses. The structured and stressful environment that I grew accustomed to and strangely enjoyed for six years is gone, yet things still get done. We get things done in a different, more organic way. Rather than moving from deadline to deadline, we work towards longer-term success.

I’m also getting a lot more enjoyment from working for a product company rather than a service provider. I’m making a difference in different ways than I did as an auditor. Not only am I helping accountants use Xero, I’m also getting involved in Xero’s development by scoping out what we need in the US. This means every day is different, where auditing was providing the same service every day.

In my old life, job descriptions and responsibilities were well defined. Many people focused on their defined roles rather than voluntarily trying to take on other/more responsibilities. Here, the opposite is true. We have clear roles, but people will volunteer to take on other tasks to get done what needs to be done.

But the biggest difference I’ve found working for a disruptor is the warmth I feel when I’m at work. We’re more than just colleagues. The people I work with really get to know one another; from getting coffee at 11 each day to the surprise baby shower they threw me last week. In my last few months at the incumbent firm, I felt like work was a chore, like it was something I had to get out of the way each day before getting back to my real life. At this disruptor, work is part of my real life.

Don’t get me wrong. Working for an incumbent firm was a great experience, and I learned a lot in my time there. But incumbent firms aren’t the only option. Disruptor companies offer a completely different experience and new ways of working. A new and exciting experience that I didn’t know I could have as I continue to grow in my career.

Want to join this disruptor organisation? Have a look at our careers page. 


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Gayle Buchanan
24 August 2012 #

thanks for the post Eileen – it is so cool working with disruptors inside and outside of xero – we just rock really.

24 August 2012 #

Well put! The Xero team are doing an amazing job, without disruptors like you there would be no progress …and we would still be stuck using MYOB!

Deidre Morgan
31 August 2012 #

I too enjoy working with ‘disruptors’ … to be constantly challenged and energised is inspirational and refreshing! Life’s too short to be stuck in the ‘dark ages’ and with old ‘habits’!

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