Xero has sponsored Young Enterprise Trust (YET) since 2011, although our involvement began much earlier – Rod Drury is an alumni having being involved back when he was a long-haired youth. And since 2010 Graham Shaw, non-exec director of Xero, has been on the judging panel.
I first became involved in 2013 as a mentor for the Enterprise in Action weekend – I’d been at Xero for six months by this stage. The previous year, while running my digital publishing business, I had also been a client of the Icehouse business incubator. I was inspired by the mentoring I received and was looking for ways to apply what I’d learned within Xero. So when requests for mentors went out, I put my hand up.
That weekend was so inspiring, and before it had even finished I was planning on how I’d do it differently the next year. I also came away more confident about my skills and talents, realising my diverse work background wasn’t the hindrance I sometimes thought, but instead a valuable tool-kit of many different skills and qualities.
My role as Client Education Manager for WorkflowMax is truly fantastic and satisfies my need to constantly learn, create and do awesome stuff. I love it. At this stage though, it doesn’t incorporate some of those things from my toolkit I love and am good at. Specifically, managing teams and getting out and representing.
Which was why, earlier this year, I was super-stoked to be asked by Amanda Armstrong, GM of Sales at Xero, and Terry Shubkin from Young Enterprise Trust, if I’d be the internal YET advocate and organiser for Xero.
There were four different events to volunteer for: Speed Coaching at E-Days (E for enterprise), Judging at BP Business Challenges, Judging at a Dragon’s Den for YES, and Mentoring at the Enterprise in Action weekend. I ended up with nearly 20 volunteers attending a dozen or so of these events, from all different areas of Xero – Sales, Management, Business Intelligence, Customer Experience, Development, Education and more! New hires, long-term staff and everything in between!
By all accounts, the Xero’s had positive things to say about their volunteering experience – “…new perception of the Xero brand in the public eye. It made me extremely proud to represent Xero.” and “…ability to personally encourage and give feedback to the next generation of business leaders. Great to be a part of that enthusiasm.” was just some of the feedback.
Organising the volunteers this year really reminded me why I love managing people – generally people want to be given a chance to be awesome. And also the scalability of having a great team – instead of just me turning up and mentoring, I was able to increase that experience for both Xero and Young Enterprise Trust 20 times over.
Not only did Xero have 20 employees do something to benefit their own personal and professional development, but Xero had 20 advocates representing in a powerful sector of the community – the future. The students we mentored are our future customers, future employees, and future Xero Partners. Who knows, one of them might just be the next generation’s Rod!
The Xero/Young Enterprise Trust relationship is a triple-layer-cake of awesome – I’m part of it because I get to be Xero in the community, I get to learn more about myself and grow as a result, I love seeing light bulbs go off above the students’ heads and I love connecting with other Xero’s who want to do awesome stuff. I’m super-stoked to have done this, but not nearly as super-stoked as I am to be part of a company that creates these kinds of opportunities.