Taking the leap from an accounting firm into Xero tech

GreT insures by Elle Burke who has made the move fro an accounting firm to a tech company 


Tips for millennial accountants looking to take the challenge

The approach of my six-month probation at the accounting tech company Xero has got me thinking – how did I end up in this job and how did I become so comfortable in the world of tech? 

Not long ago, I was sat in a mid-tier firm with my head buried in a computer. The firm knew I was fast worker, compliant and eager to please – and I was taking on more work by the day. I wanted to add value by going above and beyond to learn new information and then train teams on the ins and outs of cloud accounting software.  

But after almost two years, I was outgrowing my role and I was hungry for more. I either had to move up the chain, or ship out. 

The job description: doubt creeps in

One Friday afternoon, I received a random LinkedIn message from a recruiter at Xero – and there was a familiarity that came with the message. I’d been working around Xero for over six years; I had used Xero in my own small business and used the software on a daily basis as an accountant. Xero was a refreshing change for our industry, and for small businesses.

The role advertised was for a ‘Partner Consultant’. Sounds impressive right? I immediately doubted my skill set when reading the job description:

.      You will work closely with the Sales team to deliver business plans for clients and meet territory revenue goals

I’d never worked in sales before. Do I need to pitch something? I don’t have a persuasive personality by nature…

·       Assist partners with data conversions through detailed project planning and facilitation of training

I haven’t done any formal study around project planning. They wouldn’t hire an amateur would they?

·       Handling partner technical queries and educate partners on all partner resources available

I’ve been studying debits and credits, how could I possibly learn a completely new world and educate people on it!? It would take me years!

·       Present educational sessions in the form of webinars and classroom training to clients

Present? Oh no, you’ve lost me there – I’m like a deer in headlights when I have to speak to a crowd!

An interview with the MD  

Nevertheless, I let her know that I’d be interested in learning more – a conversation can’t hurt and I was curious. After speaking with her, I felt comfortable that I would have the support to make a career move but I still had my doubts. Was I ready to take such a drastic career move? I’d studied so hard to get to this point in my accounting career, was that all going to go to waste to move into tech?

The team whisked me through different interviews with key people within the company and I had my final interview with Trent Innes, the MD of Xero Australia. We spoke on a number of different topics: the future of the industry, cloud accounting for small business, hobbies and my personal background. I was feeling more comfortable the more we chatted. 

Trent spoke so highly of his team and was clear about making them priority. He knew Xero was an unconventional career move for me – as it had been for a lot of accountants who had already made the transition. It became comforting to know that if I took this opportunity, the person at the top would be gunning for me all the way.  

Shifting worlds

In a strange twist of fate, my bi-annual performance review at work was booked in right after my chat with Trent. I walked into the meeting buzzing from a great interview, and knew that the review would be make or break for me.

They didn’t offer me the promotion I was hoping for, and it gave me the courage to go with my gut. Just days later, I contacted Xero to accept the job.

Before I knew it, my notice period finished and I walked out of the world of public practice and into a small CBD office with stand up desks, Apple laptops, meeting areas with comfy couches and greenery, and beers in the fridge. There was so much to learn, it was almost overwhelming at first. But then, with the happy help of my supportive team, I settled into my stride.

For me, going from reconciling an account to presenting to a firm of over 50 staff happened almost overnight. Sure, it takes self belief and hard work but it can definitely be done. So I wanted to leave you with a few tips that I have for anyone else who is looking to make the switch:

Making the switch? My advice to you

1.   Jump in head first. What have you got to lose? 

My second day working for Xero was Xerocon South – their largest partner event of the year with over 2,000 delegates attending. I showed up without any formal training, and I put myself out there. I was honest with partners, saying, “It’s only my second day! Let me see if I can help, otherwise I’ll go and find someone who can”. 

People value your honesty and your drive. The feedback I received was great; people were surprised, but impressed that I’d put my hand up to take on the challenge.

You don’t have to start working at a tech company on their biggest day of the year for this tip to apply. Don’t be afraid to make your first phone call to a customer. The sooner you do it, the better or you’ll find yourself worrying about saying something wrong for weeks.

2.   Ask a million questions. The team want to help!

There is no such thing as a stupid question, and in such a supportive environment – everyone wants to step in to help you succeed. There is no fight to the top to make Partner, everyone wants what is best for the company and you’ll get wrapped up in it too.

The more questions you ask, the better off you’ll be. Learning on the fly is tough for everyone regardless of your personality – don’t be afraid to buddy up with another staff member who is more experienced.

3.   Be around and be available

Be around the office as much as you can. Be ready to get on the road and visit customers with other staff. Be ready to attend an event that might not be part of your job description. That’s how you learn, being present and picking up information as you go. Chances are, someone else will ask the same question of you at some point and, because you heard it from another team member, you’ll know how to help.

4.   Don’t doubt how valuable you are. Back yourself and don’t stop!

In a tech company, everyone comes from different career backgrounds – it’s not just a firm of accountants with a similar knowledge set. Your prior learnings can be so unique in a team working in tech. Your opinion and experience is invaluable and genuinely valued, so don’t be afraid to speak up.

You were hired because you’re amazing. On the days that you’re worn from change, and you don’t think you can handle searching for the answer to another thing you don’t know, just keep moving. There is a point that everything falls into place, just like it did in practice. 

So now I’m coming into my sixth month in tech, and feeling like I left practice a lifetime ago. I remember walking out the door and saying to myself, “If this doesn’t work out, I can just go back into practice.” Now that I’m here, I don’t think I could. 

Now, let’s just hope I pass my probation… 

If you’re interested in careers at Xero, you can visit their website here