A fairly recent alum of Deloitte New Zealand’s offices, Jessica Birchall has already packed plenty into the last year as Product Delivery Manager at software company, Xero. We catch up with her to hear about her time at the firm and her globe-trotting new team.
What was your role at Deloitte and when were you here?
I was at Deloitte from 2016 to 2018, in the Wellington office. I started at the firm as a graduate in the Technology Consulting practice.
What was your fondest memory here?
My fondest memory was when I was the co-chair for organising the firm-wide ball at Te Papa, in 2017. I headed up a committee of about eight people across Deloitte, which was pretty fun and a great way to get to know people across the different service lines. We also implemented a silent auction at the event, which was something that hadn't ever happened in the past. We worked with every service line to get donations of different experiences and products from our clients, and ran the auction throughout the night. In the end, it raised almost $9000 for the Wellington Children's Hospital.
I really enjoyed getting involved - it was great to see the power of the firm coming together for a good cause, and really using that network that Deloitte has.
What do you do at Xero?
I work in the Channel Strategy and Execution team. The team is in charge of the longer term growth strategy of the business, thinking three to five years ahead of where we want to go with Xero. It means that we have to consider how we build our products, features and different services to meet our different channels and customer segments.
My particular role is across all of that, putting the strategies together and working with all the various internal teams to get sign off on ideas from the executive team.
How is Xero extending globally?
We're currently operating in Australia, UK, the US, Canada and Singapore. Australia is actually our biggest market but we'll be looking to expand even more and move into other markets.
With that global approach, does much of your work involve travelling?
Yes, my team travels quite a lot to make sure that we're connected to those new markets. We try to be their voice when we come back to our team here in New Zealand, and make sure that their needs are met. Each market is similar but unique in its own way, so we spend a lot of time travelling to make sure there's lots of face-to-fact time with them.
Was working in tech something you always wanted to do?
Definitely! I did my degree at the University of Auckland, studying commerce with a double major in information systems and operations and supply chains. I already knew that I wanted to get into supply chain strategy, and technology was my passion, so starting out at Deloitte doing technology consulting was perfect for me.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt in your career so far?
I think it's really making sure that you're open-minded to other people's ideas and ways of working. People tend to get very focused on their own way of working, but if you really can be open-minded and work collaboratively, you’re a lot more successful and can bring more people on the journey to achieving the outcome that you want.
What do you do for fun outside of work?
I'm a keen snowboarder, so I like to travel to places where I can do that, and I also play soccer - or football, as they call it here! I'm a piano player at home too.
Finally, I can’t help but notice that’s a non-Kiwi accent there! Where are you from and how have you found living and working in New Zealand?
I'm originally from Portland, Oregon, in the US, and I moved to New Zealand six and half years ago to do my university degree. That meant that by the time I was working in New Zealand, I was already embedded into Kiwi culture!
When it came to work, I could see that the workplace was different, as I had some experience in the US already. I think one of the main differences I saw was how collaborative workplaces are in New Zealand. People really work together and across a broad number of areas, often doing things way outside of the scope of their role. In the US, because there are often more people in teams, you become specialised in your particular area and don’t step out of your zone. In New Zealand, people lean on each other a lot more and collaborate.