Updating Results

Xero New Zealand

  • #1 in All sectors
  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

How did you get here? - Rachel Collingridge, Head of Engineering, Platform Engineering at Xero

Rachel Collingridge

Head of Engineering, Platform Engineering at Xero
"Listen to people. Ask questions. Always be curious. This is a great tactic for any social situation."

Tell us about your career path

I spent six years at the New Zealand School of Music, Victoria University to gain a BMus(Hons) in classical clarinet performance and MMus in musicology. After that I was clearly ready to become a software developer! (Buy me a beer and I’ll tell you the full story). The TL;DR involves a match between high levels of curiosity (me) and a feeling of impending doom about the Y2K problem (the UK IT industry). 

Initially I learned Visual Basic 4 and Oracle PL/SQL on the job. I progressed by asking a lot of questions of experienced and kind individuals, by rolling current industry practices into what I was doing, and recognising there were multiple ways of solving problems and not all of them were equal.

I was a developer and technical team leader for 18 years (gasp!) before taking the giant leap into full time engineering management. I’ve been a Development Manager at Powershop, a Crew Champion at Flux Federation, then on to Xero as Development Manager (Ecosystem) and Head of Engineering (Platform Engineering). This has involved learning people management on the job, asking a lot of questions of experienced and kind individuals, rolling current industry practices into what I was doing, and recognising there were multiple ways of solving problems and not all of them were equal. Sound familiar?!

Who helped along the way?

There are too many people and teams to mention! I figure out that I’d never be 100% the same as anyone who’s influenced me (nor should I) - so I’ve concentrated on figuring out what resonated and patching it into my developer and engineering manager quilt. These are the characteristics that have really resonated with me over the years:

  • Have fun. There’s almost nothing that isn’t better with a bit of a laugh.
  • Muck in with your team most of the time, and “lead from the front” only when it’s needed.
  • Listen to people. Ask questions. Always be curious. (FYI this is a great tactic for any social situation). 
  • Call out the good stuff when you see it (in public if appropriate) and always take corrective feedback to a private setting. 
  • Radical candour is much kinder than ruinous empathy in the longer term.
  • Look for mentors and idols - suss out what it is you like so much and patch it in.
  • Keep your finger on the pulse of what you do by reading and learning (as much as your time and energy allows).
  • Culture is made up of actual behaviours, not a list of aspirations
  • Be a diversity and inclusion champion. Skill up on what that means, follow some people who are different to you. Be a sponsor and mentor if you can, at any stage of your career.

I haven’t nailed all (any?!) of the above, but I’ll keep trying.

Finally, any advice for people thinking about their careers?

Be curious, work hard (but not too hard!), ask questions, have fun, don’t put up with bad treatment (take it to the right person or leave), know your worth, share and give back, let the ladder down for those behind you, being kind is different from being nice. Know some technology inside out and loads of tech quite broadly. Work on your core skills, always. Find great people to inspire you. Know yourself, and what works for you.