Nathan Kear

Meet Xero at the 2020 CDES Internship & Graduate Career Expo!

Nathan Kear

  • Android Developer - Xero
  • Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) - Software Engineering

Did your career plans change as you studied?

I entered my bachelor degree with an already fostered interest in software and digital technology. Studying computer science could have been a good fit for me, however, I chose to study engineering to get a broad exposure to a range of disciplines during my first year. I also liked the engineer’s mindset of solving customer problems and analysing trade-offs.

After briefly exploring other career paths I decided to continue down the route of software engineering. I particularly like how software design is design without substrate. Software is mostly concerned with the flow and manipulation of information. As long as I have my laptop and a good imagination there are few hard limits on what I can create. As a bit of a techno-optimist, I think software continues to have a huge potential to improve our lives. My remaining studies and work experience confirmed a career in software engineering was the right path for me.

When I discovered Xero at a university event, I realised the potential in using my passion for software to help small businesses in New Zealand and the rest of the world.

Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years’ time?

I don’t have a clear vision yet. One of the things that make working at Xero as a software developer so exciting is that the future is in flux. Despite the changing technical landscape the core goal of my work will remain the same. At Xero, that is to help small businesses connect with their accountants. As a developer, I do that by delivering new features in our apps, and maintaining a great user experience. As a mobile developer, my field was a mere infant 10 years ago; major technology changes still occur monthly.

My focus at the moment is on the day to day: developing technical mastery, being an integral part of my team, and finding new opportunities for growth. In the future I will be able to contribute even more by supporting and influencing my team. This could mean stepping up to a role as a technical lead or even an architect, but that is still a while down the road yet.

How valuable was your work experience (including internships) for you as a student? How did this help you fine-tune where you wanted to head?

Part of the value I got out of internships was the opportunity to learn and fail in a safe environment. As with any new skill, the early stages of development tend to be marked with mistakes and failures. For me that’s just a normal (although uncomfortable) stage of learning. At Xero we use the term psychological safety. Internships provided me with a psychologically safe environment where there was no such thing as a dumb question and it’s okay to say “I don’t know”. In fact I think the single most valuable skill that I gained from interning is to be able to ask the pertinent questions.

Internships were also an opportunity for me to start developing those interpersonal skills that can only be gained through experience. I learned skills like managing stakeholder expectations, contributing as part of a team, and delivering feedback, all while working on real projects for real customers. During my internships I was surrounded by smart and talented people, who are only too happy to share their knowledge with you. I just needed to ask.

What is your key piece of advice for current students, hoping to secure intern or graduate opportunities?

Career expos are a great opportunity to get a feel for the job marketplace. I used it as an opportunity to research companies, company culture, and to get advice from professionals who had the career I wanted. Part of my success in the hiring process I put down to being remembered by having a good conversation with an employee at a careers fair, some of my colleagues sharing similar stories.

For me, interviews were an anxiety inducing experience. Luckily performing well during interviews is a learnable skill. I would encourage students to apply for and interview for as many opportunities as possible. That way when the role comes along that you really want you will have built the confidence and interpersonal skills to put yourself in the best position possible.

Now I see interviews as just a chance to have a chat with someone inside the company. Be interested, ask questions, share anecdotes, show your passion and your warmth. Make yourself memorable.