In this instalment of our IWD Talent Talk series, we’ve spoken to Simona Turin, Executive General Manager for Business Products at Xero, who shares how an open mind has paved the way for a rich career in tech. From leading a combat unit in the army to her current role at Xero, her story is anything but ordinary.
1. Tell us a little bit about how you started your career that led you to where you are now.
My career has been far from a straight path. The one constant has been my open mind, curiosity and creativity.
I have gone from leading a combat unit in the army to working on Wall Street doing financial analysis and models. It was there that I realised the potential of using data and technology to solve business problems. So I taught myself to code and became a developer. I was on the team that developed the first real-time trading platform for Wall Street. And from there, my career took off.
Currently, I’m the Executive General Manager for Business Products at Xero. In this role, I am privileged to be able to use the range of the skills I’ve developed over the years to lead a product team in building innovations that help small businesses thrive around the globe.
2. What is one piece of advice you would give someone starting out in the industry?
It’s so important to believe in yourself and try new things. I would share that advice and this quote I love by Jack Canfield: “everything you want is on the other side of fear”.
This quote has spurred me on through challenging times and it helps me overcome barriers. Life is really a discovery journey and I truly believe that you’re never too old or young to learn new things. For those just getting started, know that you never have to get stuck on one path, you just have to be brave enough to pivot in a different direction. I recommend finding a good mentor or coach that can inspire you and help you build confidence.
3. We would love to know about your leadership style. How do you motivate and empower your team?
Because I value curiosity and learning, I really feel it’s important to motivate my team to explore new things and creative ways to solve problems. As a customer-led business that cares deeply about solving our customers’ biggest pain points, I think it’s important to empower teams to try new things. I provide regular feedback to my teams as I think developing a growth mindset is critical so we can adapt and thrive in an environment of constant change. Of course we prioritise training, but it’s amazing how much you learn on the job when you’re given the freedom to be curious.
4. What are your top three values you look for when hiring someone for your team?
The three values that I look for when hiring are:
1. Curiosity: To solve the needs of our customers, I want to hire people that have that growth mindset and a drive to learn and try new things.
2. Passion for the vision: Xero has built a thriving culture because our staff truly believe in helping our small business customers thrive by solving their biggest pain points. I look for staff that have passion for helping our customers and that want to find innovative new ways to solve their problems. .
3. Being kind: This one may sound unusual but one of our values at Xero is being #human. This is really about respecting others and treating them how we want to be treated. So being kind is embedded in our culture and part of who we are as a business. We want to create an environment where everyone feels safe enough to speak up, either to share their expertise or to correct a behaviour that isn’t supportive.
5. Do you have any professional mentors and what made you choose them?
In my drive to be a life-long learner, I often look to many leaders that I work with for professional development. There can be many benefits of working with a mentor for a long period of time, but I also look for opportunities to meet with different leaders that I respect to find out their stories and to understand different approaches. I am fascinated by exploring the evolution of leadership and how to scale it. I’d really encourage those that want to grow in their career to observe those around them and seek out those with really different approaches to learn from.