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Reality Check: Xero's Nicole Buisson

As part of Idealog's Technology Month, we've picked the brains of some of the movers and shakers in the industry to find out their favourite tech-related things, their biggest fears for the future and what other companies and individuals inspire their work. Here's Xero small business director Nicole Buisson.

 Technology you can’t live without? 
 
A couple of apps I've just discovered and can't live without this week are: Blinkist - non-fiction audio book summaries. Digest a whole book in 15 minutes on the way to the office. Snackable in our time constrained world. And Parkable - the Airbnb of parking for kiwis. Rent out your driveway or work carpark, or park in someone else's.
 
Underrated or old technology?
 
Concorde. A flying masterpiece operating at twice the speed of sound from 1976 until 2003. London to NYC in 3.5 hours. Air New Zealand has a wonderful app, but air travel hasn't gotten any faster since the 1960s outside of Concorde.
 
New Zealand tech company or individual in that space that’s doing seriously cool things? 
 
1Centre and Miriana Lowrie. Streamlining and automating credit checking for small business. Imagine a LinkedIn for trade credit. She is reinventing, streamlining and de-stressing the process with great gusto.
 
Global tech company or individual in that space that’s doing seriously cool things?
 
Well that would have to be Xero... home grown and seriously taking on the world. We know that the use of technology tools by small business is related to increased profitability and productivity. Exciting advances in machine learning, artificial intelligence and automation will mean small business owners can spend even more time on growing their businesses.
 
Tech project or product you’ve had a hand in?

I have just recently joined Xero. In my previous role though, I launched the Vodafone xone, a start-up accelerator taking kiwi start-ups to the world. Financing is in short supply in New Zealand, and we need to collaborate and get behind small business to make an impact on the world stage.
 
Tech project or product that isn’t yours, but you’re envious of? 
 
One up on Concorde, the first object was just teleported from Earth to Orbit. What if we could teleport ourselves around the place? The potential to kill that 30 hour flight to London or live in two cities is very appealing.
 
What first drew you to this industry?
 
The opportunity to always be learning and challenging. My newest learning is in the gaming domain - primarily so I can connect on this level with my son. I don't have a whole lot of time for watching media, but Tyler Dye of Emblim, a gaming social media platform, encouraged me to get out there, get an avatar and get going! 
 
What do you enjoy the most about working in tech?
 
Constant learning. The world is moving faster and faster and we need a learning mindset to stay in touch. Life is a constant learning journey. To quote Dr Seuss “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”
 
How would you describe New Zealand’s tech culture?
 
Flourishing. We may be the last bus stop on the planet, and face the double tyranny of distance and a small population, but that doesn't stop us from being able to have an amazing weightless economy.
 
Where does inspiration come from for you? 
 
I believe that life is about the people we meet along the way and the potential to create new things together with them. This potential is what inspires me.

Reality check

How has tech impacted on your work? How will it impact on it in the future?
 
I live and breathe it. I moved from New Zealand and started my career in San Francisco during the first dot com era. It was ingrained in me as the default way of being. Xero operates a fully cloud based working style, and uses the Google suite amongst other products. This makes collaboration and virtual working incredibly easy, and saves a whole lot of time. Xero is a values based organisation with a strong focus on culture and trying new things.
 
What’s been the most concerning change that technology has made to human behaviour, in your experience? 
Poor mobile phone etiquette. Put them away at dinner and when you're having a conversation. Be present.
 
How would you describe your relationship with technology? Do you think you’re addicted to any form of it?
 
Requiring structure and control. No screen time 90 minutes before bed.
 
Do you think social media is a blessing or a curse?
 
A blessing, particularly when our friendship networks are dispersed around the world, as they are for so many kiwis.
 
Do you think technology needs more laws surrounding it, or a form of resource consent regulation? 
If it is harming anyone, yes. If it is not, no.
 
What needs to be done to tackle the diversity issue in tech?
 
We all need to be proactive and champion all kinds of diversity and inclusion. Diversity breeds the best ideas and is what makes us unique as individuals. We can lead the world in this area.
 
What worries you the most about technology? 
I moved home because I believe New Zealand is the best country in the world to raise children - we raise very well rounded little people. We need to ensure our kids are prepared for the future though - that children's books and media have strong female characters in them, that kids learn how to code, and that they are also able to have a conversation with each other in person.
 
What’s your scariest prediction for the future? Will the robots kill us all?

That we are indeed living in a simulation. That scientific advances are in fact system upgrades. The robots will not kill us. Doing good, human emotion and kindness will always win.
 
What will New Zealand look like as a country in 2037?

A beautiful, peaceful haven that the rest of the frenetic world wants to escape to. A country of continued firsts. Kate Sheppard led us to be the first country in the world where women can vote. We will continue to do things differently here, challenge the mould and set an example for the world.