Victoria Crone has taken over as Xero's Kiwi boss, filling Rod Drury's well-travelled shoes. She talked to Amanda Sachtleben.
Photography: Brendon O'Hagan.
What's a girl like you doing in a place like this?
I grew up in Lower Hutt, moved to Melbourne when I was 15, then headed back to Wellington for uni. I ended up with a Masters in Commerce and Administration, and at the same time did a bunch of different jobs, including running my own piano school. My first role out of uni was as an analyst in one of Telecom’s business development groups, where we were trialling new technology to bring to market. From there I ran the research department and the consumer marketing team. I first ran into Xero when I was GM of business, and then I headed Telecom's retail sales, before I moved over into Chorus. I was head of sales and marketing, before I moved to Xero.
Is tech your bag or is sales and marketing more your thing?
I’m passionate about both. I love technology – particularly how it can change people's lives for the better. I also love people, and marketing, sales and leadership roles all touch people. I get a real buzz out of seeing people grow, develop and achieve their goals.
Do you struggle with the male dominated Kiwi tech sector?
I’ve faced a few challenges, but nothing that can't be overcome. Females are easily tagged with the emotional label, particularly if you are passionate about something, and that is frustrating at times. It can also be lonely, as the senior tech space isn't loaded with females. Women do think differently, we aren't always as confident, and often we are balancing work with being the primary caregiver at home. You overcome these challenges by learning not to react to the labelling and by persistently speaking up on your point of view. It becomes more valued over time. Persistence and thick skin are important. Learn to be great at networking, be clear on your priorities and boundaries, keep up with the trends, use the gadgets, create your own style of authentic leadership and have great planning skills. Work out the point of difference or value that you bring and then really align around that.
Are your feet big enough to fill Rod Drury's shoes? Where will you start?
Firstly, by not trying to be him. I need to play to my strengths, carve out my own space and bring my point of difference to the market. I tend to be a connector or translator; I work on understanding and getting the vision, then connecting people to the why, what and how. I have a great network of fellow leaders and I really hope to work with these people on New Zealand Inc issues. I'm also interested in promoting women, youth, Maori and Pasifika people, and the use of technology by SMEs.
What makes a star recruit?
Attitude – hands down. You can develop or teach most other things.
<How would you describe your leadership MO?
I have a vision to motivate and engage – to get everyone on the same page through strategy and a big focus on execution, performance and learning. I’m open and approachable and really passionate about supporting and developing people. It's critical to find motivators beyond money – people love to have a purpose to their work. I strive to lead by example.
What's been the toughest call of your career?
There were two; both around people. Early in my career, it was shutting down my remote marketing office, and more recently, making some big channel changes that impacted people's businesses and lives. Change can be tough on people, even when it is the right, and sometimes the only, thing to do. How you manage that change is very important, and a good leader can make all the difference between what could be a horrible experience in someone's career or life, to one that is manageable.
How do you throw off the office shackles?
I love outdoor stuff – running, biking, bush walking, swimming, kayaking, getting out with the kids on our jet ski on the harbour. I love music. And the big thing is my family. Work/life balance is hard – it’s just something I have to be flexible with and stay on top of. Trying to maintain a balance has certainly required me to develop of a whole lot of planning skills.
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