Behind the scenes: Belonging at Xero
Julia Dyer struggled with self-confidence for most of her life. Today, she’s thriving, playing a quiet but vital role in Xero’s success. She shares her powerful story.
Like most working mothers, Julia Dyer is well-versed in the art of juggling. On the afternoon I call, she’s working from home; her two young sons have just started school holidays. Julia reveals why she’s allowed the boys to bury themselves in their iPads all morning - she’s preparing to launch 45 events across the country next week. It’s enough to send anyone into a spin but I get the distinct feeling that Julia has it all under control. This calm confidence has seen her widely celebrated by her peers at Xero. She’s built the Company’s ‘Refresh’ events program from the ground up, and has organised and executed 232 events in just 18 months… and she’s done it all with a smile on her face. But this seemingly effortless confidence has been hard-fought and won for Julia, with several curve balls thrown her way over the years.
A tough start
Julia knows better than most how a challenging home life can leave you with scars that follow you through your personal and professional endeavours.
“Growing up in my home was never easy. My dad was a Ten Pound Pom from a broken home and my mother has lived with Multiple Sclerosis for over 55 years. This situation presents endless problems for my family, and has certainly taken its toll on me. My confidence was never great, and to this day I still struggle with never feeling good enough.”
When Julia hit her 20s, she took off for greener pastures in the UK. Exploring an unfamiliar environment far from home was a healing experience for Julia, who tapped into new-found independence and even met the man who would become her husband.
Upon returning to Australia as a newly-wed in 2001, Julia accepted a role with the National Gallery of Victoria.
“I worked in HR before moving into the Corporate Partnerships team after my first maternity leave period. I loved my time there; my manager and I had such a great relationship. We worked hard and we’d both get frustrated about various things, but we’d resolve everything and we’d laugh all the time!”
Julia followed her wonderful manager to a new organisation, but was devastated to find herself reporting to a new manager with none of the humour or understanding she was used to.
“My new manager treated me terribly; she was very threatened and there was a lot of bullying and intimidation. I worked on some great projects there but my mental health suffered greatly. I was in a very dark head space and had a breakdown. Eventually I had to pull the pin and leave. Nothing was worth feeling that way for - I had two beautiful boys and they needed me.”
Her confidence severely shaken, Julia decided to move away from the arts world. She took on an events role in the private sector, where a lovely new manager helped her regain some confidence. Shortly afterwards, opportunity came knocking.
“I saw a job at Xero that I just had to apply for. I still wasn’t feeling particularly good within myself, but I thoughtWhy not? I have nothing to lose. When I was offered the job I couldn’t believe my luck! I thought,Is this really happening to me?!”
A steep learning curve
Julia’s new role at Xero centred on building a suite of custom events from scratch, helping the sales team connect with their community partners. An organised, determined person by nature, the role seemed just the fit for her. But with niggling and all-too-familiar doubts creeping in, Julia battled to keep her head above water.
“When I walked through Xero’s door, I was damaged goods; I really did feel broken. About four weeks in, I had a talk with Bryan Williams, the head of our Ecosystem team. I was very overwhelmed and had a few tears. Understanding the scope of my job and building these events from the ground up was a lot. Bryan, who is an incredible mentor and person, said to me, ‘Jules, you’ve got this!’ He gave me some tips for moving forward and most importantly he believed in me. That’s all I needed - after that, I was away.”
Fostering a safe, supportive environment for Julia has proven a smart play by Xero. Not only is she producing incredible results - she’s enabling her peers to do the same.
“I love seeing everything come together. The sales team often laugh about my massive spreadsheet which has the details for each event going on - they say it gives them a headache! But they all access it and know that everything they need is right there. That gives them peace of mind, and helps them focus on what they do best. The sales team might be working with an accountant who is helping a farmer to use Xero. By using Xero, that farmer saves time, which can be spent on what is most important – like dealing with the drought. I am so grateful to be working with such an amazing and talented group of people who are having a massive impact on small businesses.”
It’s this vital behind-the-scenes work of creating events that gets Julia out of bed each and every day. She sees her role in the bigger picture and feels strongly connected to Xero’s mission.
“The sales team recently presented me with a beautiful bunch of flowers and spa voucher, to thank me for creating the events that have been so effective in connecting them with their communities. They told me I was a national Xero treasure! I was completely speechless and taken aback. This generous and kind gesture was purely driven by the Sales team which meant so much to me.”
Speaking to Julia, it’s hard to believe she’s struggled with confidence for much of her life. She seems to have everything in hand and is clearly excelling in her role. But Julia’s not one to beat her own drum. Her humble nature shines throughout our conversation, and she insists that she is just one of many moving parts that makes Xero a success.
“I look at the sales team and say,I could never do what they do!But I can do what I do. Being appreciated and valued for what I bring to the team means so much to me.”
I’m delighted to learn that Julia has recently won an internal Xero award, too. The award, voted for by fellow Xeros, celebrates those who continually live the company’s values: human, champion, ownership, beautiful and challenge. The award was conceived by the Managing Director of Australia and Asia, Trent Innes, to recognise the people who go above and beyond for their team, their workplaces and their customers.
Surrounded by motivated self-starters who own their success, celebrate the contributions of their colleagues and believe in living shared values, it’s no wonder Julia’s found her place at Xero.
About the Author
Mark Puncher is Employer Branding Australia’s Founder and Chief Energy Officer. Having spent much of the last 18 years with one foot in recruitment and the other in marketing, Mark loves helping fantastic, imperfect organisations bring their stories to life to engage their future superstars.
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