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Six years ago, Rosie Cox bought a one-way ticket to the UK with her boyfriend. They spent four years enjoying the expat life before returning to Auckland to get married and settle down among family and friends. Rosie tells us what drew them home to New Zealand and why it turned out to be the best move of her career.

Life in England as a Kiwi expat
My husband’s family lives in Brighton, England. So when we decided to live overseas for a while, we didn’t spend long thinking about where. Having family nearby made the transition so much easier - we both felt right at home as soon as we arrived. He got a job in IT and I started working at a retail design agency, working with architects and interior designers to design retail spaces, which was really interesting.

After two years, I realised that retail design wasn’t what I was passionate about, so I moved to a startup that built education apps for kids. That’s where I got my first taste of product design. There were a lot of late nights and long hours, but I loved the energy and excitement of being in a startup environment. And I really believed in the product, which I think makes all the difference.

I had the most wonderful experiences living and working in England. I travelled around Europe and gained valuable product design skills. But after another two years, it was time to decide whether we would continue our hectic life in Brighton or settle down in New Zealand. Once again, the choice was easy. We loved our expat adventure and all the travelling we got to do, but it was time to come home.

There’s no place like home
We really missed our family and friends in Auckland and how easy it was to enjoy a day at the beach or go for a walk in the forest. I’ll admit, I was a little apprehensive about coming home after being overseas for so long. Especially when it came to my career. There are a lot more roles available in a place like England and a lot more companies springing up. I wanted to keep moving forward in my career and not step back just because I moved home.

If I can offer any advice, it would be to take your time looking for a job and find a company that shares your values and will support you. My husband had found a job at Xero and kept telling me about how great the culture was, so as soon as I saw a product designer role available, I applied and got the job. You don’t usually get that kind of insight into a company before you join, so I was pretty lucky.

I also loved the idea of working for a New Zealand company and taking ownership of my work. In my previous roles, I would hand over the designs by the deadline and move onto the next thing, whereas at Xero I could continuously iterate on the designs and really see the product improve over time. To be honest, I was surprised to find a role where there was plenty of opportunity for professional growth. I’ve spent my career in smaller companies, so it was nice to have the security and structure of a global company. Not to mention the free coffee!

Enjoying the Auckland lifestyle
Since returning to Auckland, we’ve gotten married and bought a house, and I’ve been promoted to a product design manager role. I try to make the most of the flexible working arrangements at Xero, like starting work early in summer so we can head to the beach with friends in the afternoon. Having a good work-life balance also means I have more time to nurture my creative side, which is especially important to me now that I’m no longer so hands-on in my design role.

There’s something about working for a Kiwi company that you just don’t get anywhere else. Like the camaraderie among colleagues - it’s a really fun and social team. A few of us have joined the Xero netball team and we often do things outside of work together like taking a pottery class. This week we’re having a picnic in the park, which is a nice way to bring everyone in the design team together when they’re working on different projects across the organisation.

I’m loving the food back home too. We’re lucky that Auckland is a growing city and quite culturally diverse, so we can still meet new people and experience different cultures like we did overseas. I spend a lot of time with family and friends, so it’s great to have lots of new places to eat out. The only thing I miss about being an expat is that feeling of being immersed in a different region and culture - there’s nothing like it.

More adventures on the horizon
We’ve been back four years now and sometimes my husband and I have moments where we wonder if we should do another stint overseas. But the beauty of working for a fast-growing global company is that there’s always a possibility of taking a role in one of the many offices around the world. I’m always keeping an eye out for openings in a place that I’d like to live in. But New Zealand will always be home.

Are you in tech and thinking about coming home to New Zealand? Let Xero know you’re interested here.

Are you a Kiwi building a business overseas? Kea can help. We can provide personalised introductions to industry leaders for insights and advice. For more information, check out our Kea Connect service.
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Part 12