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After spending years as an expat in Melbourne and London, Georgia left a career working in design agencies to move back home and help out on the family farm. Kea sat down with Georgia to hear about her career journey and how she’s found her perfect role, using design to help small businesses around the world.

Georgia Cottrell

Georgia and Dan Cottrell, Auckland Food Show
Tell us a bit about yourself
I grew up in Taihape in the North Island and studied design at university in Wellington. After working as a designer in Melbourne and then London, I decided to move back home around four years ago. I now live in Auckland and work as a Product Design Manager at Xero. I'm into anything creative, such as restoring old furniture, taking pottery classes, going to galleries and seeing as much live music as I can. I try to balance that with getting outdoors, which Auckland makes easy with so many day walks and beaches to explore.
How did you become an expat?

After uni, I went straight to Melbourne to work in a design agency. It’s such a creative city and I loved the vibe. I stayed there for a few years before moving to London to work in another design agency. So I began my career as an expat and stayed overseas for about five and a half years. I always knew I wanted to work overseas, but I didn’t really have my career mapped out. I just kind of followed where it led me. By the time I moved back to New Zealand four years ago, I had moved from graphic design and branding to having a heavier focus on digital design and then product design.

What made you decide to move home?

I’d say family and friends. I love New Zealand and always saw myself coming home, it was just a matter of when. Being abroad for a long time really made me appreciate what we have here.

I also wanted to be here to help kick off the small business that I have with my brother and his wife. We grow quinoa on our family farm, where we grew up in Taihape. I’ve always felt really connected to home and the farm, even when I was living overseas. So it’s nice to still be there in a way, even though I live in Auckland.

How are you involved in the business?

I have more of a creative role, so managing things like marketing, packaging, photography, the website - that sort of thing. My work experience has definitely helped, because you can’t bring a product to market without those elements. But everyone brings their skills and experience to the table - it’s a real family effort!

We use Xero for the business, which is really handy. I spend my days solving problems for small businesses at work, but to see the real-life challenges my family goes through in our small business and understanding them on a personal level really brings it home. It’s been a really interesting journey, starting a small business and trying to make it work.

Why did you choose to work at Xero?

When I was thinking about moving home, Xero was definitely on my radar. They were already making waves overseas and I thought it would be nice to work for a New Zealand company when I got back.

It was a different role for me, because I’d spent my career working in agencies. But I liked the idea of working in-house and being able to truly nurture a project beyond any client deadline. We have the time and space to go deep on the research, which you often don’t get to do in agencies.

I also liked the idea of flexible working. At the moment, my hours are eight to four thirty. So over summer it means I still have time to go to the beach or spend time outdoors. I work from home sometimes - right now I’m at my family’s farm in Taihape. That flexibility is totally accepted at Xero, which is wonderful.

What advice do you have about coming home?

I definitely found working for a global company helped me ease back into life in New Zealand. At the time, I wasn’t sure how long I would stay or whether I would leave again. I thought maybe I’d go and live in the United States for a while. So working for a company with offices around the world makes me feel like that’s still an option.

I like that I get to travel for work - I was in Melbourne last week and I’ve been to Denver to kick off a project there. We went skiing which was amazing. I’m also going to the UK soon to kick off another project. It’s nice to still have that international connection, even though I feel quite settled at the moment and probably won’t move anytime soon.

Stepping into a manager role has been an exciting challenge - I’m learning a lot about growing and building teams while still being involved in the design process. So I think finding a role that challenges and inspires you is important. At Xero we get to solve really complex problems and also get the satisfaction of knowing we are helping small businesses like the one I have with my brother and his wife. It’s really fulfilling. I love being home - I’ve never looked back

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

Georgia Cottrell's Family Quinoa Farm

Georgia Cottrell's family on the quinoa farm

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 here.


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Part 12