Expanding career options

Sophie Duggan
  • Senior customer experience specialist, Xero

Napier-based Sophie Duggan was working as a customer experience specialist at Xero when she decided she wanted to expand her career options in the accountancy sector.

Sophie’s role saw her helping clients with payroll products, though she wanted to learn more about business and accountancy so she could support her clients with a broader range of products and services.

“We’re a global company, so I can work from Napier with customers in Australia, the UK, and even South America. I love being able to work with people anywhere in the world from my home here in Napier, it’s an amazing global approach,” Sophie says.

With the support of her employer, Sophie enrolled in the New Zealand Diploma of Business (Level 5) at the Open Polytechnic.

“For me going back to study was about picking up the accounting side of things so I could work towards account technician positions to open up my career opportunities.”

Sophie received a scholarship through her employer Xero which enabled her to study part-time while working full-time.

Distance learning

Because Sophie was working full-time and raising a 4-year-old daughter, she wanted to study with an online tertiary provider that enabled her to fit study around other commitments.

“I had done tertiary study before, so this was an opportunity to pick it up again. I like learning at my own pace and online learning gives me that opportunity. I can choose what pace I work at, and can slow things down when necessary when life gets busy,” she says.

Support to succeed

Through the scholarship Sophie received, Xero funded her study and gave her two paid study days each trimester to prepare for exams.

“They’ve also given me flexible working hours so I can take on study, so they’re really supportive of making it work for me,” she says.

“I loved the support from Open Polytechnic. You could use the talk function on the online course page to chat to support staff, and you could email them whenever and you’d always get a timely response. Staff were really friendly and they would always point you in the right direction. Even though it was virtual and you’re learning online, you’d get the same support you’d get in a classroom environment.”

“What I loved about my experience, is that even though study is done online, I’ve made amazing connections with other learners. You don’t always need to lean on your tutor or online support, so make use of your classmates like you would in a normal class room.”

Impact on work

Studying has provided Sophie with skills she’s been able to utilise in real time with her customers.

“I can provide more well-rounded answers to our customers, rather than having to pass queries over to someone else to handle. I can handle things like business financials on a daily basis, and provide analysis and advice to customers.”

“The courses on accounting processes and the context of management helped me understand the everyday financial processes that small business will be going through. The financial analysis and taxation course was also amazing. That’s helped me in understanding reports so when I’m working with customers I can give a more holistic view of their business’ performance.”

Reaping the rewards

Since completing the New Zealand Diploma in Business (Level 5), Sophie has received a promotion from her employer.

“As a senior customer experience specialist, I’m now supporting the team with queries from customers and coaching and mentoring our agents on finding solutions for customers,” she says.

“Through study and the broader range of skills I’ve picked up, I’ve been helping our education team deliver content for Xero’s online courses. I’m helping write content, and am supporting the learning design by helping guide the next steps for courses so people can progress and pick up knowledge.”

“Studying has taught me that everyone has different learning styles and that’s been so useful at work when training people. I have way more perspective on different ways of learning and teaching. Being in a classroom and dictated to isn’t how everyone learns, so it’s adapting to find the best way to pass on knowledge that engages staff and is meaningful for them.”

Future goals

Sophie plans to undertake further study so she can delve further into the accountancy field.

“The next step is to do the Chartered Accountant course to get a formal accountant technician qualification, so I can explore more opportunities at work and in the industry. Long term, I’m looking at potentially doing a Bachelor of Accountancy.”

“I like the business advisory side of accounting, so I’d like to support small businesses in streamlining financials and operating more efficiently.”


What I loved about my experience, is that even though study is done online, I’ve made amazing connections with other learners. You don’t always need to lean on your tutor or online support, so make use of your classmates like you would in a normal classroom.