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Jamileh is originally from Afghanistan.
She arrived in New Zealand five years ago as part of the refugee quota programme with no formal education but big ambitions.
She immediately started learning English and enrolled in school, graduating after just four years.
“New Zealand opened my eyes to so many opportunities which helped me to achieve my education dreams,” Jamileh says.
Nanmyat is originally from Myanmar.
She was forced to flee her home as a young adult and spent 20 years in a refugee camp on the Thai-Myanmar border.
Eventually she was resettled in New Zealand as part of the refugee quota programme.
“It was difficult to survive when we arrived because of the language barrier,” she says.
“We knew we had to study because it was the only way to get a job.”
So Nanmyat began learning English and went back to school to finish the accounting degree she’d started over two decades earlier.
The two women are at opposite ends of the north island but are united by their work at Xero.
The New Zealand based accounting software company recently created two positions in their team specifically for former refugees.
Jamileh and Nanmyat successfully applied for the roles in Wellington and Auckland.
The company was looking for new talent and had a meeting with immigration to discuss ways to attract the best and brightest to New Zealand.
“They talked us through the channels through which people come to New Zealand and one of them was the refugee quota programme,” says Linda Bateson, head of people experience at Xero.
“They initially thought we wouldn’t be interested in that pool of candidates but our CEO thought we had a duty to support the refugee resettlement programme.”
After reviewing their business, Xero decided there was room to create two new positions.
“We thought about what type of roles that could develop a person so that they could grow into it,” says Ms Bateson.
They settled on roles in the facilities team because it would provide the employees with exposure to all aspects of the business and allow them to grow their careers.
With help from Pathways to Employment they found some suitable candidates.
Jamileh and Nanmyat impressed everyone in their interviews.
“She was very passionate about wanting to work here,” recalls assistant facilities manager, Ashley Jayasekara, about Nanmyat’s interview.
“She has an accounting degree and has used Xero in the past which was cool. So she really put herself out there.”
“Jamileh was definitely the strongest candidate for the Wellington role,” says Sarah Reading, facilities manager at Xero.
“Her enthusiasm was there and she had a real want to give back to New Zealand. She feels very lucky to have been given this opportunity and this is her way of giving back.”
Both women are now excelling in their roles and thinking about their employment future.
Jamileh is keen to continue her study, something Xero is supportive of. She was working toward a degree in business administration, but put it on hold when she was hired by Xero. Now she would like to finish it and utilise the skills in her workplace.
“I’m looking forward to doing more here in the future, which they are going to help me with,” she says.
Meanwhile Nanmyat has her heart set on making the most of her accounting degree.
“At the moment I’m happy working with the facilities team because it’s such an important role,” she says.
“After that I’d like to learn more about the business and improve myself as well.”
Her supervisor is also supportive of Nanmyat’s ambitions at Xero.
“I know she has an idea about going into the accounting field so helping her achieve that goal would be a really cool thing for me,” says Ashley.
Xero is also excited by the prospect of continuing to support the refugee resettlement programme by engaging with Pathways to Employment whenever the opportunity arises.
Ms Bateson says when reviewing CVs from former refugees, they came across some skilled candidates who could be suitable for roles at Xero when they arise.
“When roles pop up in the future we will definitely reach out to Pathways to Employment to see if they have any suitable candidates.”
How to help
Our Pathways to Employment teams work with a range of clients from refugee backgrounds who have a wide variety of skills. If you're an employer with an available position, you can contact our Pathways to Employment teams here.