Accelo is a complete service operations automation solution tailored for professional services, helping to streamline business operations in one cloud-based platform.
Christine Higgins – who grew up in Wisconsin in the US but now calls Wollongong home – is co-founder and software engineer at Accelo.
What does Wollongong have to offer businesses?
In terms of retention it’s a strong offer. The number of people that we talked to and some who are starting to join our team who have been doing that commute up to Sydney. Now they’re at the point where they’ve got young families and Wollongong just offers a different lifestyle. And certainly from my perspective the lifestyle, you can’t beat it.
What words would you use to describe Wollongong?
Community. We’ve been talking about that and doing so made me realise how much that matters to me. It’s a huge part of what makes it feel like home.
Lifestyle. I think of the beach. I think of the escarpment. I think of the trees. I think of the birds. I just think of the beauty.
Home to me now too.
How would you describe the people of Wollongong?
Everyone’s so welcoming and engaging and passionate about what they do.
Each group that I get involved with, when you show interest, they just embrace you and bring you in. It’s so genuine.
I think that’s what’s made this a transition that I could do. Growing up, community was so important to me. If I didn’t find that same thing here, I don’t know if I would’ve been able to settle in the same way.
What has your experience been starting and growing a business in Wollongong?
It’s been an interesting journey. When we started, we had to ask ourselves: Are we really doing this? Is this going to be possible?
From the beginning I had said, “I have no idea where this is going to go, but I want to find out”.
We put a lot of work, a lot of effort in. It’s just been incredible to see it go from the four of us to now over 100 people in three continents, and it’s continuing to grow.
What did Wollongong have that helped you build this business?
The lifestyle, plus two of our co-founders are local, they grew up here.
I don’t think it was ever even on the cards to go away, because it had what we needed.
You can’t beat this lifestyle. Not needing to commute and with the environment, you’ve got the best balance right here.
We aren’t short on talent either with the [University of Wollongong] here, we’ve developed such a great relationship over the years.
Our development, design, QA team, and most of our product team are here in Wollongong. We couldn’t do that without the relationship to UOW and the great talent here.
The young developers that have joined our team straight out of uni, they’re asking the right questions. They’re thinking about the right things. They think about things deeper and want to understand and build.
How would you describe the change in the tech community here in recent years?
Five years ago, if we wanted to participate in tech talks, you were getting on that train and heading up to Sydney. And it’s fantastic, that it’s right there. It is still available.
But getting on that train to come back down and getting back after midnight, you could only do it so often. It’s even harder now with kids.
Seeing this tech community grow has been so fulfilling. Prior to COVID, every month or two, we would host events here with different groups (Siligong, Infracoders meetup). Seeing that grow and take off, it’s making such a difference.
With the concerted effort that Wollongong, the city in general, is doing to try to boost innovation and support this across the board is immense, and I see it continuing to grow.
Why is Siligong important?
Its been bringing us together. It’s helping us share the journey as well.
Just the challenges and working together to attract talent, with retaining talent. It’s that support.
And the people who are curious. People who want to continuously improve and continuously learn and continuously better themselves.
It really supports that, brings you together and keeps driving us forward.
It’s a community. That’s what it is. It’s not a competition or anything like that.
What do you most enjoy about Wollongong?
I’ve seen it grow so much in the last 10 years. The lifestyle that’s here is beautiful, I pan my camera out the window when I talk to friends on Skype.
You’ve got the ocean and escarpment within reach. You don’t get that in too many places in the world. I’m from landlocked Wisconsin. Coming to Australia was the first time I’d seen the ocean!