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Boomeranging: Expat to Repat
33 minutes | Sep 22, 2021
S2 Ep9: Season Wrap - The Covid Series
A special episode dedicated to all the COVID expat-repats – those Aussies who came home in the pandemic either as a direct result, a planned moved or in some cases just because they were passing through Australia when it all hit. Podcast producers Margot Andersen and Simone Pregellio share the expat stories from both the podcast and six months of conversations with Australians who have been part of the 600,000 contingent who have come home during COVID. On top of the normal repatriation challenges, these COVID repats have had some unique challenges. Navigating closed borders, coming home in the midst of lockdowns and trying to re-establish networks over Zoom. All while big changes are happening in the job market and stories surface of an impending skills shortage. In this episode Margot outlines the challenges and the opportunities she is discussing with expats today and how expats sitting overseas can prepare for their move back during these uncertain conditions.
45 minutes | Aug 1, 2021
S2 Ep8: Prue Clarke
It was the Aussie sense of adventure that took journalist Prue Clarke to New York in 2000, it was the American dream that kept her there for 19 years. Like most expats, Prue’s story started with a plan to be away for ‘just a year’. But when her ‘just a year’ included studying at the prestigious Columbia University, reporting on September 11 and meeting her very own Mr Big, plans change. After two years in New York, and reflecting on her experience with September 11, Prue decided she wanted to report more on the world’s ‘why’ than its ‘what’. She took a six-month job in Ghana in Africa which started a six-year tenure reporting for US and global publications from the developing world and sowed the seeds for her non-profit organisation New Narratives that she still leads today. New Narratives supports news media in low- income countries of Africa and the Pacific to empower them to tell their own stories. New Narratives and journalism in Africa have remained constant in Prue’s life which has taken her from New York to London, back to New York and then home to Sydney in 2019, with an American husband and two internationally-born children in tow. Managing such a life Prue attributes to ‘America’s dream big’ mentality and the influence of a city like New York where everything feels possible. She is now living in a world now that feels very restricted and, in this podcast, ponders the opportunities and risks for Australians like herself trying to maintain global organisations and connections. After spending nearly two decades reporting on both Australian and global stories, Prue also reflects on the impact the departure of hundreds of thousands of Aussie expats from overseas roles back home will have on ‘brand Australia’ internationally.
43 minutes | Jul 8, 2021
S2 Ep7: Andrew Whitford
Kissed on the backside by a fairy, is how expat Andy Whitford has described his luck being relocated back to Australia with an Asia Pacific role during COVID. After 15 years in Shanghai and Hong Kong and a previous expat life of six years in London, Andy was aware of how hard it could be to return home without a job. In recent years, this former CEO and Director of multiple Australian Chambers of Commerce in Asia had tried but failed to pursue board positions with Australian companies because he wasn’t ‘local’ to Sydney or Melbourne. In one head-hunter’s words, ‘a board director wants to be able to have a drink at the club with you’. Leadership, Asian experience (and Zoom it seems) was not enough. Fortunately, in 2019, Andy was approached by an organisation that thought differently which is why in Hong Kong he was able to transition from leading a bank to leading a successful UK based research, intelligence and campaigns consultancy. From the outset, this organisation had sought his Asian know-how, his deep networks and his start-up experience. His campaign knowledge – was taught on the job. Andy acknowledges how lucky he was to come home with a great role and to be able to then live in his home-town of Melbourne surrounded by family. He reflects on what has and has not changed for expats returning home over the last two decades. With record numbers of Australian talent coming home over the last year, we ask him what he thinks needs to change to better help professional expats when they return and for Australia to maximise the brain gain opportunity.
30 minutes | Jun 22, 2021
S2 Ep6: Michael Ellis
“I wish I knew how it would be to be free.” Nina Simone This was the song that Michael Ellis used to describe his year of lockdown in the UK and his decision (and subsequent adventure) to get back home after 19 years living in London. In February, when UK COVID deaths were at over 1,800 a day, Michael secured a spot on a very happy DFAT repatriation flight. Prior to COVID, Michael had no intention of coming home. He had a great career and established life overseas and as long as he could come home at least once a year, it was a lifestyle he wanted to continue. But the forced separation from family, particularly in the lead up to his father’s 80th birthday, forced a re-think, as it has for so many Australians living overseas. Upon returning to Australia after a year of living on his own in lockdown, Michael took advantage of his new found freedom in Australia with an epic road trip from Darwin to Melbourne following the compulsory two weeks of quarantine. Now back, he is now navigating and enjoying a very different life back in Australia. But he has not yet answered the question, will he stay?
26 minutes | Jun 8, 2021
S2 Ep5: Sarah Ntiamoah
For Change Manager Sarah , coming home from ten years in London was a change she thought she could handle. Like any project, she planned ahead. She started thinking and planning two years in advance, secured a job and didn’t lose so much as a sock during the relocation thanks to her expertise in project management and excel. So why did Sarah, who had spent a decade advising global companies in change, ring a friend after six weeks of arriving home and ask the question ‘What have I done?’ Fast forward two years and Sarah is one happy and settled Sydney-sider but she acknowledges that in the beginning she was not quite prepared. For Sarah, ‘reverse culture shock’ was very real but once she was aware of it, she found it easier to ride out the rest of her change curve. Along with her story, Sarah shares her tips for others embarking on the repat journey.
34 minutes | May 25, 2021
S2 Ep4: Nicole Webb
Nicole had a great career in Australia as a well-regarded journalist and newsreader with Sky News when her hotelier husband James was offered a new role, first in Hong Kong and then in the ancient Chinese city of Xi’an. For Nicole, the initial transition was challenging – her whole professional identity until that time had been ‘journalist’, and the role of English-speaking newsreader didn’t quite work in mainland China. Wanting to work, but realising she needed to change what ‘work’ would look like, Nicole began building a portfolio of roles which included freelance writer, MC and media trainer. She built her portfolio steadily while she lived in Hong Kong however, she found herself pivoting again in Xi'an, when language became more of a consideration. While living in Xi'an, Nicole returned to her roots and started interviewing differing people she met – but not for the news rather to capture her experience living as one of 1,000 expats in a city of 9 million people. Returning to Australia in 2017, this research ultimately became the foundation for her latest role – best-selling author. China Blonde was released in late 2020 and is Nicole and her family’s story of living in Xi'an. As blondes.
32 minutes | May 11, 2021
S2 Ep3: Michael Waite
Michael Waite, his wife Whitney and three kids were on an 18-month global adventure, popping back to Australia for the Southern Hemisphere summer to visit family when COVID and family tragedy struck. With travel grounded, the former Seattle-based family had to put away their backpacks and establish a home living in between Normanville and Naracoorte, two regional towns in South Australia, starting a total rethink on their three-to-five year plan. With regional South Australia home for the immediate future, Michael, a senior finance executive who ran for State Treasurer of Washington State in 2016, embarked on an unusual COVID side project, starting the Naracoorte News, which created his own headlines. Now he and his wife, a highly experienced paediatrician, are keen to ignite their careers while living in a regional area. Facing multiple challenges of trying to reshape international experience into a local market and a regional one at that, the Waite’s are asking themselves if staying is more short than medium term.
33 minutes | Apr 28, 2021
S2 Ep2: Bridget John
For six years prior to annus horribilis, Bridget John had been living a globally nomadic life between home bases in France, Morocco and Australia. She balanced work as a freelance brand consultant with building her vintage Moroccan textiles business all from the road. It was a lifestyle she had curated for herself borne from her love of travel and living overseas. Bridget’s experiences of living abroad included living in England as a child and in her 20s and moving to the Basque Coast of France in 2015 with Quiksilver as the Global Trade Marketing Director at their global headquarters. After a few years of carrying her career and laptop across Europe and Australia, she finally set up a home in Marrakech in 2019. A ‘quick trip’ home to Melbourne in February 2020 for two weeks to visit family has turned into an extended stay and a total re-think of her business and life on the other side of the world. Bridget shares how she pivoted her business back here in Australia, while packing up an apartment in Morocco remotely, and her hopes for positive change within the digital nomad community.
44 minutes | Apr 13, 2021
S2 Ep1: Shane Masters
Over the last few years, Shane Masters has tried three times to come home. Past attempts have been thwarted by a lack of job opportunities which matched his background and experience. When he first left home for overseas after university, it was easier to get a job as a lawyer in London than it was at home. Then it became easier to stay overseas because that was where the demand for his experience in Ag Tech came from rather than a job in Australia where, as he was once told, despite his many years of international experience and new MBA, he would have start from the bottom. Again. Shane finally cracked the code to returning home in 2020 after proactively building networks in Australia while overseas. With the job opportunity and family sorted – you could think it was finally plain sailing for Shane. Until you added COVID into the mix. It took Shane and his family five months, countless cancelled trips, $52,000 worth of booked flights and a nervous drive to Belgium from France (to avoid a train strike) to finally arrive back in Adelaide in August 2020. The six-month ordeal put enormous additional stress on Shane, particularly when he returned home to hear the unsympathetic chorus of some Australians who thought ‘all expats could have come back when the Government told them to…’ If only it was that easy. Shane has been long aware of the challenges to mental health being both an expat and repat can bring. He founded the ‘Australia Day Games’ when he was living in Sweden to provide a supportive network for Australians living away from home. Now back in Adelaide, he is also acutely aware of the mental health challenges returned expats are facing, particularly in the face of COVID. He’s even thinking of bringing the Australia Day Games….to Australia. So get your inflatable sharks ready, Shane and his throwing competition could be coming to a town near you.
40 minutes | Mar 23, 2021
Bonus Episode: Margot Andersen
Turning the mic on Insync Network Group founder Margot Andersen to hear her expat tale and motivation for setting up the network and podcast.
42 minutes | Dec 14, 2020
S1 Ep6: Ben Deguara
Rugby boots and guitars – these are Ben Deguara’s secret weapons for integrating into a new life overseas. And he should know – he has done it twice already at opposite ends of the world. Ben is our series first “double boomeranger”. His first expat journey was to London for four years, starting an overseas career in financial services on the day of the global financial crisis. He returned to Sydney and just when he was getting back into the groove of Sydney life two years later, he was offered an opportunity to move to Hong Kong. Now he’s back – but doesn’t rule out a third overseas adventure in the future. Ben approached his second expat journey very differently to his first. The experience of coming home from London and facing not only friends and family who couldn’t relate to his overseas journey but the indifference shown by recruiters to his international experience meant he was a lot more prepared the second time around. In Hong Kong, he made sure he kept his connections in Australia close and started preparing for his return nearly a year before he finally made the leap. As for rugby boots and guitars – Ben used his hobbies as ways to meet lifelong friends that he has today. So if he does go again, I am sure these are the first things that get packed.
37 minutes | Dec 14, 2020
S1 Ep5: Glen Falting
Some people collect snow domes from countries they visit, Glen and his wife collected children. Their stints as an expat couple in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore all symbolically marked with the birth of kids – and doubly celebrated in Hong Kong with the arrival of twins. When they arrived in Brisbane after almost two decades abroad, they faced a dual challenge of dealing with the grief of the end of an overseas adventure and four children who struggled to name all of Australia’s states and territories. Like many expat families, Glen wanted his kids to have the right balance of feeling like a global citizen at the same time as having a good sense of where they belonged. So after ten years in Singapore and another decade before this in Tokyo, Hong Kong and London, Glen and his wife made the difficult decision to return home. This was a bit of a shock for the kids who had only ever really experienced Australia on holidays. Glen recounts the family attending the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast and seeing his kids barrack for Singapore. For Glen and his wife, the transition was tough too. His wife lost her network and for Glen, he had to adjust to creating a career in Brisbane, after having a big role in a regional hub like Singapore. But what started with a sense of grief, Glen now says is the best decision the Faltings have ever made. The kids are becoming little Aussies and Glen and his wife have started their own law firm – using their global contacts and experience to help overseas businesses in Australia.
33 minutes | Dec 14, 2020
S1 Ep4: Mandy Mirghashini
For Mandy, the decision to move to the Hague with her family was a case of taking an opportunity to walk in the shoes of the people she had spent her career advising. As a HR professional in global mobility for Shell, there was no better way to understand the experience of the expat and then repat than to live it herself! Mandy’s journey wasn’t a solo one – she left Melbourne for the Netherlands in 2008 with her husband and her 18 month old son. She reflects that the expat journey was different for every family member. For her engineer husband, the early years were focused on looking after their young son whilst trying to study in a foreign language. When they moved to Poland, he pursued remote learning and has created a new career path. For their son, he arrived in Australia on the cusp of high-school as a ‘third-culture’ kid with no experience of what it is like to grow up Australian. In some respects, it was Mandy’s day-to-day world with Shell that was the most consistent. She talks about the expat experience for family members being ‘not static’. It changes all the time for those who have had to adjust around the family member with the job and it is important to ‘check-in’ regularly. After a decade overseas, Mandy relocated back to Melbourne with Shell, only to find that the Australian head-office had moved to Perth! However, her experience of working as part of a global team where working remotely and across different time zones is the norm meant this wasn’t a hurdle and she was probably more prepared for COVID than most of us.
36 minutes | Nov 2, 2020
S1 Ep3: Jan McGrath
Jan told friends she was going to Hong Kong for a two-year adventure. Lucky no one held her mail, because she returned 18 years later via a life and career detour to the UK and the US. The initial lure overseas was the chance to launch HSBC’s world first chip-based technology for payments cards. Completing a unique project such as this meant that when she was finished, she was in hot demand and after Hong Kong moved to London and from there, to the US working with MasterCard. Along the way she met her American husband Larry and spent years in Arizona as step-mum to two American teens. After more than 15 years, her employer asked Jan “Where to next?” and to her own surprise, she said “home”. While it took 12 months to plan a role back home, it took Larry 60 seconds to grab shorts and thongs and say, “I’m in!” While she returned home with a role, her professional life was challenging. A lack of a local network nor an understanding from the market of what she had done in her career created a sense of disconnection. When she went out to find a new role – her 20-year international career in financial services was overlooked by the major banks. It was a difficult time. But while the traditional banks weren’t interested – Australia’s fintech sector certainly was. Jan is now working at Novatti, an innovative high growth payment services company and is an active mentor to founders and investors through work with Stone and Chalk. Her move from Sydney to Melbourne during COVID ironically has been her least dramatic. She is finally using her international skills to their greatest potential. Larry is still wearing shorts.
32 minutes | Nov 2, 2020
S1 Ep2: Jane Hollman
Jane had a coveted job as the Head of HR for the AFL when she decided to pack it all in to go to New York with nothing but a suitcase, a three-month tourist visa and a pair of itchy feet. Arriving during the GFC, her skills in HR and leadership were in hot demand, but for all the wrong reasons. One of her first career defining roles was helping American Express downsize their finance department by over 1,000 jobs. It was a bleak but challenging start to a five-year stint in New York, a city she always loved and still calls her second home. Long brunches, a love of film festivals and devotion to the NFL, all positive by-products. While in New York she held a number of senior HR positions with different financial services companies. She describes her time in New York as career defining, yet when she got home local recruiters considered her having been ‘out of the market for the last five years’ and showed an open hostility towards her international experience that still shocks her today. She spent twelve months looking for a role back home. That’s a lot of coffees. Combined with facing challenges in the job market, Jane felt restless – Australia wasn’t the country she had left. And she wasn’t the same either. But after 12 months, she started to find her groove using her resilience and change skills to undertake a number of contracts and advisory jobs. She now actively seeks out expats when she is advising businesses that are start-ups or growing – both for their resilience skills and their networks. She no longer feels the restless itch to return to New York. Well, almost. As long as the NFL isn’t on.
38 minutes | Nov 2, 2020
S1 Ep1: Bryce Corbett
Bryce was at the end of a two-year working visa in the UK working for SkyNews when he decided he wasn’t quite ready to come home. He was working for the entertainment desk and one day when habitually swapping his copy of “Heat” magazine for the finance desk’s copy of the “Economist” he stumbled on a job ad for a role that “no one ever gets”. He applied anyway, took a sick day and a Eurostar to Paris and the next ten years, as they say, are history. Over the next decade, on top of working for the International Chamber of Commerce as the Director of Communications, he met his wife, a professional dancer with the Moulin Rouge. Originally from Brisbane, his wife had already been in Paris for many years and like Bryce, initially thought she would end up with someone a ‘bit more exotic’ rather than a fellow Aussie but love in the City of Lights had other ideas. Together they built a life in Paris, also writing books about their experiences, before returning home ten years later with two children (with French passports) in tow. Arriving back into Sydney, Bryce recounts enormous culture shock, somewhat brought on by trying to adjust to the light and heat of an Australian summer after 12 European winters. He talks about the first few months of uncertainty, the feeling of ‘what have we done?’ and how quickly the rose-coloured glasses for Paris were put on. He was fortunate to have secured a job as Executive Editor of the Woman’s Weekly before returning home - but it wasn’t easy. He describes during the job search, many conversations with people who seemed to ignore or discount his 12 years abroad, preferring to talk about the last job he had in Australia. He said it was like his career and life overseas had been ‘paused’ in the minds of many people. Fortunately, Bryce’s time in Paris had taught him the power of reinvention and resilience. After the Women’s Weekly, Bryce continued his journalism career with stints at the AFR and 60 Minutes and now is a strategic communications adviser for Domestique Consulting co-author of Unmasked Turia Pitt and A Mother’s Story by Rosie Batty plus the host and creator of Squiz Kids. He and his family now live in Brisbane where they have settled and got used to the light.
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