micenet speaks with Australian expats about the good, the bad, and the uncertainty of moving your career abroad.
GLOBAL SALES & MARKETING DIRECTOR
BASED IN AMERICA
Did you have any concerns or uncertainties before moving overseas?
Everything was uncertain! Andy Sharpe (Song Division founder) and I had only been married for two weeks and we were uprooting our lives and moving to the USA where we had no friends or family. We didn’t know if what we were doing in Australia with Song Division would translate in the US. It really was a leap into the unknown on every level.
How have you found this change rewarding?
A few days after landing in the US, Lehman Brothers crashed. It was a disastrous time to be launching a company that specialised in team-building and corporate entertainment as all spending in that area was stopped. Plus any funds we had from Australia had halved in value as a result of the plummeting Aussie dollar. I had to find other work to support us until the business could sustain us both again.
Although things seemed impossible at the start, it proved to be a defining moment for us. We forged on, despite the onset of the GFC, and within one year we were doing major events with global pharmaceutical companies for 3000 people and experiential marketing campaigns for destinations such as VisitBritain and Swiss Tourism. When we look back we see that launching and being successful in those tough times really made us stand out with our industry peers and clients.
Do you consider America your new home?
As much as our friends and family would hate to hear it, yes. For the moment anyway. We’ve been here for five years and built a strong network of friends both inside and outside the industry. We like the way business is done here and we have such an amazing team in Australia that they do a fantastic job without us being there all the time! That said, we are fortunate to spend February and March of every year back in Australia to see the team, spend time with our family, and attend industry events.
Do you think there are any particular character qualities necessary for someone who wants to work in the international events field?
An open mind. You really have to embrace your new home and culture. You don’t have to change who you are but it’s not an ‘us’ and ‘them’ situation. I hear too many times “the food is this” or “they say that” and yes, it’s different, yes it’s funny, but you’re the one in their space now.
You also need patience and tenacity. It’s not going to be easy, you won’t have the support structure you have at home, so you need to draw on your strengths when things don’t go quite the way you planned.
What tips would you give to someone who wanted to expand their career overseas?
Visit the country or countries you are considering first. See if you like the surroundings, the people and the culture. Look into the industry organisations that exist there and build a support network. I’m continually impressed with the Australians I meet here in the industry that have just “made the move” and are doing well here. I think if you’re even considering it, you should just do it!