Ten Australians Who Are Nailing It Abroad
If you reckon you could make it overseas, these young Aussies might provide some inspiration.
Brought to you by The Australian National University
We’ve teamed up with the thought leaders at ANU to take a look at some Australians doing big things abroad.
The temptation to move overseas and try your luck far from home is a constant low-key itch that periodically flares up whenever life feels a bit hamster-wheely, you see photos of someone from high school having the time of their life at a foreign university, or Tony Abbott says something terrible.
It’s a daunting and slightly overwhelming prospect, but adapting to different countries and new, unfamiliar cultures can be as rewarding as it is challenging; as these ten young Aussies have found, if you have the guts to step outside of your comfort zone there’s plenty you can do to make a mark on the global stage.
From working with impoverished kids and helping rebuild communities after natural disasters, to taking Bollywood by storm and founding a tech startup, they’re evidence that exploring this big blue marble of ours can lead you down some pretty inspiring paths.
Institutional Partnerships Manager, ActionAid
Heading to the world’s most dangerous territories in order to help those in need isn’t your typical career path, but Casey McCowan’s job is anything but typical. Working for international development agency ActionAid — which also focuses on women’s rights — Casey’s role as Institutional Partnerships Manager has seen her working on women’s rights and agriculture programs in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Uganda and Ghana, as well as helping with the earthquake response in Nepal.
Currently on her way to Palestine, she and her ActionAid colleagues deliver aid with a focus on designing an array of programs and helping secure aid funding from the Australian government. “The most rewarding part of my job is visiting the communities where we work and consulting with them on what they think would work best in a project,” says Casey. “Communities themselves are incredibly resilient and have the answers themselves to what will work best. The dedication and commitment of our local staff never ceases to amaze and inspire me.”
Consultant, UNICEF China
Working as a consultant with UNICEF China to provide expertise and guidance to UNICEF China’s Education and Child Development Section, Lisa helps China’s most disadvantaged kids access quality education. Born in Guizhou, China’s poorest province, Lisa grew up in Canberra, studied at ANU and received a scholarship to Harvard, before eventually becoming a lawyer and teacher. Lisa’s work focuses on educational equality, visiting project sites in Western China and working with the Ministry of Education and other experts to develop policies, strategies and advocacy to bring their work to life.
“Being in China is a unique opportunity to live through and experience this period of history when the world has its eyes on this rising superpower,” says Lisa. “Working in China, in any sector, means trying to make sense of the scale and change – with 274 million children within its billion-plus population and current transition to the world’s largest economy, combined with working in a predominantly Mandarin-speaking environment in a country with plenty of unspoken cultural nuances, is an often overwhelming, interesting and intense experience.”
If you’re not familiar with Pallavi Sharda’s name, it might be because your Bollywood knowledge isn’t quite up to scratch. The Australian actress — who was born in Perth and grew up in Melbourne — is one of the biggest names in Indian cinema. After graduating Law, Media and Communications and French degrees in Melbourne, Pallavi moved to Mumbai to follow her dream of acting in Bollywood and breaking into Indian cinema.
Pallavi landed roles in Bollywood films such as Dus Tola, Walkaway, Love Breakups Zindagi and Heroine, before breaking big in hits like Besharam and Hawaizaada, as well the Australian/Indian feature Save Your Legs. Pallavi also works for a number of NGOs in India promoting the empowerment of women, and, amazingly enough, returned home for 2015’s White Night and Moomba Festival in Melbourne, where she took over Birrarung Marr and was appointed Queen of Moomba for the year. Her ‘King’ of Moomba? Shane Warne.
LookBooker co-founder Giorgia Rossi and business partner Renee Robbi were working as consultants in different cities and were surprised that it was easier to book a round-the-world flight, takeaway food, or a doctor’s appointment than it was to book a haircut. Seeing a niche in both the tech and styling market — and, as Giorgia explains, they were both “users in need of the service we now provide” — LookBooker was born.
Based in New York, Giorgia’s role is ever-evolving; raising capital, managing the LookBooker team and liasing with LookBooker’s small business clients to improve the platform. While she admits that being a woman in the tech world is a challenge — saying that it’s “harder than I thought it would be” — Giorgia’s adamant that “there’s never been a better time to be a woman in technology.”
“Women now account for the majority of traffic and engagement on social media, we dominate e-commerce spending, control a whopping 80 percent of offline consumer spending and these trends are all converging to see some incredible female-led companies, platforms and marketplaces emerge,” Giorgia says.
Director of Capital & Growth for the Akilah Institute for Women
Working from New York City, ANU graduate Neil Pharaoh’s role involves managing, growing and developing Akilah’s marketing, communications, fundraising and development, as well as coordinating how the international aid agency engages with governments and multinationals.
Focusing on women’s and girls’ education and employment in East Africa, Neil’s role with Akilah has seen him travel to Hong Kong, Rwanda and Burundi, while working with partners in Monaco, Australia and beyond. Neil has also worked with the Foundation for Young Australians, the Children’s Protection Society and The Australian Red Cross Blood Service, as well as bringing the Nexus Youth Summit to Australia to help young people understand how philanthropy can be done differently. There, he says, he was able to work toward “making sustainable improvements in people’s lives, and create a better generation than today.”
“Reward for me is seeing you making a positive difference in the lives around you. Outside of that though, the friend, connections and mates I now have across the world means ‘home’ is not just Australia,” Neil says.
Editorial Advisor, Radio Miraya
South Sudan has seen more than its fair share of troubles since its founding in 2011 and Irene Scott has been right in the thick of it working for Radio Miraya, a quasi-public service United Nations radio station in South Sudan focusing on news and current affairs (plus educational programming and music). Irene acts as an editor for local South Sudanese journalists, helping create new programs to help improve dialogue on topics such as gender equality, child marriage, abductions and child soldiers, humanitarian assistance and other tricky social and cultural issues.
In South Sudan the concepts of freedom of the press and free speech “still have a long way to go,” says Irene, but she’s also inspired by the journalists who returned to the country when it gained independence in 2011 “to help build this new nation.” And with journalists faced with abduction, detention and death threats, the most rewarding part of her job, she says, is working with “the bravest people in the whole country.”
Artist Manager, Vitalic Noise
After five years of managing and repping some of the best bands in the country through the Staple Group, artist manager Jerry Soer decided to take a massive plunge and move to Los Angeles in 2011 in order to further the careers of the bands he worked with. Now, along with his business partner Justin Katerburg in management company and boutique record label Vitalic Noise, Jerry helps oversee a diverse and successful roster of acts that now includes Hermitude, DCUP, option4, Miami Horror, Viceroy, BASECAMP, K-OS, Banoffee, Wunder Wunder, Chela, Gold Fields, Eric Dubowsky, and BoyGenius.
Jerry says that even if dealing with visas and being away from family and friends is tough, “building a creative community around our artists, photographers, designers, video producers and fellow managers and label owners,” makes it all worthwhile: “It’s a very good time to be living in Los Angeles and working in the entertainment industry.”
Executive Director, Centre for Effective Altruism
Figuring out where you should donate your money is tricky business, but Robert Wilbin is trying to make sure that charity donations go to where they’re needed most. Working towards improving the world with new ways of approaching philanthropic ventures, Robert’s role at the Centre for Effective Altruism involves “a combination of long-term strategy, fundraising and firefighting,” he says. “It has allowed me to gain a lot of management skills very quickly and build an amazing network of likeminded people around the world.”
A World Economic Forum Global Shaper, Robert also worked for the Department of Innovation and the Treasury while he was studying at ANU, and has worked as part of the ‘Giving What We Can’ project, which has seen high-net worth people pledge at least ten percent of their incomes to relieve the suffering caused by extreme poverty.
But Robert says that the most rewarding aspect of his role “is meeting inspiring and entrepreneurial young people who want to improve the world, and being able to help place them in a job or career track that will allow them to have a fulfilling career while making a huge difference to the lives of others.”
Diplomat (Third Secretary), Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade
After graduating with a combined Bachelor of Asian Studies (Specialist)/Bachelor of Laws (Honours) at ANU, along with a year studying at Tsinghua University in Beijing, Australian diplomat Helen Zhang worked as a commercial lawyer in banking and finance with an Australian law firm in both Beijing and Hong Kong, but now works for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Tel Aviv, Israel. Working on Middle Eastern regional security and multilateral issues, Helen says her Australian/Chinese heritage is extremely helpful in allowing her to grasp “the diverse tapestry of Israeli society and why the situation here is so complex – socially, politically and religiously.”
Her role as a diplomat involves representing Australian interests overseas, through “bilateral meetings with the host government” as well as “through our public diplomacy projects” which have included the Australian Film Festival in Israel. She adds that best part of being posted overseas is meeting and engaging “a diverse range of interesting contacts on a daily basis,” and learning from them “to form my views on the issues in my portfolio.”
Actor, writer, Another Aussie in LA podcast host
Actor, writer and podcast host Ansuya Nathan grew up in Adelaide, moved to Sydney to study acting at NIDA, and has since seen her acting career take her to London and now to Los Angeles, where she acts, writes and hosts the excellent podcast Another Aussie in LA.
Ansuya’s acting work has seen her appear in movies such as Wait, Save Your Legs and Superman Returns, but since moving to LA she’s has become enamoured with all aspects of the film business. Her Another Aussie in LA podcast features Ansuya interviewing Australians in the entertainment industry about their Los Angeles experiences. She recently hit 100 episodes and celebrated with a live event that featured previous guests like Wil Anderson, Kimberley Cooper, Maude Garrett and Tim Minchin.
Ansuya says the podcast has connected her to the Australian expat community “in ways that I could have never have foreseen.
“Last year, it became the official podcast of Australians in Film, a wonderful organization that celebrates Aussie achievements in the industry and supports emerging talent,” Ansuya says. “It’s also incredibly satisfying when I hear from total strangers that they listen to the podcast and it has demystified Hollywood and given them encouragement and support.”
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Jaymz is a New York-based writer.