Life as a Brit working in Comms in Australia

The stunning Sydney city skyline

This week I was very excited to begin a new role as a Communications Manager at Transport for London. It’s a new challenge in more ways than one because it’s my first role back in London after nearly four years living and working in Sydney, Australia.

As I adjust back to life in London, it feels like a good time to reflect on the experiences I had in Sydney and share them so that they might be useful to anyone else considering a period of time working overseas.

Back then, as a Brit arriving ‘Down Under’, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the workplace, my colleagues and what opportunities I might find along the way.

Finding a job 

I was lucky enough to secure my first contract role within a few weeks of arriving in Sydney. I was advised to seek short contract roles to begin with to quickly build my reputation and networks in the city.

  • In Australia, there’s really just one place to look online for a job in Communications. The website is a great resource and one-stop-shop for opportunities, although you’ll also find more and more roles being advertised on LinkedIn too.
  • Breaking into the industry can be tough if you’re new to Australia, especially if you want to work in external communications. You’ll need to demonstrate an understanding of the media landscape from the off. As I mentioned, taking on short contract roles (perhaps at a lower level than the role you really want), is a great way to build your credibility.
  • Recruitment consultants won’t tend to engage with you until you’re in the country – it’s worth a try, but it’s best just to give them all a call as soon as you arrive to arrange meetings.
  • The industry is very small and people know each other – which is why your reputation is so important. Once you’ve proven yourself in one role, you’ll find it much easier to secure subsequent roles.

The way of working

  • Australians might speak English, but sometimes it can seem like a completely different language! I wrote about some of the differences I discovered on an earlier post ‘Why Aussies and Brits don’t speak the same language’.
  • Working patterns are different to the UK: since summer falls across  Christmas and New Year, long school holidays stretch from early December to the end of January. You might find businesses begin to wind down a few weeks before Christmas and Australia Day in late January is widely acknowledged as the date things really start to return to normal for the business year ahead.
  • Face-to-face communication can be difficult to maximise as a comms channel: Australia is a beast of a country – it’s a five hour flight from Sydney to Perth for example and 12 hours’ drive even between Sydney and Melbourne. National businesses across multi-sites do build face-to-face into communications, but it’s used sparingly and of course this can be a major challenge in engaging remote employees.
  • Major business hubs (in approximate order of prominence) are: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth. The capital Canberra is really a centre for Government.
  • Life in Australia is so varied and diverse, it’s really like nowhere else on earth. Remote townships in the Outback lie hours and hours drive from major cities. While Sydney and Melbourne aim to compete on a global scale in terms of business, culture and leisure. Not only does this make for a very varied workforce, but also a varied population in general. One of the most valuable trips I made was to the Outback town of Broken Hill, population 22,000, to understand what life was like for one of the franchisees of the business I was working for as Communications Manager. My advice is to travel as much as you can before you settle on where to live, so that you can to try and understand the culture of this place and what makes it tick. Real Australia is not Sydney!

And finally….

Australia is a friendly and positive place to live and I enjoyed every minute of the time I spent over there. Australians were fortunate enough to have not felt the impact of the GFC as much as the UK and it really shows. There’s a real sense of optimism, creativity and innovation which is infectious. There are so many opportunities in Australia to take advantage of – good luck!



The long game: Why gamification is now a strategic management tool for business

rock paper scissors game

Until this week, I’ve been a total gamification cynic.

My early memories of ‘gaming’ are the nightmares my brother had after playing Trolls on our family Commodore 64.

So, why would we want to use gaming at work? Why would we want to encourage employees to start gaming? Surely, gamification is just a fad, a ‘nice extra’ piece of fun we can offer staff for participation? But ultimately, something with not much more than novelty value?

I was wrong. Two things happened this week that have changed my mind. Firstly my team launched its own enterprise game (more on this in a later blog); secondly, I heard gamification expert Marigo Raftopoulous speak at Amplify Festival in Sydney.

Marigo’s fascinating session has persuaded me that gamification is here to stay and for Internal Comms pros, it’s going to be an incredible tool for staff engagement.

Here’s some of the top reasons Marigo advocates gaming in business and why gaming is here to stay:

  1. Gaming is now a strategic management tool – it’s not just for marketers
  2. Current business models are over – employees are bored, disengaged, uninspired
  3. Games reflect how humans like to interact. We naturally like to play. Check out this fantastic example from Stockholm where they trialled ‘gaming’ traffic speed cameras into a lottery: those that sped paid a fine, those that complied got the chance to win the money from the fines.
  4. Fun changes human behaviour positively. Interactive play increases alertness, learning and long-term memory.
  5. The potential for employee-led innovation and crowd-sourced solutions can be realised: In 2011, 240,000 players of the University of Washington’s ‘Fold-it’ took just ten days to help decipher the structure of an enzyme that had stumped scientists for 15 years. [Read more here]. Think what potential this has for employee-led innovation in business.
  6. Deeper customer experiences: Jay-Z used gaming to launch his memoirs Decoded. Since fans were already likely to buy the book, the real draw of the campaign was to deepen the engagement in the content and therefore Jay-Z’s connections with all of these fans.

At the end of the session I asked Marigo about her thoughts on the future of gaming. She predicted that gaming was here to stay – with Chief Engagement Officers managing a diverse team including a game designer and a game strategist, both of whom could partner with teams across the business to build gaming into business strategy.

I can’t wait to find out more about gamification and start to introduce some more games into my internal comms work to improve employee engagement.

More on gaming: