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.