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The expats who came, conquered ... and stayed

Date

Sylvia Pennington

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After several moves within the US, Joe Kremer and his family decided to put down roots in Australia.

After several moves within the US, Joe Kremer and his family decided to put down roots in Australia. Photo: Supplied

A stint Down Under is often one of the more enjoyable rungs on the career ladder for rising executives looking to make their mark in a multinational company.

So much so that a two-year stretch can turn into forever for those who resist corporate calls to move onward and upward.

Forty-something American Joe Kremer, Dell's vice president for Australia, New Zealand and South Asia, is among those who've liked what they've seen and dug in their heels.

Dispatched from the hardware vendor's Texas headquarters in 2005 to run operations in Australia and New Zealand, Kremer had previously relocated within the US several times for work, and this time had prepped his family for a two- to three-year stay.

After two years in Sydney, the offers to move began to come – a significant job in Texas, a senior role in Europe, a transfer to Asia, another gig back home...

“With most multinationals, it's easier to progress your career if you're open-minded about geography,” Kremer says.

Reluctance to uproot his wife – herself the daughter of a corporate nomad – and three children played a large part in his decision to say 'no thanks' to the multiple opportunities dangled by Dell.

“She's had so many moves and she's so happy here,” Kremer says. “Happy wife, happy life … it's also a fabulous environment for children – clean, safe, good education, opportunities.”

Nine years on, he remains ensconced in a senior regional role and in 2013 the family became Australian citizens.

Kremer says he's fortunate that his employer has supported his choices and, with geography on the non-negotiable list to date, sent new challenges his way, including the chance to extend his jurisdiction to southern Asia.

“Dell has been fantastic,” Kremer says. “Over a period of time when you don't take assignments, you probably hold yourself up a bit … you have to find the right balance.”

For his part, Kremer says he's had to become 'very flexible' about the nature of his job and accept a gruelling travel schedule as part of the deal.

Sydney headhunter Ben Derwent says many expat executives find themselves pondering their work/life choices after calling Australia home for an extended period.

“We see many executives make their mark in Australia - destined for a bigger role within their multinational employer,” Derwent says.

“Australia is a tempting place to stay, often creating an interesting dynamic between lifestyle and career choice. Large global employers like IBM have an army of expats - many are likely to stay after their contract is served.”

Steve Shepherd, group director at recruitment consultancy Randstad, agrees. While younger workers relish the excitement and opportunities corporate life on the move presents, ambition is often tempered by a desire for stability as middle age approaches.

“There's a work/life balance people look for as they get older,” Shepherd says.

“Your career might reach a ceiling but you may be comfortable with that. It can be career limiting but we see through research that employees value work/life balance far more than they ever did. You could consider it career limiting, but you might consider it life enhancing.”

Convincing an employer to continue sponsoring a work visa while permanent residency is being sought is the biggest hurdle many face in their quest to remain. Those who've been deployed for a finite project, rather than a permanent position, may struggle.

Supply chain specialist Patrick Vialle, 48, had to fight to stay on when food giant Nestle sent him and his family to Australia back in 2000.

A French national, he had been working for the company in Italy and plumped for a posting to Sydney, ahead of a stretch in either the UK or Hungary.

“Initially in my mind it was another position in the group,” Vialle says. "I told my family we might stay three or four years."

Arriving in the closing week of the 2000 Olympic Games, the mood was one of bonhomie.

“It was a great atmosphere and time to arrive in Australia,” Vialle says. “Lifestyle-wise, workwise, people-wise … very quickly we made lots of friends in the Northern Beaches.”

Persuading regional management to keep him on and support his permanent residency application when his three-year business visa was due to expire was not straightforward, but Vialle says his persistence paid dividends.

“I had to fight a bit for it but got it,” he says. “I was able to get through the red tape in the end.”

He spent just two years of the following decade out of Australia, on an assignment to New Caledonia, which was accepted on the proviso that he would return to Sydney afterwards.

Now a senior supply chain manager at Parmalat in Brisbane, he was naturalised three years ago.

66 comments

  • Taking a job in Sydney was fun for a while, but the lack of leadership, and outright suspicion over people that try to lead in Australia made the workplace a sadly unproductive and unrewarding place. And while the beaches are great, Australia has no culture, really. The over priced housing and cost of living negates the wages, and in fact makes it ridiculously hard to do anything but work and sit in traffic, which is also out of control. Australia has some big problems, and it's worrying that no one seems to notice there, let alone be looking for solutions. I'd pass on working here, go to the UK or Asia.

    Commenter
    Overandout
    Location
    Toronto
    Date and time
    March 04, 2014, 5:41AM
    • Overandout, I am sorry to hear your feelings about Australia. I don't think it fair that you make such a strong comment about the country when you have had problems in one location. There is so much more to this beautiful country. Your frustrations can be felt in many large cities throughout the world. Perhaps you should focus more on the people rather than the hustle and bustle of your environment. Being an Expat, I have found that I needed to adapt to our surroundings, not expect the surroundings to adapt to me.

      Commenter
      rlzachau
      Location
      Queensland
      Date and time
      March 04, 2014, 7:29AM
    • Yes, I am not so thrilled with my Sydney posting, 2 years in. Sydneysiders act like they are God's chosen ones, but actually seem pretty vain, materialistic and hollow. And that traffic! Melbourne is at least more intellectually and culturally interesting, if you must spend some time in Australia...

      Commenter
      not a beach bum
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      March 04, 2014, 8:01AM
    • But guys....Its Sydney....lovely harbour and beaches....you cannot compare the rest of Oz to that city, please, it like me saying the USA is no good because Las Vegas is a tourist trap.

      Commenter
      shemp
      Location
      melb
      Date and time
      March 04, 2014, 8:21AM
    • Thank you @Overandout and @not a beach bum. Can you please tell all your country-men about how terrible it is in Australia and Sydney in particular. How we are hopeless in business, are leaderless and are so vain that we think we're gods chosen ones....please! Then house prices might finally come down and I could get a seat on the ferry from Manly to the city.

      Commenter
      shakers
      Location
      sydney
      Date and time
      March 04, 2014, 8:49AM
    • I've just come back from a (very) short stint in Japan (I'm no executive).
      But after the cathartic experience of Japan and Europe experiences, I've decided that Australia really only has natural beauty going for it. The way things are run, the way things are going and the direction of our "culture" is detracting a lot from its livability and benefits. Unless things radically change in the next couple of years I'll be booking myself a one-way ticket out of here.
      Good luck to those who are left.

      Commenter
      steveo
      Location
      sydney cbd
      Date and time
      March 04, 2014, 10:06AM
    • Overandout, ditto. It has mastery of what seems or feels like a 'celebrated' hollowness. I've been planning to permanently get out of this continent and it looks like another 3 years of my life will get me finally unstuck, cant wait to be able to really feel truly alive! Beaches are great until the drinking culture ruins your experience of it. Australia's amazing natural wonders with its sheer remarkable and unmistakable blanket of endless wonders are all becoming so hollow in a landscape surrounded by people who, as you say, do not have any idea that we have big issues to tackle. I'll miss Australia but I am comforted by many thoughts that there are beaches out there and the moon, sun, waves, etc do not hang on Australia alone...3 years I am stuck...

      Commenter
      StuckonAustralia
      Date and time
      March 04, 2014, 10:34AM
    • It's not as if these executives that are brought here by multinationals are doing jobs that Australians can't do. So how do they get to stay???? There's a queue!!! They should go back to where they came from, then apply to become a permanent resident. Or does this not apply to "executives". Wow they must be fantastic!!

      Commenter
      steve d
      Date and time
      March 04, 2014, 10:41AM
    • @ steve d - you dont travel much around Australia reading from such an 'intelligent' outburst. A short trip to WA mining would unveil before you a group of scientists ranging from geologists to engineers all coming from different countries. There just wasn't enough qualified scientists in Australia so this country has to hire out.

      Commenter
      Errata
      Date and time
      March 04, 2014, 11:22AM
    • Been here 17 years and still love it, steve d you clearly have no grasp of globalisation. More well qualified people LEAVE than arrive. Take what you can get in terms of quality operators/management/scientists etc and let them grow the nation's future prospects. Insular views and 'she'll be right' are naïve and dangerous because she won't be bloody right unless we run to stand still. As soon as the resources either run out or can be acquired at a cheaper price we really will have to compete on a global manufacturing and technology stage. Then we'll really need the best and the best Aussies are on the plane out. Some come back. Most don't. So we can get good people from O/S and learn from their global experience because "its the economy, Stupid" not some jingoistic chest thumping exclusive narcissistic club with a totally unrealistic sense of entitlement. Jus'sayin'

      Commenter
      Pom
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      March 04, 2014, 12:12PM

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