Since touching down in Sydney and starting this new job and journey a month ago, I feel a significant turning point coming toward me. I feel… somewhat cozy. I jogged home tonight as the sun went down and spring approached, noticing that the days are getting ever-so-slightly longer. I skipped to the tune of a thought-provoking podcast, perusing Facebook notifications and thinking of my dearly beloveds while they snoozed. I knew the route without looking, the turns without reading Maps or street signs. My landmarks tend to bring me reassuring joy along the walk home: my $20 all-you-can-eat pizzeria and the towering monument out of another century overlooking our reflecting pool in Sydney’s Hyde Park. I come home, snuggle into my [flatmate’s] couch in my ski socks and Iceland leggings and realise that I’m savouring the season (teacup in hand) because a new season is upon us -- in more ways than one. It’s my second springtime this year; the close of my second winter. Perched under the giant wall map courtesy of the roomie, I’m reminiscent of journaling in dorm room beds (from SC to Singapore to Hong Kong), our Vik apartment in the south of Iceland, my soft brown couch in Lower Pac, and evenings multitasking on the couch in North Beach with various roommates, Bachelorettes and Simba. The things I miss most: the traditions that felt so much like home I didn’t have to think or blink about what I looked like or the expressions I emoted (most in response to the Bachelor); also, the establishments so comfortable that I knew my order without glancing at a menu, the taste to expect in my coffee mug, and the friends and SF neighbours with whom I ordered.
As I reflect on my first thirty-one days here, I recall the many highlights throughout my first four weeks. There was my first walk along the Sydney side of the Pacific, my stellar 360-degree view of this city, the nearly 100 meals (not to mention 100 dumplings) enjoyed thus far, and my perfect tourist-tours across my new home. There were the hills and valleys of my first ~14 kilometres across Sydney on foot (weekend 1!), my favourite discoveries in the form of parks, storefronts and office hallways, and the most inspiring anecdotes or people I’ve stumbled across since 6 August. Finally, there’s the opportunity that helped bring me Down Under: my company, our badass global vision, and my werk. It’s a new side of "LinkedIn life” and already contains its share of milestones.
Sydney — the city and the workplace — are equally novel and easy. I love Phil, the barista at [downstairs cafe] Soho who says hi with a pleasantly-surprised smile and big eyes twice daily when I order my flat white. I love the office, that greets me with its harrowing ol’ clock tower and a pillar of blue flip flops that resembles a pile of overstock at Locals in LinkedIn-theme (see below). I love my commute: past museums and churches, malls and bank buildings, I practically apparate from hip and flavourful suburb (past quaint European and fountain-filled park) to packed metropolis filled with diverse faces. I even love our office kitchen, more like a dining room complete with restaurant tables, hanging plants and shelves for a new bedroom like mine to envy. My desk area, not unlike SF with its green leaves a la A-Bugs-Life and LinkedIn swag, hosts both sales people and quieter work horses in customer success, ad ops etc. Not that I’m quieter. Much to my satisfaction, we sit adjacent to both the kitchen and the dedicated workplace team: this means that anything and everything I could have possibly needed throughout the first four weeks of a new job was within approximately fifteen steps. I can jet out for water or a new and native snack (yes, Vegemite), or I can pop over to our resident tech whiz (my first unofficial #workbff simply due to pure proximity-meets-frequency) and ask him for the fifth time to activate my new Aussie SIM card, troubleshoot my browser issues and adjust my standing desk that won’t stay standing.
While a regional office like this one does not house the same perks to the same extent as HQ, there is an amazing amount of hospitality and home between our two cozy floors. The two kitchens and entire workspace for 225 souls is kept up by a married couple; they host breakfast and lunch, manage our common prep space for countless snacks and amenities [including but not limited to local Australian teas, candies and aforementioned local delicacies like Veg] and stock fridges full of snacks you’d find in your fridge at home: cheese squares (that are not individually wrapped), tortillas and fresh fruit slices cut and and ready for smoothie-blending. When lunch time comes, the Sydney staff (most of whom are not local) take time out of their day to sit, prep their own meal and enjoy restaurant-style luxury like shared water jugs and silverware at the tables over relaxed conversation. Finally, a single ping pong table and FiFA setup with cushy couches are constantly occupied, emitting the illusion of a start-up and that same comfort of a home-away-from-home.
Each day, I fill my new LinkedIn Learning water jug and assemble my breakfast bowl with cool poached eggs, pre-sliced avo and fresh ground s&p. Aussies love their abbrevs and I lean in to hear the goss on the reg while I munch. I am routinely asked if I’m up for a jaunt downstairs to get coffee, which most people indulge in at least twice daily. I meander awkwardly to the bathroom on my floor, walking one of two ways since it is equidistant from my own desk I think (and since I still don’t know which way to turn instinctually when nature calls). My teammates are from everywhere, both in professional background and country of origin; there are hunters and farmers in the sales realm, customer champions who manage post-sales implementation (that’s me!) and managers who span from team leads to office-wide business heads. My first friends that surround my desk include two homegrown Aussies, a British gal, an American Girl, an Irish lass and a Chilean-Australian with a huge variety sprinkled in on either side of me. All the males are charming, three of whom are named Tim, and all have already offered up their favourite bars, restaurants and retailers for my reference. The American who preceded me to Oz most recently is a dashing twenty-six year old who is part jock, part boy-next-door. Let’s hope my coworkers don’t read this anytime soon. Everyone is nice and everyone has opened up in their own time.
In Australia, any and all business conversations are built upon a foundation of rapport and relationship. I was told this from day one of my exploratory discussions, but it’s been a treat to witness it first-hand time and time again. Small talk, combined with the type of punny humour I was born for, are so abundant here that my first-ever mock customer pitch — delivered to no less than my country director in front of a class of thirty sales people — started with a fictional exchange about [her] five cats… since my male Director was playing Taylor Swift, of course. That put me at ease. My first day of work and twelve hours after landing in Sydney, I was invited to join an in-the-office first-meeting with a client who’s introducing our product into her government department. That same gal? Brought “lollies” (that means candy) to share to our most recent meeting and I’m working with her to promote and launch Linkedin, four weeks later. Since most enterprise clients prefer meeting and planning in person, exposure to Australian customers has served as the perfect method to learning the suburban landscape around Sydney. Traveling to inner 'burbs with names like Liverpool and Paramatta introduced me to motorways, more bridges and sparkling waterways than I knew were here, and driving (or rather, passenger-ing) on the “wrong side of the road.” This was also invaluable in granting me line of sight to the working world — public and private sector — outside of international tech. My customers have strong corporate cultures, value-driven missions and inquisitive people… all of whom are still human and love cupcakes.
Work has already brought great routines, amazing friends and an endless wealth of knowledge of things I didn’t know I love. In adopting our own value prop of blended and micro-learning, I’m listening to podcasts (have I mentioned that yet?) and watching Lynda courses both informative and inspiring in nature. I’ve taken to our in-office yoga instructor, powerful and nurturing, and tried other wellness classes offered mid-day like “Restore” and “Ab Lab.” Great breaks; better workouts for the mind body and spirit. Having two relatively new teammates and the most international team I’ve worked on has lent to amazing time for practice, mock scenarios, demo races and contests all to help us each demand excellence. On my one-month anniversary of landing in Sydney, I was certified by my new leader and already-thought-provoking mentor to demo our technology to clients (yes!). Finally, I’ve met so many cross-functional counterparts and ambitious women across different products Linkedin offers that my heart is bursting. My first month included a peer-mentor gathering of “Women at LinkedIn” (over wine), one women-in-industry networking event, an inaugural LGBTQ+ community event, and a celebratory evening party for LinkedIn and plus-ones because of our company’s global emphasis on the fact that “relationships matter.” It’s a value tenet but also a thing. I met partners, wives, sisters and roommates. I danced like I had known these people for years.
Finally, in my thirty and thirty-first day on this island, I checked off a few other bucket-list items — most were cheesy. My company has a ritual from the start-up days in which we stand up, introduce ourselves and share a “special talent” (uh-oh) in front of all our peers. Who knew that our Aussie offices combined contain close to 300 people… or that our Director of Asia-Pacific would be in town during my turn?! I decided to go for the only [not talent but ] tendency I’m known for and share my knack for jumping photos in both scenic and totally-average-and-everyday moments in time. Not only did I get a few laughs; my newly acquainted Head of Oz and a few strangers gave me kudos for sharing, being brave etc. That night I rep’d LinkedIn at a recruitment and networking event in-house for the first time in my tenure; wearing my LI letters and illustrating my company’s commitment to personal transformation (not to mention that of the world) made me quite proud.
I couldn’t be doing this without my desk-mate, my dance partners, teammates, or new boss. There are my yoga girls, my barista buddies, the local concierges and the passerby who tend to smile more here than in my former cities. My flatmate, first Australia mentor and unconditional listening ear is a laid-back bachelor at first glance; at the second, he’s a world traveler and videographer capturing every experience he can get his hands and feet around. He cooked dinner for us the past two Mondays and recently asked if I wanted to watch Despicable Me 3. Obviously. Moana is now in our queue, and I can’t wait to learn from the rituals I detected from our first meeting: he cooks, he explores, and he travels to both local and remote destinations for adventure, good friends, good laughs and novel excursions. I think I’ll learn a lot from him!
I’ve taken my time to reflect on my new LinkedIn life, and consider work to be a major channel and vessel for this journey away from home. It was not, however, necessarily the impetus or core fuel-engine of my transformation. Why is this a dichotomy I struggle with, I wonder? Often, I lead with the professional experience when asked why I wanted to move to Australia: I always dreamed of working overseas, experiencing an international market and, as it turned out, serving a customer from different backgrounds with new perspectives to broaden my expertise and understanding of our ecosystems, making me a more well-rounded potential leader at our company. Phew — exhausting. I know in my heart that this was not the first nor only reason for dreaming of what was past the line where sky meets sea. It’s been a powerful vessel and guiding light, however.
The dream actually began during one of my first vocations, with my realisation of our vast uniqueness and simultaneous, common humanity while running down a soccer field in Manchester, England. I wrote in my 2007 essay to USC about hearing a coach that summer — yelling from the sideline — in a language I couldn’t understand but a tone I knew only too well during an early-in-the-tourney match. The passion, the direction? All the same, as both were when we stood on the winner’s podium later that week, too. I knew from that moment on that I wanted to better understand people’s common aspirations and the lenses through which they pursue and fight for them. Fast forward ten years and, as it turns out: my company strives to do the same, all the while empowering users, learners and seekers from all walks of life to fulfil those dreams. What better way to contribute to this than by broaching this lofty mission from a different geographic angle?
After years of thinking, reading and talking about it, the dream felt more driven by a need for personal transformation. I told one of my early LinkedIn mentors that I also wanted a simple fresh start: the chance to experience a new [array of] cultures, build a community amidst new perspectives and scenery, and do so upon a blank white canvas. I grew to see that this meant a new level of independence, the essence of exploration and an exercise in resilience; as a prototype family-girl and extrovert with a knack for nostalgia and HUGE capacity for love, I realised later down the road that this would lead to extra-juicy pain, unavoidable longing and good practice in letting go.
Here I am, countless iterations of this dream later. It’s been 3 years since embarking on this path at LinkedIn, 8 since visiting Sydney and 10 since meeting the friend who would change it all: Jill, destined collegiate soulmate and studier-abroad who inspired my trip to Australia circa 2009. Before that, it was both my first love who modelled how to adventure abroad and my Mom, who — back at my current age — trekked across Europe solo with her dream of seeing, eating and falling in love in foreign lands just the same.
Thanks to Mom, my high-school superlative co-star, my inspirational friends and generous encouragers of the dream above — I’m making it werk at LinkedIn and across Oz (I even have my first interstate work trip coming up!). I know that I’m helping customers, learning new technology, building new relationships, and helping fulfil LinkedIn's vision of economic opportunity, everywhere. All the while, I’m refining and living my own vision. While I’m still meandering down the road that some call a career path, these factors make me certain that not all who wander are lost.
To my new LinkedIn life and my first nerd— I mean, thirty days!
A broad down under