In our recent article on the challenges of relocating to take up a job in a remote location, we interviewed Ana Ferreira of Central Innovation’s recruitment team who proffered some valuable advice for those thinking of taking the big step.
As a complement to Ana’s insights, we now present a personal story from one of the professionals she helped – and while this relocation tale has a happy ending, it encompassed an arduous, life-changing journey for Leo Aspite and his family.
As engineering manager for a large international company, Leo had engaged Ana as a recruitment agent to help find and bring in new staff from outside the local area – then looked to her for assistance with his own situation. “Originally Ana had been looking to find people for me,” Leo remembers, “but then it became my turn to relocate, because once the local company was purchased it also purchased its New Zealand competition, closed down its Sydney office and transferred operations over there.”
Following Ana’s advice and assistance, Leo decided to relocate from Sydney to Auckland and take up a three year contract to help amalgamate the two companies. What happened next was an unexpected personal crisis.
“I relocated myself first and had been planning to bring my family over at Christmas time, because I wanted my kids to finish out the school year,” Leo says. “After I had been in NZ for six weeks, my wife – who was still in Australia – was diagnosed with cancer. This was devastating, especially because I wasn’t even in the same country.
“We had made the decision to move together as a family – financially I was going to be earning substantially more, and also it seemed like an adventure, an opportunity that had come along. My wife was half-Kiwi so she had a lot of family in NZ, which was going to make it easier for us to settle in. That was the initial attraction and also working to consolidate the two businesses into one and build a better company was exciting, and I was looking forward to being part of that. So on paper it had been an easy decision to move.” Ana got involved with providing Leo advice in relation to his next career move, the advice she provided would prove to be invaluable as it put Leo’s concerns to rest.
It was initially daunting for Leo to juggle single parenthood with his work responsibilities, which included looking after more than 30 staff many of which were sourced by Ci’s recruitment team in Sydney. Ana and her team ensured that the staff recruited matched with the specialized skillset and requirements set by Leo in NZ. Ana made certain that despite the shortage of skilled professionals, Leo was able to quickly secure a number of highly skilled contractors of which some would later become permanent staff. “We had a lot of challenges,” he recalls, “but we survived all that – I don’t know how but we did.”
Several weeks after the family settled in to their new home, Leo was in a motorbike accident, which further tested his resolve. “At the time I just could not see past that point, but again my employer was fantastic – I worked from hospital, we even had key management meetings and interviews for new staff around my hospital bed, and everyone supported me very well.
“Sometimes when you have hardships, people rally around and when you have support, great things can happen. Not only did we survive, but the business had the biggest year in its history. So at the end of my contract we’d achieved so much.”
Having made the decision to move on at the end of his three year term, Leo then had to decide whether to return to Australia or stay on in NZ.
“We were originally only going to stay for the three years, but we grew to like it there so much we wanted to stay, and one of my key suppliers in NZ asked me to stay on and work for them.
“For the past two years I’ve worked for Stafford Engineering and we have a lot of customers in Australia so I tend now to float around all over the place. I’m their business development manager so my career has changed – I didn’t necessarily plan to go into that role but I found I quite like it. I made partner last year and I’m looking to really boost the company up over the next two to five years with an international office, which will probably be my entry point back into Australia.”
Looking back on the initially turbulent time of his relocation, Leo says the change from Australia to NZ was the least problematic aspect. “For an Australian, moving to New Zealand is more like moving interstate than it is moving overseas,” he says. “Yes, it’s a certain amount of culture shock, but it’s not the end of the world. You speak the same language and you can work out how everything works. There are some cultural differences you need to adjust to, but that’s true of anywhere.
“When you’re relocating for work, I think it’s important to research the role you’re moving to and understand the expectations associated with it. Certainly it’s a long way to move and then decide you don’t like it. I had been coming to NZ every second week over a transition period of six months, so I knew the culture, I had familiarised myself with what I was coming into.”
The cost of living was another important factor to consider. “Auckland is very much like being in Sydney, in that it’s expensive to buy and rent, so you have to determine what an affordable budget is for you. One thing that did take me by surprise was that the cost of food was 20 to 30 per cent more expensive in Auckland than in Sydney, so I had to factor that in.”
Leo adds that it’s imperative to decide upon what sort of lifestyle you want to lead in your adopted home, and make sure you choose a location that will work for you. “Where am I going to live, how far is it from work and how far am I prepared to commute each day? All those things need to be considered. In Sydney I had been commuting one and a half to two hours each way, but in moving to NZ one of the criteria I set was to live within a half-hour drive of the office.
“Now that I was a single dad, I had to be more available for the kids which meant less commuting. I needed to look at what schools were available, and also how my family was going to function because their individual needs were just as important as mine. Often when someone relocates for work, it’s harder on the rest of the family because there needs to be something in the move for them.
“In the case of my boys, their mother had passed away so I knew I had to create an environment which would support them. I was lucky to have family here which gave me a support infrastructure. And hiring a nanny meant that there would be someone to greet the kids when they got home from school, and a cooked meal ready when I arrived home from work.”
Leo says that after the initial difficulties, his sons grew to love their new home because they found lots of friends and activities. “Once you satisfy those family needs, everything gets a lot easier because you’ve ticked off the key things you need to be successful and survive. Of course there is also the fact that when you relocate, you leave a lot of family and friends behind. I’m lucky because I travel to Australia a lot so I see my relatives back there on a regular basis. If I didn’t have that, I’d have to factor in a couple of trips each year to catch up with people.”
Looking back on the time immediately after making the move, Leo vividly remembers lying in hospital following his motorbike accident and thinking how he could have chucked it all in. “That would have been a big mistake. The country is beautiful, the people are beautiful – there’s things here I didn’t expect to gain, and they’re just bonuses, which happens wherever you move to. I’ve reinvented myself, my boys have travelled a lot and have a more worldly outlook. A lot of doors have opened for them which will benefit their adult working lives, and they’ve had opportunities they simply wouldn’t have had where we lived in Australia.
“It’s all the little things you can create along the way that make the journey more pleasant, even as you’re going through the trials and tribulations of relocating, adjusting to the little cultural quirks and reinventing your lifestyle. Having the support of Central Innovation in particular Ana and the recruitment team definitely made the whole journey much easier, the support and partnership they provided is something rare in the profit driven commercial environment today. To a certain extent we had these circumstances thrust upon us, but we would never regret what we’ve done – we were able to make the best of the situation we found ourselves in, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Source: Central Innovation, 2018.