Know that you will have to take a few steps backwards before you can move forwards
Vivian is a project coordinator at Australian Facilities Group (AUSFG), where some of their clients include the Australian Defence Force, Sydney International Airport and the University of Sydney. She is also a mom of two adorable little devils. She recently joined Australian and South American not for profit Somos21 where she is helping to raise funds for the recent earthquake in Mexico and is also working with the Australian-based not for profit TIA to empower children and young people to create brighter futures for themselves in Cochabamba, Bolivia.
Tell us your story
In 2007 I met my now Australian husband, Paul, in Santa Cruz Bolivia. It was love at first sight. He was volunteering for Inti Wara Yassi helping wild animals return to the wild and raising awareness. A year later, once I had finished university, I moved to Sydney. Soon after I arrived we got engaged and 6 months later we got married in Sydney. Two years later we got married again in Bolivia having his family and friends over for the trip of a lifetime through South America.
Paul had a stable job as an electrician; however I was rolling from cafes, reception and warehouse jobs looking for the best option. Eventually in 2011, I landed my first engineering job at Transfield Services, now Broadspectrum, as planner and scheduler assistant. I progressed to the business development area where I worked in the NBN Project and multiple construction projects. After a couple of years I left my job to spend time with the family as I had a little one and another one on the way. Soon after Paul got a contract in Townsville and we moved there for a year.
When his contract finished, we decided it was the right time to spend a year in Bolivia where the kids could experience my culture but most importantly to spend time with their grandparents and uncles. The kids in day-care improved their social skills and also boosted their Spanish which they maintain until now. Our lifestyle in Santa Cruz was, let’s say, more fun. We had time for ourselves, we could go to the gym, go out with friends or have regular date nights because my family would help to look after the boys, here it’s more of a struggle to achieve that balance. However,being back in South America made me appreciate the opportunities Australia offers for our children. The job security and the health system were key in our decision to come back. I know that true friends stay together despite the distance and that family will always receive you with arms wide open. Nowadays, thanks to technology you are virtually there. It makes you forget that you are on the other side of the world when you get to sing “cumpleaños feliz” along with everyone else through your phone. It’s just wonderful!
My current job is to provide a life cycle analysis of assets for the company. This has been really interesting as it has taken me to many military bases and heritage sites across NSW and VIC where I have met fascinating people. I have recently assisted my husband with setting up a new Facilities Management Company called Brisull Building Management (BBM) which has really made me appreciate how streamlined processes in Australia can be but also how you must make sure you cross every t and dot every i. Once you get the hang on how things work over here, you find that Australia is just great!
Looking for work – The Australian format is tailored CVs with cover letters, LinkedIn activity and a range of interview styles ranging from an informal interview over a cup of coffee to three stages and a test formal interviews. My husband gave me guidance and even helped me practice interviews. Restructuring the way we explain our knowledge and work experience is key when job hunting.
Australian Experience – It was so hard to get my foot in the door. These difficult times tested me but also shaped my character. I was lucky to find help through my supportive mentor Jonathan Key. He knew about the difficulties non-English speakers face and threw his support behind me. I will be forever grateful. Our resilience and optimism are great allies. We are hard workers, we don’t mind doing long hours or working on non-office hours and that’s a good stereotype that has help me settle here.
Work place environment – In Bolivia it is very relaxed. I remember having loud Friday music on to feel the weekend mood. I also had just met a new girl in the office Patricia who was getting married and invited us even though we met not long ago – we are still good friends. I miss a lot that sort of spontaneity at work. Australians are tolerant in your beliefs and culture and very funny! I love how their humour is different to ours, they are quick at their comebacks and they love their Friday after work drinks and sports. They call everyone a Mate and their ‘no worries’ attitude is their best attribute. They are caring too: there are many organisations and charity events out there helping people in need.
The family life styles – In Bolivia is quite common to have someone to help with the kids or the house work, whereas here that’s a luxury. This puts some pressure on your relationship, but at the same time you create a stronger bond with your partner as you relay on each other to make it work. I was lucky to have my mum over for 6 months after my first son was born, she was a tremendous help for us.
Way of life – My heart will always be divided in two when it comes to where do I like the most Bolivia or Australia. Bolivia is messy, spontaneous, sometimes a bit unreliable, but also fun, relaxed and easy going, it almost feels like you have more hours on the day over there, and that’s what makes it beautiful and you want to go back. On the other hand, Australia, might feel a bit hectic and overwhelming at the beginning and that makes you feel like you don’t belong or that it’s too hard, but that is because you don’t know how to move in this new environment, and that’s why I believe that organisations such as Latin Stories is a fantastic way to help new migrants to settle and have a better “new beginning”.
Piece of advice
Persevere – The journey is long and with lots of curves along the way. Try to be grateful for this opportunity to reinvent yourself. Most people only give you a snapshot of what they have gone through with a heavy emphasis on the “good” parts. Draw on your mental strength and know that you will have to take a few steps backwards before you can move forwards.
Do your research – Invest time in learning which cities offer the opportunities you are looking for. If you are interested in the mining industry, Perth and North Queensland are you best options. If you are into music and theatre, Melbourne is the place to be. Most migrants come to Sydney thinking they will find it all here and then have to resettle with their families in a new place.
Socialize and Volunteer –Go to footy games, to school and country fairs. You’ll find our cultures are more similar rather than different. Volunteer in organisations such as Surf Life Saving or Somos21 are great ways to make new friends and expand your network.
In the next few years Vivian would like to do postgraduate studies in Engineering as her job advocates for women advancing their careers. She believes this will allow her to climb the corporate ladder. She also wants to expand her knowledge in International Relations and Trade as she will be more involved in these areas through Somos21.