Faces of AWNY – Caroline Heslop

Aussie Caroline Heslop moved to New York City in May 2012, after she took a solo trip to several major cities in the US & Europe scoping out a city for a potential international move. New York stuck in her mind soon and she started making secret plans.  In this Faces of AWNY profile, Caroline tells us how her life in New York has blossomed and her favorite parts of the city and its surrounds.
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Where do you live in New York? Why did you choose that area?
In these past 4.5 years I have moved 5 times! I just renewed my lease for another year because I couldn’t bear to move again.  Note: Find a good mover and keep their number on hand. You will inevitably call them again and again. I spent 1.5 years in the West Village, 2 years in Battery Park and over a year now in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Even though Williamsburg is rapidly changing – (Hello Apple & Whole Foods!), you just can’t beat the community feel, restaurant scene, silence, and greenery. 
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What do you like/dislike about living in NY?
This is an easy one.  At 5′ 2″ the packed L train commute is my worst nightmare. Especially in the summer.  My face is perfectly at armpit height. However, for all the frustrating things that this city throws your way there is so much to love. I love that Manhattan and its surrounding boroughs have so much to offer. You really can’t run out of things to do, see, explore. I have an excel bucket list that will never end!
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Tell us about your ‘only in New York’ moments?
All my ‘only in New York’ moments don’t even surprise me anymore. They are hard to recall. It just becomes the absurdity of living here. Like many I have had some crazy celebrity moments. I recently discovered Winona Ryder lives above me and Chris Rock once crashed a $14 stand up show I was at to practice some SNL material. The subway is always entertaining. Forgive me but I really love “show time”. It always makes me crack a reluctant smile. Hurricane Sandy and snow storm Jonas are both once in a lifetime moments that I will never forget. The city the morning after a large snowfall is always so quiet and beautiful. Witnessing the NYC reaction to the election last November was pretty extraordinary. I once saw a manhole explode as flames and water shot at least 20 feet into the air so now I walk around every single one!
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Any advice for people moving to NY?
I could talk for hours to share everything I have learned the hard way. Here are a couple of my key pieces of advice:
  • Get your finances in order before you leave and learn what a secured credit card is – it will help you build credit SO quickly!
  • Do everything to avoid paying a broker fee- there are plenty of nice apartments out there without one
  • Network, network, network – its likely how you will get your biggest opportunities in this competitive, “hustle” landscape 
  • Spend the  necessary money to buy a good winter coat and short snow boots ( the ones to the knee will tire you ladies!)
  • Please don’t hide up in the city – get out of town! Go explore upstate and I don’t just mean Westchester! Go explore Long Island and I don’t just mean the Hamptons! See the rest of the country! The landscape and climates are so broad and beautiful. I am about 25 states in, and I plan to visit all 50!

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What do you do (for work)? 
When I left Sydney, I was working at advertising agency JWT Sydney in account management for client Kellogg’s Australia.  I arrived in NYC with the hope of finding a similar role. Without connections in the city I soon found myself just desperate for SOME income. So a girlfriend from my uni days introduced me to the Bar Manager at the Standard Meatpacking. I was a cocktail waitress for that 1st summer. While I would have loved to have made more than $8 an hour in such an expensive city- it was a great way to meet people and I had the best schedule to explore while I found me feet! That job was only a short and sweet 3 months and I was soon onto an amazing role but my point is it’s okay to wait tables ladies, while you figure everything out. I’ve worked hard over the last 4 years from Project Manager to Senior Project Manager at JWT NYC and I have now been with Gap Inc. as Global Brand Manager for GapKids and babyGap for over a year.
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As a professional working in NYC what are the differences to working in Australia?
Hmm, this is such a great one because I have found varied differences in each of my NYC offices.
Overall, I find doing business in Australia to be much more honest, forthright and friendly. Relationship management in NYC is much more challenging to master for both internal and external stakeholders.
Many of my colleagues commute into NYC from NJ and upstate so work hours for my industry are so varied and I have found the WFH (work from home) culture to be really popular and respected. Especially when its snowing heavily!
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Any advice for other professionals working in NYC?
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There are amazing educational and mentoring opportunities in NYC. I didn’t need to but I have greatly enjoyed and found it beneficial to spend some time at institutions such as NYU and SVA as well as participating in free mentoring programs with various networking organizations. I’m currently completing a 12 month program with She Runs It/Advertising Women of New York (its AWNY too!) that has been so beneficial. So I guess my advice would be not to settle but to take the time you have here to learn as much as you can so that if and when you choose to go  back to Australia your resume is jam- packed with super impressive NYC experience,  not just your job history.
 
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What’s your favorite New York spot?
Hmm I noticed it doesn’t say New York City… I love anywhere near the water, beach or rural areas.
The Berkshires are very beautiful, so are the areas of the Hamptons where there aren’t crazy crowds and I love hiking in the fall foliage upstate. As for a city ‘spot’ you cant beat the East River shoreline or a nearby rooftop as the sun sets behind the city skyline. Preferably, drink in hand.
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Anything you miss about Australia?
Absolutely, I miss ALOT about home. I’ve found that most people have varying levels of missing home. I run pretty high on this scale and try to visit whenever I can. At first I would stock up on snacks from Woolies when I visited but now I just go back for the people, the personal space and the atmosphere. I really miss swimming under blue waves not brown ones, oh and I miss the warmth of both the human and weather variety.
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What are your top 3 tips for friends visiting NYC?
I would say on average I have 1-2 friends who visit NYC every month and after a couple of years frankly I got sick of typing up my recommendations so I wrote a blog post of what I think is the best way to spend 5 days in Manhattan. The vast majority of tourists don’t leave the island so my 3 tips are usually:
  1. Leave Midtown and Central Park – there is so much more to see!
  2. Bring comfortable shoes- you will walk alot
  3. Familiarize yourself with the subway and get a 7 day unlimited pass- it will save your feet and your wallet on taxis 
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Favorite NYC brunch spot
Does a girl have to choose?!
  • Standard Grill – for the vast menu and the atmosphere on a lovely day. Check out the penny floor!
  • Sweet Chick – for the chicken & waffles not for the table wait
  • Sweatshop– for a vegemite jaffle and a flat white or avocado toast and a corner shop milkshake!
  • The Central Park Boathouse– for the view and to impress your folks
Or really anywhere that will keep refilling my bellini for free. Australia will never have “bottomless brunch” because of RSA but its just soooo good!
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Favorite NYC cocktail spot & cocktail of choice
Absolutely the hardest question of this bunch. I would have to say one of my favorites for a SERIOUS cocktail would be the Grand Salon at the Baccarat Hotel. I would love to be lounging around in a ball gown there right now. Its so ridiculously pretty at night. Order a classic French 75 or the Clover Club. 
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How did you get into your job in NYC?
I really hate to admit it but almost every job me and my friends have scooped up has been as a result of networking. Your connections both personal and work related in this city are so important.
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What do you like about being part of AWNY?
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I love meeting with women like me! When you’re so far from home its so nice to be surrounded by likeminded women having the same experience.

What was your biggest win this week?

I’ve really grown to love partnership collaboration work with other brands in my time at Gap so I would say recently my wins have been securing exciting win-win projects and driving them to launch.
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What’s the biggest challenge or road block you’ve been faced with since being in NYC and how do you overcome it?
 I would have to say credit history. Plain and simple money talks but credit history can derail the conversation. I really had no idea how important it was before I got here. I couldn’t get a phone, lease, credit card without some magical number against my name. I remember a bank manager turning to me and saying “Honey, it would be easier if you had a negative number than zero” I felt like I was spinning my wheels when all I wanted to do was ground my feet. I paid my first 6 months rent upfront in order to secure a lease. Ouch, right? Now I know that yes you need a lot of cash but the quickest way to get your number to grow is a secured credit card. So ladies, get one on day 1, okay?
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What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given about living/working in NYC?
Working: Stay true to yourself and know your value.
Living: Make your apartment your oasis. You will need a place to escape from the city.
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Who are some Aussie ladies doing awesome things in NYC who are currently on your radar?
Aussie women are killing it in NYC. (This is the part where I list off all my girlfriends who hustle every day in the city- I see you!) Our work ethic is noticed in this market and we are rewarded for it.
We also have some amazing Aussie designers cracking the NYC market which is so nice to see like Zimmermann and Karen Walker. I’m rooting for their success! Samantha Wills isn’t really in the US market but calls NYC home and still manages to grow her business and brand in Australia which is truly impressive.
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What are the best ways for AWNY members to get in touch with you?
Instagram: @carolineheslop
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