Faces of AWNY: Pippa Lee (Weston)

Pippa Lee (Weston) moved to New York from Adelaide in 2011 looking to further her career in architecture and immediately fell in love with the city. We spoke to her about the process of moving, the convenience of the city, and what it’s like to work in New York’s design and architecture industry.

Tell us about why you moved to NYC?

I am originally from Adelaide, South Australia and have been here just shy of 6 years. The opportunity to move came when my boyfriend (now husband and also an Aussie) completed his Masters in Law (LLM) at Harvard University and landed a job in NYC. I moved to join him after his graduation and started looking for a job in architecture and immediately fell in love with this city (who doesn’t?)

Where do you live? Why did you choose that area?

We live in the Flatiron District right by the iconic Flatiron Building. We love this area for its conveniences like the subway, Madison Square Park and all the bars and restaurants. Plus we both also have a commute that is a 3 block walk to our respective offices so that is a real win for us. We looked around a few areas before deciding on our particular building purely for the modern amenities and location.

What do you like and dislike about living in NY?

I love the convenience of everything. You want wine delivered at 3am? No problem. You think of something cool and someone in this city has invented it and not only that, invented a way to get it to you quickly.

I love the subway and how it can get you pretty much anywhere you need to go.

I love the social aspect of everyone living so close to each other and the impromptu gatherings that result from high density living.

I love the pace and the movement and the energy and the inspiration.

I love the people watching.

I love that there is nature and beauty and hiking and beaches all within 1-2 hours from the city.

I love that people are here to make things happen and everyone dreams so big. It’s like a pulsating energy you can feel in the air.

I love that you may even catch a New Yorker smiling on that first warm day of spring.

What do I dislike? The smells, the craziness, the lines, the garbage, the consumerism, the ego’s and the general sense of entitlement that a lot of people seem to emanate here.

But that’s also the beauty of this crazy city. It’s all things at all times. It’s a drug and you keep coming back for more. Do you need time out? Absolutely. I think that’s critical to surviving here; stepping away to catch your breath, maybe get some clean oxygen into those lungs and some vitamin D onto the skin is the key.

What are your favorite spots to escape to when you need some time out?

I love the Catskills for a long weekend, or Bear Mountain for hiking, also Montauk or Shelter Island for the beach (although not often enough). I also like to get out on a bike when the weather is fine for a nice long ride in nature.

What’s your ‘only in New York’ moment/s?

The fact that we live in a city of 8 million people yet still run into people you know in the craziest of places. The way people wear and do whatever the hell they want and make no apologies for it. When you try to offer a loaf of bread to a homeless person and get told “sorry I’m gluten free”. People clapping during landing on airplanes (more an ‘only in the USA thing’).

Any advice for people moving to NY?

Be prepared to pay a ludicrous amount for rent unless you want to live in a tiny bedroom in a share house with a bathroom down the hallway. Be open minded, grow a thick skin quickly and learn to move fast. If you can keep your wits about you the first few months you will be ok, but be prepared to adapt.

Also, take a critical look at your CV (or resume). Make it stand out, and make it ‘American’. You are playing in their game now, so learn their rules. I work in a creative industry and the amount of plain old word document style resumes I see is kind of shocking. If you are looking to be hired as someone who has flair and individuality and who lives and breathes design, your resume needs to reflect that, I like the idea of creating an online presence and making it an extension of that.

Tell us about your career:

I am an Australian registered architect who specializes in high-end residential design. My focus for the last 12-18 months has been healthy home design, specifically ‘Wellness Architecture’. I noticed after moving here how much impact the indoor centric lifestyle was having on my health both mentally and physically and after researching the subject realised just how much our indoor environments impact our mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing.

Recently, I became one of the first ever certified WELL AP architects, meaning I advise developers and private clients on how to design and build healthier buildings. As a background, WELL Building Standard is focused on the quality of the indoor environment (both in the workplace and at home) and its impact on human health.

I started my own firm Pip+Pencil in 2016 and in my free time (lol) I also freelance design with a great online company called Homepolish, which is an amazing platform that connects designers and clients for all types of interesting projects! My projects range from small scale interior design and styling all the way through to full-scale gut renovations.

I am also currently studying building biology meaning I will be able to physically test the performance of indoor qualities like air, water, light and noise as well as the presence of mould and electronic / magnetic field radiation. I think we are moving into a time, especially in the design profession; where it is no longer acceptable to just design for aesthetics, we need to think long term both in terms of environmental sustainability of the physical building as well as the health impact of being in that space.

What are some differences working here to working in Australia?

In my profession, the major differences are the typology of projects. As I mentioned, in NYC most are interior renovations on existing buildings; whereas in Australia there is a lot more greenfield sites meaning new builds and more freedom in design.

I have also found a wide range of aesthetic differences, most notably in private homes. The American tastes tend to be more traditional, with preference towards separate kitchen and breakfast eating areas rather than the Aussie style of large open floor plans where kitchens and living spaces meld into large family gathering spaces.

American style has a lot more decorative detailing and traditional materials – think detailed kitchen cabinets with ornate brass knobs – whereas Australian tastes tend to be much more European and contemporary.

I think a lot has to do with climate, in Australia we like to live a much more indoor/outdoor lifestyle, blurring the transitions between the two and really allowing the natural environment into our homes, whereas in NYC there is a lot more indoor living with smaller windows and a focus inwards. I really miss designing large open plan spaces where the climate has a huge impact on design decisions, like orientation, cross flow ventilation and shading as this is my personal style of living, it just reminds me so much of the beach!

Any advice for other Aussie professionals working in NYC?

Don’t be afraid to move horizontally to get what you want. I think a lot of people – and I am talking specifically to Aussies on the E3 – get stuck in an organization where they are unhappy because of a fear of not being able to find another job in a competitive market (not true at all) or worried about visa issues. Don’t be afraid to stick your neck out and go for what you want. This city has so many opportunities and you won’t find them unless you are willing to take a risk.

Advice for Australians looking to find a sponsor for the E3 visa is to really know everything about this visa before going into an interview. You need to understand the differences between an E3 and an H1B and be confident in explaining that. Know the perks of the E3 and be able to explain them in a way that makes the employer realize it’s an advantage to hire you over someone else requiring a more extensive and onerous visa.


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What’s your favorite New York spot?

It would have to be Central Park. My strong interest in Biophilic Design and my own personal connection to nature means I need to visit it regularly to keep me grounded. There is something so calming about walking through the park, especially the north woods where you can look up and not see a single building, you really do feel like you are not in the city anymore. I love early Sunday morning ABC’s (activity based catchups) with my friends as this is a rare time we can socialize without it revolving around food or booze!

What do you miss most about Australia?

Many things. I miss the lifestyle, the weather, the beaches, the laid back ‘she’ll be right’ attitude. I miss family of course and friends. I miss tomatoes that taste like tomato and mango’s fresh from north Queensland (I don’t miss the price of avocado though!). I miss driving and always being 20 min from a beach and never having to deal with traffic. I miss being able to rock up to the airport 20 min before takeoff and getting straight onto the plane. I miss the dinner parties and the backyard barbeque….but mainly the beaches!

What are your top 3 tips for friends visiting NYC?

Don’t stay in Times Square or anywhere near it, make friends with the subway, and actually get out into real Brooklyn (not just Williamsburg and DUMBO), oh and see the Highline. (Sorry this is four but I couldn’t help myself!)

Favorite NYC brunch spot:

Banter or Citizens of Chelsea…Aussie of course!

Favorite NYC cocktail spot & cocktail of choice:

God there are so many! It really depends what you’re going for as there are specialty places all over, but I would have to say of late it is The Edition Hotel. They have a great bar on the first floor that does a great dill cocktail with gin called Dill or No Dill. YUM!

How did you get into your job in NYC?

I was very open to opportunities and applied in a wider variety of positions than I would have if I was in Australia. I think it also helped that I had a very clear understanding  of the visa requirements and was able to explain it in a way that did not intimidate the hiring staff. My first job in NY was an architectural position at Robert A.M. Stern which was such an amazing experience and taught me a LOT about the American way of doing things in terms of design.

What do you like about being part of AWNY?

I love the community that it opens you up to. The way that everyone is there to help each other from simple questions about where to buy vegemite through to more complex issues like where to find a tax accountant who specializes in Australians. The thing about NYC is there’s always someone that has done it before you and I find that Australians especially are willing to pass that information on to help another Aussie facing the same issue, there’s a real sense of camaraderie. I’ve never met a fellow Aussie who hasn’t let the ladder down for another Aussie to climb up.

What was your biggest win this week?

Having one of my early Homepolish jobs professionally photographed and ready for publishing as well as having one of my favorite developer / clients move towards closing on a new property in SoHo which he wants to develop as a ‘wellness residence’ using my design expertise as the guiding principles for healthy home design!

What’s the biggest challenge or road block you’ve been faced with since being in NYC and how do you overcome it?

Probably the initial hesitation towards visa sponsorship. Employers don’t usually understand nor have they heard of the E3 (although it’s becoming more common in 2017) so you need to be very educated on it so you can explain how easy it is for them to sponsor you. Once that hurdle was overcome, it was more just the sheer number of people you are competing with in finding a job. In Oz it was never an issue getting work but here you are just a tiny tiny fish so you need to get very good at applying and interviewing and get used to the fact that you don’t land it the first time – that’s normal – and it just takes time.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given about living/working in NYC?

Never become complacent. Always look to grow, evolve and push yourself to that next level. There are so many things to achieve and there is no better place to do it than NYC. Suck it up, take regular nature breaks and don’t be afraid to take risks.

Who are some Aussie ladies doing awesome things in NYC who are currently on your radar?

Sophie Wilkinson is head of Design and Construction at Common Living, and another Radeladian crushing it in the construction world. It’s so refreshing seeing other women on the job site and Sophie is one of those ladies I often turn to for construction or project management advice. What she has built at Common is absolutely incredible given she has been there from the very beginning. Its so great to see someone so hardworking and dedicated to their craft really kill it when they are left to spread their wings.

I am also crushing on the work of Aussie interior designer Paris Forino. She is doing some incredible projects around the city and overseas. She has found a beautiful mix of Aussie style with American chic and it’s awesome.

Brooke Holm is an amazing photographer who recently moved to NYC (she is technically not Aussie – born in the US, but raised in Oz, so I’ll claim her) and is an extraordinary photographer. I first discovered her when I saw her name repeatedly show up under all the amazing architectural photos I would see in publications like Houses and Architecture Australia; however her talent doesn’t stop with architecture, she also captures landscapes and still life in such beautiful detail and I constantly find myself suggesting her art to my clients!

CJ Hendry is an Australian artist who I creepily Instagram stalked and actually recently ran into at an art show. She does these amazing hand drawings with meticulous detail, all with a fine felt tip black pen! And while her art is incredible, I really love her vibe which is such a laid back ‘she’ll‐be‐right’ Aussie breath of fresh air in this city!

I also really admire the work that Emma Isaacs is doing with Business Chicks. This woman is a pocket rocket and is really kicking ass. Her company is relatively new to the city (they are HUGE back in oz), and its so great to see her amazing attitude spread through the city to other like minded business chicks!

Connect with Pippa:

By email: philippa.j.lee@gmail.com or pippa@pipandpencil.com
Website: www.pipandpencil.com
Instagram – @pipandpencil / @_pippa_lee
LinkedIn and Twitter

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.
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. 
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!
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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Faces of AWNY: Kate Lee

Aussie Kate Lee moved to New York City 3 years ago settling in Astoria, Queens.  We talk with Kate about what a freelance “cultural entrepreneur” does, her volunteer work with the International Rescue Committee, as well as her favorite NYC spots. 

Tell us why you moved to NYC?
DSC_1561Back in Brisbane, I performed and created performance works and used theater, arts and culture as a tool for development, capacity building and education. In 2012, I joined a workshop with an experimental punk dance theater company from NY. While doing the workshop, I’d pulled out my NYC guidebook (I had a guidebook from my trip back in 2005), mused over the pictures and thought, ‘how am I going to get myself to New York City?’ The next day the director asked me, ‘what are the chances of you being in New York next year to perform with us?’ I said I’d make it happen.

Where are you from?
I grew up in the Blue Mountains, lived on and off in London for years, in Sydney, then Brisbane and did a stint in Tennant Creek before moving to NYC?

Where do you live?
Ditmars, Astoria. I really like Astoria because I feel like I leave the city when I go home, and it’s super diverse, has fantastic food, and has the wonderful Astoria Park and Astoria Park Pool (which is 200 meters long and 50 meters wide).

What do you like/dislike about living in NY?
I love how the culture challenges my own: having to be more forward, confident, fight my own battles. And the diversity is all its forms. I dislike when distance gets in the way of relationships.

What’s your ‘only in New York’ moment/s?
Riding my bike at ten at night in the middle of winter, with snow all around, to the YMCA, going for a swim and having the pool to myself, having a piping hot sauna afterwards, then riding my bike back home through the snow. And, learning salsa New York Style is better (the ‘two’ means you step on the second beat instead of the first)

Any advice for people moving to NY?
It’s good to have something to come to – a course, a workshop. Just to meet people and get orientated. This city is full of immigrants – you’re not alone.

What do you do for work?
I freelance in what I recently titled ‘Cultural Entrepreneur’ – that is being involved with products and processes that use culture as a catalyst for education, development and diplomacy. I recently finished an MBA in innovation and leadership and am currently collaborating with scientists who work on Mtb (tuberculosis).

I also volunteer at the International Rescue Committee doing cultural orientation for newly arrived refugees. It continually proves to be a profound experience, encountering people who have had to leave their country and are now calling New York home.

I also volunteer with AWNY as the Events co-lead. The first AWNY event I came to was Susie Lang’s ‘Emotional Transition of Living in New York.’ It was the nurturing experience that I needed. Especially being alone in this city. And I realized that some of the ticks I have aren’t because I’m a pain the butt, they’re cultural. I was a revelation and gave me some space to relax a little in this big city. So, when I was at the GM meeting earlier this year, I wasn’t too surprised when found myself volunteering to be part of the team.

How did you get into your job in NYC?
I was on a J visa and I sent an email to every person I’d made a connection with, explaining I wanted to stay and wanted to get an E3 visa, and I asked if they knew of anything. A friend responded and got me into her organization.

As a professional working in NYC what are the differences to working in Australia?
Back home work would come to me. It was a shock, coming here, how much I had to hustle. Also, the wage difference in the non-profit sector is astounding. It’s very low.

Any advice for other Professionals working in NYC?
Networking is key and building relationships are key. Here, more than anywhere I’ve been, skills and qualifications aside, people really go on their gut instinct and trust. There is so much competition, so if you click on a one-to-one basis, that’s what counts. And it’s the same way vise-versa, while you have to be discerning, trust is super important.

What’s your favorite New York spot?
Astoria Park Pool and the different parks along the water in Astoria. The pool overlooks the river and the Triborough bridge, and the parks are full of families and kids and BBQ’s. I even saw a game of cricket being played (proper stumps and all).

What do you like about being part of AWNY?
The comfort of all the familiar cultural markers and the warm support I feel from the group.

What was your biggest win this week?
I found out my overall mark for my masters, a high distinction!

What’s the biggest challenge or road block you’ve been faced with since being in NYC and how do you overcome it?
I wanted to shift my career from its focus on arts and culture to something that had broader application. Doing an MBA was part of this shift, and networking and doing informational interviews have been key to understanding more about the industries I’m interested in and how they work in NYC.

Who are some Aussie ladies doing awesome things in NYC who are currently on your radar?
Katie Walker. She’s heading up the Institute of Medical Simulation and Advanced Learning.

Contact Kate
Get in touch with Kate through her website and blog – Unsealed Roads.

Faces of AWNY: Jennifer Nason

jennifer-nasonJennifer Nason moved to New York City 29 years ago with J.P. Morgan. We caught up with her on role as the first female Chairman of the American Australian Association, tips for professionals working in the City and her favorite brunch spot.

What brought you to New York City?
I was born in Adelaide and went to Melbourne University. I came to New York in 1987 with JP Morgan and have basically been here ever since, now working in technology investment banking.

Tell us about your role as Chairman of the American Australian Association and being the first Australian and the first woman as Chairman?
Well it feels very overdue, but I have been in the role for a year now and we are making many exciting changes. John Berry, the former US Ambassador has just joined as President. We are going to expand our mandate – stay tuned!

As a successful woman in the banking and finance industries in NYC, who is also the Chairman of the AAA, what are your top 3 career tips for other AWNY members?

  1. Play the long game and learn how to persevere through the tough times. I enjoy my job more today than at any other point.
  2. Appreciate and enjoy the great things that happen every day. I keep a mental “Top 10 Highlights” of funny, exciting, crazy, unique moments to remind myself of what a great ride I am having.
  3. Don’t be frightened, take chances and push your way into things.

Where do you live?
I live on the Upper East Side today, but have also lived in the West Village and Upper West Side.

What’s your ‘only in New York’ moment/s?
Shopping at a grocery store one evening and another shopper just started giving an impassioned speech in front of the fruit & vegetable about the poor quality of the produce. We all applauded!

What are your top 3 tips for friends visiting NYC?
See Hamilton, eat brunch at Beauty & Essex in the East Village, and see a concert or a game at the Garden.

Favorite NYC cocktail spot & cocktail of choice?
Well, it used to be the Four Seasons Bar at the Four Seasons Restaurant on 52nd Street and Park Avenue, now it is the Baccarat Bar on 53rd Street.

What do you like and dislike about living in NY?
Love the diversity and everything there is to do. I love Central Park, I love working in the city, I love that you can get anything you want delivered at any time. I don’t like the traffic and the fact that it is hard to have a car.

Anything you miss about Australia?
Lots of things – mainly the food and that Aussie sarcasm.

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Faces of AWNY: Georgia Clark

Author Georgia Clark shares gives us a peek into her life and experiences in New York.

Tell us about yourself and why you moved to NYC?

I moved to NYC because I fell in love with the city and felt like I needed a big, exciting, scary change to kick-start my life. I was 29, single, hungry, restless and had lived in Sydney since starting uni. I wanted an adventure: and I got it.

Where are you from? How long have you been here?

I went to school at Gosford High School on the Central Coast, having grown up in Hornsby Heights and then moving to North Sydney when I was in Year 10 (so yes, it was a 2 hour commute to school every day!). I’ve been in NYC for 7.5 years.

Favorite NYC brunch spot

Dead heat between Five Leaves in Greenpoint and Diner in South Williamsburg.

Favorite NYC cocktail spot & cocktail of choice

I love some sort of spicy/sweet jalapeño margarita (like the Firewalker at Nitehawk cinema: amazing!). My girlfriend and I like getting the happy hour wine and a little cheese at Miusa, which is a cute little place close to our home.

How did you get into your job in NYC?

My current job is being an author, and I got that because my agent and I sold my first adult fiction novel, The Regulars, to Simon & Schuster in January 2015. I’m very lucky, but I also worked damn hard, unpaid, for years to get there! [Ed’s note: Georgia spoke about just how hard she worked at our recent event, Australian Writers in New York.]

What do you like about being part of AWNY?

I love being connected to so many smart, hard-working, curious Australian women. When the tide rises, all boats float.

What was your biggest win recently?

The Regulars launched in the UK on August 11, 2016, and we got some wonderful press. We got a great rave in the Sunday Mirror, Grazia published a two-page article, In-Style published a piece I wrote on how to write your first book, and Look called the book “Mean Girls with magic”, which is simply the best.

What’s the biggest challenge or road block you’ve been faced with since being in NYC and how do you overcome it?

I couldn’t get work for a long time and I was very broke. I foolishly thought that having a good resume and solid experience in Australia would translate well in America: it does not. I could’ve tried to get full-time work but I knew if I did that I’d never have the time to write and that was my priority. I subsisted on piecemeal writing work, like writing daily deal type copy for sites like Living Social and living on vegetable soup (Every. Single. Day) until I finally got a good freelance gig, and was able to get on top of debt and have a decent standard of living. But it was a long, tough road to that.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given about living/working in NYC?

Persistence is key. It is all about who you know. It takes about 5 years to truly settle and put down real roots here, so be patient, if you’re serious about making a life here. Get a proper winter jacket.

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