Faces of AWNY: Tanya McCaw

Tanya moved to NYC in mid-2015 with her husband Lee, who is also her business partner. The couple moved from Perth, where they still operate their IT company Royal IT, to launch their business in New York because they wanted to expand overseas.

Where do you live? Why did you choose that area?
Financial District. I love it because we across the road from the Battery Park and the river.  It’s close to several subway stations and there is so much history and charm to the area.

Any advice for people moving to NY?
Study up on the process with renting.  It can be confusing and frustrating if you are not organized and educated.

What do you do?
I lead the Operations at Royal IT in NYC.  We are a boutique IT support and consulting company.

As a professional working in NYC, what are the differences to working in Australia?
Hustling much harder. A lot more networking is needed to develop solid relationships, and I also work longer hours.IMG_20170714_101939_124

What’s the biggest challenge or road block you’ve faced in NYC and how do you overcome it?
Launching a business from scratch is a very challenging task. Especially when you are only new to the country and city. There were so many lessons and learnings and it required a huge amount of strength and resilience.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given about living/working in NYC?The best way to grow the business and client base is to get out the door and meet people. Developing relationships and a strong network is critical.

Any advice for other professionals working in NYC?
Never give up. This city can have a way of breaking you down many times, but use it as an opportunity to grow. Also, it’s important in such a busy city to take time out for yourself, whether it’s a walk or reading a book. Downtime is important.

What do you like/dislike about living in NY?
I love that I never get bored, there are always so many things to do and see.
I dislike the winter – it’s far too cold and long.

What’s your ‘only in New York’ moment/s?
I was one of the judges at the Nathan’s Famous Hotdog Eating Contest in 2017.  It was such a crazy experience, I am still in disbelief that the male winner ate 72 hotdogs in 10 minutes.

Three words to describe New York:

  • Expansion
  • Opportunity
  • Intriguing

If you didn’t live in NYC, you would stay the night at…
The Williamsburg Hotel – just out of the city.

Favorite NYC brunch spot
Tiny’s in Tribeca.

What are your top 3 tips for friends visiting NYC?
Get all the touristy things out of the way in the first few days and then take time to explore each neighborhood. So many hidden gems!

Venture over to Williamsburg for the day or hire bikes and ride around Central Park.

Who are some Aussie ladies doing awesome things in NYC who are currently on your radar?
I always look up to good leaders such as Belinda Jackson, the president at AWNY who does a fantastic job.  All of my Aussie girlfriends are doing awesome things and I love hearing their stories and updates on how they are progressing with their careers in NYC.

What things do you do to keep home sickness under control?
I skype my Mum once a week.  Go back to Perth at least once a year. Surround myself with great company here in NYC.

What are your favorite ways to connect with Aussie culture in NYC?
Hang out with fellow Aussies regularly
Grill (BBQ)
Grab a coffee at Bluestone
Eat at Two Hands in Tribeca and the Australian Bar

What do you like about being part of AWNY?
I love meeting follow Aussies and getting involved in a range of different activities. I have also enjoyed being part of the Charity team and working on the annual Fall Gala event in support of The Dwelling Place of NYC.

Australians in New York Celebrate Summer with Picnic in Central Park [VIDEO]

Saturday June 24 was a sunny day in Central Park, New York, where 60 or so Aussies joined us for our second annual AWNY Picnic in the Park.

Take a peek at the fun we had in this video produced by Aussie, Emma Cillekens. Emma interviews some of our picnickers (including one American) along with AWNY Committee members who organized the event. Our President Belinda ‘BJ’ Jackson speaks about the benefits that Aussie social and cultural groups in New York like ours can bring.

In the words of Aussie woman in New York, Belinda Paladino:

You miss that feeling of home, and sort of, what you’re used to and what you know and sort of your identity. So when you can come across a group that can relate to you and understand you, as you are, I think that’s really refreshing.

Learn more about AWNY

Read about our heritage and work here and sign up to become a member via the American Australian Association.

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Register for our monthly newsletter or find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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.


awny-pippa lee-P_LEE copy


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: 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: Erin Van Der Meer

img_2866Erin Van Der Meer moved to New York City nine months ago. Previously working as a women’s lifestyle & entertainment journalist in Sydney, Erin decided it was time for a change. We chatted with her about on her journey to arriving in NYC, what she loves, and what she misses most about home.

Tell us why you moved to NYC?

After seven years as a women’s lifestyle/ entertainment journalist in Sydney, I was ready to shake things up. So I went freelance and headed off to Central and South America to travel, with the vague plan of ending up in New York (I’ve always wanted to live here and I’m not sure why – quite possibly from growing up watching Sex and The City. Man, how misleading that show was!). Surprisingly I did eventually have enough of eating tacos and drinking cervezas on the beach and I arrived in New York in March 2016.

What do you do for work?

I’m a freelance writer, and I write mostly about travel. I’m not sure if that makes me A Travel Writer, Indiana Jones-style hat on my head, leather-bound notebook in hand and all. Travel writing always seemed like an impossible dream, mainly because whenever travel writers are interviewed about their careers they talk about how hard it is to break into. I made the transition by traveling full-time for seven months so I had a wealth of material to work with and then just pitched relentlessly to the contacts I’d built up throughout my career until they published my travel stories.

Where do you live and why did you choose that area?

Crown Heights in Brooklyn. It’s a great neighborhood with loads of restaurants and bars, and it’s right near Prospect Park – the Central Park of Brooklyn. Franklin Avenue is a great spot to spend an afternoon or night. The stretch between Eastern Parkway and Atlantic Avenue is packed with so many cozy little places where you’re guaranteed to have a good meal: Barboncino has pizza that could make an Italian weep with joy, Chavela’s and Mayfield are fantastic. Crown Heights is also a convenient location, I can be in Midtown in 30-minutes on the 2,3,4 or 5.

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

That it can take a long time for things to fall in place – whether it’s getting a job, finding an apartment or making friends – so be patient and enjoy the ride. When I told someone not long after I got here that my living situation was ‘just temporary’, they said “Everything is in New York”. It made me realize that things may never be as stable and comfortable as they were at home in Australia, and I need to be okay with that. Certainty is just an illusion anyway. Or something.

What was your biggest win this week?

Going to a great media event at a rooftop bar that looked right onto the Empire State Building, with the champagne flowing. It was one of those moments when New York lived up to those ridiculously high, Sex and The City-inspired expectations.

Any advice for people moving to NY?

I recommend staying in different parts of the city before you settle down to see which neighborhood you like the best. Housesitting using a website like Trusted Housesitters or Airbnb is a great way to do it. Separately, don’t be shy about networking. I used to cringe at the idea of it, thinking it meant wearing a name tag and bragging about yourself to strangers. More often than not involves wine and it’s essential to make connections in such a big city, especially when you’re new in town.

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