Faces of AWNY: Hayley Whitfield

Hayley Whitfield is one of AWNY’s extraordinary event leads. Find out how she ended up in a billionaire’s apartment and what she misses most from Australia.

Tell us about yourself – why did you move to NYC?
I moved to New York in 2013 from sunny Sydney, with my husband Michael and 6 month old mini poodle Rosa. We came here just for the experience really—it was always a dream to live overseas in a fast-paced city. I’d travelled loads before, but always skipped America – so arriving on a warm August evening to the West Village was pretty cool. We’ve been here for four years, but took off around the world for 12 months in the middle. After traveling, I was like, right, we must go back to live in New York again, it’s the center of the universe.

I’m originally from Murchison, a Victorian riverside town with 630 people – you know, with all the usual suspects – a bridge, bakery, pub, cemetery and river.

How did you get into your job in NYC?
I launched a company Wolfpack NYC, producing luxury show-stopping dog coats with exaggerated faux-fur trims and accessories, for residents of this dog-crazed city.

What are the differences to working in Australia?
New Yorkers thrive on self-promotion and networking to connect and leverage relationships. As a typical Aussie who has grown-up believing that modesty is a great character trait, the reality in New York is that you just don’t get anything done unless you learn how to hustle and can articulate your personal brand and proposition to others, in like, an elevator pitch. I’ve had to learn to be comfortable articulating my strengths and intentions, without the shadow of worrying that I will be perceived as having a big head. In New York, it’s simply not a bad thing to talk openly about your successes and intentions, it’s a comfortably, open platform to identify ways to collaborate and help each other.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given about living/working in NYC?
By this drop dead gorgeous male makeup artist at the MAC store in Union Square – it’s an incredible melting pot this city, but damn you gotta devote some serious time to self care when you live amongst the hustle and bustle.

What’s your ‘only in New York’ moment?
Hmmmm I went into this billionaire’s apartment on the Upper East Side, overlooking Central Park and showed my collection of Wolfpack leather dog coats for their selection. I was like, yep, for a solo start-up, that’s pretty cool.

When you need retail therapy, you run to…
All Saints, Meatpacking District

Favorite NYC brunch spot
Banter – Aussie café in the Village.

Favorite NYC cocktail spot & cocktail of choice
One Hotel Brooklyn Bridge Rooftop – absolutely phenomenal view of the Manhattan skyline, Brooklyn Bridge, Hudson River, historic Dumbo, and with beautifully styled décor. All cocktails.

What are your favorite ways to connect with Aussie culture in NYC?
Through the AWNY events and working on the committee – its full of Aussie slang to keep me grounded. And of course, every Aussie brunch spot.

Anything you miss about Australia?
BBQ Shapes, BBQ Shapes, BBQ Shapes

What do you like about being part of AWNY?
Feeling like I have a ‘home away from home’ Aussie family. We share the same relaxed, open values – it’s so easy to relate.


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.

Faces of AWNY: Angela Tohl

Angela Tohl, originally from Adelaide, calls Brisbane home. She now resides in NYC with her beautiful family. Read on to find out her tips for thriving in NYC with kids!

Please start with some background about yourself
I came here 10 years ago in search of an adventure. Along the way, I unexpectedly met the love of my life, to whom I’m now married with two beautiful kids. So…mission well and truly accomplished.

Why did you move to NYC?
I was born in Adelaide, worked in Central Queensland and in Tokyo, Japan, prior to settling in Brisbane, which I consider to be my home in Australia.

A friend and I visited NYC for a holiday in 2005 and it felt as familiar as putting on an old pair of jeans. When I returned to Brisbane, I kept thinking “I wonder what it would be like to live and work in NYC?”. The E3 visa had recently been introduced in the US and I created a plan to secure a career opportunity over here.

Professionally, I’m a Project Manager specializing in business improvement, which I applied to Recruiting and Healthcare in NYC. My current role is as a mummy to two young sons, and my experience of managing relationships and being organized help me navigate our day-to-day adventures.

What’s your ‘only in New York’ moment?
In a Manhattan diner, I got chatting to a political scientist who serves at the United Nations. A few days later, I was sitting in on the UN General Assembly, courtesy of a visitor pass from my new acquaintance.

Where do you live, and why did you choose that area?
We moved from Murray Hill to Staten Island when my eldest son was an infant. He was already crawling by 4 months and we suspected he would benefit from more space. Our backyard is now the perfect sanctuary for two busy little boys, and I get to indulge my joy of gardening.

What do you like/dislike about your area?
I love the wide open spaces of Staten Island. We’re in walking distance to many parks and a short drive to the Greenbelt, where we often go hiking. The relaxed feel counters the frenetic pace of Manhattan. The downside is having to drive. I miss being able to walk everywhere.

What do you like/dislike about your neighbourhood (in general and for kids)?
There’s an abundance of activities for kids such as Wagner College STEM programs, the Staten Island Children’s Museum and Snug Harbour Botanical Gardens.

What’s a typical weekend for your family in NY?
Our weekends are a shambolic juggle of birthday parties and soccer for the kids, gym and going for a run for the parents. We regularly get a sitter for “date night” at local restaurants including Adobe Blues, Beans and Leaves Cafe, SIPS + MAKER.

What do you like most/least about having kids in NY?
I love the phenomenon of four seasons and the associated rituals. New Yorkers enthusiastically decorate their homes from Halloween to New Year. And snow… you really can’t beat snow as the ultimate fun activity for kids.

The City offers many free social services to kids, such as The New York Public Library story time and craft activities, NYC Early Intervention and NYC Parks Foundation Learn-to-Play programs.

I dislike the lack of mandated paid maternity leave, the mere 12 weeks of unpaid FMLA (for which only 50% of workplaces qualify), and the lack of work/life balance. I worked up until the two public holidays before giving birth, and developed pregnancy-related hypertension as a result. The US economy functions under a strong capitalist paradigm, but being a primary caregiver for the vulnerable (infant, seniors, sick and special needs individuals) is a relationship that most of us experience. To deny this aspect is to deny the human aspect of communities. Business success and recognizing the whole person are not mutually exclusive.

Funniest NY moment?
When I was 9 months’ pregnant with my second son, my husband badly injured his leg. At Trader Joe’s, I suggested he use the courtesy ride-on scooter. My then 4 year old eagerly jumped on Daddy’s lap to “help” drive. Despite a few near misses with other shoppers, I found the whole thing hilarious and thought I would spontaneously go into labor in the pasta aisle.

If any of your children were born in NY do you have any advice for going through pregnancy/birth over here?
Both my kids were born in NY. Australian women in NY often lack personal support, so I recommend seeking out practical support to suit your circumstances and preferences.

Birth can be very medicalized in the US. However, NYC also offers more natural options for pregnancy and birth. I found a birth doula invaluable for constant support throughout labor and delivery.

La Leche League meetings were fantastic for breastfeeding support. Baby-wearing saved my sanity and was the easiest way to get around Manhattan.

If you also have a job, how do you and your partner juggle work and kids?
I’m currently on career pause. When I resume paid work, I plan to target specific projects, incorporating a reduced schedule, so that I can excel in both employer and family commitments.

Any words of wisdom for people moving to NY with kids?
Be sure to attend to your own self-care as a parent. You are moving to (arguably) the most sophisticated city in the world with the inevitable scarcity mindset thrust upon you. However, your kids will still be happiest in the playground or with a cardboard box and with parents who are healthy and happy. Less is more. Keep it simple.

What do you like about being part of AWNY?
It’s so inspiring to contribute my skills within such a motivated and intelligent group of women.  The diversity of individual talent is phenomenal, and the power of collaboration is evident in the high calibre of support that AWNY provides to the Australian community within NYC.


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.