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Opportunities abound in Australia. Shining Women:A Roundtable Discussion

—------------------------- This article was featured in the  March 2024 issue of the Australian Japanese Media NICHIGO Press, 'Opportunities abound in Australia! Shining Women: A Roundtable Discussion' (in Japanese). This is Women Can Fly's own English translation of the article. To read the original article in Japanese, please click here.

◾️NICHIGO PRESS(https://nichigopress.jp/)

◾️NICHIGO PRESS Original text (https://nichigopress.jp/topics-item/101985/) —-------------------------

Sydney's allure as a hub of endless opportunities resonates strongly with these women, highlighting its vibrant appeal as a city brimming with possibilities for personal and professional growth.


Their journey highlights the diverse opportunities and vibrant careers available in Australia with the hope that readers will take some inspiration from their incredible efforts. We hope you enjoy the article.

In Australia, numerous women excel in their careers by thriving in a culture and environment distinct from Japan.  We’ve gathered women based in Sydney to discuss life, career, and work-life balance in Australia. The lifestyles of these three women, each with unique careers and experiences, offer insight into their global aspirations. (Photo by Satoko Clark, supervised by Yuriko Ishii)


◾️Iori Forsyth


After graduating from university in Queensland, in 2013, Iori worked as a commercial officer for the QLD Government Trade and Investment Office for eight years. After relocating to Sydney in 2021, she now specialises in the education sector at the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade), serving as a specialist in Japan-Australia relations. Currently, she works at the Australia-Japan Business Cooperation Committee (AJBCC) and manages the YouTube channel "The Forsyth Family" with her family.



◾️Kimiyo Aizawa


Kimiyo has been involved in tourism PR related to inbound activities at the Urban Vitalisation Research Institute, a public interest corporation. She arrived in Australia in 2018 and, alongside working for Japanese web media and IT companies, established the women and study abroad support platform ‘WomenCanFly.Co’ in November 2019. She mainly focuses on supporting students to study abroad in  Australia and corporate PR activities. She also serves as a board member for the NSW Australia-Japan Society (AJS-NSW).



◾️Eri Sasaki


After graduating from university in Japan, Eri Sasaki continued her studies at the University of Sydney. Following her graduation, she worked for advertising and software companies in Australia. Later, she served as a device program manager for ‘Amazon Alexa.’ She currently works as a Product Manager at Canva an Australian online, graphic design platform, where she is involved in the development of translation tools and more.




――Gathered here today are three remarkable women thriving in Sydney. Could you please introduce yourselves and share your journey of coming to Australia?

Kimiyo Aizawa:

In Japan, I worked in inbound tourism promotion at a public interest foundation for urban innovation. While engaged in tasks like welcoming foreign visitors, I became curious about their actual needs. This curiosity led me to Australia.

I initially worked for a web media company, promoting Japan through outbound efforts to attract Australians to choose Japan as their destination for events like the Rugby World Cup and skiing trips. Later, while attending business school, I felt a strong desire to support students in similar situations and contribute to fostering Japan-Australia relations. Motivated by this passion, I embarked on  entrepreneurship in Australia with the goal of bridging the gap and creating mutual support between Japan and Australia. Currently, I am dedicated to supporting international students and businesses by providing PR services. I offer comprehensive support for students looking to study in Australia and organise PR events like pop-ups featuring Japanese beer tailored to the Australian market.

When I first started my business, I received valuable support from various startup programs in Sydney, as well as from individuals both in Australia and internationally. Drawing from this experience and with a commitment to giving back to the local community, I also serve as a board member of the Japan-Australia Society. In this role, I organise a variety of business networking events aimed at strengthening Japan-Australia relations.



Eri Sasaki :

Having spent time in China and Singapore during my childhood and studying abroad in the UK while based in Japan, I grew accustomed to life overseas. However, upon starting university in Japan, I felt a sense of incongruity. While my peers embarked on job hunts and secured positions in various companies and organisations, I couldn't envision myself continuing to work in Japan. As a result , I set a goal to study at an Australian graduate school and find work there with the aim of gaining permanent residency. Initially, I planned to study tourism at a university in Queensland, but my parents advised, "Wouldn't it be better to study a broad range of business topics to expand your job prospects for the future?" I agreed, and after considering various factors, including ample employment opportunities and excellent university standards, I chose to study at the University of Sydney;s business school. After completing a two-year Master of Commerce program and obtaining a graduate visa, I found a job in Sydney. With Australia being a country where job mobility is prevalent, I'm currently in my fourth job, serving as a Product Manager at Canva.


Iori Forsyth:

As I'm involved in various activities, it's challenging to define my title, but I'm honored to be recognised as a "Japan-Australia Specialist." Growing up shuttling between my father's homeland, Australia, and Japan, I dreamed of being a bridge between the two countries. With a desire to balance work and study in both Japan and Australia, I moved to Sydney in 2021. My father is from Queensland, so when I studied abroad in Australia and attended university, it was in Queensland. However, as I pondered my future career, I realised that Sydney might offer more opportunities. Fortunately in my work endeavors, I changed jobs during my maternity leave seven months ago. Before my leave, I worked at the Australian Trade and Investment Commission, promoting the enrolment of international students. Currently, I'm deeply involved in Japan-Australia relations at the Australia-Japan Business Cooperation Committee. Additionally, I run a YouTube channel with my family, showcasing the charm of Australia to Japan. Coming from a large family with seven younger brothers, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, we decided to start a YouTube channel bridging Japan and Australia. Over the past three years, we've collaborated with tourism bureaus and various Japanese and Australian companies, actively promoting the appeal of Australia to Japan.



Sydney's Abundance of Opportunities: A Charismatic Appeal


Kimiyo Aizawa:

Given the option of Queensland, what made you choose Sydney? Have you found Sydney to be particularly abundant in opportunities in Australia?


Iori Forsyth :

I hail from Hiroshima Prefecture and spent my formative years in the Sunshine Coast, a somewhat rural area in Queensland, amidst visits to bustling cities like Brisbane and the Gold Coast. After graduating from university, I ventured to Tokyo, experiencing the allure of urban life and opportunities firsthand. After about eight years in Tokyo, I made the decision to move to Australia. While returning to Queensland was an option, Sydney stood out as the city with the most business opportunities in Australia, akin to Tokyo in many ways. Although Melbourne was another choice, with several of my siblings already settled in Sydney, and considering the importance of family, I ultimately chose Sydney. I have no regrets. Coming to Sydney has truly been a blessing, and I'm wholeheartedly grateful.


Eri Sasaki:

As I haven't lived in any other Australian city, it's challenging for me to make comparisons. However, as I approached the end of my graduate studies in Sydney, I did experience a phase where I felt slightly weary of the city. At that time, I wondered if I could find work in other cities and searched on LinkedIn, only to find very few opportunities, especially in Melbourne. This experience made me keenly aware of the abundance of opportunities in Sydney. I have no regrets about continuing to live in Sydney. When it comes to working for Australian-based companies, many of them have their headquarters in Sydney. This is true for Canva and also for other major tech companies like Atlassian. Therefore, for those looking to gain experience and advance in the tech industry, Sydney undoubtedly offers more opportunities.




A Country Where Work-Life Balance is Attainable


Iori Forsyth:

Having lived in both Japan and Australia, I truly believe that Australia is a country where achieving work-life balance is remarkably feasible. It's not just about company policies; it's about accepting all kinds of work styles, whether you're someone with children, someone who wants to balance work and family, or someone who wants to dive into work wholeheartedly. Everyone can find a balance that suits their lifestyle and I found this to be the most striking difference compared to Japan.


Kimiyo Aizawa:

Absolutely. Australia is a multicultural nation where people from diverse backgrounds converge, so there's no fixed model of what constitutes an ideal work or life. The beauty lies in the freedom of choice. Whether you want to work hard in the city or lead a laid-back lifestyle by the sea or in the suburbs, there are options.. The ability to choose our ideal way of living is perhaps the biggest difference between Australia and Japan. It's not about which is better; it's about the flexibility. In Japan, there's often a typical career trajectory—you work for one company for a long time, get married in your 30s, receive promotions and by your mid-30s, you're in middle management with subordinates. However, in Australia, career changes are common. Some people switch jobs three or four times, while others stick with one company for a long time. The variety is immense. You can't guess someone's career based on their age or nationality; you have to hear it from them directly. If you're focused on your career, Sydney is where the opportunities lie. There are various programs and seminars always happening, catering to students, entrepreneurs, and professionals alike. If you feel the need for knowledge or connections in your field, diving into these communities opens up opportunities.


Iori Forsyth:

It's definitely a challenging aspect where you have to actively seek out opportunities. Unlike Japan, where there's a structured path for new graduates, in Australia, you really have to be proactive in searching for opportunities. This may be something Japanese people aren't accustomed to but for those who are motivated, there are many opportunities waiting


Kimiyo Aizawa:

Exactly. Opportunities won't come to you if you wait; you have to go out and seize them. Perhaps, the three of us are the type to energetically pursue opportunities, always asking, "Where can we find our next chance?"



LinkedIn: A Must-Have Tool for Building Your Career


Iori Forsyth:

Throughout my life, I've had numerous goals, and in pursuit of these goals, I've always looked up to role models to guide me. I make it a point to observe the careers these individuals have built. When it comes to tools, LinkedIn stands out as my go-to choice. Especially if you have ambitions of working for Australian companies and carving out a career there, creating a LinkedIn account should be your first step.


Kimiyo Aizawa:

Absolutely, LinkedIn is a must.


Eri Sasaki:

Every step of my career journey has been influenced by LinkedIn. I believe it's the most crucial first step. Crafting a resume is vastly different in Australia compared to Japan, so it's essential to seek advice and create an Australian-style resume. Finding work in Australia means competing not only with Australians but also with fellow immigrants, leading to intense competition. Amidst a pool of bilingual individuals, it's crucial to constantly reflect on your unique skills and leverage them to tailor your resume and update your LinkedIn profile. By contemplating how your current endeavors can lead to the next step and taking action while staying true to yourself, you naturally develop a strong sense of purpose.


Iori Forsyth:

I agree, LinkedIn is a tool that propels you for your career development.


Eri Sasaki:

During my time in graduate school, I was very conscious of accumulating work experience locally and transitioning to full-time employment. I worked as an intern and in casual positions to build my credentials, gradually climbing up the ladder. After graduating I worked at an advertising agency in Australia which approached me through LinkedIn While initially hired for Japanese customer support, I switched to a software company within a year, where I connected with Canva and expanded my network with valuable individuals. After about two years there, I transitioned to a team testing Amazon Alexa products for a year. Then, with a referral from a Canva colleague, I joined Canva, where I've been involved in product-related work for almost two years now. I've come to realise the immense importance of networking. While I didn't start out working for a major corporation, I faced moments of uncertainty about how effectively I was using my time. However, with my goal of settling in Australia, I persevered and kept climbing the ladder. Setting overly ambitious initial goals might be common but accumulating experience and skills in your current environment and smoothly transitioning to the next step is perhaps the hallmark of career building in Australia. Given the high frequency of job changes, I deeply understand its significance.


Kimiyo Aizawa:

It's intriguing how job changes are not frowned upon here, unlike in Japan. There seems to be a culture of leveling up with each change.


Iori Forsyth:

In Australia, staying too long with one company can sometimes be viewed negatively, leading HR professionals to find individuals who embrace new challenges every two to three years more appealing.


Kimiyo Aizawa:

That seems to be the trend.


Iori Forsyth:

I've always had a core desire to work in both Japan and Australia. To reach this goal, I've made various decisions. Even in the absence of job openings, I reached out to organizations like the Australian Embassy, Japanese state government offices, and chambers of commerce with names containing "Australia" or "Japan." When the representative of the Queensland State Government Office in Japan suggested I start as an intern, I took the opportunity. Within three days, they offered me a job, and I ended up spending eight years there, eventually becoming the Education Manager for Queensland. Rather than focusing on job availability, I believe it's crucial to showcase your passion for the work and companies you aspire to join by utilizing tools like LinkedIn and email for self-promotion. While self-promotion might not be come naturally for many Japanese people, it's highly essential in Australia. This skill is not only vital at the beginning of your career but throughout the journey of building it. After working in Japan for eight years and wanting to gain Australian experience, particularly in Sydney, I expressed my job search intentions to various individuals. Eventually, I learned about a department at the Australian Federal Government's Trade and Investment Commission seeking personnel, and reached out to them via LinkedIn which led to my job change. Networking, whether through LinkedIn or personal connections, is a crucial aspect for anyone aspiring to work in Australia in the future.


The Importance of Networking and Communication Skills



Eri Sasaki:

Building connections and networks between people is truly crucial. While sending out resumes and emails is important, it's also vital to follow up persistently, even if you don't receive a response Keep pushing until you get some kind of reaction.


Kimiyo Aizawa:

When it comes to leveraging connections, getting introduced by someone else means borrowing their trust. It's essential for others to understand what you're working on and what you aspire to achieve. Becoming the person someone else wants to introduce others to is key.


Eri Sasaki:

Referrals are quite common in Australia. When you're looking for a job and someone at the company refers you, it's easier to move forward to the next step as HR tends to think, "If this person is recommended by someone, they must be good." Building trust in this way, as Kimiyo mentioned, is crucial. It's all about how effectively you can make others want to refer you, which ultimately ties back to self-promotion. Without confidently asserting yourself and delivering results in a positive manner, opportunities won't come knocking on your door.


Iori Forsyth:

If things go well, various opportunities may present themselves, so it's essential to be proactive and network in various places.


Eri Sasaki:

Something I’ve realised after moving to Australia is that while having strong English skills is important, it's not a prerequisite for working in places where there are many immigrants. People who don't have perfect English skills but still manage to work successfully here often due to their exceptional communication skills. Even if their English isn't flawless, conversing with them is enjoyable, and their content is compelling, making you want to engage with them more. Communication skills are not just acquired through studying but through light-footed networking, meeting various people, and gaining experience. By doing so, these soft skills are continually refined, and perhaps, they are even more critical than language proficiency. For those coming to Australia or aiming to excel on the international stage, improving communication skills is an absolute must.



Balancing Work and Personal Life


Iori Forsyth:

When I moved to Australia, I had in mind the idea of starting a baby. One of the reasons for immigrating was the understanding I felt Australian companies have towards working women and mothers, with many offering flexible work arrangements. Even in the Australian Japan Economic Committee where I work, the contract is based on full-time work with a focus on prioritizing schedules with children, which I find incredibly valuable. In Japan, I didn't see many role models adopting work arrangements like this. In that sense, Australia seems like an excellent place for working mothers. The flexibility offered by many companies is what drew me in.


Kimiyo Aizawa:

As I don't have children, I focus on work-life management. Being an entrepreneur means handling various aspects of the business, from sales to accounting which can make achieving a work-life balance quite challenging. During the first four years of starting my business, I managed my time with about 80% dedicated to work and 20% to personal life. However, with my partner taking care of household chores, I was able to focus on my business. In Australia, lifestyles are diverse, so it's possible to prioritise business while having a partnership without being judged or questioned about not contributing enough to household tasks. The balance between work and personal life is up to the individual. I feel that Australia has allowed me to start my own business. It's all thanks to my partner.


Eri Sasaki:

I feel that I've been able to prioritise work-life balance particularly since joining Canva. Last year, I was so engrossed in work that I hardly took any time off, which led to a conversation with HR. However, there's no guilt associated with taking time off and it's common for those with children to take an hour off for childcare and make up for it at other times. This kind of flexibility is considered normal here. Many people don't check messages during their time off, and everyone respects that. If I occasionally reply during my time off, I'm often reminded that I don't have to because it's my break. I feel encouraged to take care of my mental health and well-being by ensuring I have my own time. Despite working, I feel like I have quality personal time. Regarding time with my partner, we have an agreement where whoever is available handles tasks like household chores, making it very comfortable to live. This equal relationship dynamic is wonderful, and I've felt it since coming to Australia.


Iori Forsyth:

I completely agree about partners. In Australia, it's common for both men and women to take parental leave, and it's normal for either parent to take time off for the children. There's no pressure for women to balance work and motherhood, and companies strive to create environments where both men and women can work comfortably, promoting work-life balance for those with children. The roles of men and women in society are slightly different from Japan.


Kimiyo Aizawa:

In Australia, it seems like society as a whole is open-minded of how individuals decide to incorporate a stance of equal partnership within their households, regardless of whether it's between different genders or same-sex couples. There are various family structures, from happy households with full-time homemakers to 50/50 working relationships, or even cases where the man is the homemaker, and it's not something you can discern without communication and respect.


Iori Forsyth:

Partnerships aren't limited to different genders either. There are many same-sex couples, and this reflects the diversity and acceptance within society.


Eri Sasaki:

It's not about fitting into a mould , is it? Whether it's work, career, personal life, or partnerships, the freedom and lack of conformity in Australia are what make it so great. Since coming to Sydney, I've stopped comparing myself to others and that was a significant change for me. I hope more people can feel the same way towards themselves and others.



Family and Partnership Dynamics


Eri Sasaki:

In Australia, family bonds are very strong, and there's a tendency to introduce partners to families quickly. I spent Christmas with my partner's family just a month into our relationship. What I find wonderful is that differences in culture are accepted as normal here, so we can live with a sense of respect for each other's differences without feeling awkward. It's like having my own Australian family, rather than the stereotypical image of in-laws in Japan. We visit each other's families and engage in activities together whenever we have time off. Since many people around me share similar experiences, I feel that family plays a significant role here.


Iori Forsyth:

My partner also has family in Sydney, so we often spend weekends with them. I also interacted with his family soon after we started dating. I'm in a de facto relationship, which means we're not bound by legal marriage, but in Australia, that's normal, and no one questions it. I've felt the freedom in relationships and partnerships since coming to Australia.


Kimiyo Aizawa:

I grew up in a very traditional family where there was pressure to get married in my twenties and have children. Whenever I return to Japan, my mother cries and begs me to stay. While I want my family to be happy and wish to do what they desire, I feel a stronger desire to work and succeed in business. I feel the connection with my family in a very traditional way because of my upbringing. In Japan, I noticed many women struggling with similar conflicts under similar circumstances, so I started a business to support women's career advancement. I feel that a society where people can pursue what they want while also prioritising their families' and partners' happiness is ideal.


Eri Sasaki:

Speaking of partnerships, it's not uncommon in Australia for couples to live together or buy a house together without being married. Personally, I recently got engaged but before that, my partner and I bought a house together and started raising a dog. Things can go in reverse order compared to Japan.


Kimiyo Aizawa:

Many people here also get married after having children.


Eri Sasaki:

Without conforming to stereotypes, as long as there's trust and respect between partners, various steps can be taken. Many of my friends and acquaintances have bought houses together without getting married, and I think that's wonderful.


Communication with Family Overseas


Iori Forsyth:

When it comes to communicating with family, living apart makes it crucial to consciously create an environment conducive to maintaining relationships; otherwise, conversations can dwindle. Coming from a large family scattered across Australia and Japan, I make a concerted effort to communicate frequently with family members who live overseas . In that vein, our family's venture into YouTube can be seen as a product of this need for communication.


Eri Sasaki:

Personally, I'm not the type to keep in constant touch. I'm not very proactive about reaching out to family or friends. So, I really have to make a conscious effort to communicate; otherwise, we wouldn't have anything to talk about. Sending pictures of meals or of my beloved dog and exchanging casual messages, waiting for replies when it feels right, feels enough for me.


Kimiyo Aizawa:

I completely agree with both of you. Making a conscious effort to communicate is incredibly important when living abroad. When I was in Japan, I didn't communicate with my family every day because I took their presence for granted. But after coming here, I realised it's not a given, so I started deliberately contacting them, even about trivial matters. I think I talk more frequently and have become closer to them compared to when I was in Japan. The same goes for friends. I feel that things we took for granted become even more precious when they're not readily available.


――Thank you for today.

(29 January 2024, in Sydney city)


In the photos from left:


"For building a career in Australia, the ability to self-promote is crucial." - Forsyth

"To leverage connections, it's essential to become the kind of person others want to introduce." - Aizawa

"The freedom to be yourself without conforming to stereotypes is what makes Australia great." - Sasaki




――Special thanks to the #NICHIGOPress team for capturing our journey!

Satoko Clark, Yuriko Ishii and Asuka Tashiro!

Such a great time with NICHIGO press team! (all-powerful women )

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