In-Scope: What I learnt from 3 suitcases, 5 agencies and 7 cities.

Julie Matthews is the Director of Creative Solutions for OMD Create Sydney, helping to deliver creative direction across a spectrum of content touchpoints. 

In 2000, I began the first of many nomadic adventures, taking my first job as a junior art director in Auckland, New Zealand, after which followed, Sydney, Melbourne, Sydney, London, Sydney, Singapore, Bangkok, Sydney, Shanghai then back to Sydney again.

Living and working in different cities, countries and cultures taught me a lot, like:

> It’s possible to get your whole life and all your belongings into 2-3 suitcases. It’s a matter of working out what matters to you. You’d be surprised how much ‘stuff’ you can own that doesn’t add value to our lives.

> If you live in a country where no one speaks your language and vice versa, you’ll become an excellent mime artist.

> Understanding cultural differences helps enormously. Not only do locals appreciate the effort, but you discover small details about local life that no guidebook can tell you.

> Moving to a city where you don’t know anyone is a profoundly isolating experience, especially where there are massive language and cultural barriers. I have enormous empathy for those forced into such situations.

> Where you work will have an enormous impact on how much you enjoy any city or country. You can love a city that’s hard to live in if you spend your workday surrounded by great people.

> In New Zealand, I learnt that because their budgets can be smaller, the work requires powerful ideas that can be executed cost effectively. This experience was excellent training for a junior art director.

> I learnt to adapt to new brands, clients and cultures very quickly. When I hit the ground in Singapore, I had to immediately adjust to a global account creating work for countries as diverse as Singapore and Africa, whilst working with a client based in Korea.

> When working on a regional account, I learnt to create ideas that worked across seven different countries, considering each one’s cultural sensitivities and language differences. It’s critical to originate big ideas that translate across language and cultures. I once had to write a script in Swedish. I don’t speak any Swedish. Proof that if you have to make it work, you can.

> The hours people work in different cities around the world takes some adjusting. London was 9:30 to 10 am – 7pmish, Singapore was 10 am to 10 pm, Shanghai was 10 am to 11pm-1am. So, you can imagine how early starting work at 9 am felt when I returned to Sydney.

> Shipping and logistics is a skillset I could add to my CV – I became an expert at packing, storage and wrangling excess baggage across many airlines.

> Global clients and ECD’s are tough. I learnt that receiving criticism isn’t personal. It’s about client relationships, global accounts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and people’s jobs.

Above all, the most important lesson I learnt was to have patience. Not everything will go as planned or expected. I found once I accepted that, nothing fazed me.. There’s a lot to be gained from stepping outside your comfort zone.  As much as I love adventure, I’m happy to be back in my hometown of Sydney where I am excited to be taking on my next challenge of being a Creative Director in a media agency.

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