WorkWild Geese

‘There’s a lack of formality and a straight-talking approach that’s really refreshing’

Elaine Herlihy, Sydney

Marketing expert Elaine Herlihy always had an “outward eye”. “Coming from a small dairy farm in Knocknagoshel in Co Kerry, I always wanted to live abroad, despite my close connections to home.”

After leaving school in Abbeyfeale, Herlihy moved to Dublin to complete a commerce degree before going on to complete a higher diploma in marketing practice at the Smurfit Graduate Business School.

“It was a really innovative marketing course, where you worked with real projects in Irish companies. It was the first course of its kind I was aware of,” she said.

After completing her university education in 1997, her sights were set on working for Reuters news agency in their London headquarters. “It was a dream of mine to work there. Hailing from rural Ireland, I didn’t move in media circles and didn’t know any media types, but I got an interview for an entry level position thanks to a connection I made and luckily got the job.”


Herlihy moved to London and worked at Reuters headquarters in Canary Wharf. “I started off in marketing and worked my way up to more senior roles. It’s such a big company with massively talented people working in it and amazing opportunities.”

The only downside was living on the other side of London. “I lived in West Ealing and had to commute to East London each day. It could take up to three hours back and forth so days were long, but it was worth it.”

Nonetheless, after nine years working for Reuters, Herlihy decided to head down under. Unlike many Irish people relocating to Australia, she accrued permanent residency before she moved there. “I didn’t want a working holiday visa or anything transient, as I wanted to progress my career, as well as working abroad for a while.”

It was a long and expensive process, she says. “I took my time deciding to move to Sydney. I had been here twice before, but wanted to be sure it was where I wanted to be. It’s a plus for potential employers to see you are on a permanent visa and committed long term.”

After landing in Sydney in 2007, Herlihy found a head of marketing role in superannuation with BT financial group, before working with Westpac, a banking and wealth organisation, where she was head of brand and mass marketing.

“In 2019, I took a role with OFX, an online foreign exchange and payments company with headquarters in Sydney. I started as a chief marketing officer and in 2020 I became chief marketing and product officer at the company.”

Herlihy lives in a ‘fabulously vibrant neighbourhood’ and enjoys Sydney’s outdoor dining and cafe culture. “Personally, I’m not a huge fan of beaches, even though Sydney’s beaches are world famous, I prefer the parks, restaurants and cafes here in the area.

“Sydney is regularly accused of having fewer cultural attractions than Melbourne, but I disagree. I think it has an incredible culture. There’s always something on, with great exhibitions, galleries, concerts and festivals year-round to choose from.”

She also finds Australians to be positive and optimistic. “I like the get up and go of Australians, they’re energetic and lively and have an optimistic outlook on life. It’s something I really appreciate in my Australian friends and colleagues.

“There’s a lack of formality and a straight-talking approach that’s really refreshing — both inside and outside work. They remind me a little of Irish people. Most of my friends weren’t born in Sydney, as you would expect in Australia, they come from all around so you get a good mix.”

Herlihy says a real highlight of living in Sydney is the shorter commute. “I live close to the city and really cherish the fact that my commute is only 20 minutes door-to-door. It makes working life so much easier.

“My Australian husband and I bought a home in 2018 so it is good to be properly grounded and not have to worry about rental increases. The cost of living is incredibly high in Sydney and, like many other countries, has increased exponentially this year.”

She says Covid-19 was difficult for expats in Australia, as restrictions and a lengthy travel ban meant not seeing loved ones, but it also accelerated the possibility to work remotely.

“At first it was really tough to be away from friends and family for so long, knowing you couldn’t leave the country. The Covid-19 years were awful at times.”

But now that employers know workers can work from home, opportunities to work from anywhere in the world have come about. “Hence I’m in Ireland for the summer, working from Kerry. OFX has a growing business here and in Europe, so it’s perfect. The culture of the company is very progressive and mature — so that helps create trust and these opportunities to work from different places.”

“When you live in Australia, you often only come home for milestones, so it’s nice to enjoy the mundane things like a cup of tea with my dad when he comes back from the yard.”

Despite the fact that she let Ireland 25 years ago, Herlihy is enjoying her summer in Kerry from the comfort of her childhood bedroom. “It’s a dream. When I moved to Australia to see the world and experience it, I never thought I’d get to be home and abroad, and get the best of both.”

Barbara McCarthy

Barbara McCarthy is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in business