SA expat takes good marketing to global stage

With a global CV that rivals her passport for stamps, Helen Ahrens, is a “geotransient” businesswoman and marketer who has worked and studied in Korea, America, New Zealand, Singapore, England, Spain and most recently, Canada. Although, it’s her string of hybrid marketing-business positions that have forged Helen’s ties to Adelaide.

Best known in the mentoring and guest lecturing space, for her presence at Hub Australia, the University of Adelaide’s ThincLab, RMIT University, and Flinders University – she’s become a Global Academic Judge in Business for the Undergraduate Awards.

Helen found synergy between the corporate and education world though entrepreneurship. Driven by curiosity and a “love for the unknown”, Helen is passionate about leading teams in delivering bold results for her clients and support for emerging talent.

After years working in strategic and hands-on marketing teams, the calibre of the SANFL, and the South Australian Government as well as two Adelaide-based international tech firms, Helen broke ground, launching her own agency, Good Things Marketing – a company she’s taken to the global stage, working with some of the world’s biggest brands.

Former Adelaidean Helen Ahrens is senior customer access manager at Hootsuite in Toronto, Canada.

Through her dual strategy-leadership approach, Helen has gone on to successfully develop and launch four businesses across industries.

Helen’s agency was SA’s first Hootsuite Partner Agency, which became the ‘in’ for her next North American stint. This time, in the fastest growing start-up hub in the continent, Toronto in Canada. So, it’s come as no surprise that Helen has since proclaimed Toronto as her new home for now.

Helen is the global senior customer success manager at the world’s most widely adopted social relationship platform, Hootsuite. Since starting in June 2018, she has won a slew of awards including: Road Warrior Award in 2018 for Customer Success, Build A Better Way Award in 2018 for Customer Success and was a top performing global Customer Success Manager in Q3 2018.

“I work across Canada, the United States of America, Europe and beyond with Hootsuite’s global, strategic and complex enterprise clients. I love all of my clients and am surrounded by my dream team of colleagues,” Helen says.

She has been able to continue her interest in academia, guest lecturing at both the University of Toronto’s Rotman Business School and Ryerson University.

Helen Ahrens, third from left, with Good Things Marketing team members.

Helen is currently the ‘token Aussie’ in the East Coast office, where she best explains Adelaide as “the Niagara on the Lake or the Napa Valley of Australia”.

“It’s all about great wine, farm to table food and gorgeous countrysides,” she says. It has an added bonus of the best beaches, too” – a luxury that Torontonians need to travel a day to enjoy.

Helen proudly touches on the evolution of Adelaide, even since she left in March 2018. “…particularly in the tech and startup spaces – it has matured by leaps and bounds”.

“I do love Adelaide. My partner and I left for Toronto to broaden not only our career, but also our cultural aptitude and life experiences,” she shares.

Helen touches on an important point in that there is often a mix of motivators for those who choose to uproot themselves and leave home. The adventure is more often a journey of self-expansion and seeking to understand, than it is of wanting to leave what’s behind.

But Helen certainly did her research, rather than just hopping between countries on a whim.

“I very much had a laser focus on joining a large tech company to work with global companies and knew Toronto was where the Northern American tech scene was thriving,” she says.

The Riverland-born entrepreneur plans to return to SA later this year for a visit. When asked if she feels emotionally connected to Adelaide, Helen aptly responds, “Yes, but home is always where you want it to be”.

“I do miss those small town city vibes, the easy lifestyle and low cost of scenic living, though,’ she says. “I’d move back to Adelaide if the right opportunity arose.”

However, Helen is also honest with herself and knows she thrives just outside her comfort zone… both, where she wants to be and what she likes to do. It’s her intuition combined with a ‘trust the journey’ philosophy that have helped her smoothly transition from CEO back to employee. One thing’s for sure… we haven’t seen or heard the last of Helen in Adelaide.

The Hello From SA network is sharing the stories of SA expats from around the world. Do you know a South Aussie living, working or learning abroad? Get in touch via the Hello From SA Facebook or LinkedIn pages.

Hello from SA is the global community for South Australians living, working and learning interstate and abroad.

[logooos_saved id=”37992″]


New York tales of a South Australian expat

‘Producer’ on paper, but self-proclaimed “Jill of all trades”, South Australian expat Rebecca Gill lives, loves and learns in New York City… where hustling is a religion and apartments are smaller than most Adelaide kitchens.

It’s a small price to pay when chasing your dream – and New York has “always been it” for Rebecca. Her journey began in 2010, when she left Adelaide to fulfil her dream of working and living abroad. Bali was the first stop on her one-way ticket, having accepted a position as media manager for an NGO that had set-up there, during a recent rabies outbreak on the island.

While worlds apart from her previous roles a journalist at The Advertiser, working for an NGO in Asia set her up for the string of non-profits she’d go on to manage in New York, including Unicef and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Aside from her tiny Manhattan studio, Rebecca is “living the dream”, in every sense of the phrase. She runs a production company, ReAgency, with her BFF Jayde Lovell. Initially, the pair launched as a science-leaning PR agency but, given the administration’s anti-science agenda, they’ve unintentionally morphed into a late-night-style political talk-show, with a comedic undertone.

SA expat and NYC producer Rebecca Gill on set.

Rebecca creates branded content for universities and environmental organisations, and has just wrapped up post-production on her first documentary. She spends most of her time overseeing video production, rubbing shoulders with other content creators in Manhattan’s YouTube space.

“I feel like I’ve done a hundred different jobs and I’m a million years old. Even in New York City, I call myself a producer but I juggle lots of roles,” Rebecca laughs. The New York way, perhaps.

Adelaide remains a calm, grounding yearly refuge for a much-needed change of energy. Rebecca admits her perception of Adelaide being “mortgage, kids and bathroom renovations” has changed over the years.

“Adelaide isn’t just the suburbs,” she says. “It’s a cool city with a thriving arts scene and a great quality of life. There’s a bazillion other things going for it, too. I really just needed to look harder.

“You can live the creative life anywhere… you just have to find your people. I thought I had to get to a big city to try and be the person I wanted to be.”

Rebecca sees Adelaide as a diverse and bustling small city, similar to what her New York friends perceive it to be – “beaches, wine, cool little eateries, diverse people and the Adelaide Fringe, of course”.

As the years pass in New York, her affinity for simplicity grows – like hanging out with her folks in their backyard as relatives file through bringing different brands of sauvignon blanc. “A backyard is something I never get to enjoy in Manhattan,” Rebecca says.

Working out of NYC, Rebecca Gill rubs shoulders with other content creators in Manhattan’s YouTube space.

Regardless of how expensive it can be to fly home, Rebecca enjoys visiting home yearly. “It’s my physical release, coming home,” she says. “An undeniable surge of happiness, that goes something like, ‘oh God, thank you for this peace and space”.

Her family lives only a couple of streets (“blocks”, in Rebecca’s adopted language), from the city. Having attended Grange Primary School and Henley High School, the beach has always been symbolic of her childhood.

Rebecca says she is lucky enough to work with a tight group of Aussies.

“Jayde is constantly playing Crowded House, Matt Corby and Vance Joy, so that always triggers memories of the nearly 30 years I spent in Adelaide,” she says.

When posed the question that’s most common at family Christmas lunches for almost all SA expats, ‘will you ever return to Adelaide?’, she replies ‘hell, yeah!’ in true Aussie spirit.

Among her long list of reasons for one day returning home, a desire to raise future children in Australia is a big one.

“(In the US) Even those lucky enough to have insurance can get slapped with a $40,000 hospital bill, just for giving brith,” Rebecca says. “And who wants to raise a baby without their mum around?”

Home living space is another reason to one day make the journey home – she winces when thinking about what can get in Adelaide for the price of her monthly Manhattan rent.

“My toilet is basically on top of my kitchen,” Rebecca says. “One day, I’d love to live in those rambling old farmhouse-style homes in Adelaide, with a red brick exterior, giant old trees, a rosebush and hardwood floors.

“And of course, to be close to my parents. They’re both vegans, who kayak, cycle and are 7am joggers. And me? I’m a true New Yorker now. I eat out every night, my oven doubles as shoe storage, and ‘exercise’ is climbing subway stairs.”

The grass isn’t always greener. At least, not every season.

Today, though, Rebecca’s just enjoying the here and now… working on projects that ignite her. Like many others who leave Adelaide to embrace their opportunities, Rebecca has an important narrative to tell. Specifically, that life isn’t linear and more often than not, the real adventures are waiting for you in life’s zig-zags.

As part of Brand South Australia’s recently launched Hello From SA network, we’ll be sharing the stories of SA expats from around the world. Do you know a South Aussie living, working or learning abroad? Get in touch via the Hello From SA Facebook or LinkedIn pages.

Hello from SA is the global community for South Australians living, working and learning interstate and abroad.

[logooos_saved id=”37992″]

Hello From SA brings together expats interstate and abroad

South Australians living, working or learning interstate and abroad are set to be connected through a new network, launched by Brand South Australia this week.

Bringing together South Australian expats, the Hello From SA network is content-driven, creating an informed, engaged and positive network for South Australians all around the world.

This content will encourage expats to become advocates for SA by maintaining or deepening their connection with the state.

“No matter where you are in the world, you’ll find fellow South Australians, and wherever they end up they take with them a connection to the state,” says Brand South Australia executive chairman Peter Joy.

“There are so many talented and inspiring South Australians out there achieving great things and we want them to re-engage with our state. SA has a lot to offer in terms of business and investment opportunities, and we want our expats to be aware of this, and perhaps even consider SA as a place worth returning to for career and lifestyle opportunities.”

Central to the network is the Hello From SA website, LinkedIn page, (@Hello From SA) and Facebook page (@HelloFromSA).

Through these platforms, SA expats can stay up to date with the latest news, business opportunities and industry insights from around SA, read in-depth profiles of successful South Australians and find out about the latest cultural happenings in the state.

The network also gives expats the opportunity to interact and connect with fellow South Australians all around the globe.’

All South Australians are encouraged to share Hello From SA with their family and friends living interstate and overseas.

SA was once home to many notable faces, including Adelaide-born Gold Logie award-winning TV and radio presenter, Carrie Bickmore, most known for her role in hosting The Project.

Australia’s former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop grew up in the Adelaide Hills and studied law at the University of Adelaide. Now living in Perth, Julie was the country’s first ever female foreign minister.

University of South Australia graduate Tim Piper is the founding partner of award-winning New York creative agency Piro. Time Magazine named him one of the most influential people on the planet for his content work for brands.

Successful actor, musician and TV presenter Hugh Sheridan was born and raised in Adelaide and is well-known for playing Ben on popular Aussie family drama Packed to the Rafters. He now lives in Los Angeles.

Vogue Australia’s fashion director Christine Centenera was raised in Adelaide and now based in New York. In 2017 she co-founded WARDROBE.NYC with partner and Australian fashion designer Josh Goot.

Ken Wong is a successful game designer, director, and creative mind behind many popular apps. Growing up in Adelaide and graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from UniSA, Ken was the lead designer of award-winning game Monument Valley.

Bruna Papandrea is an SA-born now US-based film and TV producer and founder of production company Made Up Stories. Prior to this, Bruna co-founded Pacific Standard with Reese Witherspoon, a production company working on blockbusters Wild, Gone Girl and Big Little Lies.

So, do you know a South Australian expat, living, working or studying outside of SA? Share the Hello From SA network!

Feature image: Adelaide Oval, SATC.

Hello from SA is the global community for South Australians living, working and learning interstate and abroad.

[logooos_saved id=”37992″]