Expat Files : Keith Fowler (final)

Keith Fowler has 40 years experience in radio,  television, press and new media.

He has written over the past week on his experiences and lessons from being involved at a senior level in radio in multiple countries in Asia. Today, in the final instalment, he continues with ‘lessons learnt’.

You can re-read Part One here, and Part Two here.

But now onto the final few lessons:

Keith Fowler

Work hard, get your hands dirty; 

Lead by example, but don’t work too much harder than the team. Just  enough in front to keep everybody following.

Make sure you make a difference;

The big criticism of expat workers thru’ out Asia is that we don’t leave anything behind or make a lasting contribution. Whilst you might be helping to improve people, structures, systems, processes and outcomes, people tend to forget when you are working with them every day how much things are evolving.

“You are a guest bring and leave a gift”

Make your influence lasting and tangible. Give your team copies of presentations, takeaways, useful books, etc. Things that people can physically go back to long after you have gone.

You will be an agent of change, even if it is not in the job description;

Use this power wisely. No change just for changes sake.

By virtue of being a foreigner with a different background, conditioning and viewpoint, you can demonstrably and positively change the way things are done.

You have international expertise knowledge and experience, a lot of which is universal, and transportable,

A fair amount of what you know needs to go thru the local filter, be adjusted and polished before it feels homegrown.

Some of it, leave at home where you found it.

However your genuine advantage or value is that you see things, that the locals take for granted, in a new and possibly different light and so can generate fresh perspectives…remembering that some of these angles may not resonate with the audience.

Be prepared to improvise

In the world of “American expenditure and Asian revenues”, sometimes you may not have all the resources you are used to. Steel yourself ladies and gentlemen not everyone in the world is doing AMT’s and weekly on line music testing.

Designing “old school” solutions will be a matter of necessity.

Innovation is sometimes easier

But beyond the need to improvise the chance to “innovate” will present itself almost daily.

Being out of your comfort zone in an alien environment and not surrounded by conventional wisdom actually makes it easier to get “outside the box”.

The real delight is to design build local solutions that are influenced by what you know, but that harness the local conditions, culture, idiosyncracies and the creativity of your team to deliver genuinely unique outcomes.

And finally:


Yes about once every six months you will have a “what the fuck am I doing here” moment.

A day when for all your best intentions, great planning, concise execution, you will feel like you are just not making a difference.

Trust me it it’s like food poisoning you’ll have the shits for about 12 hours and then your appetite returns.

The Gig is up!!;

The good news is that these roles tend to last longer than expected. I know lots of examples of people who took jobs for two years plus an option for a third that wound up with multiple further extensions.

However regardless of how happy you are or how successful are…. network.

Because at some point the gig will be up!!

Realistically, our roles should eventually go to locals, so it is good sense to try to find, train and mentor a successor. This allows you to keep one eye on your next step.

The thing about the expat experience is that you will meet some extraordinary people , some will become lifelong friends, some more transient.

Some just like you will be from somewhere else in the world, others will be born and bred where ever it is you are and with no desire to leave.

Either way, you are very likely to be given access to circumstances and situations not available in Australia so “work the room”.

Be open to opportunity.

In a nutshell it’s a real job and its hard work BUT it is like being paid for having a hobby ☺

You can drop Keith ‘Chooky’ Fowler an email to say ‘g’day’ here

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