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Sarin Moddle, marketing co-ordinator at 95bFM in Auckland, New Zealand.
Sarin Moddle, marketing co-ordinator at 95bFM in Auckland, New Zealand.

My Career Abroad

Rocking the radio halfway across the world Add to ...

Why have you moved to your location New Zealand? What spurred you on to make this change?

My name is Sarin Moddle. I initially came to Auckland, New Zealand on an academic exchange. I arranged it so that this exchange was during my last semester at McGill University, meaning I wouldn’t have to leave New Zealand at any set time to come back to Canada. I started volunteering at 95bFM (the radio station I work at) in the hopes of making connections and finding some sort of job working on the summer festival circuit before returning to Canada. Instead, they hired me. That was nearly five and a half years ago.

What’s your job title, and what do you do?

I am the marketing co-ordinator, which for our organization basically means I am the marketing department in its entirety. I oversee all brand communication: publicity, online, station events, promotions, on-site activity, and whatever else comes across my desk. I do voice work for our in-house creative team and host a weekly radio show, and various contract work for festivals, promoters, and other parts of the live industry.

Why is your location the place for you to be now?

The radio market in Auckland is the most competitive in the world; there are more radio stations here than anywhere else. Simply put, I didn’t have to move to a rural or suburban location to get my first job in radio, which is sort of the standard in Canada. Additionally, because of the comparatively small market size of New Zealand, our independent station punches above its weight – we have a much larger market and mind-share than a station of our size would in Canada – which means I’ve had some amazing access to international artists and huge festivals. It’s a bit like being a big fish in a small pond – and at the start of one’s career, there aren’t many downsides to that.

What were you worried about before you left Canada for your location?

I was full of youthful invincibility – I wasn’t worried about too much.

How has the transition to your location been? Any amusing stories?

The miscommunications due to idiomatic differences are probably universal, but particularly when you don’t expect them – they speak English in New Zealand so I wasn’t particularly prepared for some of them. Kiwis say “full stop” to reference the punctuation you put at the end of a sentence – but being Canadian and using “period,” it turns out everyone thought I was referencing menstrual cycles for weeks before anyone called me on it. (Which is also typical Kiwi fashion – like Canadians, they’re often polite or reserved to the point of ridiculousness.)

What things have people noticed most about you? And what’s been people’s reception to you?

My loudness – both literally and figuratively. In a culture that is quite reserved and quite averse to people taking credit for things too enthusiastically, having a lot of confidence and expressing your opinions without reservation can sometimes come across as quite brash. But I haven’t found a particularly negative response to that. I think people see it as a bit more of a novelty than anything else.

I’m also constantly amazed at the number of people who are so worried about offending me by assuming that I’m American! (Which I’m not, I could care less.)

What thinks have struck you about your location?

There’s an odd cultural paradox at work in New Zealand. On the one hand, there’s a phenomenon they call Tall Poppy Syndrome: the undesirability of standing out in a crowd, of being exceptionally talented or skilled or successful. On the other hand, there’s a strong sense of pride in New Zealand’s cultural products – specifically with regard to music, New Zealand is probably a decade ahead of Canada in terms of finding pride and value in homegrown artists, and their government funding schemes (while not perfect) do a much better job of exposing new local music than their Canadian equivalents.

Also, it’s not all Lord of the Rings. There are a lot of beautiful and accessible landscapes here, but Auckland is a massively sprawling city that makes Vancouver look compact. The debates here about urban development, public transportation and housing intensification are the same ones that took place 20 years ago in Canadian cities – we’re quite behind in those conversations.

Is business similar or different in your location compared with Canada? How?

I can’t speak for the industry in general, as I’ve only worked in radio and music in New Zealand. From what I can gather with peers in Canada though, there’s a similar closeness to the industry, which can be great at times and lamentable at others. I like to say “New Zealand is too small to be an asshole to people,” and I really like that people are held accountable by our size and our incestuousness – but there’s also a sense of the industry being dominated by the old guard or the dinosaurs, and it’s hard to compete with them in such a small market.

Have you had to change the way you approach your business or change your actions in any way to succeed?

On a personal level, I’ve had to accept that things like work visas (and anything else involving immigration) are sometimes just out of my control. That’s been a difficult – but important – lesson to learn, especially for me.

Anything you would want to share with someone who might follow in your footsteps?

Think long and hard about what your endgame is. You will become embedded in a foreign place both personally and professionally, and that can make it extremely difficult to leave. After five and a half years in Auckland, I feel like my career ambitions and my personal desires are straddling the Pacific Ocean (literally), and that’s not a particularly smart or sustainable way to set up your life.

Do you know an executive or leader who has an interesting career story for My Career or My Career Abroad? E-mail mycareer@globeandmail.com

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