Changing Perspectives: A journey of cultural adaptation and personal growth

Ahmet Ilhan
By Ahmet Ilhan | 25 June 2024
Ahmet Ilhan PHD planning manager.

The MFA DE&I Council would like to see an industry where everyone can thrive, feel heard, supported, and safe to do their best work. Let’s meet the Changers who are sharing their own lived experiences to inspire us all to change for the better.

My name is Ahmet. I am a Turkish citizen who’s been living in Sydney for the past five years with my partner. This period, representing 15% of my life, is the result of the biggest decision I ever made.

My journey to Australia, which began with a language school, has broadened my horizons and enriched my life in many ways. Australia is my new home.

After about a six-year media career in Turkey, my partner and I flew 15,000 kilometres to Sydney. What started as a temporary plan turned into a completely different path with the onset of the Covid 19 pandemic. After two and a half years working as a pizza maker, a message on LinkedIn led me to my current role at PHD, where I’ve been for the past two years.

I’ve always enjoyed observing and I assumed this helped me adapt more quickly to the Australian way of life in my first years. However, when I returned to my profession in media, I realised how different Australian culture could be in every aspect.

Differences began to show themselves in work relationships, client-media relations, work-life balance, you name it. My work life was dramatically different from the one I had learned in the course of six years in Turkey. The difficulties of working in a new media environment and in a newly learned language increased the level of challenge.

Even the simplest things could set me back – such as the placement of the percentage sign. In Turkey, we write “%50”, not the other way around. The most challenging moments of my work life were not in front of a 300-degree oven, but in front of a laptop.

At this point, the encouragement from those around me became crucial. In fact, that was all I needed. Realising that I was not alone, thanks to my team’s backing and their patience, was a big turning point for me.

Culturally, expressing issues has always been challenging for me, but fortunately, this was recognised from the outside. The assistance I received from my managers and colleagues at PHD turned everything around by 180 degrees. The morale boost from my team calmed me and sped up my progress.

At the same time, in-house PHD@PHD technical skills training and the MFA Foundation courses rapidly expanded my understanding of the Australian media. With all this help, everything I feared melted away.

Looking back, I realise how valuable my path has been. Every morning, when I get out of bed, I see a more confident Ahmet than the anxious Ahmet of the past.

So, my advice to others is this: The difficulties you face are not specific to you. Do not feel isolated. And, if you sense even a slight hint that someone is struggling, do not hesitate to ask how they’re doing.

Ahmet Ilhan is Planning Manager at PHD

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