Aussies Of The Bay – Larissa Kelloway

“My techie husband was asked to relocate to the Californian office, based in San Ramon…,” says Larissa Kelloway. “I saw it as an opportunity to finish my PhD thesis, but it turns out I have worked as an actor pretty much full-time since I started actively auditioning in February 2017.”


Aussies Of The Bay – Katherine Fenech

Name, job, part of the San Francisco Bay Area you live in

Katherine Fenech, Technical Writing Coordinator, Belmont

You started this great website ( where you blog about your experiences. So what’s it about, how did you get started and what can we expect to see on it in the future?

Once upon a time, I was a newspaper and online journalist, but it wasn’t a career that I felt I could sustain and have a family. Plus, the arms of the media that I was most experienced in were tanking – lost advertising and boring things like paywalls, so I decided it was time for a change.

I first started Bright Lights of America because I wanted to look back on my time here and remember what it was like to be in a shiny, new place. I’d lived in London for a couple of years as well and I’ve got a shocking memory, so I don’t really have much in the way of great stories from that time.

But it’s kind of morphed into a place where I document my travels to places in and around the US and give tips or advice on expat life and everything you need to know about settling down in the US. What can you expect in the future?

Well, that’s tough to say since I try to plan things in advance but end up winging it mostly. I’ve got lots more to write about travelling to Toronto, Maui and I’m on a trip to Vegas very soon. But in terms of expat-minded posts, I generally take cues from my own life for inspiration. And my readers, so hit me up!

What are some of the most popular posts on the blog so far?

I’m really lucky to have such a supportive group of Aussie expats who read my blog. Although, sometimes it can feel like I’m just talking at myself. The most popular posts seem to be the universal expat issues and a couple of travel pieces thrown in:

If I was just checking it out for the first time, as an Aussie expat in the USA, where should I start?

I would say just go to the Expat Life tab on the site and scroll through for anything that’s important to you at the moment. Don’t get too overwhelmed by it all though.

I’d definitely read up on driving and renting a car here, and to make your life easier check out the Aussie words and phrases that Americans don’t understand. You’ll save yourself some pain with that one. They don’t have news agencies here (at least not in California) and there’s some other shopping quirks you should probably know about. And it doesn’t hurt to read up on opening a US bank account either.

That should keep you busy for a while.

What are some common questions or problems readers ask you about?

Healthcare is front and centre of that list. I think it’s the most confusing part of moving to the US and I’m still so far behind on my own understanding of it all that I haven’t tackled that subject yet, except to write about a trip to the hospital for surgery. People also always want to know how to open a bank account, get a credit card to build credit history and navigate the DMV.

So let’s switch gears and learn a little more about you. When did you first come to the Bay and what’s the backstory there?

I first moved here in late July 2015 on an E3 visa. I was lucky enough to apply for a job with a solar company and after a few Skype interviews managed to land the job. I still don’t quite know how. Sometimes I think it’s just being in the right place at the right time.

Hardest thing about moving here?

For me it was breaking the news to my family. This might be a little TMI, but I’d moved to Sydney from London because my mum was ill, and then back to Sydney from Perth when we found out it was terminal. The few years that followed were obviously really rough and I felt the guilt of “leaving” my dad to live on his own. I was lucky that my family was supportive of my decision and I know that not everyone has that backing from parents and friends.

Favorite Bay Area memory to date?

There are too many! I just love wandering around the SF neighbourhoods because I always find something new or cool to experience. Is camping at Yosemite and seeing a bear behind our campsite, outside of the “Bay Area” scope? [Editor’s note: definitely in scope 🙂] Because that was pretty bloody awesome. I’m going with that one anyway. We saw a bear and a deer all on the same day. No deer were injured by bears while I was present.

What impact has being Australian had on your life here? In dating? In work?

When people ask me what it’s like living in SF in comparison to Sydney, I have to confess that it’s pretty similar. The weather and the people (to an extent) make it feel like home. But dating and work are completely different stories.

I think maybe my accent had something to do with the amount of gentleman vying for my attention when I first moved here. They weren’t backwards in coming forwards either, which was very different to what I’d experienced elsewhere.

Let’s be honest, I’m not a looker, and I’m a bit of a wallflower socially so I can only imagine that it was the accent. My sense of humour does not compute with the US workplace either. Honestly, those first six months were a minefield of Arrested Development moments. I’ve learnt not to crack jokes for the sake of my own job security. It’s just easier that way, because I honestly can’t gauge what’s going to offend sometimes.

Most American thing you’ve experienced in your time here?

People on electric skateboards “walking” their dogs is a firm favourite for me. Getting my first Superbowl Party invite and thinking I’d just be interested in watching the ads but actually getting into the game (and the queso).

Best advice for anyone who is thinking of coming over?

That first week or couple of days is going to be unsettling. Even with all my stupid confidence, I still arrived here and spent the first week thinking “what have I done?”. I’m almost sure that’s a normal response. It’s just the unfamiliarity of the situation and it passes pretty quickly if you throw yourself in.


Aussies looking for opportunities – 1st May 2018

Rob Grant – Marketing Insight and Strategy

“I’m a senior marketing insight and strategy specialist, looking for a new role in the Bay Area (my company is relocating to New York). I have nearly 20 years experience in both agencies and client organizations (open to both), across numerous categories (especially CPG and liquor).

Consumers, brands, innovation, packaging, communication and trends are my specialty. Please contact or at”

Lewis Farrell – B2B/B2C Marketing Expert

“I’ve been in the US many years now, arriving just before the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake! And even so I have loved the Bay Area. I studied Science at Syd Uni before bouncing down to Melbourne (do miss the restaurants on Lygon St.) and then on to here.

I am a green card holder, so no probs working anywhere here. I have B2B/B2C marketing experience in Big Data, SaaS, Blockchain, Enterprise IT, and Cloud and I have led global, cross-functional teams. If you think you know of any opportunities or leads and could make any introduction I would love to chat. or resume –

Antoine Khalil – Biomedical Equipment Technician/Engineer

“I am a highly skilled and experienced AAMI CBET Certified Biomedical Equipment Technician/Engineer with over 12 years experience in the medical service/sales industry.

I have an extensive knowledge in Anesthetics, IVF, Apheresis, sterilization, medical gas systems (High & Low pressure systems), hospital biomedical equipment, electrical standards, Australian, American, international standards and many more!

With over 7 years experience as a State Service Manager and over 12 years as a Field Service Engineer, I have the skills and knowledge to make an impact in my field. Over the years I have learned and developed the skill to increase business revenue and also eliminate costs for my employee. LinkedIn


Aussies Of The Bay – Dean Flynn

The accent breaks the ice so that is a good conversation starter. But there is definitely a different business and social etiquette here. Re-learning the unwritten rules takes some adjustment. The entrenched Aussie behavior of putting yourself down has to be flipped to pointing out your highlights.

Otherwise your self put down will be met with looks of confusion, or words of support saying you shouldn’t feel that way about yourself. The accent breaks the ice so that is a good conversation starter. But there is definitely a different business and social etiquette here. Re-learning the unwritten rules takes some adjustment.


Aussies Of The Bay – Sandra Witzel

Name, job, part of the San Francisco Bay Area you live in

Sandra Witzel, Head of Marketing at SkedGo, Castro

When did you first come to the Bay and what’s the backstory there?

I moved to SF with my husband in late August 2016. He applied for a job, got it and voila! After getting married in Germany in July, going on honeymoon in Tanzania and Kenya, we had three weeks to pack up our lives in Sydney. It felt like it was a good time for a change. We both love Sydney to bits but were excited about this new adventure.

I’ve also never really travelled in the Americas, so it seemed like a great opportunity to get to know a different part of this planet. So far, I’ve ticked off New York, Arizona, Colorado, Mexico, New Orleans, Detroit and several places in California. So much to see!

I live in the Castro – which is hands down my favourite neighbourhood. Stunning architecture, lots of nice restaurants, THREE good coffee places (!!) and lovely people all around. And dogs. Lots of dogs 🙂

Hardest thing about moving here?

Apart from paying an exorbitant amount of rent in San Francisco? I miss my awesome friends in Sydney and the beaches of course. Those spur of the moment trips to Parsley Beach or Coogee or Balmoral or … sigh.

Also really hard: we moved here two months before the presidential election – obviously totally convinced Trump would never happen. Well…

Favorite Bay Area memory to date?

There are so many. Just walking down Castro Street makes me happy every day, it has such a positive vibe. A helicopter flight across San Francisco (including going over and under the Golden Gate Bridge) was definitely a highlight. Adopting our dog from the SPCA another.

I love exploring San Francisco and learning about its colourful history.

What impact has being Australian had on your life here? In dating? In work?

Having an Aussie accent is a great conversation starter (especially if I then tell people I am actually German). Makes me feel somewhat exotic 😉

I am still doing my Aussie job remotely. I love the flexibility of working from home or from a co-working space and having awesome colleagues all over the world. SkedGo is a small Australian software development firm, making cool stuff in the mobility as a service space. We don’t do office politics and everyone is super professional and chilled. Hard to beat, so I haven’t been looking for a job here.

On the downside, I don’t have any local work mates to hang out with, which sometimes sucks.

Most American thing you’ve experienced in your time here?

The good: large events that combine a very diverse audience, super chilled atmosphere, kids, dogs, alcohol, glass bottles, pot etc without anyone having any issues (looking at you Sydney Lockout Laws).

In the photo you can see me at my first Off The Grid in the Presidio (wearing about ten layers of clothing as it was bloody freezing) – an event where everyone happily co-exists and simply enjoys themselves. Despite the terrible political divide, I find Americans to be super friendly and accommodating everywhere I go.

Baseball game at the AT&T was fun too (for the first two hours…).

The bad: We live about half a kilometer away from beautiful Dolores Park. There was a shooting a while ago, on a Thursday afternoon, in broad daylight. Everyone’s just like ‘oh yeah, stay safe’ etc. and then goes back to business as usual. Gun violence is so normalised here, I still struggle to get my head around that.

Also normal seems to be the number of homeless people. That heralded ‘American Dream’ leaves so many people behind. If you want to help, just buy someone food or a coffee, it’s such a hard life for them here. Our neighbour is a social worker and recently introduced us to a lovely young woman in her early twenties who has been living on the streets since age 12! Every homeless person has a story. You really never know.

Best advice for anyone who is thinking of coming over?

Come prepared! Finding a job here can be hard from what I have heard, it’s super competitive. Since the Bay area is crazy expensive, your savings might not last very long. Explore California. It’s truly a beautiful state. Try to occasionally leave your little tech (or other) bubble.

Get out of your comfort zone, it’s so much more fun. Don’t get too upset about issues like shared coin laundries, ancient banking systems (remember how to write cheques?) and bad coffee. We’ve all been there. Join the Australians in San Francisco Bay Area Facebook group – super helpful.


Little Creatures Spotted in SF

I got this note from a reader recently. Love it!

“Hey Chris,Thought this might be of interest to the parched Aussies in SF.Jersey Pizza on 2nd St in SOMA is importing Little Creatures pale ale!

Good times!

– Patrick Wacher”


Aussies Of The Bay – Matt Holden

Name, job, part of the San Francisco Bay Area you live in

Matt Holden, Founder, Black Opal, Sea Cliff

When did you first come to the Bay and what’s the backstory there?

We arrived in 2013 when I brought my startup from Australia. MavSocial is a social media marketing platform and we worked with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn so San Francisco was the natural choice for us. I sold MavSocial last year and now have a new startup that is focussing on Chatbot Marketing Platform

Hardest thing about moving here?

The most obvious is leaving family and friends behind but having said that there is not a lot of joy that I see in Sydney given the high cost of living there.

Favorite Bay Area memory to date?

I got some great seats to AT&T Park and watched the Giants baseball. First time was great but then you realize baseball needs a ‘Big Bash’ moment to speed it up.

What impact has being Australian had on your life here? In dating? In work?

My posting before San Francisco was Singapore and you’ll find many Australian expats who are always well regarded. Australians are always well regarded in the United States and Americans still love our Aussie accent!

Most American thing you’ve experienced in your time here?

I was at a Social Media conference in San Diego and Candace Payne was interviewed. She is the Texan who became ‘Chewbacca Mom’ and racked up 170 million Facebook views with her viral video and since then has built a multimillion-dollar business – as they say “only in America”

Best advice for anyone who is thinking of coming over?

Given the strong economy, I urge others to come to America now. The time is right and opportunity abounds. I do caution that if you have school-age kids life is tricky and expensive given schooling and housing.

Anything else?

I’m now advising lots of startups as a mentor. For technology companies getting that investment is critical and there are many Australian founders moving here so I really enjoy hearing pitches from them and how I can help.


Aussies looking for opportunities – 20th Mar 2018

William Brooks – Full Stack Software Engineer

I relocated last year from Perth to Oakland with my wife, who is originally from the Bay Area. I studied Computer Science at UWA before working in the family business, managing hotel & hospitality businesses for 8 years.

I recently completed a full stack web development course at UC Berkeley extension while waiting for my work visa. I now have full work authorisation and am looking for a full-stack or front-end web development position. If you think you could make any introduction I would love to chat. or


Aussies Of The Bay – Peter Buckingham

Find a way to be a part of a community. There is now a lot of information out there about the practicalities of moving here, but coming to the US and finding a way to feel at home is tricky when you first get here.


Aussies looking for opportunities – 6th Mar 2018

Kaitlyn Lieschke – Environmental Science and Data Analysis

G’day all! My name is Kaitlyn Lieschke and I’m looking for environmental science and data analysis positions. I’m trained as an atmospheric chemist and data analyst but my skills are very transferable and I’m open to any opportunities that I’d be a good fit for, particularly those that would allow me to stay in atmospheric or environmental science.

I’ve been working in air quality research for 3+ years and am currently working as a graduate student researcher at UC Berkeley. My work has involved a lot of statistical analysis of large data sets to determine trends and changes in air quality both in the Bay Area and back home in Australia. I have extensive knowledge of python and R, great written and verbal communication skills and love problem solving and analytical thinking.

You can see my resume and get links to my LinkedIn and GitHub accounts on my website and you can contact me at Let me know of any opportunities.

Rena – Product

My name is Rena and I just moved to San Francisco from Sydney. At my last full-time role as Advertising Product Manager at Allure Media (the Australian publisher of POPSUGAR, Business Insider, WhoWhatWear Network and Gizmodo Media Group), I build and manage the advertising product roadmap; from brainstorming to successful launch of the ad products.

A recent successful project that I have managed is the launch of a premium video ad partnered with AOL. Essentially, my role as a Project Manager is to manage the launch of the product on 3 different websites – Business Insider, POPSUGAR and Gizmodo (each has their own CMS and engineering teams). I ensure clear communication across the teams so they are aware and updated on project milestones, status, and delivery.

I have 6 years experience in digital advertising and publishing. I am highly experienced in ad operations, campaign management, project managing, data analytics, insights, digital trends to assist the Commercial and Editorial teams to sell on-brand and on-strategy commercial products.

P/S: I have full authorization to work in the US and do not require a sponsorship from any company.

Rory – Various

Looking to make the move into tech in the Bay Area. Management Consultant from Perth with 2 years experience. Passionate about technology and have skills in Python, SQL, VBA, Javascript, and Tableau.

Quick learner with good strategic intuitions and communication skills. Interested in a range of roles from Data Science, Program/Product Management to Business Development. LinkedIn Email: If anyone knows anything that might be a good fit please drop me a line.

Jennifer – Customer Succes

I have recently moved to San Francisco Bay Area from Melbourne and looking for sales and customer success role opportunities. I have 3 years experience working in financial services starting as a credit risk analyst to an account executive where I’ve managed a portfolio of SMB clients.

If there any opportunities or you are able to make an introduction, please DM me at jen.szetho@gmail.comor   Thank you!