Her Expat Life had the privilege to chat with Natalie Turner, Author of 'Yes, You Can Innovate, Keynote Speaker and Founder of 'Women Who Lead', to find out what life is like as an accomplished female expat and gain insight into her world.
1: Congratulations on your book - 'Yes, You Can Innovate', Keynote Speaker, Inventor of 6 'I's of Innovation, Founder of Women who Lead, CEO & Founder of The Entheo Network.
What has been the most impactful work you have done over your career?
I believe we have the most impact when we are in alignment to our creative impulse - that charge of energy that spurs us forwards to live in the world, to help others and to use our skills and talents to our best ability. When I am doing this, I am living my best self, and when I am helping others to do this, I am having my greatest impact. My core strengths are to inspire confidence in others, to help them see their worth, to call forth their gifts and to move mountains, or even countries sometimes to enable this to happen! I believe the red thread of my life, if I look over the career choices I have made, is pioneering the new and having a positive impact on people and the planet. I feel a sense of urgency even more these days as things are literally hotting up around us. My work as a founder, a writer, an inventor, a speaker, a coach, a retreat facilitator, and an aspiring novelist - all these labels are merely platforms for the core message that with the limited time we have on earth, how can we live in joy and make the greatest and most positive impact with our lives?
2: As a female expat living in Singapore, Malaysia and now in Portugal, what have been the biggest challenges you faced as an expat, and how did you overcome them?
When you move overseas you have to start from scratch - building up networks, friendships, connections and in my case pioneering new businesses as an entrepreneur - this is challenging. Finding your tribe is very, very important. Finding a few great people that become your go to community is imperative. I am thankful that in all the countries I have lived I have done this. Having an outgoing personality has helped too as it takes a lot of effort. But, I can truly say, some of the greatest friends I have made, the best clients I have served, the most amazing experiences I have had have been in the last 13 years of my life since leaving England and heading out into the unknown.
3: What inspired you to live the expat life?
I didn't really see it as the expat life. For me expats were people who were sent overseas by their organisations - be it usually Governments or Corporations. I was more of an economic migrant, but we don't usually use that term for Westerners that relocate. It was 2009, the Global Financial Crisis had wiped out many businesses and recession was looming. It was raining hard and I was sitting in my garden office with my husband and business partner Carl Hinds. An email pinged into my inbox and I received an invitation to speak at a women's leadership conference in Singapore. I looked over the top of my computer and read him the email and said 'what do you think? Shall I go? Beats sitting here in gloomy London!' He said, 'why not!' And off I went. In four days I had over 20 meetings with individuals and companies interested in innovation services, leadership training programmes, design thinking, helping people to be more creative and innovative. I flew back to the UK and said to Carl, 'let's go to Asia and take what we have built in the UK to Singapore,' so we did. We spent a year commuting, building business connections and working with the United Kingdom Trade and Industry Body (UKTI), which helped to open doors for us and when we had enough business opportunities we took the leap to rent out our house, and later sell it, and move to Asia. Initially we thought we'd only be there for a couple of years. It turned out to be 12. Two in Singapore and 10 in Malaysia. We moved to Portugal in May 2022.
4: Your successes and your work for Innovation are incredible. What is your advice for other expat women who want to advance their careers?
Start with PURPOSE. Dig deep to really understand who you are - your strengths, your talents, your experiences, your challenges. Then find an opportunity that converges with who you are, that lights you up, that sets your heart on fire. You are going to need it. You are going to need this engine of energy to propel you forward. You are going to need such a strong vision of who you are in the world to survive the ups and downs, and there are many of them. Build and nurture networks. Be authentic. Create genuine friendships. Look for people who share your values and work with them.
5: As a successful female expat, what are your top tips for other women looking to relocate? What advice do you have for expat women in building new relationships and a support system abroad and in the workplace?
Find groups where you can both offer and receive support. For example, I am a Member of Primetime in Singapore, a professional women's group. I was also a member of APSS, Asia Professional Speakers Singapore and Keynote Women. It is in these groups that I found both friendship and business connections. Everywhere I have gone, expat business women have been generous with their time, their connections and their support. Used LinkedIn to strategically network with people who you think you can help, but also who can help you. InterNations is another great group for expats to meet people, connect and make friends. Work on building personal resilience and daily practices that keep you grounded and strong. I meditate, journal, practice Qi Gong and exercise. Without these practices, life, for me, soon gets wobbly. If you are married, make sure it is a partnership where both of you are equally valued and respected. It is easy to get caught up in the work, whether corporate or entrepreneurial, but you are going to need each other for support. It's no surprise that marriage breakdowns are very, very common amongst expats. You need to have a shared vision and keep checking in with each other to make sure you are in alignment with what you want and where you are going as a couple, or as a family.
6: Can you tell us more about 'Women Who Lead', a Retreat, Coaching Service and Community for Female Executives that you founded?
I founded Women who Lead ten years ago as I saw there was a gap in women's leadership development for something more holistic - that incorporated personal development, and wellbeing. Over the last several years I have facilitated many Retreats in exotic and beautiful locations in Bali, Malaysia and Singapore. We start on the Friday night with a welcome meal, it is usually a small group of female business leaders, and I ask everyone, 'what is calling you right now? What is emerging as a new opportunity for you?' That sets the tone of the Retreat. It is a weekend of personal and professional discovery to move the blocks in the self and in ones environment. Day one is spent taking a deep dive into what motivates and drives you and what your core essence and gifts are. We do this through the lens of the Enneagram, one of the oldest psychological tools for personal transformation. I have used the Enneagram for many years both personally and professionally as a coaching tool and it is incredibly powerful. The second day we focus on creative visioning and action - getting clear on the vision that you want to create and how to do this and we use The Six 'I's® of Innovation, the instrument I designed for helping people measure their innovation strengths and operationalise their ideas. Woven into the design is a focus on wellbeing through massage, meditation and journaling as well as sumptuous food and Five Star luxury. It is a time to be spoilt as well as transformed! My next Retreat is in Portugal in March 2023. Through Women who Lead, I also offer one to one coaching services as a creative thinking partner to help women get traction on their ideas as well as deeper application of the Enneagram into helping them move into greater levels of freedom and power.
7: What are the benefits and challenges you've faced as an expat woman?
One of the greatest benefits is the exposure to so many opportunities, different cultures, different people and ways of doing things. Many times I have sat around a table and counted the number of nationalities present. People from all over the world - united by a set of values that are less about where you are from and more about what you think and what you are doing with your life. It is highly enriching, full of possibility and suits my personality. The challenge I would say is that it helps to be a self starter. You can't wait for people to come to you. You have to go to them. You have to reach out and carve your own path.
8: What do you do in your spare time?
I am an aspiring novelist. I have actually spent the last five years, in my spare time, writing a novel - a love story based in South East Asia in the temples of Angkor Wat, and of course, the central character is an expat wife! This has been my passion project. I studied with the Writer's Studio in Sydney and Curtis Brown Creative Writing College in London and will soon be pitching to Literary Agents. It is very, very exciting. So, this takes a lot of my spare time. My husband and I also like to host parties. We are connectors and love bringing people together. He is a DJ and vinyl specialist in soul, funk and disco and plays at festivals, large events and corporate parties. He is also on Chocolate Radio a world wide 24 hour station with his brand Music for the Soul and has a live stream on Mixcloud which he created in lockdown called Sunday Soul Sessions. So we both have creative pursuits, as well as our core innovation business, which is really important to cultivate and cherish. Of course travelling, reading, spending time with friends and family are top of the list too. I also practice Qi Gong, an ancient martial art which I learnt in Asia.
9: What goals were you able to accomplish as an expat that you wouldn't be able to achieve in your home country?
When you cut ties to what is familiar and step into the unknown you grow rapidly as a person. It can be sink or swim and sometimes it's both! The ability to ride change, to be resilient, to build mental toughness and most of all to have an openness to life, to diversity and to trailblazing the new. I don't think I'd have achieved half of what I have done if I hadn't of taken the risk to step out and forge a new way of living, and I think, and strongly believe, there is still so much more to come!
To get in touch with Natalie or find out more visit www.natalie-turner.net.