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Women Working Overseas: Meet Jude Burger

In response to PwC’s findings that women have a lack of role models in the global mobility sector, we’re showcasing positive stories of women who’ve lived and worked internationally. While each experience is unique, every story maintains a common thread of deep personal growth, which has had a lasting impact throughout the lives of each of the women profiled.

A career built from the foundation of travel

Jude Burger, the Director of Sourcing Capability and Culture at Digital Transformation Agency was born in Holland, grew up in Australia, and spent the best part of her 20’s and 30’s travelling and working across Europe and the US.

Her first foray into the international market was a post-university move to San Francisco where her boyfriend at the time was from. This move launched a career and interest in IT, spanning nearly 30 years across small start-ups, her own business ventures, large IT companies and government.

Jude

“I wanted to challenge the ways that I looked at the world, and also challenge my assumptions about how the world worked,” she says of her experience.

“[Travelling] did challenge me, and it gave me a much broader perspective than if I had stayed in Australia and I am deeply grateful for that.”

The San Francisco move was the first of many over the course of nearly two decades. Jude moved almost every two years from the late 80s through to 2001 mostly spurred on by her personal desire for adventure.

 “Most of the time I moved I did it on my own steam, I didn’t have another job, and I might not have even had friends in the new place I was moving to.”

The exception to this was landing a role with Texas-based tech start-up Tivoli in 1997.

“It would absolutely have been preferable to work and travel with companies that I already worked for,” says Jude. “The opportunities just weren’t present.”

This sentiment is shared by numerous women, in fact, 64% percent of women said opportunities to undertake international assignments were critical in attracting them to, and keeping them with an employer.

For companies wanting to attract and retain competitive employees, it’s increasingly important to include international opportunities within their value proposition.

When companies didn’t offer what Jude was looking for, she left, choosing to pursue travel on her own.

“I did it anyway,” she says. “But I would have loved to have been able to move within my existing companies.”

Prioritising values

The self-driven trajectory of these moves may seem an unlikely foundation for a successful career, but for Jude, it was all part of the work to discover what was important to her.

“I need to look at myself in the mirror at night and be proud of who I see, and that means I need to conduct myself in a way that is true to my values.”

As someone with an active passion for social justice and community service, it was always crucial for Jude to find a way to incorporate this into her work and personal life.

“When my values and the organisation I’m working for become incompatible, I have then left the organisations,” she says.

Being intimately in touch with your values and desires is something Jude encourages all people to pursue.

“It should be part of your matrix of decision making, recognising how something fits within your value structure,” she says.

Transferrable skillsets

A consistent thread throughout this series has been the extent to which women have named international work experience as the source for many of the skills they utilise in their current roles. Jude agrees that her varied experience provided many transferrable skills she used daily.

“Having experience in both start-ups and larger IT companies working with public and private sectors in different countries absolutely [gave me] much stronger base from which to draw solutions,” she says.

“It’s not just big problems either, it’s also the little daily things that come up.”

Unspoken difficulties that come with long-term travel

With all these benefits, Jude is still candid about the hardships that came along with nearly two decades of moving around.

Ultimately, moving towards something will often mean moving away from something else.

“The whole myth of superwomen ‘you can have it all you can be it all,’ it’s not a fair thing to put onto people. We look at that and think it’s a possible thing, and it’s not.”

“I have occasionally been deeply lonely starting in a new city again and again and again,” she says. “When you travel so much it’s much harder to build [lasting] friendships and it often makes developing intimate relationships very difficult.”

But despite these outcomes, Jude wouldn’t change her decisions.

“It’s a very conscious path that I took and I hugely, heartily recommend it to any person who’s interested,” she says. 

“There’s a maturity that comes when assumptions you have about how the world works [are challenged].

Those moments where you start breaking down your view of society and the constructs of friendship, family, society, work – everything, strengthen your ability to respond to work and make much stronger choices.”

Even now, despite having settled in Canberra, Australia since 2001, Jude still feels the pull for adventure and new experiences.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if I move again – I have no dependents in Canberra,” Jude says. “I still feel that should an opportunity present itself that I would go.”

Photographs courtesy of Jude Burger
Article by Bree Caggiati

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