A few minutes with Paul Galea

Alumnus Liam Rowe (2009) discusses life after IGS and his experience living in New York at the peak of the COVID pandemic.

Paul Galea: Hello, Liam.

Liam: Hello, Paul. How are you?

Paul Galea: I’m well, mate. How are you there in the Big Apple in New York City? 

Liam: Yeah, I’m doing wonderfully. Just looking out the window at a beautiful day. The weather is warming up. We’re slowly getting through winter. And yeah, I’m having a great time. 

Paul Galea: Let me first just introduce who you are. Would you mind telling us when you graduated? And also, some of the things you did after you left Year 12. So we just get a bit of a background for you. 

Liam: So, I graduated in 2009, which feels like a really long time ago when you say the year out loud. I then went and did a business degree at UTS and then straight out of uni I got a business internship with JP Morgan, and then, basically, ever since then I’ve worked for the same company.

I moved to New York in the middle of 2019 and have been here for the last three years. And then while I was at uni, pretty much the whole time through, I was working in After Care with you and with Manuela and all of that great crew and then also in the PE Department. I spent quite a bit of time at school, both as a student and then three or four years working, afterward.

Paul Galea: Fantastic. Can I also just allude to your time at Rebel Sport? I always loved telling stories about when you were the highest earning salesperson as a part-time casual. Explain that, because I love that story.

Liam: I used to work at Rebel up at Broadway and working in the P.E. Department at the same time was good because I tried to find as many deals that I’d get commission from Rebel to sell to the School.

The story you’re referring to is that when I realised I was getting paid commission for selling sports products. I don’t actually remember how much it was, but I was motivated by the number of sales. So, what I used to do is stand at the bottom of the stairs as you sort of walk in through the front doors and then put stickers on every single person’s items that they would buy, regardless of how much I helped them or not in order to maximise my commission. So, it was a while ago now, but I loved that job. I was doing a Saturday and maybe a Thursday night or something like that. And they kept trying to make me go full time because of my sales. But I think they just didn’t realise that I was the only one really hustling for sales!

Paul Galea: So, you were perfectly suited for corporate life! A little bit of a chancer and someone who got out there and had a real go.

Paul Galea: You mentioned New York? Tell us about COVID in New York and your experience there, because I think people would be interested in that.

Liam: I moved over in the middle of 2019 and basically had this seven-month period of it being just awesome. It was so much fun being in a new city. It’s a completely different country! It’s massive! You’ve got all of, you know, the different states, and I was just having an absolute blast. And then I remember vividly having a dinner in February at my apartment, which is in the West Village, which is probably the smallest apartment any person ever lived in. It was tiny and we’re at dinner and everyone was saying, “Oh, have you seen what’s going on in China?”

We were all laughing thinking it and it turned out, like a week later we got put into a lockdown, which was probably on par with what was going on in Melbourne and Sydney, maybe a year later. We were kind of the first wave going through that and I remember vividly, seeing morgue trucks being parked at the front of hospitals and all of this was a bit concerning.

But then I think the US realised, this is serious, but then basically just denied COVID ever really happened. It’s been basically completely unrestricted here for the better part of probably 18 months. But yes, certainly that early part of 2020 was really terrifying and we were trying to figure out whether we wanted to stay, or do we need to go home and all that. But we stayed through, and thankfully, it’s all been pretty good since, and somehow I avoided getting COVID as well along the way.

Paul Galea: Oh, that’s good. And things over there now? Pretty normal?

Liam: Yeah, pretty much. I was talking to my boss the other day. We’re all back in the office now, and the one thing I think that has remained somewhat restricted is getting into the country. So, you still need to do a COVID test. But honestly, apart from that, they just lifted the mask mandate everywhere except for public transport, all the restaurants are open.

You honestly wouldn’t know there’s a pandemic if you didn’t catch a subway or a plane, because that’s where people are wearing masks. Apart from that, yeah, pretty much life is normal.

Paul Galea: Wow. Can you give us a very brief rundown of what you actually do over there?

Liam: So, I work at JP Morgan Chase, which is a US investment bank and retail bank. And I work in basically the strategy and partnership area. I look at a lot of fintech companies, large tech companies. I look at what they’re doing that is innovative and how can we partner with them? You know, where can we try and acquire some functionalities or expertise that they have, so kind of like a little bit hybrid, of some strategy and partnership type work.

Paul Galea: That sounds pretty interesting. Your time at IGS? Can you think of how that’s been helping you in the job that you are doing?

Liam: I think the big thing with IGS that always resonates with me is just the diversity of people and diversity of interactions you have. I don’t talk to many people that have ever heard of an ArtsFest or anything like that or have people that come from such diverse backgrounds.

I think probably the biggest helps have just been making me feel really comfortable dealing with people from lots of different backgrounds, kind of just having a really open mind. I think a lot of those kinds of softer skills, I guess, probably stick out as the most beneficial.

Paul Galea: Yeah, that’s interesting. I think everyone keeps mentioning that same sort of thing when I talk to them, which is great, because I think one of the prime aims of the school is to get people to be able to deal with other different people.

Liam: Paul, another thing when you were talking just jumped out. I also think the interactions that we had, well I had, as a student with teachers was really atypical. Obviously, I worked with you for a little while, enough to know you afterward, but I remember having such good relationships with teachers all the way through. Very respectful.

And I think that when you go into work and into full-time corporate life, you’re basically working for people that are the same age or older than your teachers. And if you’ve learned how to have really productive conversations with your teachers, particularly the later years of High School, I really do think that translates very well.

I have such fond memories of a whole range of teachers at school, and I can’t help but think that that’s probably helped me in building relationships with bosses or people that are older and more experienced than me at work.

Paul Galea: That’s actually really interesting. And you also mentioned ArtsFest. Obviously, that had some impact on you. Any other things from school that you remember fondly?

Liam: So many. I loved and spent actually quite a lot of time working with the PDHPE Department. I remember running into Ms Chipchase and Ms Snooks at French Connection in Broadway, maybe in my first year at uni, and they asked me to come back and help out with some sports coaching and the like.

I spent so much time in the PE department with Mr Downton and Mr Collins, all these various teachers. So I think that really sticks out to me as a great experience.

And I think as a student, certainly ArtsFest and all of the carnivals were really, really memorable, and I think just the whole co-ed nature of the School as well. I loved just having interactions with people from such different backgrounds. I think just all of the interactions were great. Even in my Tutor Group, I remember Toby Wilson vividly on my first day of Year 7. He must have been in Year 9 or 10, and he made such a positive impact on me, and I just have so many memories of interactions like that, where it’s just a person who made such a big impact on me but probably doesn’t realise that they ever did that.

Paul Galea: Fantastic. Now I believe congratulations are in order. You’re getting married, but it hasn’t been an easy road.

Liam: Yeah. So, I got engaged at the start of last year in January of 2021 after I proposed to my beautiful fiancée Jo in a ski mountain in Utah at Deer Valley. So, I’ve been engaged for a little over a year.

Now everyone keeps wanting us to tell them when is the wedding happening?! Where’s it going to be? And we’re saying that we just need to wait until there’s some clarity around COVID and the Australian government opening borders which I know they’ve just done. So yeah, we are looking to get married in the latter part of next year, maybe October and come back to Australia for that and have a huge party. There will certainly be a lot of IGS people there so, yeah, I’m really looking forward to that.

Paul Galea: Good on you, Liam! That’s fantastic news. You’ve always been a champion to work with. And also, when we had our New York reunion, which was literally days before the whole thing shut down in NYC on 10 March 2020, we had a great night with all those other IGS New York guys. So, I’m looking forward to seeing you when you come back. Keep going strong. Really appreciate you having a chat with us today.

Liam: Thank you, Paul. Really appreciate speaking to you.

Listen to the interview below!