Paul Galea and Ilana Orlievsky (2003)

Ilana Orlievsky (2003)

Hello, Ilana Orlievsky. Paul Galea, your old teacher from International Grammar ringing up to see how you’re going.

Ilana: Lovely to be speaking to you, Paul.

Paul Galea: It’s a very nice start, Ilana, because usually people call me “Mr Galea”. But you’ve seen me since school a couple of times, so you know that you’re not allowed to do that anymore. So that’s nice. That’s a good start from you.

Ilana: I would have liked to go to “Mr Galea”, but I thought it was ever so slightly inappropriate given, it’s been how many years? Almost 20.

Paul Galea: Yes. Wow! Well, that just leads to our first question. Give us a little bit of your IGS story, when you started IGS and also, when you left, of course, and then tell us what you’re doing now and how you got there. Can you do that for us?

Ilana: Sure, sure. Of course. I actually was at IGS all the way through. So I started in Kindergarten. I don’t even remember what year that was in but I graduated in 2003, so I was there from Kindy to Year 12 all the way through. I obviously had a passion for languages, which IGS definitely helped. I studied French at IGS and then I went on to study Spanish. I did a Bachelor of International Studies majoring in Spanish and European studies, which was basically a glorified arts degree but I did have an exchange component which I very much enjoyed.

Paul Galea: Where did you go for your exchange?

Ilana: I went to Barcelona. The year there was, I think, 2006 to 2007. So it was the third year of my degree and UNSW had a sister university in Barcelona. Pompeu Fabra it was called and I went and I did one year exchange there with all the Erasmus European kids. So I graduated from my International Studies degree in 2008. We all know what happened globally in 2008 (editor’s note: Global Financial Crisis). So, 2009 was a difficult year to be sort of graduating from university and trying to find a job but I did land one, through a combination of factors. A family friend of mine was working at an IT company with a background of logistics, sort of a supply chain solutions business by the name of Wise Tech Global, and I joined them as a recruitment officer. I am just giving you this background because that was my first gig in recruitment and I actually really liked it. I thought, “This is a great profession. I get to work with people, I’m a people person, and it’s a combination of human psychology and business, and I really enjoy it”. But then I decided that rather than working in-house for a company, I was going to go and actually try to be a recruiter in an agency. So that’s when I landed my first job in recruitment as an agent, if that makes sense. 

Paul Galea: And does that mean you’re working for yourself or…?

Ilana: No, no, no. So, now I am but I started my recruitment career in a recruitment agency that was a specialist legal recruitment agency which specialised in the placement of lawyers. So lawyers and law firms and lawyers in sort of “in-house” legal teams in industry. The big, big companies, they all have legal teams and so that’s where I honed my skills in legal recruitment. I was there for five years. It was called Naiman Clarke and then I decided to go overseas for a year to Buenos Aires but we can come back to Buenos Aires later. There was a very real reason that would be an interesting topic for discussion. But to answer your question about where I am career wise right now, I did end up coming back from Buenos Aires and re-joining another legal executive search firm and then doing that for a couple of years and finally deciding in 2018 to go out on my own. So I’ve got my own legal recruitment agency now.

Paul Galea: Okay. Can I ask you a question? Legal recruiting agency. So does that mean that you have to know something about the law or you just need to know about people? 

Ilana: I need to know a lot about what lawyers do. I don’t need to be a lawyer. So typically… it’s a good question. A lot of qualified lawyers decide that they don’t want to be lawyers, and then they move across into recruitment, and that’s definitely the profile of a lot of legal recruiters. They’re ex-lawyers. They’ve done law for a couple of years. They studied the law. But there’s a lot of professionals in legal recruitment, not with a legal background.

Paul Galea: So that was you.

Ilana: That was me. Exactly. So my business is called ALMA Search and I do a lot of legal and compliance roles. Most recently I have been kind of specialising more in financial services, but also in emerging Blockchain technology and digital asset space.

Paul Galea: Wow. Okay, so I can attest to our listeners that you must be going quite well because you’re an extremely hard woman to catch. We had to rejig this interview about 200 times because you always had something happening or there was some big thing happening, so I’m assuming that things are going pretty well.

Ilana: Look, I think that, yes, things are going reasonably well, but, you know, I don’t have anything to compare myself to, if that makes sense. It’s just sort of like, I think I’m in a good place. I’ve got my own business. I’ve got the independence and the freedom that I always wanted. There are also, I guess, big disadvantages to being out on my own. COVID was a really good example of that. I thought that it was quite isolating. I don’t have a sort of a team, you know, and I missed the collegiality of it all. During COVID there was also a huge slowdown and I wasn’t getting paid a salary so it all kind of falls on me.  Look, basically there are pros and cons, but absolutely, all in all, I think I’m going well career-wise. There’s a lot of demand for lawyers, so, you know, there’s a lot of work.

Paul Galea: Okay. Well, I can, as I say, I can attest to that. You’re pretty busy. That’s a good sign, I would imagine. Now, I’m just going to backtrack a little bit because one of the things that I remember really clearly about you, apart from your very effervescent personality and very winning smile, was that you were a very good dancer at one stage. And you were a very good ballet dancer. And in fact, you went to London to further your ballet career, sort of in the middle of high school. You want to give a give us a little bit of that story?

Ilana: Absolutely. You have a very good memory. Well done.

Paul Galea: I remember a lot of things. Well, before you go on… I remember that your mum got very sick at the Yum Cha restaurant that our families were both at that time on Mother’s Day, and that’s got to be a long time ago. 

Ilana: I was a kid. I was a little kid and yeah, it really was very, very scary. Your memory is amazing. Yeah, thankfully, Mum recovered and everything was great. She’s amazing. She’s still working. She’s 66 years old, she still works at CBA as a senior business analyst. So back then she got a really great job at Barclays Bank in London. So my parents, being the adventurous people they are, decided that we were going to go and do a year in London as a family. I was halfway through my schooling. So I went and I actually applied for the Royal Ballet School. I was a ballerina. It was a deep, deep passion of mine. I applied, we sort of did an audition for the Royal Ballet School and I did actually get into the Royal Ballet School, which was amazing, except that they weren’t offering any scholarships for any kind of non-UK citizens. So that would have cost my parents about £30,000 back in 1999, which back then with the exchange rate was the equivalent of about $90,000. My parents said we love you, but not that much! So I went to another school called Art Educational London School and I did also ballet there, but it was sort of like a normal school, if you know what I mean. So I did dance, but I also had all the other sorts of curriculum and education there and that was incredible. I probably would say that I reached my ballet peak when I was about, gosh, 15 or 16. I came back to Australia and I auditioned for the Australian Ballet School and I actually didn’t get into the Australian Ballet School, so I decided not to pursue that as a full time thing because I had to decide, if you remember, that if you wanted to go and do that full time, you kind of had to do it after Year 10, after your School Certificate. So I was at that crossroads. ‘Do I become a ballerina or do I finished school?’ and that’s why I’m grateful that I chose the latter. And I finished at IGS, completed my HSC and then continued to dance. Dance is a very, very big part of my life to date. It’s actually the reason why I decided to go to Buenos Aries in 2015. 

Paul Galea: All right. Hold onto that thought because I want to talk about your dancing. So you know that next year we’re building a dance studio at IGS and that it is going to be the forerunner of the school offering Dance as a subject and also Dance as an HSC subject. So, I’m just interested in your thoughts on that and on your thoughts on what dancing can give to a young person.

Ilana: Look, I think dancing has been such a huge part of my life. I mean, I never obviously became a ballerina, you know? But the ballet training that I did have, shaped me in more ways than just physically; so many more ways. It gives you a particular type of discipline that you don’t get through other things necessarily. It gives you obviously things like posture, grace and elegance, which I think every girl, but also even boys would benefit from enormously. It’s just a beautiful artistic expression where you can really channel your emotions and release some of that. And it’s just a beautiful thing, both emotionally and physically. I think that ballet is just one pathway. There’s obviously contemporary dance. You can go and do jazz. You can go into salsa and tango, which is what I love to dance.

Paul Galea: Okay, so, Latin dance takes us to Buenos Aires because obviously Latin dancing in Buenos Aires is huge.

Ilana: So, yeah, lots of dancing. Obviously, I was doing it quite a bit of salsa socially. It’s also a great way to make new friends, to meet people. There’s a big salsa community in Sydney. In pretty much every big city in the world, there’s a salsa community. So I was doing a lot of salsa but then I actually discovered, actually, thanks to my parents, the love of tango and tango is a very special dance, a very sophisticated dance. It’s a very passionate dance and I just kind of started doing it here. And of course, I think with my ballet training and background, I kind of had a natural kind of knack for it. But then I started to realise that it’s actually really difficult. It’s one of the most complex dances, definitely much more complex than salsa. And I decided that you know what? I was 28 years old and I just kind of at a bit of a crossroad. I was a little bit bored in life, a bit bored in my job, and I was bored with my boyfriend, bored with my friends. Just bored. I was like, ‘No I need something more than this’. And so I just took myself off to Buenos Aires, and I thought, ‘Well, I speak Spanish because I learned that at uni and when I went on the exchange in Barcelona and, you know, I love Malbec and steak, and I love tango.’ So I thought I’d just go and do a little working holiday sort of thing in Buenos Aires. I did actually work. I took the first three to four months off, but then I landed a job. I still don’t quite know how I managed to pull this off, but I landed a job with a company called Polyglot, which is actually headquartered in Sydney. They also have an office in Paris, and anyway, they are a really interesting business. I ended up basically helping them do a market march, their recruitment and HR language solutions, business. They help companies expand overseas. And so anyway, they needed someone they needed. They were thinking of opening up in Latin America, South America. And they knew that they had already met me before and they knew that I spoke Spanish and had this kind of a background. So they offered me a job doing essentially what was a market map for them in a South American region. 

Paul Galea: My youngest daughter did a year in Buenos Aires just during COVID. And yeah, she loved it as well. She’s actually going back at the end of the year because she just loved it so much. If you ever see her, you’ll be able to compare notes. Actually, my oldest daughter is going out with an Argentinian from Buenos Aires. So there’s a bit of a connection there. Yes, that sounds pretty special.

Ilana Yeah, it really was. Honestly, I had an amazing time and again that it did really shape, in many ways, that experience and my love of both languages, thanks to IGS, and dance, had really, in many ways, shaped the course of my life and the people that I guess attracted and the friends that I have. I have a lot of Spanish speaking friends. So there you go.

Paul Galea: Yeah. Can I ask a slightly personal question? What happened to the boyfriend you were bored with?

Ilana: Which one Paul? (Laughs) Oh … Actually, let me let me quickly tell you the boyfriend that I left to go to BA was a great man, but after four years it just wasn’t the right relationship and I needed to do something else and I actually did meet someone in Buenos Aires; a very special man. It was a proper love story in Buenos Aires with the Argentinian, much like your daughter. Um, be careful. Your youngest might also fall in love and bring back a man! That’s kind of what I did. We’re not together anymore but we were together for about five years and he got permanent residency, thanks to me and it’s a beautiful friendship today, so I think it’s good, but not so good. 

Paul Galea: Yeah, my daughter’s actually going through the de facto thing at the moment, so yeah. So it’s a little bit of a mirror image really. So, Ilana, you’re an extremely articulate young woman. You’re, as I said before, effervescent and vivacious. And I always felt that you were one of the people who really encapsulated what IGS was about. Can you think of anything about IGS that, you know, really drew you out or made you the person you are today? Anything? I mean, obviously, the languages you have already mentioned, but anything else there that you can put your finger on.

Ilana: Yeah. Look, it’s a good question, Paul. I guess I want to give you an articulate answer, but I guess generally speaking, if I was to summarise, what I’ve loved about IGS is I think that it just attracts such a diverse array of people, from multiple different backgrounds, different parts of Sydney, different cultural backgrounds. I just am so grateful to my parents that they decided to take me to IGS. Yes, because I have to tell you, Paul, you know, as someone from the former Soviet Union, I have to be careful with the word ‘Russian’ but let’s say I’m from a Russian Jewish background. Right? So my parents immigrated here in the eighties and they could have sent me to a Jewish school, and a lot of my Jewish friends went to Moriah, Emanuel or Mount Sinai, you know, all of the different Jewish schools, and I just I keep bumping into the same thing; I am just so grateful that I didn’t go to a Jewish school, that I went to IGS because I just think that the open minded, worldly kind of view that I got and the type of education and the type of people that I went to school with and the teachers that we had and the exposure to languages all I just think made me a much more well-rounded, interesting, curious person and gave me my love for travel and learning new languages and meeting people from around the world. Really, you can tell by the types of friends that I have and the circles I move in and the people that I’m in contact with. Actually, just the other day, I’m not going to say who this is, but I was out and I met this wonderful young man and we just had this amazing conversation. We just kind of were laughing and got along so well. It was a completely random meeting and then, at the very end of that conversation, I just thought to myself, such a breath of fresh air, that this guy was such a worldly, interesting, curious, funny, etcetera, etcetera person. And then it turns out he went to IGS!

Paul Galea: That really is interesting because I have found that out quite a bit. And in fact, I know my son has bumped into people and got on with them incredibly well and then found out later they went to IGS 10 years before him. And there’s another interview I did where these guys just were getting on famously, and they’ve been really great mates for a while before they realise they were about 12 years apart at IGS. There is a little bond there, I think, which is nice. And it’s nice that what you say about being a world citizen and having that global outlook, because I think that is really one of the things that sets us apart. Now, I always ask this because the older kids sometimes listen to these interviews. Have you got any ideas or bits of advice that you might give to the Year 11 and 12 students who are really sort of at that stage where they’re thinking about what they’re going to be doing and how they’re going to do it? You got any ideas on the way they may go?

Ilana: Look, all I can say is, if there are any Year 11 and 12s listening to this, I definitely was a very different person in Years 11 and 12 to the person that I am now. I had no idea what I wanted or what I wanted for myself in my future career and I really, really had no idea. And I think that to the extent possible, I would urge these kids, especially these days, that are graduating to just take a year before they get into their university studies to really understand, well get a slightly better indication of what they might want to do because the amount of time I’ve seen people just go straight into unis, their degrees and then, sometimes obviously they can change halfway through, but then sometimes they graduate and they go, ‘Why did I do this?’ And I see this with lawyers as well. They get really, really good marks. Their parents, you know, put pressure on them. They went to great schools, they finished with 99 point whatever and obviously they got into the best law schools. And then they did their Law Degree and they go, ‘I don’t want to be a lawyer’ and then go on and do other things. Don’t get me wrong. A Law Degree will always come in handy no matter what. But I just think that I would say, take a year off, go and actually explore, find out about yourself more, take time to really understand what you’re passionate about. And that takes time. And it’s okay not to know, you know,

Paul Galea: I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I’m always telling my own children that, 24, 27, 28 is still so young, and you’ve got your whole life ahead of you. And the other thing is that once you do settle down and maybe start a family, then you’re in, then you’re stuck. When you’re free person with little responsibility, you can get out there and just basically try everything. So, yeah. Very good advice. All right. Well, I think that might do. You can sure talk, but that’s no surprise to me!

Ilana: I’m so excited that you guys are going to have a dance studio. I would love to go and check it out. Well, I am, actually a qualified dance instructor and you know, I’d love to go see it if you ever have any open days or…

Paul Galea: We won’t have an open day but once it’s up and running, I will personally, take you on a tour.

Ilana: Thank you so much. Love that. Anyone’s listening to this, I really urge them to do dancing and to consider it not necessarily as a career in dance. Just another string to your bow because it really does open doors. Oh, that’s the other one thing I wanted to say. You know, everywhere I travel in the world these days, no matter where; I mean, maybe not in Alaska, or in outer Mongolia, you can tap into a Tango community, you can tap into a Salsa community. You can tap into some sort of a dance community. You can meet new people just like that just by going to these dancing socials. So dancing is an amazing key to meeting so many people all around the world.

Paul Galea: It’s almost like the co-curricular programwhere kids from different year groups and different classes got together with other people with their interests and found out they had really great things in common and we’re able to really form great friendships. So it’s a very good piece of advice. I’m a bit of a freestyle dancer myself, so I’m not sure whether there are groups for me! I love it, too. And I look forward to taking you on the tour of the dance studio, probably the end of next year.

Ilana: Amazing. Well, there’ll also be a reunion. Hopefully. I’ll wait.

Paul Galea: Yes, yes, yes. Well, but did you leave in 2003. Next year? 20 years? Well, I’m having the 2002 reunion later this year and the 2003 reunion will be coming. Believe me!

Ilana: Amazing. If you’re if you’re on, it will happen. Thank you.