Avni Patel Thompson | Repatriation

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Avni Patel Thompson is currently the Sr. Strategy Manager for Reebok International.  Her quest to find perceptive consumer insights and the next great product initiative has taken her from Procter & Gamble’s hallowed halls of brand management to The Boston Consulting Group’s Consumer and Retail practice.  Avni and her husband spent the past year in Shanghai, China, where she was Sr. Strategy Manager for Adidas China.  She also enjoys blogging about the brand promise.  Originally from Vancouver, Canada, Avni holds an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and an undergraduate degree in Chemistry from the University of British Columbia.

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I will follow you to the ends of the earth.

Important words that I uttered to my husband before we were married, but not ones that I had really thought about in the very literal sense.

Well, about a year and a half later, I uttered them again, but in a very different context.  My husband had just been given the opportunity of a lifetime – to run the China marketing division of Gillette for a year.  But we would need to leave fairly immediately.  And we had only a weekend to make our decision.

It would be an unbelievable adventure.  Shanghai with an expat safety net.  After all, if you don’t take the opportunities when they come, you can’t blame the world for not giving them to you later.

And so we agreed to go.  Only instead of me agreeing to follow, we both held hands and took the leap together.

11 months later, we are returning to Boston to prepare for the birth of our first child.  But it's a funny thing. Joe and I embarked on this past year as a sort of “last hurrah” before “settling down” and starting a family. We saw this as the perfect opportunity to see more of the world and experience a country that couldn't be more front and center from a business and current events standpoint.

But it was always supposed to be temporary.  Then again, I think we had thought the same when we first moved to the US, more than 6 years ago.

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Source: istockphoto

So I guess it shouldn't come as such a surprise that we're not entirely ready to give that life up.  That it's not so hard for us to see a way to raise that family abroad, still working on remarkably unique opportunities.  When I see the children of expats, effortlessly switching between 3 or 4 languages, contributing to conversations on world topics, building a richness beyond their basic childhood, I can’t help but want that for our children.

And selfishly, I haven’t felt so alive and excited at work, knowing that I’ve been working on topics that can be found on the pages of any number of newspapers.  Sure, it’s been incredibly challenging at times, and we’ve never in our lives come so close to just throwing it all in and taking the next flight out.  But after the expected adjustment period, we’ve felt ourselves stretch and grow beyond what we thought we could.  We’re proud of what we’ve been able to do, personally and professionally.

Consequently, we've never found ourselves so conflicted when it comes to what our next step is.  On one hand, we know how wonderful our lives back in Boston will be – our friends, our neighbourhood, our work. It's a tough option to turn your back on, especially when in safe, nesting mode.  But on the other hand, every time we go to a dinner in Shanghai and meet leaders of top corporations and discuss all that unbelievable possibility there, it's tough for two people like my husband and I to want to leave that behind.

And so, a compromise of sorts.  We return to Boston, incredibly excited for the next chapter in our lives. But we're leaving that door propped wide open to the opportunities abroad.  China, India, somewhere else… who knows.

But international adventure?  We're not done with you yet.

What door of possibility did you walk through that has led to other possibilities? 

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