I find it highly appropriate to be speaking about what is in my portfolio with PORTFOLIO Magazine. Portfolio career is a term that I first came across when I was attending a leadership program at Harvard Business School some 14 years ago. It borrows from the idea of a portfolio investment, where you spread your assets across a range of investments.
A portfolio career is one in which you pursue not just one full-time job, but sustain several streams of income. In my case I have come to work within three main areas—doing projects in all of these.
The first is editorial, which includes writing, editing and video interviews. The second is brand building consulting, and the third is corporate social responsibility consulting.
In the area of editorial – writing, editing and video interviews – most of my work is for an organization called The Centre for Livable Cities. It is a government agency under the ministry of National Development. Most of the work there is in the area of promoting livable cities. I am the author of the reports for the annual World City Summit Mayors’ Forum, which has been held in Bilbao, New York and Singapore. It brings more that 100 mayors together every year to share the best practices in how to make cities more livable.
The second area of my work is brand building consulting, and here some of the work that I have done include advising foreign governments on how to build their country brands. The work is often as fun as it is fulfilling, because a country's reputation always has a lot to do with soft power, which is mostly about culture, both highbrow and lowbrow.
The third area of my work is corporate social responsibility consulting. Here my work includes helping non-profit organizations to build their brand and engage their stakeholders, and the public. Some of the work also adjusts well with the area of livable cities: for instance, the work that I have done for the Lien Foundation in areas such as the study on the end-of-life care environment within Singapore, or how the country takes care of its citizens within the very last stage of life.
In that way, everything that I have done before within my career coheres with everything that I do now. The work that I have done previously in journalism, in public service, and in communications consultancy has all come to be relevant to what I do now in the three areas that I have talked about, and is also exemplified in my latest book, Brand Singapore - Nation Branding after Lee Kuan Yew In a Divisive World. It's a new edition of a book that I published in 2011, and takes into account all the developments within Singapore, all the aspects of quality of life that pertain to making Singapore one of the most livable cities in the world.