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International Insider – Lost in Translation, November 2017

By November 28, 2017June 21st, 2018Networks & Newsletters (CM)
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Lost in Translation
A Conversation About Global Public Affairs 

Name: Chris Colwell
Title: Senior Director, Public Affairs, Greater Asia
Company: BD (Becton Dickinson)
Tenure in position: 4 years
Location: Singapore

Q: How do you engage with the Public Affairs Council and the International Network?

I’ve enjoyed learning from colleagues at the Council. I participate in-person when I am in the U.S. and also through the webinars when I am in Singapore. I’m happy to see the growing focus on international issues at the Council, and I’m happy to have contributed [to a webinar on Public Affairs in China last year]. I have also connected several times with colleagues through the International Network, to both learn from and help them. It is a great tool for collaboration.

Q: You’re based in Singapore. How do you ensure that your public affairs strategy is consistent with that of other colleagues scattered all over the globe?

We put a lot of emphasis and focus on being consistent on our fundamental policy positions at BD. We have developed a suite of global public policy positions that we develop with our internal stakeholders. So if you talk to a BD public affairs associate anywhere in the world, they will have the same universal message. However, we also recognize that health systems and broader country development varies across the world. We leave room for local adaptation, but the fundamentals are constant.

Q: What is the main challenge you have faced working in global public affairs?

I’ll answer by addressing the opportunity, and then the challenge. First, there is a wealth of experiences and best practices to learn from other public affairs professionals across the globe. I am constantly amazed and humbled by the creativity and drive of my colleagues inside and outside BD. The challenge is taking those best practices and figuring out what can be adapted and applied in many diverse locations. There is no one-size-fits-all!

Q: What is one superpower that would make your job in public affairs easier?

The ability to suspend time, or at least collapse the time zones. There are so many times when a conversation would clarify so much, but that is easier said than done when managing stakeholders in Singapore, Beijing, Sydney, Delhi, Washington, D.C. and San Jose!

Q: What is the first thing you do when you arrive at the office in the morning?

E-mail triage! One aspect of working globally is realizing that it is always morning and a new day somewhere else. Most often I wake up to a host of emails from the U.S. I perform my daily triage over coffee, deciding which need to be addressed immediately and which can wait.

Q: What did you have for lunch today?

Hainanese chicken rice. It is a famous Singapore dish and my favorite. Simple, but very good. One of the perks of living in Singapore is the diversity of food. No place else like it in the world.