Curtis S. Chin is managing director, Global Business & Client Development at the public relations and communications firm Burson-Marsteller. With 20 years in the public and private sector, Chin has advised multinational businesses on codes of conduct, compliance and integrity programs, corporate governance and responsibility, stakeholder engagement and outreach, and public-private sector partnerships.
How did you get into your current role?
My career was shaped by luck, hard work and taking chances. Growing up, I wanted to be a broadcast journalist. As an Army brat - living in Thailand, Taiwan, Korea, Maryland, Arizona and Virginia - I experienced the world's interconnectivity. My father moved to the Washington area, and I interned on Capitol Hill, the Reagan White House and the State Department. In journalism school at Northwestern, I worked as a reporter, but realized it wasn't for me. I met someone at Burson-Marsteller in Washington and got a job there working for financial institutions and non-profits. I left for Yale's School of Management and afterward worked as a consultant in the firm's Tokyo office. But I left - to serve as a special assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce in the first Bush Administration.
I returned in 1993, becoming managing director of operations in our Beijing office. I moved to Hong Kong in 1998 to oversee operations and returned to New York in 2001. Since then, I've focused on counseling clients and leading teams focused on corporate social responsibility, engagement and accountability - significant issues because of Sarbanes-Oxley - as well as on Asia-Pacific economic, trade and development issues.
What's a typical day like for you?
No day is typical. It involves a mix of client interaction, management responsibilities, team collaboration and external outreach. I monitor how our strengths in the digital global world play out in shaping and implementing client strategies. Today I provided counsel to clients in San Francisco and New York on business affairs. I called our Geneva office about a conference on regulatory issues. I'll work with a team helping a client incorporate blogs into its strategy, assist a Fortune 500 company or government client on economic and trade issues, or talk via videoconference with our CEO.
Recently, I met with the head of child protection programs at a global NGO to discuss working with a client committed to social responsibility. B-M is integrated globally, so I regularly interact with people from Geneva to Tokyo. As a board member of the Asian American Federation, I helped ring the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange commemorating Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month. (The market was up that day.)
What advice would you give to junior staffers?
First, don't think of yourself as just a junior staffer, because here every idea is valued. It's critical to understand how our business is managed. Understand profit/loss statements, balance sheets, and how we and our clients make money. Admittedly, it can be challenging, since we don't just recruit MBAs. We recruit journalists, government workers and others whose experience managing numbers may be limited. We look for people who not only possess a basic understanding of business, but the ability to learn to manage and build a team. Paying attention to detail is essential. Clients want both big picture help and detailed execution.