How Diana Wu David Thrives with 3+ Careers (Author, Lecturer, Mom)

by | Aug 23, 2021

Meet Diana Wu David. She’s a remarkable individual with a multifaceted career. Not only is she a distinguished author but also a conceptual thinker who has thought deeply and written extensively on the future of work. We met over LinkedIn, and I’m so glad that we did. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning about her, and so will you.

Diana’s Careers:

  • Author/Speaker/Founder of Future Proof Lab focused on helping people find their place in the future.
  • Adjunct Lecturer on Leadership, Hong Kong University Business School; Guest Lecturer Columbia Business School Asia Global Executive MBA
  • Head of Faculty, Financial Times Board Director Programme; Focus on board behavior and strategy
  • Mom of 3 kids 🙂

On her motivations for multiple careers

I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on my values and drivers and how I can express them in my work. It was so helpful to me that I have incorporated it into my Future Proof Yourself course as a foundational exercise!

My drivers are growth & learning, strengthening community and creating positive visions for the future.

While I might be able to find this in one career, the autonomy and creativity of having multiple outlets that overlap is both satisfying and effective.

On how long she’s had these careers

I started working at Financial Times in 2006 and launched the Board Director Program almost ten years ago. When I left my corporate role to launch my portfolio career, I retained this part of my job as I loved it and they benefited from having a senior person engaged in it.

My other roles have been more recent and continue to evolve. I have been guest lecturing for perhaps a decade and was then asked to teach my own class. I wrote a book in 2019, Future Proof: Reinventing Work in An Age of Acceleration, and that evolved into courses and community and consulting.

One of the joys of multiple careers is seeing how they evolve over time.

Advice for aspiring multi-careerists

The first future of work skill I write about in Future Proof: Reinventing Work in An Age of Acceleration is Experimentation.

My advice to others wanting to pursue multiple careers is to start with small, imperfect actions that allow you to test a hypothesis.

For example, rather than wringing your hands about whether or not to teach, network into doing a guest lecture and see how you like it and what you might be missing in order to be effective.

The second future of work skill I write about in Future Proof: Reinventing Work in An Age of Acceleration is Reinvention. Don’t know what that other career in your multiple careers should be? Consider adjacencies to your current work where you can apply your skills in new ways. Then experiment!

On overcoming obstacles

My parents both got sick a year into my portfolio career and I had to travel often between my home in Hong Kong to Tucson, Arizona to be with them (20 hours of travel each way). The upside of having a portfolio career is that I could look at my list of activities and choose which one was location independent and that’s why I decided to write a book. The second upside was that I could put my role as a daughter into the mix of my “multiple careers” and make time for it. They both passed away last year and I’m very grateful my multiple careers allowed me the flexibility to spend time with them.

On how multiple careers is mutually beneficial

My MBA classes benefit from the fact that I’ve built up a professional speaking career and can really engage them. The ideas and frameworks from my MBA class enhance what I bring into my corporate workshops. My writing often takes questions that come up in these interactions that I can explore more deeply in my writing.

On managing personal time

It can be hard, especially when I promote globally so have lots of evening calls for podcasts or workshops. I try to take advantage of the flexibility by spending time with my kids in the afternoon if I have to do evening calls or classes.

On something she wished she had learned earlier

You can’t expect 3 careers to always take 33% of your time. Sometimes they may all require 150% of your attention at the same time. Build in some margin for this.

On overcoming the stigma of many careers

I’m not sure there is stigma as much as confusion. My careers interlock pretty well but for people who are pianist/veterinarians or pension-recruiters/race-car-drivers it can be hard to put the pieces together. That’s why I recommend people spending time to develop a story about what they do and plan for how to say it and what they emphasize, depending on the audience they are addressing.

On what to share with corporate colleagues

I struggled with my own sense of self-worth and confidence when I left my clearly defined corporate job. I didn’t want to be perceived as insubstantial. Eventually, I found ways to explain my future of work focus, online courses and teaching. Being clear and confident and, frankly, human about it resonates with people at all levels.

A Day in the Life

  • 7am wake up, have coffee and breakfast with the kids. Do 20 min of journaling including what I’m grateful for.
  • 8am kids go off to school. Sometimes I go for a half hour walk if my work is not too hectic. Tuesday mornings I hike, Thursday mornings I have online yoga.
  • 9am I look at my Full Focus planner for the day. I start my day with whatever I’ve scheduled as that day’s priority.

This could be crafting a webinar, taping a session for one of my classes, researching for a class or article, grading papers. I try to block off chunks of time, 3 hour blocks usually, where I focus only on one of my projects. Otherwise, I can drown in multi-tasking and get nothing done.

Since COVID I have been working at home but also have a co-work space where I can go if I need more motivation or to meet someone

Lunch at home or with a friend or client.

  • I do client meetings in the afternoon 11-3pm.
  • 3pm kids come home from school and I try to be around for the time they come home to hear how their day was.

Sometimes if I need to get my hair cut or want to bring the kids to a doctor appointment or activity and know I’ll have to wait, I’ll bring my laptop and schedule some short tasks I need to get done.

In the afternoon, I check email. I use which delivers all my email at 3pm and I check it all at once so that I don’t get distracted during the day. Plus I’m not as productive so it seems like a good time to do it.

  • We have dinner around 7pm and then when kids are doing their homework I might hop back on the computer or read a book or we will watch movies, play Dungeons & Dragons, do puzzles or hang out.
  • 9pm – I have my Future Proof Masterclasses with guest experts once a month or may have a Future Proof course gathering. We are 50% Asia, 25% US and 25% Europe so this 9pm time seems to be the golden hour where we can all come together. Sometimes I have my Future Work Forum Think Tank meetings around this time.
  • 10:30/11pm – bed! I do love to sleep. Sadly, my teenagers don’t. They got their father’s genes.

Where to find her online


Kabir Sehgal is a Multi Grammy & Latin Grammy Award winner, as well as New York Times bestselling author.

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