From salad days to brain injury

ALLAN BEHM BA Hons (Asian Studies) ’72 reflects on how a busy career in foreign affairs, consulting and politics has led him to two unexpected organisations.

Most of us look back to our salad days – the carefree and boisterous time at university – with a mixture of nostalgia and regret: nostalgia because we miss the exposure to countless books and the innocent and uncomplicated carousing, cavorting and coupling; regret because we will never have that chance again.

The fact is, however, that campus life did not really provide me with any skills – apart from the ability to analyse things – relevant to what was to come. But it is a curious paradox that if one is not trained for anything, one is prepared for everything. My defiantly non-utilitarian studies in philosophy, Asian studies, English, Sanskrit, Prakrit and Pali (hardly the liveliest of languages) saw me slide into the foreign service (with postings to Kuala Lumpur and Geneva), and then into a 30-year public service career. And I can honestly say that I did not have a dull moment.

Then, one day, I simply tired of the largely self-referential and inward-looking world of the public service (at least within the cloistered walls of national security where I had spent my career) and decided to strike out on my own. I established a ‘single shingle’ consultancy offering advice on political and sovereign risk, security affairs, and providing courses on policy development and implementation.