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When I started working with senior professionals in corporates who wanted to transition to a Portfolio Executive Workstyle, many of the people I started working with were chartered professionals chartered in accountancy, HR, or marketing.  Quite quickly it became clear that there was a much wider range of opportunities for people to transition to a Portfolio Executive Workstyle.

The Chartered Professional Career Path

For the chartered professional, the career path looks very straightforward.  You work in a firm. You get your chartered qualification.  You use it to get into a large corporate environment and over time you rise through the ranks.  But essentially, your career is constrained by your ability to move from being a specialist expert within your chartered profession to more general management and senior leadership.  Many professionals don’t make the transition.

If you look at the CEOs of large, listed businesses, they may come up through the finance director, sales director or marketing director route. Very rarely from HR and even more rarely as engineers.  But often, you will get people who are leading large businesses that have never been chartered in any profession at all.  Interestingly for the IT profession, there are some chartered institutions but they’re not very well recognised as career development routes for large corporates.  Perhaps the most common professional qualification that takes people into senior leadership is the MBA.

Other Professionals

But what if you aren’t a chartered professional, can you become a Portfolio Executive?  Absolutely you can.  There are a number of people I’ve worked with who have had less conventional careers and have ended up taking on a whole range of responsibilities in different corporates over time.  Sometimes they’ve been designated as Commercial Director responsible for all the new business development.  Sometimes they’re a CIO, or a CTO, who very rarely have charted professional qualifications.  Sometimes they have become very effective Programme and Project Directors who move into the transformation function of large organisations.  None of these people have a charted qualification.  Many of them do not have an MBA.

Defining their Portfolio Executive proposition can be a little bit more difficult.  Operations Director is a great catch all.  As Operations Director you serve the CEO (and often the CTO) of a scale up business by looking after all the stuff on the home front as they go out and champion the business or build a fantastic new product.  Those who have had wide ranging corporate careers, with a whole range of different roles, are strongly suited to becoming an Operations Director.

People from a sales background could become a Portfolio Executive Sales Director.  Often, they have a broader experience of shaping new products, and building the overall business proposition.  Becoming a Portfolio Executive Commercial Director can make more sense.

On the more specialist side, the CIO, the CTO, the Programme Director and the Product Director could often use those titles in their Portfolio Executive role.  However, for a Programme or Project Director, it’s often easier for them to position themselves as a Transformation Director or a Specialist in Business Benefit Realisation.


I’ve also worked with several people who’ve been involved in Digital Transformation projects. For them the temptation is to continue to style themselves as Digital Transformation Directors.  Unfortunately, the challenge of that title is it implies a one-off project/programme type role.  Digital Transformation sounds like something you do once.  I encourage them not to use that particular title. Often if they’re engaging with e-commerce businesses, Digital Director, Operations Director or even Commercial Director can be a better fit as a job title.

Finally, let’s think about those people who have been working in some of the newer industries like social media, like video, like leadership development.  Again, there is real potential to establish a Portfolio Executive Workstyle but, you may need to broaden your proposition, from a narrow one such as video, to broader one of perhaps storytelling.  Certainly, on the social media side, you may want to broaden your designation from social media to Director of Content.

Ultimately, anybody who’s got 10 to 20 years of experience in a large corporate setting can be of huge value as a part time Portfolio Executive to smaller businesses.  If you are interested in exploring what role designation is best for you then please contact me at:


Charles McLachlan is the founder of FuturePerfect and on a mission to transform the future of work and business. The Portfolio Executive programme is a new initiative to help executives build a sustainable and impactful second-half-career. Creating an alternative future takes imagination, design, organisation and many other thinking skills. Charles is happy to lend them to you.