Penny Abeywardena, International Affairs Expert & Soft Power Strategist

Penny Abeywardena

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Who are we when we don’t have a job? A fancy title? The heft of a prestigious organization behind us, signaling our worth and marketability? That question stared Penny Abeywardena square in the face when she left her high-powered position as New York City Commissioner for International Affairs in the De Blasio administration, a role she had served in from 2014-2022. It was the first untethered, unstructured time she’d had in two decades. It was also the first time she’d had a moment to think about what this new untethered life might look like.

In this episode of “Your New Life Blend,” host Shoshanna Hecht talks to Penny about creating a new, bespoke job description, her newfound focus on “soft power” and the power of collaboration, and how her experiences as an immigrant, woman of color, and survivor of domestic violence have shaped her approach to leadership and advocacy.


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