Ann Hiatt is a leadership strategist who’s ex-Silicon Valley, with 15 years of experience as the Executive Business Partner for Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon, and Eric Schmidt, CEO/Executive Chairman of Google.
She is committed to helping high performing CEOs obtain their ultimate dreams through strategic decision making and choses to only take 5 consulting clients at a time to ensure her ability for deep impact and availability. She currently works with CRM company Armadillo as NED and has spoken at business events across the globe, including a regular slot at SXSW.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current roll?
I moved from Silicon Valley to Europe two years ago after a 15 year career as Chief of Staff to the CEOs of Amazon (Jeff Bezos) and Google (Eric Schmidt). I now consult with CEOs all over the world on leadership strategy and am an NED at CRM company Armadillo. I am a speaker, angel investor and soon-to-be published author with HarperCollins. I love writing, being in nature, and travel adventures (when the world is healthy). I have visited 39 countries so far.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
About ten years ago I wrote my dream resume full of the things I wanted to learn and accomplish as I progressed in my career. I have found that being learning-focused rather than title-focused has allowed me to identify opportunities for massive impact that I might have missed otherwise.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
Almost two years ago now my major challenge was leaving Google after 12 years there to start my own company. I sold or donated literally everything I owned and moved from California to Europe with only two suitcases to my name to start a new life. There was something so raw and yet so freeing about that process. It is not for the faint of heart but it has absolutely paid off in everything that I have learned and experienced since!
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
I am very proud of the teams that I have designed, hired, organized and led over my career. I feel strongly about creating teams which consistently raise the bar and keep each other innovating, challenging and pushing themselves to achieve more while having a lot of fun doing it. Eric Schmidt once told me that my team was “so good it’s embarrassing” which I take as a huge compliment.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
I have always prioritized the type of people I wanted to work for over anything else because I knew they would shape the kind of person and leader I would become. I seek out the highest quality people who are insanely smart, curious, kind, collaborative and results oriented. They have driven me to take risks and achieve things I would have been too intimidated to attempt alone.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
From day one I have treated my jobs like an apprenticeship and gleaned as much learning as possible from each day. Being side-by-side with the most impactful CEOs of our generation and learning to be their brain-double has been the best business education possible. I am trying to pay that forward as much as I can now with my book, speeches and blog to share these lessons with as many people as possible.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?
A personal focus for me in striving for more gender equality is to create an environment where we no longer celebrate perfection over bravery in girls and women. As Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code, said in her 2016 TED Talk: “Most girls are taught to avoid failure and risk. To smile pretty, play it safe, get all A’s… Men are habituated to take risk after risk. They’re rewarded for it… In other words, we’re raising our girls to be perfect and we’re raising our boys to be brave.” The world would be better off if women were able to live out their wildest dreams without feeling shackled to an impossible standard of perfection.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
I wish I had learned much earlier to set boundaries and prioritize myself a bit more. I loved my time in Silicon Valley, and even most of the 18 hour days, but I see how much more impactful I am now with a more balanced schedule which I have designed to have daily protected time for health, learning and connection in addition to my work.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
My first book will be published with HarperCollins next year, in 2021. I plan to create a podcast and other online content to accompany it to train up the next generation of leaders; especially those who are currently underrepresented.