In my last newsletter, I talked about boards adding Directors from outside of their industry to get a fresh perspective. Are we seeing the same at the executive level? The short answer is it depends on the role’s function and the company’s industry; here are some of the key trends we’re seeing:
Roles where companies want candidates with industry experience
- Sales & Marketing (Go-To-Market) Leaders
- Reasoning: Given it’s taking longer for candidates to be onboarded in this hybrid work environment, it would take a sales and marketing leader without prior industry experience longer to learn the firm’s industry landscape and understand their customer base’s pain points. Since companies want their go-to-market leaders to gain traction quickly, they’re often seeking GTM leaders who have this industry experience and already understand the customer base. What’s interesting is that while companies will stress the importance of sales leadership candidates having industry experience, companies remain adamant that they don’t want to take a short-term view and hire a candidate for their rolodex.
- Financial Services and Healthcare CIO’s, Chief Data Officers, & Chief Digital Officers
- Reasoning: Financial Services & Healthcare data is highly specialized (like Bloomberg Time Series data in financial services, or Electronic Medical Record data in healthcare). So, for tech roles involved in overseeing data analytics/AI, such as the CIO, Chief Data Officer, or Chief Digital Officer, companies want that industry experience since the candidate will likely know what “questions to ask” from the data to identify trends.
Financial Services Appointment Examples:
- UBS’ new Chief Digital Information Officer, Heather Beckman, who came from JPMorgan.
- Western Alliance Bank’s new Chief Digital Officer, Jennifer Wilson, who came from BBVA.
Healthcare Appointment Examples:
- Biogen and Bristol Meyers Squibb both took this approach when hiring industry veterans as their Head of Data Innovation (Abhishek Pratap) and Chief Data Analytics Officers (Gina Papush)
Tech Leaders outside Financial Services and Healthcare: Companies more open to hiring tech leaders from outside their industry.
Outside of financial services and healthcare, there are more cross-industry moves, such as:
Cross-Industry Executive Appointments outside of Financial Services/Healthcare:
- Abercrombie hired Samir Desai as Chief Digital & Technology Officer. He was previously EVP, Tech at Equinox.
- Best Buy hired Craig Brabec as SVP, Chief Data Analytics Officer. He was previously Chief Data Analytics Officer at McDonald’s.
It’s worth noting that if the tech role is more focused on the back-end tech infrastructure or the cyber security function, companies are more open to getting leaders from outside their industry as their mandate is less industry-specific and more fungible.
New solutions to win the war for talent: Get them early
Finally: the demand for the top tech talent is so fierce that companies are engaging this talent as early as possible, even when the talent is in college. This way, companies can avoid having to buy candidates out of their expensive deferred compensation packages once they’ve begun to climb the corporate ladder.
Companies are engaging talent early by:
- Setting up and funding innovation labs at universities and using this as a recruiting funnel (like Home Depot’s Technology Center at Georgia Tech or IBM’s Tech Ethics Lab at Notre Dame).
- Adding top AI & Computer Science professors as Advisors. These advisors can serve as recruiting/brand ambassadors by connecting their employer to their top students. By working with university professors, companies are able to have early access to up and coming talent. It’s also a win for the professors as the compensation they receive from the company is often significant compared to their university salary.
Examples of Companies Adding Advisors from Academia:
- Amazon added Michael Kearns, a part-time computer and information science professor at the University of Pennsylvania, as a Scholar within Amazon Web Services
- JPMorgan Chase & Co. appointed Manuela Veloso, a Carnegie Mellon University professor currently on leave, to be its Head of AI Research
- CoPilot AI added Dr. Qingchen Wang as an Advisor. Dr. Wang is an Assistant Professor of Business Analytics at The University of Hong Kong.
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