Current partner @ Andreessen Horowitz (VC firm). Ex-Mckinsey, ex- strategy guy at Google.
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Head of Staff: CEO office or associate at McK/BCGBain?

Anonymous A

Hoping for some advice, although I know the answer to my question is very subjective and not simple.

I just became an Associate in the Digital practice of one of the top three consultancies. I really enjoy "Digital" and I feel I have a lot to learn here still - at the same time I am on path to be fast-tacked into Engagement Manager / Project Leader.

Very recently, I have was fortunate enough to have be offered a role called "Head of staff: CEO office". I am not very familiar with these roles, which is also a reason why I ask for advice.
But apparently, the role consists of "following the CEO", attending meetings and advising/briefing the CEO before meetings as well as implementing strategic initiatives as you would in any other corporate firm. The role seems interesting because you basically, at my level, get as much (very) senior exposure as you can - I suppose. At the same time, the firm is a approx. a 1-2 bn dollar firm in revenues with very healthy profits and is owned by a PE firm --> which makes it more interesting I believe. It is also somewhat of a tech firm, which is a hard requirement for me personally.

Questions:
What would you do? Where do you think you learn the most? Pros and cons as you see it? How do I best evaluate my choice?

Thanks.

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Hemant
Expert
replied on 04/27/2018
Current partner @ Andreessen Horowitz (VC firm). Ex-Mckinsey, ex- strategy guy at Google.

There are two types of "Chief of Staff" roles.

  1. the "glorified PA" role: you end up following the CEO/CXO in meetings, define agenda, take notes, arrange a few key events, and perhaps, if you are lucky, represent the CEO in a few key meetings (often silent observer / walk through a script to deliver CEO's message)
  2. the "CEO in training": you end up doing all of the above + you really become the right hand person / CEO-replacement both from a figurative and practical perspective. CEO trusts you with tier-2 / 3 decisions and team trusts your judgment calls in most non-critical decisions. These roles are often stepping stone into CEO roles at the firm. In large firms, they tend to be given to experienced professionals.

Getting into this role, you need to get a lot of clarity who you would be NOW as the chief of staff and what PATH you are on in the future. Both are important. The NOW will likely be a bit crappy, but if it'll soon turn into a lucrative path, it's def worth it.

Hemant

Vlad replied on 04/26/2018
McKinsey / Accenture / Got all BIG3 offers / More than 300 real MBB cases / Harvard Business School

Hi,

It sounds like a great opportunity:

  1. Great role with lots of responsibility
  2. Great visibility in front of the CEO
  3. Great potential of the company (at least as you described it)

But since joining a startup is all about the upside, I would try to assess the startup and it's potential:

  • CEO (founder?) and the team. Did they have any exits before?
  • Current investors and How healthy the cap table is (Previous investors, deal terms, no downrounds, VC investing multiple times, etc).
  • How much equity they propose
  • What is the growth potential (do your research on the business)
  • Next round and exit opportunities

Best!

Francesco replied on 04/27/2018
#1 Expert for coaching sessions (1600+) | Ex BCG | 800+ reviews with 100% recommendation rate

Hi Anonymous,

Interesting question. I believe it completely depends on where do you see yourself in 3-5 years, how much you want to keep options open vs specialize early and on the actual growth opportunity of the PE owned company.

Manager position plus

  • Keep options open – definitely more exit opportunities here
  • Different type of sector segments
  • With few exceptions, faster career path. Unless you join a startup where you can grow superfast to CXO positions, an investment fund or you are extremely lucky, MBB will let you grow faster compared to exiting at Associate level in an estabilished company.

Chief of staff plus

  • Stronger focus in one industry – assuming it’s interesting for you, could increase your learning curve
  • Possible fast track to more senior position
  • Potentially better work life balance

As Hemant said, both understanding well the kind of job you will do and where it will lead you is critical to understand which could be the best decision.

Best,

Francesco

Anonymous B replied on 05/03/2018

Hi,

This is very interesting and you sound as though you have a great opportunity.

The only thing i would consider - You mentioned being fast-tracked to EM, if you're getting offered this external position now...imagine in 3 more years? Surely your exit opps will be even greater?

In regards to the first comment here; definitely define the scope of the role. Make sure you will give input and that no, it's not just a glorified PA position.

Good luck and congrats!

Anonymous A replied on 04/27/2018

Both: Thank you very much for your answers!

@Vlad, just to make sure. I wouldn't consider the firm a start-up. They were bought for 3-6 bn dollars by the PE firm and they have 2-3000 employees.

Does this change your assessment?

@Hemant, I see. Thanks a lot - I will definitely ask them very clearly about this.

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