My daughter was complaining. She was working as an executive assistant to her company’s CEO and considered the job to be a dead end. Au contraire! I had just received an email from Kathy MacDonald describing her career-long experience with this line of work. From what I’d read, that line was anything but “dead end” and was, contrary to our view of secretaries when we were growing up, work of critical importance to corporate success.
Here’s what Kathy has to say about her experience:
I started my company, Kathy MacDonald Associates, Inc., in San Francisco 24 years ago as the first West Coast-based administrative search and consulting firm (modeled after executive search firms)…my focus is exclusively on placing Executive Assistants for CEOs.
My very first client was Steve Jobs! That was during the time after he’d left Apple and he was starting up Next Computers. It was an honor to meet him and get to know his particular needs / temperament so that I could identify the right Executive Assistant for him. He was famously challenging to work for in those days. Before they hired me to help him, their HR group had considered 125 candidates, and the one they had most recently hired for him walked off the job in 13 days. It turns out he hired the person I sent in right on the spot; which apparently had never happened! Their HR group tried to recruit me into coming on board as their head of administration…but I’d JUST started my own company, and had the crazy urge to give it a try. So, instead, I helped them hire their new head of administration.
Right after Steve, I was referred in to the CEO of the GAP (Mickey Drexler; who is now the Chairman and CEO of J. Crew Group). That went so well that I was introduced to the founder/CEO of Genentech and then I was referred to the CEO of Apple Computer and then began to work with all the partners of the famous venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. This group which included the very witty Will Hearst (grandson of the great publishing tycoon) and the venture capitalist most written about, and often called the “King of Silicon Valley,” the wonderful John Doerr (famous for funding Google, among other famous high tech companies). The subsequent 20 years was a wild ride for me. I got introduced to so many start-up CEOs (of pre-IPO high-tech companies), and occasionally negotiated stock in lieu of cash for my search services….which gave me the financial roller coaster ride of my life when those companies went public!
Another unexpected but fun tale from this time is that I started dating one of my clients, whose company went public and made him a billionaire (in 1999), and put him on the cover of Forbes! I then got to experience the life of the rich-and-famous first-hand…flying around the world on private jets….and sailing through the Caribbean on his friend’s famous yacht (the ‘Juliet’ – considered 1 of the 7 finest yachts in the world) …ooh-la-la, it was amazingly fun! I came to really love private jet travel (!)…. and, if you are now wondering…no, I’m no longer with the billionaire so my travel is now strictly commercial (sadly)!
Over all these years all my business came through referrals (luckily, I never had to advertise). I am so incredibly grateful for the opportunities to have met and worked closely with so many of the world’s top leaders/visionaries including the late Dan Case, former CEO of Chase/JP Morgan, and Punahou alum of ’76. He was not only considered a brilliant and successful young executive, but he was also beloved throughout Silicon Valley. At his memorial service, there must have been 3,000 people in attendance.
Another exceptional experience I had was when I was referred in to Condoleezza Rice to provide administrative infrastructure consulting for her. She was then the Provost of Stanford University. I could hardly believe that I was actually providing consulting services for the head of Stanford!
I recently worked with the COO of Skywalker Ranch…George Lucas’ headquarters…gorgeous property…and several clients I have worked for are world-wide celebrities yet very private so they can’t be mentioned.
Ever since I created my website ago, I have been working with CEOs around the country…it’s been exciting to travel into so many different cities (New York, Boston, WA DC, Nashville, Houston)….and you can’t imagine my shock the day I got a call from Suzy and Jack Welch! Wherever I go, people are surprised when/if they learn that I’m from Hawaii. They all ask why I’m not living there now (after all, it IS paradise!)….but the truth is, I never would have experienced all that I have if I’d stayed in Honolulu!
Editor’s Note: This information was received from Kathy some time ago. I apologize for the delay in posting but am as interested in what she wrote as I was the first time I read it. How about you?