- Ann Hiatt was executive assistant to Jeff Bezos and Marissa Mayer, and chief of staff to Eric Schmidt.
- In her book, Bet on Yourself, she says prioritizing who she worked with helped her career.
- But you don’t need to work with billionaires to learn from your colleagues, Hiatt says.
For a dream career, prioritize who you work with over everything else. That’s the advice of Ann Hiatt, who worked as an executive assistant to Jeff Bezos and Marissa Mayer, and as chief of staff to Eric Schmidt.
In her 2021 book “Bet on Yourself,” which features a foreword by Schmidt, Hiatt lays out the two key ways she “up-leveled” her career.
“First I have prioritized finding a manager who is modeling the career path I want to take and embodies the leadership qualities I want to possess,” she wrote. “Second, I have chosen roles that surround me with top quality people and a depth of opportunities to grow with them.”
Amazon founder Bezos hired Hiatt in 2002 and they worked together until 2005, when she left to study for a PhD. She joined Google in 2006 and worked there for 12 years; first for Mayer, then a vice president and later Yahoo CEO, and second, for Schmidt, then-Google CEO. Hiatt now runs her own consultancy in which she provides coaching for CEOs.
Hiatt says she was impressed by the people she met at Google, especially Mayer, saying she knew that working for her would be hard, but that she’d learn a lot.
Hiatt wrote in her book: “My next career steps have always been inspired by asking myself the key question of ‘What do I want to learn in the next phase of my career?'” Without having a sense of the next leap, it’s easy to limit yourself to comfortable roles that avoid stress, instead of chasing opportunities for growth, she says.
Hiatt says her managers were often the key indicators of her personal growth trajectory and opportunities. In exchange, she says, it was up to her to be proactive with those opportunities and deliver results.
She says she always prioritized the type of people she wanted to work for over everything else, because it would shape the kind of person and leader she wanted to be.
“You don’t have to work for a billionaire CEO or top tech company to have this up-leveling effect from your colleagues, however you do need to be proactively cultivating it,” Hiatt wrote in her book.
Finding a great manager is easier said than done: Mayer herself came under fire for her management style during her stint as Yahoo CEO and Bezos’s management practices at Amazon have often been called into question.
While it always depends on the individual, multiple studies suggest that a good or bad manager can have a dramatic impact on the performance of their team.
In 2002, Google conducted research in a bid to prove that managers don’t matter. Instead, the research inadvertently identified 10 traits that the best managers possess.
As well as being good communicators, good managers are generally deemed to be empathetic and give their employees space and opportunity to grow, the research showed.