From her first job as Jeff Bezos’ assistant to being headhunted by Google and the steep learning curve of CRM, Ann Hiatt highlights why a thriving internal culture will always be best for business.
“I had no idea what I was getting into when I was accepting the job, thank goodness because I would’ve been rightly terrified.” Ann Hiatt, Non-Executive Director at Armadillo is sharing the blissful ignorance she experienced before she accepted her first job in 2002 straight out of university, as Amazon supremo’s Jeff Bezos’ assistant. “Talk about jumping in the deep end with a millstone round your neck,” she adds honestly.
As a girl from Seattle, Hiatt said she never expected to find herself at a tech company and never could have imagined where that would take her. But after graduating “just after the dot com bust”, she started at Amazon “at the dawn of the Internet.” A three-year stint which provided the launchpad for a career that has been equal parts eclectic and rewarding.
The head on the octopus
Having earned her stripes at Amazon, Hiatt upped sticks and moved to California to do a PHD at the university in Berkeley focusing on European politics. After two years however, Google came knocking and, up until last year, she’d spent 12 years at the tech giant.
For nine of those years she was Eric Schmidt’s Chief of Staff, a role she describes in unique terms: “The easiest way to describe that role is I was the head on the octopus. I just kept all the arms coordinated, picking up everything in the right order and keeping the plates spinning.”
It was a move that she says had one main draw: “to speak truth to power and to manage up.” Throughout her career at Google, she kept her eyes and ears open, to new ideas, inspirational projects and people: “I considered it my own personal business school.”
“Diversity of position and experience and age and background informs decisions and helps you be more innovative, and solution orientated”
An innovative decision
It was while on stage at SXSW a few years ago that Hiatt’s next job came calling. Chris Thurling, Executive Chair of the board at Armadillo saw her speak and, although the two didn’t meet, they corresponded afterwards online.
When Hiatt was over in London, they met for a coffee after which she was offered a position on the board of directors. The move aligned with what was happening in her life as she left Google in September 2018, married a Spaniard and moved to Spain.
Of Armadillo, Hiatt is honest about how she felt taking the leap, as she explains, “At first I was like well I know absolutely nothing about CRM,” she explains. But she was curious about what she didn’t know and interested by what was happening at Armadillo: “I believed I could learn a lot.”
Hiatt adds that she was impressed by the agency’s decision to choose her, not least because it demonstrated their desire for innovation: “Inviting me to join their board shows the kind of innovative and revolutionary disruptive thinking they have because I’m so non-obvious as a choice.”
The diversity of the agency’s decision is an essential part of maintaining their innovative approach believes Hiatt. Difference of attitude, opinion and life experience is vital. Hiatt explains, “Diversity of position and experience and age and background informs decisions and helps you be more innovative, and solution orientated.”