Ann Hiatt is a Silicon Valley veteran with 15 years of experience as the Executive Business Partner for Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon, and as Chief of Staff for Eric Schmidt, CEO/Executive Chairman of Google.

Ann Hiatt Leader Assistant Podcast Bet On Yourself

In this episode of The Leader Assistant Podcast, Ann shares the story of how she landed the job supporting Jeff Bezos at Amazon (after a 9 month interview process), the time she booked a helicopter for Bezos that ended up crashing, and what it was like growing in her career while working at Amazon in the “early” days.

But Ann’s story doesn’t end at Amazon, and neither does our conversation. We chat about Ann’s time working closely with Marissa Mayer and Eric Schmidt at Google – and what she learned about leadership, goal setting (OKRs and KPIs), and managing a team.

Lastly, Ann talks about why she wrote her book Bet on Yourself: Recognize, Own, and Implement Breakthrough Opportunities, in which she shares insights on what she learned from her time supporting tech titans.

Bet on yourself book Ann Hiatt


I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I always knew the woman I wanted to be.

– Diane Von Furstenberg

Ann Hiatt Leader Assistant Podcast

Ann Hiatt is a Silicon Valley veteran who received her initial business training during 15 years as the Executive Business Partner to Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon) and Chief-of-Staff to Eric Schmidt (CEO and Executive Chairman at Google/Alphabet).

Her very first job was at 16 when she worked at a startup in Redmond, Washington called MusicWare – back when no one knew what a startup was. Growing up in Seattle during the original dotcom boom, surrounded by companies like Microsoft, Amazon and Starbucks, was a master class in innovation and it changed the course of her life.

Ann now consults with executives and companies across the globe to reverse engineer their moonshot goals and get results by applying the lessons of innovation, ambition, growth at scale and forward-thinking leadership she learned at Amazon and Google. Aside from this, Ann is committed to democratizing the internet and bringing underrepresented voices to the forefront.

Ann is a sought-after international speaker, angel investor and sits on several boards in the UK. Ann has recently relocated from Silicon Valley to Europe and brings with her a unique perspective on what it takes to succeed in business today. Ann is also the author of Bet On Yourself which will be published by HarperCollins in 2021.


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Ann Hiatt 0:00
Hi, this is Ann Hiatt and today’s leadership quote is from Diane Von Furstenberg. She said I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I always knew the woman I wanted to be.

Podcast Intro 0:14
The Leader Assistant Podcast exists to encourage and challenge assistants to become confident, Game Changing leader assistant.

Jeremy Burrows 0:23
Hey, friends, thanks for tuning in to Episode 123 of The Leader Assistant Podcast, you can check out the show notes at And before we jump in to today’s exciting and engaging interview, I wanted to invite you to check out our upcoming event schedule. These are professional development and training events for executive assistants, executive business partners and other Administrative Professionals, you can check out our schedule of virtual events. And also, we’re starting to get into planning more live in person events as well. So check out the schedule at That’s I hope to see you at one of our events. And I hope you enjoy this interview. Hey, everyone, thanks for tuning in to The Leader Assistant Podcast. It’s your host, Jeremy Burrows and today and I’m very excited to be speaking with Ann Hiatt in is a leadership strategist and consultant. She founded her own global consulting firm, and she’s also an author. We’re going to talk about her book in a minute. And then she’s formally the right hand to CEOs, Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Eric Schmidt of Google. Ann how’s it going?

Ann Hiatt 1:51
Great. Good to see you, Jeremy. It’s nice to be in conversation again.

Jeremy Burrows 1:55
Yeah. So where are you at in the world right now?

Ann Hiatt 1:58
I actually right now I’m coming to you from Ibiza. My husband is like you have a emergency business trip to a visa that doesn’t add up. Really? Literally, I booked the ticket yesterday. I have a client meeting tomorrow morning. So yes, coming to you live from my hotel room in Ibiza. I actually had to close the blackout curtains because it’s so distractingly beautiful outside to stay in work mode for now.

Jeremy Burrows 2:23
Wow. That’s awesome. Well, thank you so much for being on the show. Let’s just jump right in. And why don’t you tell us a little bit about how your career started.

Ann Hiatt 2:35
very unexpectedly. Let’s see how much time do we have? It’s like a 10 hour story. No, I really my life, my destiny was chosen for me a little bit by my parents, and intentionally, they moved to Redmond, which is a suburb of Seattle in 1995. No 1985. And they did not expect that the personal computing revolution was about to happen literally less than five minutes from my front door. Microsoft headquarters was founded right around that same time. And I grew up surrounded by tech, all the parents of my friends worked in tech. It was just kind of everywhere in the air, although I had no personal intention of ever going into technology. So my undergrad, I studied International Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle. And I was graduating from undergrad in 2002. And that was immediately after bust, which had wiped out a lot of US economy but especially in Seattle. And so I and all of my friends had zero job prospects that graduating. And so I was working as a student position at the European Union Center on campus at U DUB. And the director of my program asked what I was going to do. And he said, Well, if you’re not having any luck with Plan A, have you ever thought of applying at Amazon because his wife was working in recruiting there. And that is literally the only reason I applied at all was thanks to pandemic number one of three that I’ve been with that wasn’t really a pandemic, but crisis is number number one of the three have had experience across my career. And yeah, so nine months later, it was a very long hiring process. But my very first job out of university was working sitting at the desk, the closest to Jeff Bezos in the entire company for three years.

Jeremy Burrows 4:27
Wow. Yeah, that is, it’s crazy how things just kind of happen sometimes, huh? Yeah. Nine months hiring process. Yeah.

Ann Hiatt 4:37
It was terrible. So

Jeremy Burrows 4:38
did you have to do like a temp like a, like a 9090 day test or anything? Or was it literally just interviews and waiting? interviews and waiting?

Ann Hiatt 4:49
Yeah, it was the latter, unfortunately. So I went in for a first round of interviews. And traditional to tech. This is still true in many tech companies today. They’re just looking to hire smart people. And then they’ll figure out where to put you. So I was just being vetted to see if I could hack it in that crazy environment. That was early years of Amazon. So I came in and they consider me for a junior assistant role. And I interviewed with all of the assistants of the company at the time, I think there were 11, which is really funny, because Amazon was less than 1000. People back then were like, 900 something. Now they have 1.3 million employees, can you imagine? That’s like, just boggles my mind to think of that many employees for a single company. But yeah, so I interviewed with all of them. And then I didn’t hear anything back for three months. So I thought I bombed it because I honestly hadn’t prepared that, well, for that interview, I’d never, you know, it’s my first job out of school. And I just, I’d never, you know, tech interviews are kind of crazy by reputation anyway, but I didn’t know that. So but I loved it. Like they had such enthusiasm and such pride in the projects that their teams were working on, and what they were supporting, and I just gotten my blood. So I got really excited about it. And then they didn’t call me back for like two and a half months. And then I went in for a second round. Because I found out later I had scored really well. And the second round was with VPs. And I thought, Why on earth are they wasting VP time with me. But I didn’t know that I was being considered for an opening and Jeff Bezos, his office. So I scored really well on that second round as well. Even though three of those interviewers had been assigned to find my breaking point and see if they could make me cry. Which it sounds mean. But it’s actually it was an important test, because you had a very thick skin back then we were just running so fast. We couldn’t have any fragile flowers. So I did, okay. And so the head of legal she came to Jeff and was like, Look, you can hire her or I’m going to, and he was like, whoa. So that’s how I ended up with a third interview, is they called me back in they did not tell me that it would be with Jeff Bezos himself. But it was. And he only asked me two questions, and then hired me on the spot. Wow,

Jeremy Burrows 7:01
can you share what those two questions were?

Ann Hiatt 7:03
Yeah. It was, I didn’t know. But this was famous at the time for being just go to interview question. So he said, don’t worry. You know, I know we have. You’ve done a lot of interviews. I’m only gonna ask you two questions. This is this is the last. But the first is going to be a brain teaser. And, you know, I’m really young. I’ve never done formal rounds of interviews before. So no one’s ever asked me a brain teaser. Although I knew that that was kind of a thing like at Microsoft, they like to do that. So we asked me to estimate the number of panes of glass in the city of Seattle. And at first, I was super confused. I was like, why would you ask me that question? But then I decided, okay, he wants to see how my mind works. Like, can I take a complex problem and break it down into manageable steps that would reach a solution. So I did that. We were in what I later discovered was just personal conference room. So he stood up and kept a pen and said, Don’t worry, I’ll do the math, like. But we did. We did the math, we filled three of the four walls in his conference room, more whiteboards, and we filled the whiteboards with the math until we got to an answer. We went through all the different scenarios of where you would find glass. And I kind of outlined it, and we did the math until he circled an answer. And then the second question was, just tell me about why you want to work here and what your goals are, like, what do you want to learn by being here? And I think that it was actually the latter one that I think made him think like, all right, I think because by then I was really, really exciting what they were working on, I really wanted to be part of it. And I knew that something irrevocable was happening there. And I just wanted in I didn’t know I didn’t fully comprehend what it was they were doing. But I wanted to be part of that team. Maybe Jeff was kind of a known personality at the time, he had been Time Magazine’s Person of the Year in 1999. Then he was on the cover of all the important newspapers and magazines for a long time. There’s critical headlines about like Amazon dot bust, and all these things that people were very skeptical that they would ever turn a profit. So when I started just a few months after that interview with Jeff, we had not yet been profitable. They had one single profitable quarter, but not yet profitable, as you can imagine that now, they’re so dominant. But yeah, we were fighting for our lives every day. So I I entered the frontlines of a battlefield on that first day and never looked back. I loved it.

Jeremy Burrows 9:31
So how long were you there?

Ann Hiatt 9:33
Three years. Three years? Yeah, I was lucky enough to sit at one of the original door desks built by Jeff’s own hands. So it’s famous lore in the company he when he started the Amazon in the garage of his rental home in Bellevue, Washington. He spent every night packing boxes on his hands and knees in his garage, and eventually his knees got really tired so he thought he originally went to Home Depot to buy knee pads. And then it occurred to him what he actually needs were tables. But he looked at the tables and thought they were ridiculously expensive for His purpose. But doors were on sale. So he bought the doors and just put them on, like, cobbled them together into desks. And now that’s really famous. So I sat at one of the original three door desks that Jeff made at the desk closest to him in the company for three years.

Jeremy Burrows 10:25
Wow. So is there any crazy stories you can share? I mean, obviously, crazy time. And I know we don’t have all day, but

Ann Hiatt 10:33
how much time do you have Jeremy? So many crazy stories. I have some favorites. And actually, I’m having this great full circle moment right now. Because one of my favorite things that happened in the first year was I got to partner with Andy Jassy Andy Jassy was the very first official shadow that was literally the official job title was the shadow and the shadow. That person’s job was to be a Jeff side at all times, copied on every email in every meeting on every flight, every phone, call every briefing document everything for a couple of reasons. One was to give Jeff kind of a sparring partner, somebody whose job was full time to poke holes in all of Jeff’s favorite ideas, make sure he was anticipating things, asking the right questions, not having any blind spots. And then second was to really learn to think like Jeff, because Jeff knew that very, very quickly. Soon after I joined he was no longer going to be able to be the voice of authority in all rooms, the company was just getting too big, too fast. So he really needed to instill his very unique leadership principles throughout the company like pervasively. And so Andy do that very, very well. And Andy, now, famously, he went on after his year and a half as the shadow to found and run what became a multibillion dollar subsidiary company, which is Amazon Web Services. And then you might have heard him in the news recently, because Jeff has recently named him as his successor, as CEO of Amazon coming up very shortly, actually, that transition is happening really soon. So it’s a great moment for me to remember those early years when Andy and I were both just trying to figure out how to keep our heads above water. But the reason why like one I’m really proud of Andy and so excited for these opportunities for his growth, but to is one of the most important business lessons, those aha moments that we have occasionally happened in watching Jeff and Andy interact. So I had this moment where Andy came over to ask me a question, he was going to present something to Jeff and he wants to know, you want to my advice on if he was coming about it the right way, because at that point, I knew Jeff better than Andy did. And when he came over to ask me advice on how to present something to Jeff, it clicked that in some ways, I was more of an expert than he was, even though he was much more technically senior than I was. And I just had this moment of being like, oh, my gosh, I have access to the same things the shadow does to the same emails to the same meetings, the same phone calls the same briefing documents. Why don’t I treat my job, like the shadows and create this Jeff Bezos apprenticeship for myself. And it was just more of like a mental shift than anything. You know, I still was the junior most person in the office and did a lot of intern level stuff. But I saw it differently. I invested in it differently. I dug in even deeper, I did a lot of homework. I googled every name and term and acronym I didn’t understand. And I just really treated it like my own personal business school. And that was a really important shift. And it prepared me for a disastrous first project that I had, which if anyone’s heard me speak, they’ve probably heard the helicopter story. But that was that was the moment where that aha moment had to come first. And then disaster came. And then the rest of my life changed is like a sliding door moment for me in that

Jeremy Burrows 14:00
what’s what’s the short version of the helicopter story?

Ann Hiatt 14:05
The mini version of the helicopter story and to tease my book, it’s chapter three. So if you want all the salacious to to be the mini teaser version, so you’re going to be wanting more is, um, so it was a couple of months after I’d been hired. And I just been, you know, basically trying to keep my head above water and get trained and my manager John Connors. I love John so much he taught me. I mean, all the best practices I use today really came from the foundation training that John gave me. And John to this day is still in that role with Jeff. They were just amazing person and really a great manager. So mostly it just been taking direction from John trying to learn the ropes and who different people were and what we were inventing. And Jeff came to me a couple of months in and it was the first time I think he’d spoken to me directly since he hired me. And he gave me this assignment. He said, I want to go to Texas and view these properties. Next week, I had Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to view them in any kind of walked away. Now the paper he gave me just had this long series of numbers on it, which confused me at first, I thought maybe this is another brain teaser. But it turns out it was GPS coordinates. I thought, well, that’s a weird way of giving me addresses of places you want to visit. But it turns out, he was looking at buying ranches, like huge plots of land in Texas. And when I plotted it out, it was actually impossible to visit all the properties on the list and the amount of time that he gave me. So I went to John, I was like, Hey, okay, maybe we can narrow down this list. Or maybe we can add a day. And John didn’t even look up. He was just like, Well, no, is not an answer. So figure it out. Went back to my desk, like, okay, so I thought, all right, we can’t we had chartered a jet. Okay, there isn’t a runway to use the jet and it takes way too long to drive. So we’re very far apart. And then eventually it came to me. I was like, what’s in between that maybe a helicopter? So I went to John, I was like, how about we hire a helicopter? I think we can get to all these properties in time that way. He was like, Yeah, okay, do that. But I’m like, early 20s. I don’t have a Rolodex of anybody, let alone a Rolodex with a helicopter pilot in it. So I had no idea how to do that. But eventually, I thought, Okay, I’ll reach out to the charter company and see if they can connect me with the pilot. And so I booked my first helicopter, did all the security briefings like all this kind of clearance stuff that hadn’t occurred to me, that would be part of my job. And I heard it and Jeff went off, and he came back like a kid on Christmas morning, like so excited. And I and nobody had any idea what he was doing in Texas yet. And so he was like, great. I want I’ve narrowed it down. I want to visit my favorite to next week. Let’s do the trip again. And yeah, so I thought this one I was like, Oh, well, I know what I’m doing. I’ve got the charter pilots. I’ve got the helicopter pilot easy peasy. And then off, he went on the second trip. Now at this point, I realized how little I understood about the basics of my job. So I started coming in early every morning and doing myself in post homework of reading briefing documents and searching all the terms and people I didn’t know. And I was at my desk, I think it was just me and security in the building at the time. And my desk phone rang and it was the charter pilots. They had never called me before. But they said I don’t want to alarm you. So of course I was instantly alarmed. So we don’t want to alarm you. But an emergency beacon has gone off and a helicopter has crashed. Oh, wow. And my, my hands start shaking so bad. I can’t hold a pen. And I think to myself, I just killed Jeff Bezos. And not only had I maybe just killed Jeff Bezos, but the entire company because all of the value of our stock was based on faith in Jeff and his crazy vision. I mean, again, we were not profitable. This was very early stage. And I might have just killed the entire company. So I think to myself, Okay, what do I do? What happens if you kill your boss? And so I thought, okay, the Board of Directors needs to know. So I called John at home. And I said, I think we need an emergency board of directors meeting and he agreed. So he started assembling them while I started calling local hospitals not using Jeff’s name, because maybe it wasn’t him. And I didn’t want to create some kind of press storm around nothing. So called Silva hospitals, they answered like I was a crazy person when I asked if any helicopter crash victims had come in. And then I finally I think it was the fourth or fifth one. Finally, they asked me if I was family. So I had found him. And I just asked that he please call as soon as he could, when he called in immediately passion to the Board of Directors, he told them absolutely do not issue any practice statements, because we’d prepare things for if he was dead, if he was injured, if he was alive if it wasn’t him. And he said, don’t use any of that. Let’s bury the story as much as possible. I don’t want anyone knowing I was in Texas, what we didn’t know. And now we know because I think in like a week or two, this is full circle, but he was buying the property which became Blue Origin, his space company, his rocket company, and the property that he bought and crashed in is where he’s sending himself off into space next week. So what had happened was it was him. He was in the helicopter, the helicopter I hired did crash with him inside. He was the superhero of the day. So I have a feeling he loves telling the story. I literally have sweaty palms right now. Every time I tell it, I get heart palpitations. But he Yeah, he jumped out. He pulled out the pilot. He saved the ranch owner, his personal assistant horn in the back, climbed up to the top of the hill next to them and use the satellite phone I had insisted he take and he called for help. And he did so using his own name. So that’s the only reason I can tell this story right now is because a reporter broke the story when he was writing a story on the XPRIZE. About nine months later, he figured out what Jeff was doing and broke the story and found those emergency call records in Texas. So we got really, really Crazy. But I think the most important part of that story for me was after he spoke to the Board of Directors, he asked to speak with me. And I expected him to be really upset, like, I thought he might fire me. Maybe I’d done something wrong, or I’d skipped a procedure or something. And instead, he just said, Ann, I hear you’re really good under pressure. And maybe he said, more than that. I don’t remember. I think my ears started ringing. It’s the nicest thing I think anyone’s ever said to me professionally, because it just, it was a moment of click, where he no longer saw me is the 20 year old who had no business having this job and did not know what she was doing, which was true. But it didn’t matter anymore. Because he now saw me as some somebody who could figure it out. I could be in a crisis situation and keep a cool head, I could ask the right questions, try the right things. And in his mind, none of us knew what we were doing. So that was okay. As long as I was a smart person who could figure it out in the moment, it would be alright. And then, probably more importantly, I had the same realization, I finally saw myself differently that even though I didn’t know what I was doing, I could figure it out. And so why not go big and go bold. So I was recently talking to a reporter, a Financial Times reporter in San Francisco, and he asked me, he’s like, What exactly was your job title at Amazon? Because he like the stuff I’ve read, like it’s all over the place. And I was like, Well, that’s because I did so much, far outside of my job description. After that, I wrote his original TED talk, I helped with the Paris Hilton jewelry launch when we launched that, that category for the first time or when we launched sporting goods. I did the Anna Kournikova like press launch in Grand Central Station in New York, I was working on crazy stuff that was a far outside my traditional job description, because I was the one that he felt like he could trust to do stuff for the first time. So that really opened up my mind to not allowing myself to play in a small sandbox, but to volunteer for big stuff that otherwise I never would have been tapped for. Wow.

Jeremy Burrows 22:04
Amazing. Thank you for sharing. And yes, definitely, if you’re listening, check out her ans book. We’ll put the link in the show notes so that you can read more about that story. And we’ll talk about that more in a second. But tell us real quick, are you? Did you get invited to go to space with Jeff?

Ann Hiatt 22:22
No. Somebody asked me know is the short answer. And I’m still waiting for my invite Jeff. Because I totally would go literally, if he was like, hey, fly to Texas next week. Let’s go i would definitely get on that rocket ship. Because, um, I don’t know, I just I was there in the infancy like the conception of this idea. I saw it grow over the last few decades. And what better way to go. I mean, we’re all going to die. So mine Oh, God. Now I do know that the headline would be Jeff Bezos and Unidentified Female.

But that’s okay. At least I go out spectacularly. Yeah, we totally go.

Jeremy Burrows 23:04
Okay, so let’s transition. So you went from Amazon to Google. So we went from, you know, one of the biggest companies in the world to one of the smallest. I’m just kidding. What? How was that transition? What Why? Why did you jump to Google? And what did you learn in your time working with Eric and working at Google?

Ann Hiatt 23:30
Yeah, I actually made a pitstop in between. So I I left Amazon, actually to start a PhD. So I that it always been Plan A told Jeff about it in the original interview, that that was something I want to do. And he was very supportive. And he’s, I mean, tech is very much education snob. So there will always support a PhD plan. So yeah, I after three years at Amazon, I applied to my programs expecting it to take a year or two to get into my ideal programs. Because at that level, it’s all about fit, you need someone kind of who’s just like for fit, finish their PhD moving, there needs to be a vacancy. So there’s funding to support you and in the program that fits us. So I really thought it would take a couple of years for that magic moment to happen. But it actually happened the very first try. So I got into my dream program at Berkeley in California. So that’s originally what took me out of Seattle and down into Silicon Valley. And so I was studying at Berkeley. And that was actually really important. Because at the in that program, I was the only person starting my program that year. I didn’t have any peers, it seemed like everyone else knew what was going on. I was coming from this very linear or data driven environment, super fast paced environment of Amazon. And now suddenly, I was just in my classes were like three hour long discussion sessions where we just sat around a table and discussed what we read. And I didn’t know how to measure. Like, how do I know if I’m doing a good job, but it really taught me the value for asking the right questions, learning for learning sake, and just seeing things from multiple perspectives and allowing these moments of clarity or click to come. And I really learned a lot about my thought process and how to be creative and how to channel kind of my critical thinking skills and creativity. And that was unexpected training for what came next, which was Google. So after about a year in my PhD program, Google heard I was in town because Tech is a very small world, especially back then. And they asked if I was interested in coming working at Google, because based on my work with Jeff, and I said, thanks very much. Nope, super happy with academics. That was fun. But no, thank you. And I think even back then, that was 2005. I don’t think a lot of people were saying no, because Google’s already a pretty hot place to work, even though they weren’t the dominant search engine yet. So I said no, for about a year or so. And then eventually, the recruiters like, well, don’t you want to come for a tour, you’re probably kind of curious about the campus. And that was smart because I was I want to see the the cafes with the free food, and that everyone brings their dog to work, and they’re all playing like sand volleyball, I want to see how anyone gets anything done in this kind of crazy environment. And while I was there, it happened. I mean, we were eating lunch. And whether by design or by accident, I found myself eating between someone who had raised in the US Postal team with Lance Armstrong and the Tour de France, former astronaut, like not just an astronaut, literally had been to space. And Vint Cerf, who was one of the founders of the internet. These are the Googlers happen to sit at the table that I had lunch at. And I thought, okay, because really, my main hesitation in leaving my PhD was I loved being surrounded by the smartest people in the world and talking about big issues that really want to have a global impact. And the recruiter literally laughed at me. And he was like, I think you’d be pretty comfortable here. And he was right. So I did not expect that. That was the start of a 12 year career at Google. So my first role was working for Marissa Meyer on the product team. She was in charge of the homepage, Gmail, all the kinds of stuff, the cool stuff that just brought eyes in. Other people figured out how to monetize it. But she, we just got to make cool stuff. And so we were launching like crazy. We were in a race. I was just I can’t even looking back and like how do we launch so many things in such tight sequence. It was great. It was all hands on deck all the time. We were constantly in a sprint. We were constantly in war rooms. We were constantly like doing launch prep and code reviews. And I loved it. It was just some people get that adrenaline in their blood. And that’s me, like I really some people burn out in that environment. But no one in the early years of Google, like we were just all of us, that was our lifeblood. So I worked with Marissa for three years and learned so many incredible, valuable lessons I call on everyday now in my consulting with startup CEOs around the world, because I really learned some best practices from her about how to build a high quality team, how to empower your people and make them feel valued, how to not burn them out, while running 18 hour days for years on end. She just really had that down to an art. And I’ve never seen somebody so who invest so heavily in in the team that they’ve built. And then after three years with her then I moved on to work for Eric, who for the nine and a half years of the second part of my career Google first three years he was still CEO and then executive chairman. Well,

Jeremy Burrows 28:36
so what what’s maybe one thing you could share that was different about Google banned your time with Amazon?

Ann Hiatt 28:44
Yeah, there’s so much the culture is very different. I think that’s the biggest difference like the launch cycles and the pace and the bold, fearless goal setting it was very similar, I think has a lot to do. The similarities have a lot to do with John Doerr, who was an early investor and board member in both companies. And John Doerr introduced the goal setting system called OKRs, which stands for objectives and key results. And that’s now pervasive in most tech companies and beyond now, but it was revolutionary at the time. So using that OKR goal system, it moves you out of just thinking about KPIs and solving the problems under your feet today and instead shifts your horizon and gives you permission to fail and to celebrate the learnings that come from that because you’re setting such audacious goals that you know for a fact you’re not possibly going to accomplish but you know as they say like you shoot for the stars and you might hit the moon on the way that her however that saying goes That’s what we were doing every day so it just create both places had an an environment that celebrated how much you learn when you try really crazy stuff. Now the differences are might be the character the founders, like Jeff has his own very particular personality. He’s very intense, and he’s good now famous for the way that he had his senior executives present to him. He liked to have six page memos. That’s a system he developed while he was with him, where everything is kind of presented as a fully packaged report. He called that the PR FAQs, the PR statement, imagine the news headline, the day you launch it, what is the one sentence takeaway, and then the FAQ is are all the things the reporter is going to ask you about it and how you’re going to present it and have solved some problems. That is similar at Google. But Google’s a little bit different, we were very much making it up as we went a little bit because we were just moving so fast and building so many things. And so I think it’s just a little bit different in terms of the character. I also think Jeff brought in some more senior people. Whereas at Google, in those early early years, we were all very young, the age of our average employee track the age of our founders. And so we went through some funny growth cycles together, where everyone was kind of single in the original years, then everyone kind of got married at the same time, then the whole company had babies at the same time. So even the types of offsites, we were doing changed over time, based on you know, whatever life stage the company was at now, it’s, of course, all over the place. The Amazon, I just really felt like we were very much making it up as we went. And they just trusted you, if you had made it through the end of our interview cycle at Google, they trusted you to be insanely smart and be able to figure it out. So it was very hands off. You were just trusted to just figure it out and get the right thing done. There wasn’t a lot of red tape, there wasn’t a lot of pre approval procedures is definitely not true today. But we were just doing our best and making up as we went.

Jeremy Burrows 31:43
So we’ll kind of transition to your book. But I wanted to see if you had thoughts on titles for assistants. So you know, you said you’ve had so many different titles because your role is just so broad and random at times. What what do you think for those listening, you know, most of my listeners are executive assistants, administrative business partners and chiefs of staff. I like to say titles don’t really matter. It’s it’s that you love the work and you’re getting compensated fairly. What are your thoughts on on titles for assistants?

Ann Hiatt 32:21
Yeah, I agree with you, Jeremy. I never cared what my title was, I absolutely cared about advancement, absolutely cared that I was being treated with respect, which thankfully, I was very, very lucky. I always was, I had executives who treated me as the absolute business partner that I was. So it was about six years or so into my tenure at Google when they had the conversation about changing our titles. Originally, it was the traditional administrative business partner, executive, oh, sorry, administrative assistant executive assistant, then we some of the original EAS and I were tasked with creating the ladder. So there were back then five levels to the admin ladder. And after we’d done that really crafted out, what at each level could you expect from that person? For example? What types of projects should they be given? What type of delegated authority level do they have? Are they doing cross functional work, etc. And once we crafted those ladders, it became really clear that there was this huge opportunity for growth and progression and increased impact in the company. And that started a natural conversation about well, is this title reflective of how, what’s the word I’m looking for, like the incredible amount of responsibility that this job ladder has in the company, it’s the entire backbone and skeleton of the company rides on that. And so that started a conversation that the time I didn’t care about, the conversation was really about, we want titles that reflect that level of delegated authority and the responsibility that we hold, and they came up with the titles of executive business partner and administrative business partner that is now fairly pervasive across companies, even outside of tech now. And the time I was like, Yeah, sure, that’s fine. And now I’m, I really think that was a great move, because it was so reflective, and the whole purpose of titles is to signal how people should expect to interact with you, and what decisions you can be making. And I did, I do think that that was an important way of indicating if you’re talking to an EA at Google, you can expect someone who is also a very experienced project manager, who has a high degree of delegated authority. And I felt like that title did reflect that. I also was the first wave of chief of staff. When I asked for that title, it didn’t yet exist anywhere, let alone at Google. And for me, that was a signaling of, again, leveling up most of my responsibility, in no way resembled my work on the EAA ladder anymore. And in fact, I think I was at Google for 12 years to be Because I was given the ability and interested in to really change my game, looking back, I think it’s every three years, my first three years of Google, were just figuring out how on earth to get anything done in this crazy environment, building up that those relationships of trust what I call friendship, currency, then I transitioned to being able to be very proactive, making recommendations representing Murrison room she wasn’t in then I moved into Eric’s office and did that at the board level and senior executive level. So that was kind of another chapter. And then the last chapter of being chief of staff where my responsibilities were empowering, and enabling these senior executives during a time of massive transition. First one, we restructured from Bing Google into alphabet, which nobody understood at the time, including us. We’re very much making that up as we went. And then second one, Eric transition from being CEO into executive chairman, because Google have never had a full time Chairman before and Eric had never been one before. So we had to decide what were his key results, and what is the success look like? And so that was an opportunity for me to realize, while his job is completely changing, and so should mine. And so I designed a career ladder for myself that I thought reflected best what he was going to need from me as his right hand partner, because in that transition, he actually let go of everyone who reported to him except for me, all of SVPs all of his staff, assistants, everybody, speech writers gone, except for me. And so it was really kind of this clean slate for both of us to be like, Okay, what’s our impact? What are we going to do here? What, how are we going to be held accountable. And so that was really empowering. So in one hand, I absolutely don’t think that titles matter. But I do think that up leveling and consistently reinventing yourself is really important. In fact, in the book, I highlight this, and I call this some, I call it creating your dream resume. Now, this dream resume exercise actually has nothing to do with titles, nothing to do with companies you want to work for are titles you want to have, in crafting this dream resume, it’s very much a thought exercise about what projects do you want to be owning? What authority level do you want to be at? What cross functional impact do you want to have? And what sort of legacy Are you making? Not at the end of your career, you know, on retirement day, but like, what legacy are you creating today, based on the projects you’re working on right now. And I think that’s a really liberating thought exercise, because you probably, I’m hoping in in doing it, if you dig in deep enough, you realize there’s opportunities available to you right now, in the role that you have today, in the company you’re at today, where you can actually deepen your impact in a way that maybe wasn’t obvious, based, if you’re thinking within the confines of your job description.

Jeremy Burrows 37:44
That’s great. So perfect segue. So your book is called bet on yourself, recognize own and implement breakthrough opportunities comes out, October 2021. So not not too far away. What kind of drove you to write this book?

Ann Hiatt 38:06
I was actually very reluctant. It took a years of people talking me into it. The reason I was reluctant was because, one, I don’t want to pretend that I know all the answers or that I’m in any way perfect or have stuff figured out very much a work in progress. And I’ve learned that that’s okay. For my co mentor bosses. They are very much figuring out as they go. So I feel full permission to do that. So I don’t want to pretend that I’m like, here’s a playbook for how to be perfect, just like me, that’s not what this book is. This book is actually some of the best practices of the CEOs I work for. And I use my career as a as a case study of how I watched them have this incredible impact on the stages they were on, and how that inspired me to take some steps within my career. So what I’ve done is I’ve translated these best practices for us normal people, quote, unquote, normal people, and to realize because otherwise we can opt out, we think like, oh, well, if Jeff Bezos does that I’ll never be Jeff Bezos. So why try, or I’ll never be Eric or Marissa. And actually, I realized and looking back that I had translated a lot of those best practices into my very normal, regular career. I don’t think there’s anything particularly exceptional I’m not like a Fulbright Scholar or, you know, an Olympian or something like I’m just a regular person. But I do feel like I was able to create some exceptional things out of very ordinary circumstances that otherwise would have passed me by. And I feel this calling to do that for other people. This book is also an attempt to answer the question for why these three highly impactful visionary CEOs who could have anybody on their teams why all three of them chose me. That’s a very hard question for me to even say out loud because it just feels so weighty to it. And like I’m important, but I think it’s an interesting question because there there is some secret sauce there and I feel like that At if I could do that for Jeff and Marissa and Eric, I want to do that for each individual reader. I, what I did, what I’m most proud of in my work was I help them build their wildest dreams. And if I can do that on the ridiculous, like literally building a rocket ship into space scale, I can certainly help you do it in your career goals. So that’s my big goal. I want to take these best practices, and empower each individual reader to do that to live their biggest dreams.

Jeremy Burrows 40:29
Love it? Well, we’ll definitely post those, the link to your book to preorder it in the show notes. And I’m definitely excited to check it out myself. So you mentioned in the book blurb, you mentioned leadership principles, and just kind of talking about that. So my the last question I want to ask, I like to ask my guests is what makes an assistant a leader?

Ann Hiatt 40:58
What doesn’t make an assistant a leader? Much easier to answer in the reverse? Honestly, I think it comes down to the fact that our entire job description is to be their representative to be their voice and their influence when they’re not in the room. And I can’t think of a greater leadership responsibility than that is to represent their ideals, their standards, their voice, their opinion, their vision, when they’re not in the room. It’s pretty exciting to be a body double for someone really important.

Jeremy Burrows 41:27
Yes, I agree. And that’s why I’ve been in the role for 16 years. So yeah. There’s never a dull moment. It’s very,

Speaker 3 41:35
never, definitely not. Awesome. Well,

Jeremy Burrows 41:39
and thank you so much for taking time to share your story. Definitely excited about your book, and how can people get connected with you and reach out?

Ann Hiatt 41:49
Thank you, I’m really excited about this, I would love for this to be a back and forth conversation. So please do reach out. The probably the easiest way for all the connections is on my website So that’s And from there, you’ll have the links to all my social like my Insta and my LinkedIn. But you can also sign up for my newsletter, you can get the downloads of my podcast also titled bet on yourself. And I have the website for the book coming out very shortly, which will be as well for a lot more free resources around the same themes. So please sign up, check it out. And I would love to hear your examples and how you’ve kind of implemented some of these ideas into your own career and work.

Jeremy Burrows 42:32
Awesome and and I really appreciate you sharing these tips and your wisdom because I think assistants oftentimes we get stuck in our assistant training or assistant books or assistant world and you know, I wrote an assistant book so I’m not dogging assistant books. But I think it’s great to hear from someone who knows what it’s like to be in our shoes as EAS and chiefs of staff and business partners. But also just pulling from your executives that you worked with and sharing all that with everyone. So yeah, appreciate you distilling everything into a book.

Ann Hiatt 43:11
Thank you. Thank you. That means a lot to me.

Unknown Speaker 43:14
And thanks for having me, Jeremy.

Ann Hiatt 43:15
It’s a real honor to be on your podcast.

Jeremy Burrows 43:17
Yes. Thanks for being here, and we’ll definitely talk soon. Thanks for listening, check out the show notes at And be sure to check out Anne’s new book which is linked in the show notes.

Unknown Speaker 43:41
Please listen, you are on Apple podcasts.

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