As one of the most influential connectors in Silicon Valley, Juliet de Baubigny admits she’s had her share of “angst ridden” moments that kept her awake at night.
With more than 15 years’ experience in tech recruiting, de Baubigny is currently a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers where she’s spent more than 10 years seeking out and placing top tech talent at Nest, Path, Square, and others among the venture capital firm’s portfolio companies. Before she came to KPCB in 2001, de Baubigny was part of the three-person team at Ramsey Beirne Associates responsible for installing executives like Meg Whitman at eBay.
Here’s how de Baubigny has tackled professional challenges, and what she’s learned to pass along to anyone facing similar career hurdles.
Making a move to a new job is always a fraught endeavor, even in the best of circumstances. De Baubigny is no exception. At “the grand old age” of 26, de Baubigny had been fast tracked to become the youngest partner at the prestigious executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles. Then, she says: “This amazing thing happened called the Internet.” De Baubigny was asking herself if her personal development at her current job was tapped out, and whether she should explore a bigger opportunity at Ramsey Beirne.
“If you are as lucky as I was to start out with a great brand and amazing mentorship, [you wonder] when is the right time to take that next step,” she says. It’s harder for younger people, she says, because they can go so many places.
Then there was a question of competition. The well-established Heidrick & Struggles would be placing executives at the same companies as Ramsey Beirne. In the end, the smaller firm won out. “I wanted to be a part of building and shaping the Internet, and I liked their sense of entrepreneurship,” de Baubigny says, even if it meant taking a pay cut.
A similar agita surrounded de Baubigny’s next move from Ramsey to KPCB. Again, she says, “Gosh, you couldn’t get any better” than the prestige of Sand Hill’s venerable VC firm. As one of four partners though, de Baubigny points out she had a lot of autonomy.
To ease the decision process, she got into the habit of looking at decisions the way companies attack their balance sheets. She makes tables to delineate what personal and professional goals might look like, and adds a box for lifestyle and a “happiness quotient." Within those quadrants, de Baubigny fills in the pros and cons. The overarching question she asks herself is to imagine herself in the chair at that job. She visualizes who she’s managing, who she’s emailing, who she’s meeting with, and measures if she thinks she’d be successful in that environment.
“Success is being able to hit the ground running with 70% of the skills you need under your belt, so you can stretch into the other 30%,” she says.
De Baubigny says she’s gotten into the habit of spending time taking stock of her accomplishments every year around her birthday in August. This allows her to assess where she’s been and what goals she’d like to pursue in the coming 12 months.
The introspective period allows her to feel more comfortable with decisions, she says. “Once I take the time to really think in a vacuum,” says de Baubigny, “I make a decision and stick with it. I don’t really have any regrets.”
“Be confident in who you are and what you do, but don’t be cocky,” de Baubigny advises to her 30-year-old self. With time though, she’s realized the importance of an assist to gain that confidence.
“It takes the advice of someone who is more senior to you to give you that confidence,” she says. “When I joined KPCB as partner, I was the first woman sitting around the table.” De Baubigny credits John Doerr, a more senior partner, for always introducing her as partner.
“Now 13 years later I am very confident in my abilities, but I always take the time to introduce the younger people on my team as partner; meaning, ‘I believe in this person; they come with a stamp of approval.’”
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