Senior Sound Bites:
Katie Solomon

Managing Director, Talent Management at Genstar Capital
MBA, MA and BA Stanford University
1. Background
For the past 7 years, Katie has led talent management at Genstar Capital, a San Francisco-based middle market private equity firm. Katie works across the firm’s portfolio to help drive growth through the identification, acquisition, and development of executive talent. Prior to Genstar, Katie led Human Capital and IR at Vector Capital with earlier experience at Russell Reynolds, Robertson Stephens investment bank and Bain Consulting. She holds an MBA, MA and BA from Stanford.

2. Responsibilities in current role
I spend about half of my time working with Genstar portfolio companies as an adjunct deal team member to ensure that across the board, our companies are helmed by the top leaders in their respective sectors and that we have the right teams in place to achieve our investment thesis. I spend about 20% of my time proactively meeting with executives to maintain a strong pipeline so we can act more quickly when opportunities arise. Another 20% of my time is focused on pre deal/post deal assessment, and the last 10% of my time is spent on internal Genstar team building.

3. Favorite thing about your role
It’s been really gratifying to play an active role in the process and outcome of building strong teams - from working with our CEOs and board members to build out a leadership team to then seeing that team come together and thrive and create value for our companies and investors.

4. Most challenging thing about your role
Bandwidth – there are so many ways I could spend my time and only so many hours in a day!

5. How do you manage placing executives into roles/industries you have never worked in personally?
That’s a great question. Over the years, through interviewing thousands of executives, and closely tracking the outcomes of our hiring decisions, I think you develop a certain amount of pattern recognition. There are some fundamental leadership and personal attributes that I believe transcend industries and functions, particularly in PE (see question #9 for more thoughts on this). And I’ve learned from our mistakes. Hiring always involves a certain leap of faith, but we do everything we can to mitigate that risk and make decisions with as much data as possible. The interview is part of that, but it’s also digging in deeply on past performance, involving our Strategic Advisory Board members (former CEOs/executives with deep domain expertise) in assessing candidates, leveraging our network to do in-depth formal and informal referencing, and assessing executives in a variety of contexts (informal, 1:1, meetings with the team, dinners, etc.) We try to bring the same amount of rigor to talent decisions that we do to investment decisions.

6. Something you wish you knew at the start of your career
First, I believe in some level of paying your dues early in your career. The reality is there are certain foundational experiences that broaden your subsequent opportunity set. After that, I’d say follow your heart. Early in my career, I was worried that some of my professional choices looked wrong on paper. I got a lot of advice from mentors not to go into recruiting and that it would take me “off track.” But I decided to pursue work that I was passionate about and that’s led to a really gratifying career. You are so much more successful, happy, and engaged when you are doing work that you enjoy and find meaning in.

The second thing I’d mention is to appreciate the profound power of your network and the relationships you build over your career. Other than my first job out of college, every job I have had has come through former colleagues, classmates, or friends. I have seen that pattern with many executives I’ve interviewed over the years as well.

I am so impressed by Synergist and all I’ve heard from my colleagues Sarika and Suzanne about the relationships you all have built through this network. I wish I could have been part of something like Synergist early in my career. I am so looking forward to meeting more West Coast Synergist members at our Creating Alpha Through Talent event [on May 10th at 5:30pm at 4 Embarcadero Center in San Francisco—Forgive the shameless plug!].

7. Biggest accomplishment
Professionally – establishing talent management as a new function at Genstar. When I first started doing this, there were only a handful of similar positions at other PE firms. The function has gained a lot of traction and interest over the years—there was even a Harvard Business Review article last year about the advent of the PE Talent Partner role. I’m proud that we were ahead of the curve at Genstar and that our approach to talent management has been a real competitive advantage.

Personally – trying to be a good mom to my two sons…they are 9 and 11, so time will tell!

8. If you weren’t doing your current job...
I’d love to work in admissions at a university or business school.

9. What are some qualities that make for a great CEO?
For private equity, research indicates that the biggest predictor of success is the quality of the team a leader is able to build around them. A great proxy for evaluating that is followership - when we hire a new CEO, I love to see a line around the block of former colleagues eager to work with them again. Another critical quality is action orientation — understanding the cadence for what needs to be done in a specified timeline, especially in a private equity environment. I think our best leaders have a strong external focus — they spend time with customers, they have their finger on the pulse of the market, they are thoughtful and effective in driving M&A. Finally, communication and self-awareness are key — people who are authentic leaders, who reveal themselves and their personalities, and who are accessible tend to have a well-rounded sense of self, communicate with transparency, and build more genuine relationships.

10. Favorite Movie
Election—it’s a hilarious Reese Witherspoon movie from 1999 about an over-achieving high school student running for Class President.

11. Something you do outside of work
I love to spend time with my boys and my husband, try to make it to the gym when I can and I will confess that my guilty pleasure is watching The Bachelor with my girlfriends!

12. Favorite restaurant
Lazy Dog…Most likely, none of you hip metropolitan Synergist members have ever been to Lazy Dog. But some day, when you are trying to enjoy a mojito while your kids eat mac & cheese and the goal is to get in and out of a restaurant in 45 minutes, you too will see the beauty in Lazy Dog!
Creating Alpha Through Talent
Sponsored by Genstar Capital
May 10th 2018

Private equity investors rank having a strong management team as one of the most important factors in influencing portfolio company results.

However...~50% of all executive hires are mistakes and the wrong hire can set a company back 18-24 months with the cost estimated to be ~10x that executives salary.

How can we beat these odds and turn talent assessment, recruitment and development into a competitive advantage?

PLEASE REGISTER HERE: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/creating-alpha-through-talent-executive-hiring-panel-tickets-44499090979