At DRiWaterstone Human Capital, we are privileged to work with exceptional clients who are looking to fill leadership roles integral to their organization’s ability to meet their missions.
The American Association of Immunologists (AAI) is one such client.
Founded in 1913, AAI is “an association of professionally trained scientists from all over the world dedicated to advancing the knowledge of immunology and its related disciplines, fostering the interchange of ideas and information among investigators, and addressing the potential integration of immunologic principles into clinical practice.”
We recently sat down with Dr. Gary Koretzky, MD, PhD, to learn more about his experience working with the DRiWaterstone team on AAI’s search for a CEO in 2022. Dr. Koretzky is immediate past president of AAI and Vice Provost for Academic Integration at Cornell University, Professor of Medicine in the Department of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Director, Cornell Centre for Immunology.
DRiWaterstone Human Capital (DRiW): Why did you choose to work with a retained executive search firm to fill this role?
Dr. Koretzky (GK): I was the President of AAI from July 2021-22 and, during that time, we needed to find a new CEO. The challenge was that the CEO at the time had been the CEO for 27 years. As an organization we had very little experience with these types of transitions. It was critically important to have a knowledgeable search firm to guide us.
My role was to lead the Council and the organization through the process and ensure that there was consistency in leadership during the transition. I empanelled a search committee and together we constructed an RFP to attract different search firms. We received proposals from a number of qualified firms and interviewed three, including DRiWaterstone.
We chose DRiWaterstone because they seemed professional. We also particularly liked that, as part of our agreement, DriWaterstone agreed to spend a year coaching the new CEO. This was something we thought would be important because we didn’t have that history of transitions.
DRiW: How did DRiWaterstone help set your search up for success?
GK: We worked together. DriWaterstone took the lead with input from AAI’s search committee when it came to crafting a job description for the next CEO. We then left it to DRiWaterstone to advertise and find candidates. We found a few because of people we knew, but we didn’t manage that process – all that was done by them.
The things that were most important to us in this process were speed and quality, and we got both.
DRiW: How would you describe the quality of candidates that you met as part of your search?
GK: We were really happy with the candidates we saw – several would have been acceptable for the role, and we got the best of them.
DRiWaterstone gave us maybe a dozen or so CVs and did a pre-interview with our top six candidates. They provided insight and helped craft questions that we would ask of the individual candidates in addition to the standard questions that everyone got.
Our team narrowed it down to two candidates and DRiWaterstone arranged for each of them to come to the DC area to meet in person. The candidates also met key members of the staff and met by Zoom with the rest of the AAI Council.
DRiWaterstone then worked with the final candidate to negotiate the deal terms of the contract. It all went remarkably smoothly and we announced the appointment of our new CEO, Dr. Loretta Doan, in December 2022.
DRiW: What did you learn about your organization during this process?
GK: The organization has an elected Council that meets twice a year to come up with overarching goals and policies, approve new members, and approve the budget. In the past, we’d interface nearly exclusively with the CEO, who managed about 30 members of staff. The Council and the staff didn’t have a lot of interaction.
Though this process, the Council’s Executive Committee got to know the staff extremely well. We were going through the transition with them and we felt it was important that we understood their needs and what was important to them. It was really good – the Council gained an informed appreciation for how staff works and what they bring to the association.
We also got a better sense of how other societies function and how other councils intersect with CEOs. We learned new ways to collaborate with our CEO and we look forward to the evolution of the Council – CEO relationship.
DRiW: What advice do you have for other non-profit organizations looking to attract top talent in today’s job market?
GK: One of the things I learned, is knowing your organization better and how it works is really important. The things we learned we learned out of necessity, but boy would it have been great if we’d planned it. So, my advice is to try to learn if there are different effective ways of doing business. Of course, use the process to find a new very good CEO but also do some self-assessments to learn how the various sectors within your organization interact.
We’re very optimistic right now. I think we have a great new CEO. The staff seems thrilled and the Council is very happy. I think it’s an important moment for organizations like ours – the world is realizing how important immunologists are and I think we’re structured in a way so that we can have an even bigger impact.
At DRiWaterstone, we have the pleasure to work with some of the best clients and candidates in the non-profit and social impact space. To learn more about how we can help you build your high performance teams and drive growth, email us – we’d love to talk!