Career Advice From The Next CEOs, The Most In-Demand … – Forbes

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DAVOS, SWITZERLAND – JANUARY 26: The Alpine ski resort of Davos where the World Economic Forum is taking place January 26, 2008 in Davos, Switzerland. Some of the World’s top business people, heads of state and representatives of NGOs will meet at the forum until Sunday. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Over in Davos right now, corporate executives are talking about the economy. About geopolitics. About globalization. Some, like Citigroup’s Jane Fraser, have spoken about working from home, and coaching unproductive employees who aren’t doing well remotely. And of course, just like here, everyone is talking about ChatGPT, the generative artificial intelligence chatbot.
But back at home, my colleague Diane Brady has been talking with C-suite executives about their careers, putting together a new video series with members of our CEO Next list. From Zoox chief technology officer Jesse Levinson to Wells Fargo’s strategy chief Ather Williams III to Amazon devices chief David Limp, Diane has been asking these top executives—who recruiters believe are likely to be tapped soon for a chief executive job—about their careers, the lessons they’ve learned, and the pivot points they’ve made along the way.
Walgreens retail president and chief customer officer Tracey Brown, for instance, told Diane she originally wanted to be a NASA engineer, only to realize she wanted to work with people and large organizations and began her own personal project to study great leaders, reading up on everyone from Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Lincoln to former Xerox CEO Ursula Burns. “What I started to understand by studying some of the greatest leaders of large organizations is [that] they were problem solvers,” she said. She thought “I’m going to lean in and become a great problem solver,” she said, which she realized her background in engineering helped her do.
Adobe Chief Product Officer Scott Belsky, meanwhile, revealed he learned a lot about what he wanted to do in his career—be a builder of software and tools—after making a pivot and spending time as an angel investor. About three or four weeks into being a full-time investor, he said, he realized “I deeply missed building,” noting he “felt lost career-wise because I wasn’t doing what I loved doing the most.” Still, he learned a lot about advising and building teams during that time before returning to Adobe, and shared the lesson that for leaders, often one of the biggest competitive advantages is “just keeping the team together long enough to figure” out a solution to a problem. Basic retention can go a long way to winning a product race.
Meanwhile, Citigroup chief financial officer Mark Mason told Diane he was “the kid in elementary school who carried a Samsonite briefcase and sold bubble gum and baseball cards at lunch,” discussing the lessons about pride and work ethic he learned from working for his grandfather’s landscaping business, as well as why it’s important to network. “You can’t align yourself with one person,” he said, recalling a time he was laid off along with his manager. “Really expanding the population of people who know you and know what you’re capable of doing and the contributions that you can make to the company turned out to be really important.”
They’re all worth a watch—both for Diane’s sharp interviews and the career lessons these top executives share. For more advice from top leaders, check out her video series here. Hope it’s a great week, and a special thanks to assistant editor Emmy Lucas for her help with this week’s newsletter.
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News from the world of work
Freelance accounting, anyone? A new report from freelance platform Upwork finds that it’s not just tech skills being sought after for gig work: Some of the most in-demand freelance skills are accounting, lead generation, data entry, customer service and graphic design, Forbes’ Emmy Lucas reports.
Making work work with cancer: Forbes’ Diane Brady interviewed Publicis Groupe CEO Arthur Sadoun, himself a cancer survivor, about a cross-industry coalition he launched Jan. 17 at the World Economic Forum in Davos called “Working with Cancer.” The goal: to persuade companies to commit to creating a more open and supportive environment for people with cancer—and those who care for them.
MLK Day: Forbes contributor Kwame Christian discusses the lessons to be learned from Martin Luther King Jr. and how negotiation can lead to positive change. Meanwhile, Forbes’ Arianna Johnson examined the racial wealth gap.
Edelman’s Trust Barometer: Edelman CEO Richard Edelman says society is now looking for CEOs to be the leading voice on societal issues.The 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer is out, which finds that people believe business is the “only institution seen as competent and ethical,” writes Forbes Assistant Managing Editor Diane Brady.
The latest on hybrid work: A survey of nearly 600 U.K. managers showed leaders across industries and varying company sizes have an increasingly positive outlook on remote and flexible work. In fact, 73% said they felt that giving employees flexibility over their working hours increased productivity, Forbes contributor Gleb Tsipursky reports.
Recession roundup: Wells Fargo profits tanked 50% last quarter, and JPMorgan is now eyeing a ‘mild recession’ in the fourth quarter. Forbes’ Jonathan Ponciano writes on what big bank earnings reveal about the economy, which could see further trouble in June if the U.S. Treasury runs out of cash. Elsewhere, Apple CEO Tim Cook’s pay is being slashed by over 40%.
Defining professional attire: A dress code for a computer programming course at an HBCU in North Carolina got more attention than students’ clothing when it recently circulated on Twitter. The incident shows how “the definition of professional attire differs depending on who you ask and often who you are,” writes contributor Jennifer Magley.

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