conversation with a CEO

I have just recently made a contact with the CEO of a large firm and plan on setting up a conversation to discuss schools and career path. I really want to make a good impression because this could be very helpful in networking the industry. This is a very busy man and I’m not sure I’ll get a second chance, so I want to cover as much as possible.

If you had an opportunity to pick the brain of a successful Industry leader what would you ask? I am a student about to enroll in a Industrial design program.
here are some question thus far:

Skill sets, what employers look for, what are the most valuable skills?
What would be more desirable higher skillset or more internship/job experience?
What schools have been consistently producing quality alumni?
(Job market) how many application do they get for each postion are there alot of jobs out there for recent grads?
What entry level salary should I expect after graduation?
What role does and entry level grad take on/assigned to?
How important are business/marketing classes, what interdisciplinary class should I take advantage of?

I know many of these question have been discusses on the forum but It will be interesting to compare answers!
WHAT WOULD YOU ASK ? If you guys suggest good questions I would be happy to post what was answered!

Ask him why he hired the last designer that his company brought on board, what makes a designer succesful in the long run, ask him to describe a designer (personality, education, passions). And of course ask some questions about himself - why he’s in the business he’s in, or what direction he feels the industry is taking, or what he loves about design (everyone likes to tell there story, right?). Have a conversation most of all. Good luck!

i def think starting off with questions about him to warm up the conversation:

How did you find design? What was your first job? How has design changed since you have been a professsional?

And then launch into the more career type stuff.

Just to echo others - find out his story…

Try to have a conversation (don’t just grill) and make it just as interesting for him as it will be for you.

Thanks guys for the replies. I needed that, made me think not to take things so seriously, I’ll try to have more of a open converstion be more personable and less like a robot. thanks

I think I would ask what they see as their greatest success. What and why? It may not be in the design world but helped their career and future course, decisions, etc. I don’t know if I would ask about regrets (little negative) but it could bring some enlightenment. We grow from our failures as much (or more so) as our successes.

-m out.

ask if CEOs should break their own teeth or someone else just do it for them, since they interact with a lot of important people during the day

As usual VERY helpful UFO, really.

Try asking him if he could do one project over, wich would he choose and why? Looking back, what was the most pivotal moment in his career (we all have those choices that send you down one path or another, you usually realize it like 5 years later though)

if you realize it in 5 years that’s pretty bad. it should show it’s effect even before the path is taken. it’s called FOcasting in wall street.

UFO, you never cease to amuse.

life is not Wall Street, “life is what happens while you are making other plans” to quote the song. Sometimes things that seem small at the time happen that change your path, and you realize it down the line. A little advice from someone who has been there can go far. But you probably just wanted to be obstinate… as usual.

Does this company have or use the discipline of product design? Don’t assume they do or that he is aware of it…Many still aren’t, or think of design as an engineering responsibility.

I think your questions tend to be too tactical/low-level. CEO’s are unlikely to be able to talk about starting salaries or schools, and may not even be able to talk much about design. Even established corporate design groups rarely have CEO-level exposure.

I would focus on the big stuff, then try and get an appointment with the design director.

Big stuff might include:

  • The role design has played in the company, past present and future?
  • What is the role of innovation? How do they innovate?
  • How confident is he in their ability to deliver useful, usable and desirable products for their customers? How do they do it?
  • Does he believe in ready, aim, fire, or ready, fire, aim?
  • What are the most influential business books he’s read?
  • What companies does he most admire and why?
  • Which is more important, great branding or great design?

And don’t try and cover as much as possible, let him drive the conversation–you’re there to listen, not talk.

from my experience of american CEOs they’re all sick people with ambitions, mindsets, and stupid convictions that leave no space for discussion.

if you want advice first feed them the sweet end of the sword then ask them what they think of it.

that’s my opinion.

What experience would that be, American movies? Watching Christmas Vacation maybe? All the CEO’s I’ve met have been pretty normal guys.

He said it was the CEO of a Firm, so I thought it was a design firm, maybe he can clarify.

they’re normal first but they change.

one thing’s for sure CEOs can’t turn water to wine. they just bottle it.

Seems like quite the broad generalization. How many CEO’s have you met that you can make the assumption that all of them are like this?

I’ve only met a half dozen or so, but I’ve known several for over 10 years (in some cases before they where CEO’s) and as I’ve said, the ones I’ve had experience with are pretty much every day guys, doing a job.

what i mean by a CEO is not the personality type particularly. it’s what the title brings with it specially in US. not saying there shouldn’t be a CEO position or post. just that some people when reaching that level also find themselves making decisions that go beyond their title.

that’s not only a danger sign for the general society but also for development of such position.

i don’t want to get into details.

oh OK, I get it, your just making it up based on nothing as usual. No problem. Carry on.

you can believe what you like. it won’t show til it’s too late.

What I heard is this CEO(of a design firm) started out as a designer himself and worked his way up, a drived guy who probably didn’t get to be were he is because he spent his time moaning in design forums, I’m just a student happy to be learning I’m gonna try not to become jaded about the design/business world till after graduation.

from my experience of american CEOs they’re all sick people with ambitions, mindsets, and stupid convictions that leave no space for discussion.

if you want advice first feed them the sweet end of the sword then ask them what they think of it.

that’s my opinion.

they’re normal first but they change.

one thing’s for sure CEOs can’t turn water to wine. they just bottle it.

Precisely the mindless banter I have come to expect out of your mouth, so predictable you have become with your fundamentalist ideals.

To the original poster,

Be conscious of the time that you are given, as he is devoting this time to you, and away from his company.

Learn what he looks for in a designer, and what skills/education/experiences he feels will be beneficial in the future outside of the standard design educations. IE minor in business, marketing, biometrics, anatomy, etc.

As YO said most CEO’s at least in design firms are just normal people, many of whom still think of themselves are the rank-and-file designer, who just cant seam to hang with the newbies so they just have to keep feeding the newbies work. They are also extremely passionate about design in general, and then their firm. They are great references for the history and forecasts of the design industry as a whole and in regards to their respective niche in the industry.