This is the full text of an email that Robyn Arville, the Foundation’s Chief Talent and Culture Officer, sent to Wikimedia Foundation staff on 1 July 2021.
I would like to share a full status of the CEO search with all of you. I understand that the communications we’ve had on this may not be sticking as we are all inundated with various information amidst such dynamic change and complexities. My sincere apologies, I would now like to share the latest full update on the search currently.
The search has been “live” since 25 February, and our executive recruiting firm, Viewcrest Advisors, a team that has global reach, immediately began the work to build a deep, international candidate pool. There have been bi-weekly check-ins with our Board Transition Committee (which are members of our Board Trustees that are overseeing the entire transition - Raju, Shani, Nat, Dariusz, Tanya. The WMF Transition Team - Amanda, Jaime and Robyn work very closely with this board transition committee.)
Viewcrest Advisors, headed by Kathleen Yazbak, has deep experience in global nonprofit searches (and Kathleen’s background is in the tech and media practice gained at leading corporate recruiting firms).
The Board of Trustees is the hiring manager for the CEO. Viewcrest conducts extensive research and proactively reaches out to potential candidates and network “sources.” Viewcrest has also used social media and advertising. The Board Transition Committee is engaged on a daily and weekly basis with Viewcrest, and also updates the full Board of Trustees. The overall process looks like this:
Viewcrest works with the Trustees to discuss and understand the experiences and expertise that each candidate brings, as well as what might be missing. The Board Transition Committee engages first with any serious potential candidate.
As a candidate progresses through the process, the full Board is involved through multiple interviews, exchanges and learning conversations When they have determined strong candidates to move through, the members of the C Team participate in small group (2-3 C-team members at a time) 90 minute discussions with them so there is enough conversation on current challenges and opportunities, and status of each C team functional area.
Staff participation is next as detailed below.
As I have shared, we will have staff participation during this process. What this means is that we will have 2 panels composed of one member from each department (Talent and Culture, Legal, Finance, Advancement, Product, Communications and Technology). These are important conversational opportunities for a cross section of staff to meet with our top candidates and vice versa. The goal of this meeting is for both the finalist candidates and the nominated staff members to get a sense of culture, mission-alignment, to discuss high level strategic plans and to answer any other important questions. We will welcome feedback of course, though the board ultimately makes the final decision.
Our Director of Recruiting, Julie Brown will be sharing a draft of our staff nomination process soon for input. Our intentions are to ensure the staff panel is as diverse as possible. A mixture of long tenured staff and new, varying levels, etc.
Final candidates will get a chance to review highlights from our engagement survey and inclusion surveys to understand the challenges and opportunities from staff feedback. At this point, we will not undertake an org wide survey to collect input for this CEO process since there will already be staff participation and between the board members, there is a lot of existing material that can provide context on where the organization is at.
Status of candidates/pipeline
As of this week, there have been over 500 engagements/contacts - with candidates coming from 4 continents. We have been intentional about connecting with leaders with rich experience in the Global South. Each of the candidates has led within a complex governance and stakeholder (volunteers, chapters, etc.) environment. Each has also been in organizations that do global advocacy/policy work.
As Viewcrest has worked to engage interested and qualified candidates, they have taken care to keep personal information confidential. (As we all know, not all candidates are public about their interest in a career move.) They have shared that they’ve interviewed 68 candidates located in 18 countries. Viewcrest, in ongoing conversation with the Board Transition Committee, helped to narrow the field to roughly 20. The Board Transition Committee reviewed more intensely the resumes and cover letters for these potential candidates, and Viewcrest provided specific examples and track record, bringing to life and sharing how the candidate’s experience aligns to our needs, as well as more about the leader’s motivation and interest.
The Board Transition Committee -- in smaller subgroups so as to create deeper exchanges with the candidates -- then invited for interviews nine candidates located in six countries. Before the full Board has the opportunity to meet a more serious candidate (the next step) the candidates will have had 3 or 4 touchpoints with the Board Transition Committee / members. I share this because, while invisible to us, our Board and especially our Board Transition Committee members are spending a lot of time learning more about the candidates in addition to answering lots of questions from the candidates. Serious candidates are absorbing all they can about our organization, movement and work.
As of now, I am pleased to share that the focus has narrowed significantly in terms of candidate pool and conversations continue with key potential candidates, both by the board transition committee and with participation of the broader board. We are likely to see 2-3 strong candidates who will meet with the C team members in mid-to-late July. In parallel, Viewcrest remains active in networking (similar to what our own team does).
Timing-wise, we are comfortable with the original and previously shared timeline for completing the search - around September/October. Crossing our fingers!
Impact on open roles at C team level
As I have shared, at the moment, we are in discussions with the board on whether to backfill the open roles at the Executive level in the short-term or wait for the incoming CEO to make the hiring decision. What we know for certain is that we will wait for the new CEO to decide on the roles of the Chief of Staff and Chief Operating Officer. We feel confident that the current transition leadership in place (Tajh, Corey and Erika for the Technology department, and Anusha for the Communications department) are strong leaders and have support systems in place for the near-term. We will continue to evaluate, and we will update you with any new information.
I will continue to find ways to ensure clear, consistent communication on this topic. I know we all care about who the next captain of our ship will be.
A reminder that we have members of the board of trustees coming to our Monthly Staff Meeting on 15 July. Certainly an opportunity to ask additional questions or ask for clarifications if I have missed any here. If you can’t make it and do have questions, feel free to reach out. I look forward to seeing you.