Jump to the following questions:
- Can you explain a bit about your background and journey into corporate development?
- How did you go about finding your role?
- Can you give a brief overview of what a role in corporate development at LinkedIn entails?
- What did a typical day for you look like when you first started at LinkedIn versus now?
- How could a corporate development role vary by company?
- Do you have any tips for people looking to pursue a role in corporate development?
My path into corporate development, or finance in general, was a bit of a zig-zag. In undergrad (UCLA), I majored in Electrical Engineering but during senior year, I realized that I had no interest in pursuing engineering as a career and, instead, decided to pursue the business/strategy path. My formal business education began with management consulting (L.E.K. Consulting) where the rigour and excitement of working in a fast-paced, result-driven culture fed my natural curiosity to tinker with complex problems. However, I became more drawn towards building companies rather than consulting for them so I joined an operations/product role at an entertainment startup in LA (theAudience), where I spent 3.5 years.
By that point, I had decided that I’d be spending a career in the world of business but felt I needed to build out a stronger finance skill set to round out some of the other operational experience I had built. I decided to pursue my MBA (Wharton) as the first step on a journey in finance. I book-ended my MBA with a ~3-4 month pre-MBA internship in Venture Capital (Greycroft Partners) and then, more formally, via a full-time role post MBA doing investment banking (Credit Suisse).
After ~2 years of experience with finance in a professional services capacity largely focused on the tech, media and telecom space, I decided to move to industry and join a team that was integral to driving growth at LinkedIn.
I focused my search primarily on corp dev roles (because it was a good combination of finance and strategy) but also explored some other growth ops roles. Eventually, I decided corp dev was a better fit for my skill set and would allow me the fastest path to being a value add in my new role.
My job search entailed three different paths:
- Leveraging my own professional network
- Applying to jobs on LinkedIn
Ironically, I secured my current role at LinkedIn by just applying to an open role on LinkedIn. Overall, I found that headhunters were also fairly helpful because once you found a couple of good ones that had decent liquidity of roles and they understood your criteria, you could get high-quality matches. Eventually, I ended up accepting an offer with LinkedIn because the role was the most interesting and I would also get an opportunity to be in the heart of tech in Silicon Valley.
LinkedIn’s corporate development team is unique in that in addition to the more typical M&A (mergers & acquisitions) related mandate of the group, we also do a lot of corporate strategy work to help the senior execs at the company develop a better understanding of market landscapes, areas of growth, etc.
My core responsibilities fall into 3 buckets:
M&A (~40% of the job) – perform M&A evaluations for companies/assets that would be a good strategic fit for LinkedIn and drive the overall growth of the company either by strengthening our current products or expanding into new areas. Typical tasks involve writing M&A strategy memos, building valuation models, working cross-functionally with senior executives to build an acquisition case, meeting with companies/bankers/VCs to scout interesting assets.
Corporate Strategy (~40% of the job) – perform strategy deep dives on various sectors/markets of interest to LinkedIn and develop a unique perspective on how LinkedIn should (or not) play in those areas as part of our ongoing growth initiatives. Typical tasks include building strategy decks, reading industry research and company earnings reports, speaking with subject matter experts internally and externally, etc.
Market Intelligence (~20% of the job) – stay up-to-date on key market events related to companies in our ecosystem, learn about new trends, etc. that can ensure we’re feeding relevant insights to our executives and other cross-functional partners. Typical tasks include attending conferences, reading research reports, meeting VCs and startups, writing earnings summary reports, writing market intelligence reports, etc.
My first 6 months were mostly about transitioning from investment banking, which was a very different culture and working style, and ramping up on LinkedIn’s core businesses. My typical day when I first started typically involved the following core tasks:
- Reading up old decks and materials my team had produced to better understand our work product
- Meeting with anyone and everyone I could find to learn more about the various business units and build a network
- Jumping in on whichever project the team needed help on so I could learn from other members of the team while also getting real-world practice with doing real “corp dev” work
Soon after I started, I was assigned my own coverage areas, which basically means I was in charge of becoming the subject matter expert on those specific lines of businesses at LinkedIn from a corp dev perspective.
Over time, my role has transformed into playing more of a leadership role on the team. Now, my days largely comprise of the following:
- Managing multiple projects that I may have on my plate
- Being a partner to other cross-functional teams in collaborating on joint projects
- Staying up to date on news and research on companies in my coverage area
- Attending conferences and meeting investors, startups, etc. in order to scout potential investments for LinkedIn as well as stay up to date on the industry
As I mentioned previously, the LinkedIn corp dev role is atypical given that we do a lot of corporate strategy work as well. More broadly, I think the roles can vary across 3 segments:
Group mandate: Most corp dev roles focus primarily on M&A (deals) and do not have as much of a corporate strategy function as we do at LinkedIn
Role responsibilities: At LinkedIn, the corp dev team is responsible for quarterbacking the entire M&A process – from scouting the deal to integration. We do work with an amazing team of cross-functional partners that help with deal integration but the corp dev team is still involved heavily in running the integration process. In comparison, a lot of other companies can have a completely disintermediated structure, where the corp dev team handles scouting deals and working on the initial M&A case, the FP&A/finance team works on building the valuation model and then a separate integration team takes care of the entire integration process.
Coverage alignment: At LinkedIn, directors and managers align to specific lines of businesses (a “specialist” model). However, other companies may have a “generalist” model where the team is not aligned to a specific line of business but is staffed largely on a project by project basis. Both approaches have their pros and cons. In a specialist model, you get to become a true subject matter expert and build deep relationships across your lines of business but don’t necessarily get exposure to other lines of businesses. In a generalist model, you have more diversity of project types and can get an opportunity to work with a larger variety of teams but don’t get to become an expert on any given area so there can be a fresh/steep learning curve on each new project.
I think the nature of advice will generally vary depending on the structure/nature of the role. Overall, I would say the most successful candidates in Corp Dev are ones that have a variety of professional experiences so you can bring a unique perspective to the various teams and executives that will rely on you for a broad variety of advice. Typically, our ideal candidates are those that have a combination of finance (investment banking, private equity, etc.) or consulting with some level of operational experience. A strong corp dev person has to be able to engage cross-functionality across all role types (Product, R&D, Sales, Marketing, Legal, etc.) to be able to think through the implications of buying or investing in companies on each of those business units so a good mix of prior work experiences is invaluable.
From a behavioural standpoint, we look for people who are incredibly proactive and go-getters, have exceptionally strong communication skills and feel comfortable engaging with senior execs on a daily basis, have a growth mindset as you will be continuously learning on the job and being pushed to stretch outside your comfort zones, and most importantly, someone that knows how to balance work with fun and can bring a unique personality to the job!
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