Rich’s New Assistant
Meet GRACE DIEBEL, selected from more than 4,500 applicants
In August 2013 Sophia Chew (Rich Silverstein’s assistant of several years) told Rich that she was moving to New York. The search was on for a replacement.
So Goodby Silverstein & Partners created a tongue-in-cheek job posting and paired it with work4rich.com, a website that invited applicants to complete six challenges. As the site said, “Rich Silverstein answers to nobody. And that nobody could be you.”
The response was overwhelming. It reached millions via Twitter, Adweek called it the “greatest ad for an executive assistant in the history of executive assistants,” and we received more than 4,500 applications from all over the world.
After several rounds of interviews, including Google Hangouts with out-of-town applicants, Rich found his new assistant.
Meet Grace Diebel, who starts September 30. Here’s her story of how she managed to rise to the top of a very crowded field and land the “best job in advertising history.”
Grace, congratulations and welcome.
Thank you very much.
Tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up?
I’m from Fairfax, California (Marin County, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge), and now I live in San Francisco.
Where did you go to school?
I went to UC Davis, where I majored in history. But during my junior year, I studied abroad in Barcelona and was inspired by all the creative job opportunities I saw there. So when I got back, I picked up an art studio minor.
It was in my art studio classes that I was exposed to and became interested in the world of advertising. So after I graduated, I hopped on a plane and I went to Cape Town, South Africa, where I worked for the Ogilvy office there.
You know there are advertising agencies in America, right?
[Laughing] Yes, I’m aware. At that point I was looking to lay the foundation of a career while exploring part of the world. My sister, who is studying to be a nurse, wanted to do an internship in Cape Town. I did some research, came across an agency called Zoom Advertising, which is part of Ogilvy, and with some luck, the two of us moved to South Africa.
What did you do there?
I was a creative intern at Zoom. I worked as a junior art director and also worked closely with their creative director, Karen Burns. It was incredible.
When I returned to the US, I moved to San Francisco, and I got a job at a gallery called C. Mariani Antiques & Custom.
It was a good fit for me. I’m interested in design and art, and this gallery specialized in museum-quality sixteenth-, seventeenth- and eighteenth-century European antiques. It’s a unique place. It sort of feels like the Louvre with price tags.
So I learned a lot about European furniture antiques and got to work in the fascinating and creative world of interior design.
How did you first hear about the Rich Silverstein job?
On Facebook. A friend of mine had posted it. Of course, I knew of Goodby Silverstein & Partners and its reputation, so I thought that was cool.
But it was really the games that got me [laughs]. I love games. So I started to play them, and I didn’t really think about it…actually, that’s not true. I did think about it. I realized this would be amazing, and I really wanted it!
What was your favorite test on work4rich.com?
The pencils. Putting them in order by color. I’m a visual person, so I liked that one. I also liked prioritizing the people for Rich—I put the cat first. And then, of course, the message from Michael Johnson in the mailroom. Whew!
Did you listen to it a bunch of times and try to transcribe it?
No. I’d read the Craigslist ad, and it was pretty clear that Rich wants you to be brief, not transcribe every word that was said. So I asked myself, “What information would Rich want?” and I figured, probably none of it [laughs]. He really just wants me to go get his package from Michael.
The Craigslist ad didn’t put you off?
Well, I could tell they were having fun with it. I thought, “Yeah, this guy is probably a little intimidating,” but I wasn’t afraid.
And I was a fan of the posters and branding-identity work that he’d done for the Golden Gate National Parks, so I thought that somebody who loved the outdoors and Marin couldn’t be all that bad.
The application required you to Tweet your elevator pitch.
I really thought about my Tweet. For a few days, actually. If you look me up on Twitter, you’ll see that I have a grand total of two Tweets—including the Tweet for Rich.
Did you sign up for a Twitter account just to apply?
No, I had an account. But I rarely use it.
What did it say?
God, this is embarrassing. “In the lion’s den, I thrive. 3am deadline you’ll want me at your side. Craftsman of solutions. 110% dedicated and pizza in hand.”
Were you surprised when you got a phone call?
Yes! The agency had announced that it had received more than 3,500 applications, so I was really surprised, to say the least.
After my initial phone interview, they invited me in, and I met Rich and Sophia [Chew, Rich’s departing assistant] and others. But then I came in two more times. Over a couple of weeks, I was here three times, and I think I had eight different interviews.
Were you scared to meet Rich that first time?
He asked me that. He said, “Are you nervous?” I was honest and said, “Definitely a little nervous.” But I realized this job is about finding the right fit for both parties, and if you’re too nervous, your real self doesn’t come through. So I had nothing to lose.
And I could tell right off the bat that he’s got a great heart.
[Laughing] Yes. It seemed to me that those things that some people fear are really just him demanding excellence from everybody, including himself. After all, this is his company; this is his baby.
But we talked for a bit, and then I could tell he was ready for it to be done, so we were done.
Did Sophia give you any advice before she left?
Meeting Sophia was the other reason I wanted the job! She’s so great, and I could tell that she loved her job. She just said to be fearless and be positive.
So how does it feel to have the “best job in advertising”?
Unbelievable. This whole thing has been bizarre and amazing, with the craziest odds ever.
But the most important thing is that this isn’t a reality-show contest; this is a job. And I was picked because they think I can do the job. So I’m going to do the job really well.