Nexus Search Partners Strengthens Staff with Former Amazon and Microsoft Exec

Launched in 2022 by Thaddeus Jones, Nexus Search Partners has quickly carved out a niche reimagining the executive search process built on four comprehensive pillars. The firm has made a major addition with appointment of Sean Kelly to its senior management team. Messrs. Jones and Kelley recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media to discuss the firm’s approach and what they expect for 2024!

February 2, 2024 – Nexus Search Partners, an executive search and advisory firm in Charlotte, NC, has expanded with the addition of former Amazon and Microsoft executive Sean Kelley as a senior partner. “With Sean Kelley joining Nexus’ leadership team, we aren’t just gaining a senior partner with a remarkable track record,” said Thaddeus V. Jones, founder and managing partner of Nexus. “We’re gaining a dedicated ally who understands that ID&E isn’t just a box to check, but a fundamental strength to be embraced. His perspective and passion for leveling the playing field for underestimated talent – particularly veterans – and creating opportunities at the executive level align seamlessly with Nexus’ core values. There are people who care about ID&E because it’s part of their job, and then there are people who care about ID&E because it’s part of their soul – and Sean Kelley is the latter.”

Mr. Kelley is a former Amazon and Microsoft executive who pioneered the development of inclusive talent strategies and military veteran transition programs. His nationally recognized expertise will elevate the firm’s robust consultative offerings across a number of verticals, including technology, consumer products, financial services, private equity and venture capital and life sciences.

Mr. Kelley joins Nexus as a cross-functional global leader who brings operational and executive-level insights. As the founder of Sage&Sea Ventures, Mr. Kelley is an active angel investor and advisor for bioscience and human resources tech/talent start-ups led by diverse founders. He has deep roots as an ally and advocate for underrepresented populations, spending several years as an advisor to the CEO of the National Center for Women in Technology and as co-founder and executive director of Duke University’s Veteran Transitions Research Lab at its Fuqua School of Business.

A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a distinguished Navy veteran, having served as a Navy supply corps officer and submariner from 1989 to 1995, Mr. Kelley has played a pivotal role in spearheading military affairs strategies for both Microsoft and Amazon – firsts for each company. He spent 16 years with Microsoft, including leading talent acquisition for the cloud & enterprise division, leading global diversity programs and later spearheading the development of the Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA), a program designed to create opportunities for military veterans, reservists and their families. The MSSA program served as an innovative roadmap for today’s industry standard skill bridge programs in military veteran transition efforts. Mr. Kelley testified before the U.S. Congress about the MSSA program and his expertise in military transition programs.

Mr. Kelley also served as talent acquisition director at Amazon, where he built an integrated talent systems strategy for global operations, leading a team of over 1,000 recruiters in 15 countries and enhancing the company’s diverse talent pipelines, acquisition and integration. His teams scaled new businesses like Amazon Air and Amazon Logistics, recruiting all technology teams and tens of thousands of professionals yearly to support operations. Following his role at Amazon, Mr. Kelley built a leadership advisory firm, working with enterprise clients as well as pre-seed and early stage start-ups to deliver operational excellence while building healthy, human-centric teams. He currently serves as a start-up advisor with Sage&Sea Ventures to Karat, Iterative Health, Purepost, Disclo and Guild Education, and is a national trustee of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. In his position at Nexus, Mr. Kelley will continue his roles with Duke University’s Veteran Transitions Research Lab and Sage&Sea Ventures serving start-up founders and their missions while opening doors to opportunities for veterans, their families, and diverse leaders.

Related: Nexus Search Partners Recruits CEO for the YMCA of Greater Charlotte

“I’ve been fortunate throughout my career to be a stalwart ally for inclusive leadership and to create values-driven change with people and companies I deeply admire,” said Mr. Kelley. “When Thadd first approached me with his vision for Nexus and the very real possibility to transform executive search, I knew it was an organization – and role – I wanted to sink my teeth into. My life’s work parallels Nexus’ mission to create opportunities for diverse leaders at the executive level, and I’m excited to spark candidate-centric, systemic change in the executive search industry.”

Nexus Search Partners was launched in 2022. The firm’s executive search process is built on four comprehensive pillars: in-depth cultural assessments, transparency and accountability, diverse candidate slates, and SVP+ executive coaching. Nexus Search Partners places cross-functional executives in consumer products and services, energy, financial and professional services, life sciences, private equity, and technology.

Messrs. Jones and Kelley recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media to further discuss this new addition to Nexus. They also reflect on what they are currently seeing in the executive search industry and what may lie ahead.

 Sean Kelley
Sean Kelley

Sean, how have your past experiences prepared you for this position?

As a talent acquisition and diversity leader, I’m known as an operator, innovator, and visionary strategist. I am unafraid to challenge the status quo and am motivated when I can be a change leader to make systems work more equitably, fairly, and with improved talent outcomes. Recruiting changes lives and is the fuel to company growth and success and I’ve lived that experience at the largest scale. Throughout the second half of my corporate career, my mission has been to build inclusive talent systems while uplifting diverse leaders. I was a pioneer and trailblazing champion for military talent in the tech industry when the barriers to entry were fairly significant. I had a vision to build a bridge for overlooked and underestimated talent, junior enlisted with no college degrees at the time experiencing historically high unemployment, into the most technically demanding and high-paying jobs in the world.  I built a team to design the full end-to-end program and implemented this by staying focused on building a human-centered system, with employment outcomes and belonging as key metrics. I had to build a program that could work with many entities, all presenting barriers and hurdles, from DOD, to active military units, to elected officials at the national and local level, plus veteran-serving organizations in local communities all while bringing the Microsoft technical and HR leaders along for the mission. The success of that program, now 10 years old, changed many lives, impacted company success, and laid the model and foundation for other companies to replicate. Similar to my mission in search, the MSSA program started with a one-step at a time approach to understand the full system and to design programs to unlock the system and make it work better. I’m also super proud that I open-sourced the learnings to help other companies design and replicate success so we could win together. I’m a community builder, connector, and dreamer. All of these approaches will be important as we build Nexus and create a shining model of success for others to replicate.

Can you tell us more about your position with Amazon?

At Amazon, my global team hired as many as 60,000 professionals each year. My primary role was developing strategy, building capacity, designing new systems for operational excellence and nurturing my leadership team and culture to deliver success at this scale. I personally was involved in hiring many operations executives globally, where I honed my skills as an assessor of executive talent and candidate-centric relationship builder. I earned my credentials as an Amazon Bar Raiser which further solidified my personal skills as a leader and talent decision facilitator in the executive talent space, readying me for this opportunity. After leaving Amazon, I used these same principles of connection, community building, and being a catalyst for change to build an impressive leadership advisory firm, where I work with innovators from pre-seed and early-stage start-ups to enterprise companies, prioritizing allyship and support for diverse founders. In the process of building Sage&Sea Ventures, I’ve learned so much about venture capital, private equity, and the founder mentality, along with seeing amazing opportunities to effect change by introducing overlooked and undervalued talent to this ecosystem of growth and innovation as a partner and collaborator.

“My initial focus will be all about making meaningful connections with leaders across my network to learn and share the Nexus way, as we reimagine executive search.”

Explain what you will be doing in your new role.

My initial focus will be all about making meaningful connections with leaders across my network to learn and share the Nexus way, as we reimagine executive search. I’m optimistic that my network-of-networks will respond really favorably and then it will all be about connecting, leading and providing the opportunity to match amazing, overlooked and under-curated talent with opportunities to join boards and leadership teams for inclusive organizations.

What attracted you to Nexus Search Partners?

My deep respect and admiration for Thadd is by far the initial reason. The fact that he is a founder with a compelling vision completely aligns with the work that I’ve been doing with Sage&Sea Ventures for the past few years. Ultimately, and finally, my life’s work parallels Nexus’ mission to create opportunities for diverse leaders at the executive level, and I’m excited to spark candidate-centric, systemic change in the executive search industry. This opportunity speaks to me on every level, down to my core reason to exist as a human. I’m so honored and excited to get to work.

Thaddeus V. Jones
Thaddeus Jones

Thaddeus, what stood out about Sean that made him the right choice to join your firm?

Sean is a connector—a catalyst. While working at Amazon, I witnessed his intentional leadership in the talent and ID&E space firsthand. Whenever you’re around a leader like Sean, it’s impossible not to experience his passion for people. His experience as a corporate executive and military veteran is nationally recognized, and I’m excited to see the value he brings to our partnerships at Nexus.

Is the firm looking towards further growth? If so in what areas?

Yes, in fact, we have several announcements in the wings that I’m excited about. We’re building out all our verticals, including consumer products and services, financial and professional services, industrial and manufacturing, life sciences, private equity and venture capital, and technology.

“Whenever you’re around a leader like Sean, it’s impossible not to experience his passion for people.”

What do you foresee for the executive search sector in 2024?

As we celebrate Sean’s addition and reflect on our first year in business, I’m reminded of Nexus’ intentional roots: to create a new paradigm in executive search that values diversity and ensures clients and candidates are set up for long-term success. Our growth over the past 12 months is a testament to our purpose and commitment to value alignment across partnerships—including Sean as senior partner. I foresee several trends for the executive search sector in 2024, which all boils down to value. How are we helping clients see beyond simply filling a role? How are we making sure those executives are set up to succeed in companies that are global and multinational cultural environments? We need to ensure our clients understand how talent will impact their future strategy and strategic imperatives. Success is the performance of the executive, not the hire. Lastly, a key trend for 2024 will revolve around finding uncultivated, underestimated talent that has traditionally been overlooked in the marketplace—in recruiting plans and succession efforts. This factor will be a key differentiator for clients as they determine who will find and deliver the best talent—and do so with a high-touch, transparent customer service approach.

Related: From Crystal Ball to Reality In 2024

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Executive Editor; Lily Fauver, Senior Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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