Behind The Executive Talent Scene In Atlanta

Sep 13, 2021

Jake Espenlaub shares key insights about how the Atlanta market has become a magnet for executive leaders and walks through what executive functions are in high demand as businesses in the market lead the tech transformation

Learn More About Jake Espenlaub

Jake Espenlaub, an Atlanta-based partner with ON Partners, executes C-level, board, and VP searches for growth, private equity, and public organizations in the SaaS, e-commerce/retail, and consumer marketplace sectors. Jake works with clients including Atlassian,, Toast, Tractor Supply, and The Zebra, as well as with local ATL businesses leading in tech disruption including BetterCloud, Calendly, CallRail, ParkMobile, SalesLoft, and Tricentis, to name a few.

Additionally, Espenlaub and the partners at ON are actively involved with private equity and venture capital firms and have represented portfolio companies of Five Elms, Insight Partners, JMI, Atlanta-based Noro Moseley, Prospect Hill, Susquehanna Growth Equity, and Vista Equity Partners, among others.

As a native of Atlanta, Espenlaub has seen firsthand the transformation of the Atlanta market from a Fortune 500 stomping ground and emerging technology hub to a leading technology ecosystem exploding with billion-dollar tech businesses. Following are key observations from Espenlaub on the fast-paced expansion of the ATL executive talent market as businesses continue to grow and disrupt the entire tech sector.

Insight 01: Key Executive Roles in Demand

In addition to Atlanta-based Fortune 500 companies like Genuine Parts, Global Payments, Home Depot, and NCR, the metropolitan area has developed into a major tech and business hub, with high-growth businesses like BetterCloud, Calendly, Flock, Greenlight, MailChimp, OneTrust, SalesLoft, and Stord all based in the area.

As a result, demand for local technology jobs increased by 4.1% during the past year, the highest rise of any of the top five employment industries in the Atlanta Regional Commission’s 10-county area, and in June, the local professional and business services sector had the largest job gain (+46,900), a 9.2-percent increase over the year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Go-to-market roles (sales, marketing, customer experience) have become more intertwined than ever, and the need for an operational leader for all three of those functions is vital. Go-to-market positions such as chief revenue officer, chief marketing officer, and chief customer officer, responsible for the growth of new business and retention of existing customers, are in all-time high demand in Atlanta and other similar markets.

Similarly, go-to-market operations jobs like VP/SVP of revenue operations that are focused on aligning and enabling go-to-market teams are in demand to help support this tech growth.

Insight 02: Technology Expansion

In addition to Atlanta-based companies, West Coast technology staples such as Airbnb, Google, Microsoft, and Salesforce are increasingly establishing a presence here in the form of secondary headquarters or major campuses, and companies undergoing transformations like First Data, FLEETCOR, and Carter’s have grown here because of the deep and diverse bench of talent that provides extensive recruiting opportunities.

But what’s most indicative of the leading technology ecosystem occurring in the ATL market are the examples of startups being quickly acquired, such as MailChimp recently selling to Intuit or Roadie being bought by UPS. This tech expansion demands exceptional leadership and a system of incoming talent that can support the growth.

Robert Kerr, who leads Deloitte’s local Technology Fast 500, sees Atlanta’s talent diversity as its biggest advantage over other markets. Kerr notes, “Startups have that business idea of what problem they’re going to solve. To find success, they’ve got to have the right mentors and support system around them to guide them through challenges — lawyers, accountants or incubator communities. That’s why we’re growing so much as a tech hub. This support system has really come to fruition over the last four or five years.”

Kerr adds, “We have an untapped resource of hundreds of underrepresented founders. Atlanta is transforming, and we’re seeing a lot more investors coming in. When there’s support for founders, you get the next Cardlytics, Calendly or OneTrust.”

Insight 03: The ATL Attraction 

The Atlanta area is also attracting executive talent from the Northeast and the West Coast given the lower cost of living and the lifestyle. Combined with the now-existent critical mass of organizations based in the area, the previous hesitation many senior executives had about relocating for a single company only for that job to not work out is no longer an issue. If the position ultimately is not a perfect fit, there are plenty of other local opportunities.

The local lifestyle is also conducive to working from home, and surrounding markets like Raleigh-Durham, Nashville, and Charlotte represent important executive job markets, making it relatively easy for executives to move around.

Ultimately, the tech ecosystem and transformation have created a flywheel effect of executive leadership demand and functional expertise that has positioned the Atlanta market for continued explosive business expansion and talent growth for the foreseeable future.


Learn More About Jake Espenlaub

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