Kelly O. Kay


Office Location: San Francisco

Phone: +1 415 902 6006

Kelly O. Kay is a partner in Heidrick & Struggles’ San Francisco office and is managing partner of the Software Practice. He conducts enterprise software searches worldwide for a wide range of technology companies, focusing on board, CEO, and sales officers. Kelly co-founded the Marketing, Sales & Strategy Officers Practice, now part of the Marketing, Sales and Strategy Officers Practice, and leads many global account relationships in the enterprise software industry. Kelly has extensive experience with both private equity backed growth companies, late-stage private, and a range of public companies from $100M to $100B.

Functionally, Kelly specializes in senior go-to-market leadership roles, which includes: board, CEO, COO, president, CRO, WW sales, customer success, sales operations, pre-sales, channel sales, sales strategy as well as North America, EMEA, APJ, and LATAM regional leadership roles and many vertical leaders.

Prior to joining Heidrick & Struggles, Kelly was a managing partner with a leading boutique retained executive search firm in Silicon Valley where he conducted board, CEO and senior-level searches for some of the leading companies in the technology sector. Prior to executive search, Kelly was a partner at the Center for Corporate Innovation (CCI), a nationwide CEO development, strategy, and networking organization sponsored by McKinsey & Co.

Previously, Kelly was chief marketing officer and co-founder of a nationwide management consulting firm. Before the, he was as general manager and VP for a large public manufacturing company. Kelly also held various management roles at Gemini Management Consulting and spent six years in direct sales with IBM Corporation.

Kelly serves and has served on the advisory boards of, Vyntelligence, BioLucid (acquired by Sharecare), Bunchball (acquired by Parallax Capital Partners), and Symphony (formerly known as Perzo and acquired by Goldman Sachs). He has been interviewed by major publications, including Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, SiriusXM, and is an industry conference speaker on executive talent trends as well as a reviewer of the Wealth Creator’s Playbook: A Guide to Maximizing Your Return on Life and Money by John Christianson.

Kelly is a sought after talent advisor, public speaker and author of widely popular articles, including Leave Smart Land Well, which explores resignation best practices as well as a framework for managing the resignation process and two follow-up resignation related articles partnering with McKinsey and published in Harvard Business Review (HBR) using data from a national survey of 6,000+ CHRO’s and senior executives across all industries.

Additional thought leadership includes: CEO Viewpoint: Time to make up for lost ground in talent, 3 Mistakes Executives Make When Telling People That They’re Leaving, and, If You’re About to Take a New Job, Should You Consider Your Boss’s Counteroffer?


Kelly earned an MBA from the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California and a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of San Francisco.