Jean Gilson

Senior Vice President, Global Brand; Board Executive Chair, MicroVest

When Jean Gilson left Georgetown University in the early 1980s she went straight into the heady world of high finance. “I was deeply entrenched in the commercial banking and corporate finance world,” she said. But that all came to a halt one night in Cleveland in August 1986.

Jean Gilson

“We had all come back to the hotel after celebrating the closing and syndication of a multibillion-dollar leveraged buyout,” she recalls. “I had worked on dozens of such deals at this point. I turned on the television to hear the reports of the laying off of 5,000 staff as a result of the buyout. I decided in that room, on that night, that I wanted to do something different with my life.”

In 1987, she headed off to the Fletcher School at Tufts University. Armed with an advanced degree in international law and economics, she began her first stint with DAI in 1990, leading the firm into new technical services such as finance and commercial services, and new geographic areas such as Eastern Europe, where there was a pressing need for socially responsible privatization assistance after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. She also oversaw DAI offices in Hanoi, Bangkok, and Manila.

In 2000, Jean left DAI for a high-profile assignment with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) as its first representative in Hanoi since the end of the Vietnam War. She opened that office in September 2000, and it is now a full-fledged USAID Mission. Jean later worked for two years as USAID’s Senior Policy Advisor to the Millennium Challenge Account Secretariat.

A leading figure in the international development community, Jean returned to DAI in 2006 and since 2008 she has led the firm’s work on strategy formulation and execution, external relations, communications, and brand.