Nides' career trajectory is in large part a testament to his skill at navigating the complex web of social relationships to be found in any large organization. However, it is also a testament to the fact that, for the right person, at least--an entry level job in Congress or the White House can be at least as valuable as an Ivy League degree in getting to the top of corporate America. Raised in Duluth, MN, Nides' mother was a school teacher. His father, who sold investments for American Express ( AXP), ran into financial trouble at 60, having to "start over," as Nides puts it, when Nides was 10 years old. The youngest of seven children, Nides concedes he "didn't lack for attention." He had enough self-confidence as a teenager to secure then-Vice President Walter Mondale as graduation speaker at his high school.
U.S. Chief Performance Officer Jeffrey Zients says Nides is "taking the lead on something that's very important to the President, which is how do we help the U.S. regain market share in tourism."
After finishing college at the University of Minnesota, Nides helped out on Mondale's 1984 presidential campaign. He then went to work at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for Tony Coelho, who later became majority whip in the House of Representatives. Nides moved up to working for former House Speaker Tom Foley, and then as chief of staff to U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor, who says Nides played a critical role in getting the needed Congressional support for the North American Free Trade Agreement. Nides then spent two years at Fannie Mae ( FNMA.OB) running human resources, before joining Mack, who had become a friend, at Morgan Stanley when Mack was a rising executive in charge of the firm's fixed income department.