To further promote AND DEFINE the Chief of Staff role and empower those who serve in it.


Our business began from the belief that the Chief of Staff role is powerful and productive for leaders and organizations. From serving as Chiefs of Staff, our firsthand experience taught us how the position helps leaders become more efficient, staff more productive, and organizations more effective.

We also knew that identifying Chiefs of Staff would require a different approach. The role is based on behavioral traits and personality as much as experience and technical acumen.

Therefore, Prime Chief of Staff began in early 2014 with a very niche focus: finding Chiefs of Staff for private sector and nonprofit organizations. Over the years, we spoke to many aspiring and current Chiefs who told us we gave them the purpose and legitimacy they sought.

Today, we offer a full suite of services to organizations employing the Chief of Staff role. We also convene a fast-growing Chief of Staff community through The Chief of Staff Collective--a group of impressive thinkers and resourceful doers who embrace change, and believe the greater good of all is better than the success of one.



Diversity is required.

We believe diversity is not only the right thing to do, it’s the best thing to do. We ensure our candidates are diverse in every sense—from race, gender, and economic background to degree, personality, and thinking. Too many executives today look, think, and act the same. It’s boring. We envision a leadership pipeline that matches our communities and embraces our differences.

Humanize the process.

Our work emphasizes partnership. Partnership between the Chief of Staff and the leader. Therefore, traditional processes don't work for us. By humanizing our approach, we understand our clients and candidates as people. Understanding people behaviorally, and not just technically, helps us establish mutually beneficial partnerships between Chiefs and organizations.

Embrace originality.

Our candidates don’t all graduate from elite colleges and universities. They don't all work at Big Three consulting firms. They are anthropology and music majors, state school graduates and college dropouts. They have wide-ranging interests and cross-functional backgrounds. You don’t become a generalist from doing one thing your entire career. Therefore, we encourage diversity of experience and exposure. We embrace pioneers who charted a course less traveled, but more fulfilling.

Develop strong leaders.

Chiefs of Staff are already leaders, and they are also future business owners, CXOs, community trailblazers, and more. The Chief of Staff role is an opportunity to help shape the leaders they continue to become with hands-on exposure and real-life perspective. This greater mission is what propels us to better equip tomorrow’s leaders right now.


Catherine Berardi

Founder & CEO

Catherine is founder and CEO of Prime Chief of Staff since its inception in 2014. Prior to launching Prime, Catherine served as Chief of Staff to Mellody Hobson, President of Ariel Investments, where she learned the ins and outs of supporting a fast-paced, high-powered executive who ran the firm's day-to-day business operations. Catherine had active involvement in strategic advisory and planning, sales and marketing, human resources, budgeting, community initiatives, and special projects. Before Ariel, she worked as a Sponsorship Consultant at Principal Financial Group and founded her first company, CB Strategy + Design, in 2009. Catherine speaks at a variety of colleges and universities, including Harvard University, University of Chicago, and Northeastern University, on leadership and the Chief of Staff role. She is also a mentor for the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business. Catherine graduated from Northwestern University with a BA in Psychology. She is a native of the great state of Iowa.

Sarah Burgoyne

Marketing Consultant

Sarah Burgoyne is a savvy, passport toting, relationship-based marketing and public relations (PR) professional with 10+ years’ experience driving brand development, leading marketing initiatives, executing and managing events, and cultivating corporate communication and social media plans. Sarah began her career in the public relations arena working with various high-end clients in the restaurant and hospitality industry before accepting a marketing position with The Merchandise Mart where she was responsible for the full-cycle show responsibilities of NeoCon, the commercial design industry’s most important event of the year and launch pad for innovation, in addition to being a key contributor for the One of a Kind shows. She then went on to serve at the Director of Marketing for a series of Fine Art Expositions hosted across the United States in cities including Chicago, Palm Springs, Aspen, and Miami. Sarah’s diverse background gives her the unique ability to execute creative and experiential marketing strategies which achieve lasting results in almost any environment. A native Georgian and graduate of Valdosta State University, Sarah now calls Chicago home where she enjoys running, trying new restaurants or taking in a Cubs game - all while never forgetting to FaceTime home so she can catch up with her handsome 130lb dog (best friend and unofficial Prime mascot) Turner.

Megan McDonald

Chief of Staff

Megan McDonald is our Chief of Staff with a diverse background. She has had experience working with clients in manufacturing, agriculture, technology, non-profits, research and athletics. Megan grew up in the Midwest and earned her bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University and is now living in Northern California. As the Chief of Staff with Prime Chief of Staff, Megan has been focused on instilling more efficient processes and systems across all current services and offerings. Megan serves as the lead administrator to the CEO and Senior Partner. She has a passion for helping people grow and develop both professionally and personally.

Joy Murphy

Senior Partner

Joy spent over nine years with Gallup, Inc., most recently serving as a Chief of Staff, senior advisor, and sales manager within the organization's global government division. As a consultant, Joy's experience with executives covers nearly every industry and an array of government and NGOs (non-governmental organizations), specifically Coca-Cola, Walmart, Estee Lauder, Glaxo Smith Kline, Emaar Properties, Special Olympics, Chevron, U.S. Federal Government, Harvard, and Princeton. Over and over, from UAE and Asia to her recent move back to the amazing Midwest, Joy continuously sees the pain organizations feel from executives doing what they don't do best. Her work focuses on creating high-performing individuals, teams, organizations, led by effective executives with the right Chief of Staff partner. On the weekends you'll find her finishing a book, fashion thrifting, and admiring cute puppies around Chicago.

Emily Smith Pirrello


Emily Smith Pirrello is a seasoned Chief of Staff experienced in global strategic planning, organizational oversight, and relationship management in demanding work environments. She has a proven track record leading and supporting organizations through growth and change. Most notably, Emily spent five years at the United Nations Foundation where she helped build the global partnership, Family Planning 2020, from its inception and was named its first Chief of Staff. As the right-hand to FP2020's Executive Director, she supported the partnership's growth and evolution, established and streamlined processes, and harmonized crosscutting portfolios of work and operations. Following multiple Chief of Staff roles in the non-profit space, she transitioned to the private sector, working for Deloitte focusing her efforts on change management for merger & acquisition clients. It was during this time she realized her passion is in serving as a Chief of Staff and returned to these roots, founding ESP Consulting Group. Emily's experiences are built on a foundation of educational excellence, graduating with Highest Distinction (Summa Cum Laude) with a Bachelor of Science from Purdue University, a Master of Science from The University of Georgia, and an Organizational Leadership Certificate from Northwestern University.

Caroline Pugh

Community Partner

Caroline Pugh is an advisor for Prime Chief of Staff where she is committed to building a network of Chiefs of Staff across the globe. Starting in her local Washington, D.C. community, and growing to 8 more cities, Caroline establishes regular events for hundreds of public, private, and nonprofit sector Chiefs of Staff seeking peer networking and partnership. In addition to her role at Prime, Caroline serves as Chief of Staff at CareJourney, a healthcare data analytics company based in D.C. where she strategically supports CEO Aneesh Chopra, the former Chief Technology Officer of the United States. She was previously the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of VirtualU, a tech startup that developed 3D human scanning technology, that she started while an undergraduate at Virginia Tech. Caroline is also Senior Advisor to the Africa Rising Foundation, a non-profit focused on youth empowerment and leadership in Africa started by Ndaba Mandela. She was recently named "15 Female Entrepreneurs to Watch" by Entrepreneur magazine and "master networker" in Forbes. Caroline has also been cited in the Washington Post, Fox News, NBC, TechCrunch, USA, Bloomberg and Wall Street Journal for her work.


Prime is pleased to partner with the following organizations. If you are interested in learning more about partnership opportunities, please contact us.



AGB Search

AGB Search is the only firm that specializes in all aspects of executive search exclusively for higher education institutions. Founded by the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) in 2010, they have a unique understanding of the qualifications critical for effective higher education leadership.



vChief offers virtual, part-time Chiefs of Staff and interim Chief of Staff support to companies and organizations across many industries.



The Eden Collective is a boutique consultancy focused on dynamic growth of people and places. They help leaders and communities drive job creation and economic development via consulting, training, and coaching engagements.