Part One talked about the first half of the 13 speakers we had in this year’s CEO Board Governance class, and here’s the second set.
All were equally fabulous and provided invaluable lessons to the students. Having such engaging speakers makes for highly interested students and buzzing discussions. We can read about governance, diversity, and roles and responsibilities all we want, but nothing beats authentic experiences like these leaders have to share.
Adriane Brown is a Managing Partner at Flying Fish Partners and sits on multiple boards, including eBay, Axon, American Airlines, KKR & Co. Inc., and Washington Research Foundation. Prior to her current position and board seats, Adriane had spent time as President and COO at Intellectual Ventures (IV), President and CEO of Honeywell Transportation Systems, and VP and GM of Corning’s Environmental Products Division. She explained the role that boards hold in companies and how they inform the CEO in decision-making. Adriane also spoke about the importance of creating risk committees, detailing her experiences and how they can benefit a company. The students were invested in Adriane’s tales about the airline business being a particularly tough industry, and the necessity of having a functional board, chair, and CEO relationship.
Patty Ross has an impressive background. She is currently on the boards of Nautilus, Movella, and MMC Corp, and she is a Strategic Advisor/Consultant at PMR Consulting. With experience as the only woman on some boards, Patty shared valuable advice that the goal is not to achieve a seat on the board but to want to be there and reflect real change. A hot topic of discussion was around DEI from the top down and how to get leaders invested in making real change. Lots of nodding as she said: “The companies that do DEI well don’t see it as a checkbox to fill. They see it as essential to serving communities and employees.”
Alex Shootman is the CEO of Alkami and is always one of the best we bring in to speak to the class each year. He has some strong experience behind him, such as being former CEO of Workfront, where he contributed to its great success and led to it being acquired by Adobe. He walked the students through his experience of being appointed CEO and the extensive board process behind that. Alex also shared the four things only a CEO can do in a company: communicate the vision, hire and build the right team, drive the values/culture, and deliver the expected financial returns to shareholders. The students asked many questions about building teams and trust between the CEO, the board, and employees, and Alex had engaging answers to each one.
Patty Bedient is board chair of Alaska Air Group, Suncore Energy, Park Hotels & Resorts, Overlake Medical Center, and Oregon State University. The students asked her about the process of appointing a new CEO at Alaska Air Group as the board chair, to which she shared a lot of insightful details from the board’s point of view. Patty also spoke about the effects of COVID-19 on Alaska Air Group and the airline industry in general, how changing dynamics can be balanced, and supporting sustainability at large companies. Patty spoke proudly about the diversity of their board, which she feels has been achieved and maintained.
Sunny Gupta is the Founder and CEO of Apptio, having been in this role for fourteen years, ever since it began in 2007. His long-term tenure as the head of Apptio provided valuable insight into the many changes the company has gone through since its start. Within this explanation of Apptio’s growth, Sunny told the class about the process of being acquired by Vista Equity and the changes this brought. The students were enthralled as he explained the value of his entrepreneurial experience and background in senior leadership, sharing that the biggest value from this was the ability to morph and grow—qualities he uses in his current position.
Deanna Oppenheimer is the chair of Hargreaves Lansdown and non-executive director at Thomson Reuters and Slalom. As Hargreaves Lansdown is based in England, Deanna shared the differences in board models between the UK and USA. She also spoke passionately about diversity on board levels and her own experience as the only woman on the board at Slalom. She was excited to connect with the class at this stage in their careers and share her thoughts on risk mitigation, board structures and strategies, and how politics filter into her job.
These final six speakers wrapped up this session so powerfully, and it’s no doubt that the students all took away gold nuggets of advice. Eileen and I have always loved teaching this course and bringing in these people who are living these board leadership experiences—these lessons and learnings aren’t something you can get just anywhere! Good luck to all these up-and-coming executives and board members as they walk into these positions with insider understanding.