I’d also like to take a moment to thank the students. We really enjoyed their interaction and engagement in the class. At the end of the quarter, 79% of the students responded to the optional review of the class, and ratings were above even the combined median (0-5)—we received a 5.1!
Now I’d like to introduce the speakers that made this class such a fulfilling experience for the students.
Carol has a wealth of experience serving as a CEO and on boards, including as executive board chair. She currently sits on the boards of Entertainment Partners and Zynga, a company that is in the process of an acquisition. She kicked the course off by getting down to the basics—primary board roles and responsibilities. She explained board issues in detail, including the importance of succession plans, CEO compensation, how to handle firing someone and red flags to watch out for when hiring a CEO.
One point she kept coming back to was the duty for a board to evolve and stay current on trends and issues such as ESG and DEI, as well as helping guide the company through uncharted waters such as COVID-19 or cybersecurity breaches.
We love to have Carol kick the class off because she has the entire picture of experience, and she shares this so effectively. The class was so fortunate to have Carol introduce the topic, build the foundation, and set the tone for the rest of the quarter.
Jim Weber has been CEO of Brooks Sports for over 20 years, and his presentation zeroed in on his own experiences with board governance in this role. He shared board insights with the class surrounding size, involvement, relationship and structure. He also spoke of the growing concern of ESG, and how this has forced the board to evolve. Jim’s examples were an invaluable addition to the class, bringing elements of the personal and professional to the conversation.
Sunny Gupta, CEO of Apptio, joined us in the second class. To kick off his presentation he took us all through his winding professional journey—the one that got him where he is today. Then he shared on a wide range of topics from ESG, to sell or not to sell Apptio, sales quotas, and more.
When the students were given the opportunity to ask Sunny questions, we dove into valuable subjects such as deciding whether to sell or continue being a part of a venture, the social dynamics of global markets, the key importance of a company’s culture, and digging into why people buy (or don’t), and using this to inform your strategy.
And, finally, Sunny shared his “secret sauce”—understanding who you are as an executive and as an individual. These will have overlapping areas, but getting to know your own boundaries and morals in both spheres is highly important. Sunny’s contributions lent to a class experience students won’t soon forget.
Phyllis is Vice Chair of JP Morgan Northwest, and a trusted advisor to various boards and CEOs. She has also served on multiple boards and with a range of roles including chairman, lead director, chair of the compensation committee, and more. She shared a valuable viewpoint on the underrepresentation of women and people of colour on boards. In fact, she was a trailblazer in this area, being one of the first women to start serving on boards in a very male-centric time.
Perhaps most importantly, Phyliss shared that her mission is to contribute and learn when she serves on a board, not to collect a paycheck.
Elizabeth has an impressive board portfolio: Bic, Case-New Holland Industrials, Euroapi, Limeade, and grocery stores in Poland, Portugal, and Columbia. As a result, she possesses a wealth of experience in navigating multiple board positions and dynamics. In her engaging presentation, Elizabeth delved into the multifaceted nature of serving on various boards, highlighting the essential strengths required for success in these roles. She detailed her personal journey to the boardroom, one that was significantly shaped by her deep understanding of designing compensation plans.
Kelvin Westbrook is President and CEO of KRW Advisors, LLC. His expertise extends to serving on two major public boards—the Mosaic Co. and chair of the board of BJC Healthcare, and two major education institution boards—the Advisory Board of the University of Washington Foster School of Business and Washington University School of Medicine National Council. With these credentials, we were certainly pleased to have Kelvin speak in our CEO and Board Governance class!
Sharing his personal journey, Kelvin candidly discussed his triumphs and setbacks, shedding light on how he maintains focus on his goals while filtering out distractions. His insights offered valuable lessons to the students, inspiring them to navigate their own paths to success.
Ken Denman, Director of Costco Wholesale since 2017, shared his valuable expertise on subjects such as the supply chain challenges faced by Costco, minimum wage, and the board’s commitment to acquiring ships for efficient product delivery. Unlike other retailers, Costco has successfully overcome inventory hurdles. Ken emphasized the board’s supportive role, prioritizing effective teamwork and rarely saying “no” to management. His insights shed light on the inner workings of a dynamic board and its crucial contributions to organizational success.
Ken’s experiences navigating supply chains, fostering teamwork, and overseeing CEO dynamics left a lasting impression on the students, offering a glimpse into the complexities and nuances of boardroom decision-making in a highly successful company.
It was wonderful to have Jeff back in class with us. He is president and CEO of Premera Blue Cross, and he shared some valuable insights into the difficulties leadership can face. In the case of Premera Blue Cross (and many other companies), this difficulty came in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because Premera is a non-profit, the pandemic years were especially difficult for them. Jeff spoke on the importance of the CEO and board relationship.
To further enhance the learning experience, Jeff outlined the above problem to the students and walked them through each real-world decision that had to be made. In the end, Jeff had them act as the board and make a recommendation, and an enthusiastic discussion ensued. This really highlighted how difficult the role of the board and the CEO can be.
His openness and willingness to connect were fantastic and left the students wanting more. In fact, Jeff will be taking over the class next year. The students to come are lucky to have him as their instructor!
Katherine Regnier is the founder of Coconut Software, a successful financial services company that she started with just a $5K loan. Katherine spoke about the board’s role in company progression, highlighting the importance of selecting the right board members—especially during fundraising. She candidly shared her journey in assembling the ideal team and securing code ownership despite the underrepresentation of women in the tech industry. Katherine sees immense opportunities in this landscape and advocates for confidence and support. The students were engaged as she discussed her company’s unique culture, including a 4-day work week and unlimited vacation policies, emphasizing productivity and employee well-being.
Mike is Board Director of Axis Capital Holdings, Portland General Electric, and Wireless Technology Group. He is also Founder and CEO of Millegan Advisory Group 3 LLC. His career has led him through 22 different positions, all experiences that provided a solid foundation for his role as a board member. To be successful on a board, he emphasizes the importance of having a genuine passion for business and the ability to effectively contribute in a room filled with talented individuals. The students were invested when Mike shared a past challenge with a non-performing CEO and the steps taken to address the issue, such as replacing top managers and realigning pay for performance. He also discussed the importance of representing shareholders and addressing diverse opinions in a boardroom setting.
Mikaele is a former Ceo and Board Leadership student, and it was wonderful to have her back in class with us—although as an accomplished speaker this time! Mikaela held various sustainability roles before becoming Senior Program Manager for Energy Strategy, Cloud Operations, and Innovation (data centers) for Microsoft. Because data centers make up the majority of Microsoft’s energy footprint, it is Mikaela and her team’s job to work towards the 2030 goals of diesel-free and carbon negative data centers. She is also an advisory board member for RyeStrategy, a role she explained in depth to the class by answering their questions on how she came to be a board member, what RyeStrategy does, and what her role on this board is.
It’s always such a pleasure to have Joe as a guest in the class. He has an incredible abundance of experience and expertise to share with the class, having served as CEO for more than five companies and as a board member for ten! He is currently President and CEO of Code42, a position he’s held for eight years. So, as you can already tell, Joe had a lot to offer. He took us through how to handle conflict with a board, graceful exits for CEOs, transparency vs. oversharing, and the importance of culture in the workplace. He highlights many of these points with stories of his own, including a particularly interesting example of a time he had conflict with the board of a company as CEO.
Alex is current CEO of Alkami Technology, and previous CEO of Workfront. To bookend the class, Alex spoke of his specific experiences at Workfront, sharing stories and citing examples. He took the students through a notable instance of disagreement with the board, how he improved Workfront in his time there, the issue of retaining diverse talent, and more. He even dove into politics for a moment, and spoke of his duty to remain supportive of varying viewpoints while encouraging his teams to overcome polarization by getting to know why they feel the way they do. Alex was kind enough to finish by sharing his “secret sauce” with the class—telling it straight. Honesty is compassion, and setting expectations for transparency creates a great foundation for workplace culture.
A huge thank you to our incredible line-up of guests for taking the time to come speak with our future leaders and board members.
Your presentations and experiences make the class a richer learning experience for the students each year, and we are so grateful for your wisdom and openness.
Eileen and I love that we have the opportunity to provide a completely unique learning experience for this class each year. Good luck to our potential next generation of executives. We hope this class has given you the foundation you need to succeed.