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Shanna Gibbs

Why a CHRO Will Be the Next Must-Have Role in the Boardroom

By | Building the Modern Boardroom | 2 Comments

By Coco Brown, founder and CEO of Athena Alliance

CHRO in the Boardroom

Traditionally, the makeup of corporate boards has followed a clear set of parameters: a CIO for technology strategy, a CFO for financial strategy, a CEO to teach your own chief executive how to move the company forward. Today, many of the challenges companies face make a compelling case for adding another must-have role to the board – a chief human resources officer (CHRO), who can provide guidance around talent acquisition and culture, succession planning, compensation, board structure and evaluation, and more.

Recent news has been full of stories about high-performing companies with cultures that enabled deceitful practices or toxic workplaces. Some of the CHRO areas of expertise, once considered “the soft stuff,” have become “the strategic stuff.” And with the very nature of work changing amid automation, visionary leaders see multiple reasons to attract top CHROs to their boards. 

Increasingly, corporations are realizing they must incorporate the CHRO function on their boards. Below are four reasons why:

Succession planning

The primary job of any board of directors is to make sure the right leadership team is in place to drive the business, and the CEO is at the heart of that goal. A strong leadership bench is one with a succession plan in place, but this is a delicate topic. There are disclosure issues around such material information, of course, and some CEOs need encouragement to leave when the time is right – whether the change is contentious or not. Similarly, boards are often nervous about the timing of such shifts, particularly when they perceive a lack of a strong successor.

Managing through these issues doesn’t come naturally to many board members, but it does for experienced CHROs. Such executives can offer insights on planned transitions and how to navigate the process, from identifying internal candidates to talking about development plans to introducing these topics to chief executives. These processes are becoming more formal and documented, thanks to shareholder activism and regulatory requirements.

Jan Becker, an Athena Alliance member who was most recently the head of people and facilities at Autodesk, brought on a couple of new CEOs during her 17 years at the company, and she worked with the board on succession planning. She’s overseen transitions driven by internal planning and those driven by activist shareholders, and notes that while the two scenarios are different, they have one thing in common.

“Success depends on the quality of the decision-making discussion and the ability of the board of directors to hear each other and act as a real team,” Becker says. “When there is a CHRO on the board of directors, it makes it more likely the process and the conversations will be high quality.”

Compensation strategy

CHROs are experts in designing compensation and equity structures that incentivize, motivate and align the right behaviors and results. This is key for the CEO, as the role of the board is to manage the chief executive’s performance. However, it’s also critical for the overarching structure of the business. Often, the single most expensive line item in a company is its people. Optimizing spend to performance and outcome is essential for business longevity, and a CHRO is uniquely able to deliver insights in this area.

Board structure performance and evaluation

Strong self-governance is an increasingly recognized essential capability of the board of directors. CHROs are experts here, too, and can help the board operate effectively as a collective, evaluate individual and team performance to meet evolving needs, and ensure meetings are run well.

People, culture and the future of work

While many businesses have focused their board invitations on technical leaders who can guide them through technological transitions, companies need to be equally concerned about shifts in the workforce. Millennials now comprise more than one-third of employees, and they bring a different dynamic to the workplace. Meanwhile, rapid advances in robotics and artificial intelligence will transform many roles, while creating new ones.

The nature of work is changing, and shareholders are right in their increasing emphasis on talent and culture. As Athena Alliance member, recent PayPal CHRO and McKinsey Advisor Marcia Morales-Jaffe puts it,

“Often viewed as a threat, the rapid progress in automation really creates an opportunity for visionary leaders to embrace its enormous potential and develop action plans. Boards need to consider adding members fluent in innovation and its implications for the future of work. A CHRO with the right experience can be an invaluable asset to the board.”

Beyond transitions in the nature of work, the challenges surrounding people and culture crop up throughout the lifecycle of a business. Whether the company in start-up, hyper-growth or acquisition mode, leaders and boards need to ensure they begin with the end in mind in terms of talent and organizational culture.

Athena Alliance member Kathy Zwickert most recently served as the chief people officer at NetSuite, named in the top 10 of Bay Area Best Companies year after year. She says,

“When the company is growing organically, the tone from the top must be an imperative to hire the best talent, who are also aligned with the values and culture of the company. And when the business grows through acquisition, retaining key talent and integrating them should be one of the most important considerations. If the people and the knowledge leave the target business, the value of the asset could be seriously diminished. A CHRO on the board not only understands this, but will also hold management accountable to ensure deals increase shareholder value in the long run.”

The rise of the CHRO in the boardroom

In an article for Harvard Business Review (HBR) titled, “People before strategy: a new role for the CHRO,” the authors called for CHROs to take their place beside CFOs in terms of strategic value to companies. The writers – including the global managing director at McKinsey, an advisor to CEOs and corporate boards, and an HBR author – note, “It is up to the CEO to elevate HR and to bridge any gaps that prevent the CHRO from becoming a strategic partner.”

That same HBR article suggests that discussion of people should come before discussion of strategy. That is certainly happening – to a point. According to CEB and Gartner, 67 percent of U.S. public companies discussed talent matters in their 2017 Q1/Q2 earnings calls. And in the past six months, numerous companies in the communications, banking, manufacturing and other sectors have announced the appointments of senior human resources executives to their boards of directors.

Corporate boards need to include experienced chief human resources officers. For those corporations that don’t yet have directors capable of furthering people-driven conversations, it’s past time for a change.

Athena Member Feature: Helen Yu

By | Meet Our Members | No Comments

We’re very excited for the upcoming growth in 2018 and looking forward to featuring our incredible Athena members, like Helen Yu. Helen Yu is an accomplished Athena Pioneer with wonderful insight and experience to offer around board service. Athena members, please reach out if you would like to work with Helen Yu. If you’re not an Athena woman yet – let’s make that happen!

Helen Yu, Athena Alliance

What does your career journey look like?

I am an experienced leader with a track record of transforming organizations, whether it’s accomplishing a turnaround within a Fortune 1000 organization or coaching a startup to profitability. Known for my passion and sharp strategic thinking, I am able to operationalize my vision and oversee successful end to end execution, from building brand awareness to landing significant customer deals. By improving and scaling business models, I have delivered millions in incremental revenue growth and profitability in sales, consulting and education businesses.

In general manager roles with $250+ million P&L responsibility, I have built high performing global organizations through innovative strategy, collaboration, motivated teams and vigorous execution. Over the last decade, I have achieved multiple turnarounds in both traditional and SaaS based businesses, for sustainable top and bottom line growth. I am a collaborative and inspirational team leader committed to the growth of the people who work with me. Many of my team members have followed me from company to company.

As the Chief Growth Officer at Clinc Inc., a Conversational AI company, I am responsible for their Global Field Operation team consisting of Sales, Marketing and Customer Success. I am CEO and Founder of TIGON Advisory Inc., a company that provides consultancy that advises CXO or/and founders in the development of their vision, operation strategy, organization alignment and cross functional performance metrics pre and post IPO, GTM strategy to drive sustainable growth and team accountability. I was Group Vice President at Marketo for 3 years, a Regional Director at Adobe and before then at Oracle and Hyperion.

Can you highlight ways in which being female particularly shaped that journey? Are there female or male mentors who supported you as you developed?

Having grown up with 10 cousins, being the only girl and youngest, it prepared me well to learn how to get a seat at the dinner table at young age. It also makes me feel extremely comfortable working in a male dominated environment. I have had amazing female and male mentors who supported me along the journey. Phil Fernandez, who was the founder and CEO of Marketo, and Jason Holmes, who is President and COO at Showpad, former CCO at Marketo, are both instrumental to my journey to the C-Suite. Kris Bennett, who was my second manager at Hyperion, taught me what difference a great manager can make.

When did you decide board service was the next step for you?

I have been ready after serving on the Advisory Board at a couple of companies since last year. I started my own company last year to focus on advising CEO/Founders on their vision, operation strategy, organization alignment and cross functional performance metrics pre and post IPO, GTM strategy to drive sustainable growth and team accountability.

How did you hear about Athena?

Athena’s mission is very aligned with my passion. I heard about Coco through a couple of people in my network, and she reached out to me after I filled out the online board assessment form. We met when she visited Chicago last November.

What are you hoping to achieve through your membership with the Athena Alliance?

I hope to get on 2-3 board seats, help Coco jump start Midwest operations and assist with fundraising for Athena in the Midwest. Most importantly, I’d like to help create more opportunities for other women.

What is your proudest moment in your career so far?

My proudest moment in my career so far is that I have mentored and coached so many team members, and each of them have grown significantly. The multiplier effect to be a hero maker makes me proud. As a servant leader, I take pride in team growth and success.

Will you share a time in your business career when you felt being a woman was used against you?

I joined a company where I was the only female executive. They were not able to embrace different perspectives and never really treated me fairly. I left the company knowing that I made the right decision.

I have learned lessons from being mistreated. I decided to take part in making the work place much more appealing to up-and-coming female leaders. I have devoted energy to mentor and coach many of them in the past decades. Having more talented women believe in themselves and help each other is a step forward. The biggest mistake women can make is not to support each other. I have worked with so many inspiring male and female leaders who sponsored me throughout my career.  I am always looking for opportunities to give it back to others who are in need.

What would you say to women who are just beginning their careers and hope to make a difference as you have?

Be very good at what you do to get a seat at the table. It doesn’t matter what you know. It matters who knows what you know.

My success formula is:

  • Only do things you are passionate about.  
  • Curious about everything and learn as much as you can.
  • Be gritty.  Never settle for less.

Thanks so much to Helen Yu for sharing her journey and insights with us. Stay tuned for more Athena member features, and if you haven’t completed the Board Ready Assessment to become a member alongside Helen Yu, get started here.

Here’s why Silicon Valley companies need more women on boards

By | Building the Modern Boardroom | No Comments

Happy New Year, Athena Alliance! We’re excited to share our first post of the year – Coco Brown featured in Silicon Valley Business Journal! Coco weighs in on why we push for more women on boards, and Athena gets a mention as well! Check out the article here, or visit Silicon Valley Business Journal to read the original!

What do you say, Athena network? Can we help Silicon Valley learn to love broccoli?

Save a Seat for Incredible Girls Like Samaira M

By | Announcements, Building the Modern Boardroom | No Comments

Our annual Athena Alliance fundraiser, featuring speakers like Samaira M, is coming up in just over a week, and we’re getting excited to share an evening with such incredible speakers, honorees and guests. One of our coolest speakers for Save a Seat for Your Daughter is Samaira M, 9-year-old, fourth grader, coder, Maker, CEO.

Samaira MAfter dominating family game day one summer afternoon, first-grade Samaira hatched the novel idea of combining her love for coding with her skill at board games and created CoderBunnyz, a board game that teaches anyone to code and have fun all at once. After pitching the concept to her parents, Samaira worked with graphic designers all over the world to bring her game to life, and now she has a new title as CEO (at 9 years old!).

Samaira didn’t just invent the CoderBunnyz game; she also travels to schools, tech events, libraries and more to introduce and demonstrate her game to budding coders of all ages. Her mission is to offer a fun, playful way for learners from ages 4 to 104 to grasp the concepts of CS coding. So far, she’s given more than 40 CoderBunnyz workshops in Silicon Valley and has taught over 1400 kids. Samaira M has even taught coding to over 50 kids at Google HQ!

Samaira M and CoderBunnyzInventing and teaching a high-level board game is an amazing accomplishment on its own, especially for someone in grade school, but Samaira didn’t stop there! She’s also launched her own nonprofit organization, Girls Code U, dedicated to teaching coding to underrepresented girls. Samaira is committed to the goal of getting kids excited about STEM and coding from young ages, and she is a shining example of what our daughters can accomplish with encouragement to succeed. We’re honored to have her as a guest at Save a Seat for Your Daughter.

Save a Seat for Your Daughter with Our Amazing Honorees

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Before we share the final bio for our incredible speaker lineup for Athena’s Save a Seat for Your Daughter, we’re excited to share that we will also be honoring some crucial players in the campaign for boardroom equality. We are lucky to have the partnership and help from these companies and Athena Pioneers to help us move the needle that much faster.

Athena Pioneers

Liz Tinkham

Save a Seat for Your Daughter - Liz TinkhamLiz is Athena’s EVP of Seattle, a pro-bono role she contributes through her passion to see our mission accelerate the pace of change toward gender parity in the boardroom. Through this role, Liz introduced Athena to our largest investor yet, Microsoft, and helped us launch our second significant region outside the Silicon Valley.

Liz recently retired as a Senior Managing Partner of Accenture where, as a member of the firm from the very early days, she recently managed a team of 1,500 in 13 countries, as well as the largest and most strategic client and partner relationship in the Accenture portfolio. She not only puts in countless hours for Athena, almost always behind the scenes, every interaction with her brings enormous value to our members and our cause, and we are proud to honor her at Save a Seat for Your Daughter.

Kimberly Alexy

Save a Seat for Your Daughter - Kimberly AlexyKimberly serves on five public company boards (Alteryx, MicroSemi, CalAmp, FireEye, and Five9). She is one of those iconic women who is easily and often called on for more and more great board opportunities. Rather than simply turn them down as they come to her, or only use her own limited rolodex to suggest other women, Kimberly joined Athena to massively extend her personal impact in bringing more women to the boards she serves and those who seek her out.

She is tirelessly working behind the scenes with us to highlight and sponsor Athena women for opportunity. In this way, she is the ideal role model of Pioneer Membership and an easy choice to honor at Save a Seat for Your Daughter!

Christine Heckart

Save a Seat for Your Daughter - Christine HeckartChristine serves on the public company board of Lam Research. As an Athena Pioneer, Christine guides our members, and even more so our organization, to be powerful and impactful. She has single-handedly enhanced Athena’s power network with seated directors and board influencers by at least 30 individuals, and in so doing, has greatly enhanced our draw to boards seeking amazing women, to funding for Athena, and to mentoring support from others like herself. In this way, she is the ideal role model of Pioneer Membership, and we happily honor her at Save a Seat for Your Daughter!


Pioneer Investors in Women

Golden Seeds

Save a Seat for Your Daughter - Golden SeedsGolden Seeds, originally founded in 2004 by Stephanie Newby, now CEO of Crimson Hexagon, invests exclusively in female CEO founders. The organization has directly invested over $100M in female led enterprises, resulting in over $850M of follow-on capital for their businesses. Golden Seeds even goes a step further, investing heavily in women who are outside the traditional realm of entrepreneurialism generally associated with women; retail and beauty. They’re putting early bets on women working to cure Alzheimer’s, building B2B SaaS essential business enablement tools and working to create alternative energy solutions.

The recognition that women can and do build and run amazing ventures worth investor capital is only now becoming a mainstream idea, but Golden Seeds has backed and believed in this potential for over 13 years now. Their trust and early funding has spurred countless others to invest, and their team of investors has engendered confidence in female CEOs to believe in their value in spite of the challenges of presenting to all male decision makers in most all other investment arenas. Golden Seeds is truly a pioneer among investors backing women.

Diverse by Design


Save a Seat for Your Daughter - BetterUpFounded in 2013 by Alexi Robichaux and Eddie Medina, BetterUp is a male-founded, mobile-based coaching platform aimed at expanding access to executive-quality coaching to individuals across all levels. The BetterUp venture has maintained inclusivity as a goal since inception and boasts 47% of leadership roles as women, and 57% of company-wide roles held by women, a balance they are maintaining as they hire at least three new employees weekly in addition to their current 63.

With a constant working goal of 50% women as they scale, BetterUp is dedicated to ensuring that their employees are diverse, happy and feel supported in their endeavors both in-office and out. They recently sponsored a group of their engineers at AfroTech, and almost 40% of their engineering team is female. Their first engineer was African American.

For BetterUp leaders, hiring from a diverse talent pool has never been a question, and they work hard on job descriptions and other mitigating factors to ensure no one is passed up because of culture, personality, skin color, or the like. At BetterUp, there aren’t good managers and inclusive managers; good managers ARE inclusive managers. This attitude surrounding diversity is ideal and serves as an incredible example to companies across the board.

Maria Klawe Celebrates Athena Alliance and Diversity

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As we get closer to our fundraiser in Palo Alto, we’re looking forward to sharing the evening with wonderful, accomplished speakers including Maria Klawe, Geoffrey Moore and Samaira M. Following last week’s introduction to Geoffrey, we’re thrilled to share a bit about Maria Klawe and her incredible achievements.

Maria Klawe for Athena Alliance

Maria Klawe boasts an impressive career in computer science, mathematics and academia, currently serving as the first female president of Harvey Mudd College. She began her role at Harvey Mudd in 2006, taking a seat as the institution’s third president and the first woman to lead the university.

Maria has held leadership roles in higher learning for almost 30 years, serving as Dean of Engineering and professor of Computer Science at Princeton and Dean of Science, Vice President of Student and Academic Services and head of the Department of Computer Science at the University of British Columbia over the last three decades.

Maria is also a renowned researcher, speaker and board member. She began her research at IBM Research in California and has since made significant strides in the fields of mathematics and computer science. Some of her contributions include human-computer interaction, gender issues in information technology and discrete mathematics, her current research focus. Maria is a distinguished speaker and has lectured at universities across North America as well as international conferences on topics ranging from engineering and gender and gaming to K-12 science and mathematics education and diversity in science.

She holds board seats on Math for America,, and the Canada Excellence Research Chairs Selection Board. Maria is also a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and a trustee for the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley. She has received an ABIE Award for Leadership, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian Association of Computer Science, an Achievement Award from the American Association of University Women and Distinguished Service Award from the Computing Research Association. Maria was ranked 17th on Fortune’s 2014 list of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders and inducted into the US News STEM Solutions Leadership Hall of Fame.

We are honored to feature such an incredible woman at Save a Seat for Your Daughter. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear from Maria Klawe and other speakers. Join us and enjoy a silent auction, delightful company and purposeful, constructive conversation around increasing gender diversity in the boardroom. Don’t forget to bring your daughters and sons! Grab your tickets for our December 7 event, and help us move our future towards parity.

Spend the Evening with Geoffrey Moore and Athena Alliance!

By | Announcements | One Comment

This year’s Athena Alliance fundraiser, on December 7 in Palo Alto, features an incredible lineup of speakers including Geoffrey Moore, Maria Klawe and Samaira M. These guests represent success across a wide range of fields and ages, and we are excited to introduce and welcome them, beginning with Geoffrey Moore.

Geoffrey Moore

Geoffrey Moore is an established and remarkably successful writer and advisor to both start-up efforts and renowned tech companies. He has advised many strong CEOs, including CEO, Mark Benioff. Moore is also an investor with Mohr Davidow and Wildcat Venture Partners, has served on the boards of Akamai and Lithium, and is a world-renowned author known by top leaders globally.

Moore received a bachelors degree in American literature from Stanford University and a PhD in English literature from University of Washington. Following graduation, he served as a college English teacher before relocating again to the Bay Area and revamping his career. Since this move, Geoffrey has accrued experience as a technology training specialist, a salesman and a marketing expert. He currently provides services as a marketing consultant for a variety of companies, including giants like Salesforce and Microsoft.

In addition to his consulting services, Moore has also written numerous books on topics ranging from issues faced by both start-up and established companies to market dynamics. His most well-known book, Crossing the Chasm, has sold over a million copies and has been rewritten multiple times to include the notable client stories Moore continues to accumulate in his consulting work. With such an impressive base of knowledge, it is fortunate that Moore also enjoys speaking and delivers 50 – 80 speeches yearly on disruption, market dynamics and other areas of expertise.

The Athena Alliance is honored to feature Geoffrey Moore at Save a Seat for Your Daughter, our upcoming fundraiser to help move the needle toward board parity at a significantly faster pace. Join us in Palo Alto next month, and spend the evening with Geoffrey and other speakers, honorees and an amazing collection of silent auction items up for bid! We encourage you to bring your daughters and families so that we can all work together to increase diversity and gender representation in our board rooms. Let’s make sure our daughters, and our futures, have a seat. Grab your tickets now and mark your calendar!

Join Us at the Athena Alliance Boston Launch Party!

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Please join the Athena Alliance and OpenView Venture Partners for a launch party for Athena Alliance Boston! 

OpenView and Athena Alliance Boston Launch Party

Changing the world is much more than a job for one organization, and we’re so honored to have incredible partners in our journey to parity in the boardroom. The Athena Alliance is proud to announce that Boston based OpenView will serve as our Atlantic Northeast hub following an Athena Alliance Boston launch party!

Join us November 7 as we celebrate our partnership with OpenView and take the first step toward expanding Athena’s mission from California across the nation. Register here for your spot at what promises to be an inspiring, encouraging night with top executives and leaders, including Coco Brown and OpenView members!

Athena Member Feature: Robin Carmichael

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Last month, we introduced you to Athena woman, Billie Otto. This month, just in time for our Seattle launch, Robin Carmichael is in the spotlight.

Robin Carmichael

We are incredibly proud to represent each of the amazing women in our network and organization, and Robin Carmichael is one of those outstanding executive women. Successful, experienced and determined to rise above gender barriers without batting an eye, Robin Carmichael embodies the Athena woman, and we are excited to celebrate our growth with her!

What does your career journey look like?

My career has been primarily based in the Life Sciences and medical devices. My degree is in Nursing, and I tutored Chemistry in college. While I only worked in a hospital for a couple years, my nursing background has helped my business career immensely. It gave me a holistic view of the healthcare industry and how to navigate products through the system. It also eased my early path in the [male dominated] corporate world, as nurses are perceived as credible, resourceful and steady in a crisis.

I was recruited by Baxter Travenol to be a diabetes clinical specialist, and as it happens in big companies, programs come and go, so I moved into Sales and Marketing and found that I was really quite good at leading a sales team. Later, I went back into the clinical research at ProCyte, a peptide-based biopharma and quickly moved up into the VP of Marketing position once commercial products began to roll out. I launched seven major product lines using the company’s technology, built the international distribution business and established core licensing partners. I served as Chief Operating Officer at DERMAdoctor, Inc., a leading health and dermatology product e-commerce retailer, which gave me a solid understanding of the transitioning internet platforms and consumer engagement.

I came to my current company, Helix BioMedix, Inc., in November of 2007 as VP of Marketing & Business Development, then was promoted to COO and am now President & CEO.  I also serve on our board of directors. At Helix BioMedix, I have worked to leverage the company’s core IP efforts in multiple pathways including the drug, device and personal care markets. While I have not taken a traditional career path, I think the common theme is loving a technology and the people I work with while making things happen that move the company forward.  

Can you highlight ways in which being a female particularly shaped that journey? Are there female or male mentors who supported you as you developed?

I’m not sure that being female really shaped my career journey other than I did change jobs so that I did not travel as much when my father was terminally ill. I think tweaking your job for family reasons is a fairly typical career decision for most women.  

By way of mentors, I have been very fortunate to have had several, and each imparted wisdoms that have helped me be successful. John Fowler at Baxter Healthcare was an ex-marine, and he taught me discipline, planning and execution. John Walsh showed me how to manage people. Jack Clifford, President & CEO of ProCyte Corporation, pushed me out of my comfort zone, gave me extensive boardroom exposure and gave me the opportunity to lead on critical projects. He turned around a distressed company and drove a lean team to produce impressive results – it was an incredible learning experience to be part of this evolution.

When did you decide board service was the next step for you?

I’ve been actively presenting board meetings for twenty years, and it was just a natural progression to put my skills to use by serving as a board member. I joined my company’s board several years ago. My former board members have often recommend me to start-ups they are working with, as I am able to contribute in a variety of areas from strategic to practical. Being on an outside board is also a great way to connect with a group of colleagues who have a depth of experience and expertise that are valuable resources.  

How did you hear about Athena?

My wonderful friend, Liz Tinkham, invited me to the Seattle Athena launch event. Coco Brown, Founder & CEO of Athena Alliance, gave an overview of its success in fostering women on boards and in networking with each other. The more I learned, the more I wanted to be a part of it!

What are you hoping to achieve through your membership with the Athena Alliance?

I think the Athena Alliance is an important resource for learning about new board opportunities as well as networking with other successful and dynamic women. And hopefully, I will be able to give back to the group as well by being a mentor or resource for others.

What is your proudest moment in your career so far?

There are a lot of career moments that have made me happy, but overall it is really a journey – like chapters in a book. Hitting breakeven and moving forward to profitability at ProCyte was one of them. Navigating an exit in a difficult M&A was another. Seeing those who have worked (or interned) for me go on to find success and then take the time to keep in touch as they grow in their careers has been very rewarding.  

Will you share a time in your business career when you felt being a woman was used against you?

Personally, I don’t dwell on this, because everybody has something they have to overcome in life, and I believe mastering challenges leads to inner strength. My father always told me I could do anything I wanted in life: “Just focus on your goal and move forward.” For me, it’s about personal grit. Handling objections was something I learned early in my career when I was in sales, and it is a necessary skill for overall success.

If you look at Russell Wilson, of the Seattle Seahawks, many people would say he is too small to be a quarterback and, in fact, he was a third round draft pick. But he shuts out the crowd noise, focuses on winning, executing the task at hand and getting to the goal line. I like to think about great role models like Gertrude Boyle, Chairman of Columbia Sportswear. An accidental CEO, she resourcefully and successfully turned around a struggling company and kept her own persona in the process. She is on my list of great women I’d like to meet.  You can find more of her inspiration wisdoms for daily encouragement here.

What would you say to women who are just beginning their careers and hope to make a difference as you have?

Find your passion and follow it. If you love what you are doing, you will find your own self-motivation to get through challenges. Passion radiates and stimulates your team.  It also makes you memorable.

Work hard, work smart and fail fast. Cliché but true. If you do your job well, people will notice, but you also need to showcase your successes as well – don’t be a wallflower. Mistakes are opportunities to grow, so take that situation and make it a new asset: what did we learn, what can we do to correct it, what can we do to prevent it happening again, and with this new knowledge, can we do it better in the future?

You are always selling. When I left nursing and went into the corporate world, my boss told me that regardless of your title and your department, you are always selling – yourself, your personal brand, your projects and your team. So develop your pitch, make it clear and concise and go for it! This mantra has served me well.

Network, network, network. Both in your industry as well as outside. My career has been in the life sciences, but some of the best inspiration for new ideas has come from networking with Washington Wine industry executives and tech industry leaders.  

Be there for other women. We don’t seem to mentor our own in the same way men mentor other men or women. This is changing, so be part of that revolution! You have something you can give at any point in your career; don’t think you have to wait to hit the C-suite before you reach out! If you read about a woman’s success, send her an email with a pat on the back. Getting involved in various women’s business groups, even as an event volunteer, gives you great exposure in so many ways.  

We’re grateful to Robin Carmichael for sharing her journey and insight with us and future Athena members across the country. We are so excited to work with you!

Save a Seat for Your Daughter

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The Athena Alliance is very excited to announce our upcoming fundraiser, Save a Seat for Your Daughter, with support from Nasty Woman Wines, Delphix, PwC and Deloitte.

This December 7, join us in Palo Alto, California for an inspiring and entertaining evening with top leaders and investors throughout the San Francisco area and beyond. We’ll have a fantastic female DJ keep us company as we network, enjoy delicious food and drink and participate in a silent auction for incredible items including coaching sessions with John Chambers!

Featured speakers:

Geoffrey Moore
Maria Klawe
Samaira M

Save a Seat for Your Daughter is catered to all ages, so we encourage you to bring your future board members along for the experience!

Keep your eyes and ears open for more details in the coming weeks, and don’t forget to get registered and reserve your spot! Buy in groups for ticket savings!

Save a Seat for Your Daughter