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Spotlight on Athena CEO Champions: Nick Mehta of Gainsight

By | CEO Champion Spotlight | No Comments

Meet Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight. Gainsight is a customer success platform helping businesses retain and grow customers. The industry-leading solution provides valuable customer insights and analytics through a centralized view of customer health, builds outcomes-driven customer journeys, and helps prove the impact of customer success organizations in business. Since joining in 2013, Nick led the company through multiple funding rounds, raising a total of $156 million, and grew the company from a handful of employees to more than 500 people working in seven offices around the world. Gainsight partnered with Athena Alliance earlier this year in a customized program, designed to encourage female leadership among his community of customer success professionals.

Previously, Nick was the CEO of LiveOffice, where he led the company’s growth to $25 million in revenue before being acquired by Symantec. He’s held numerous operating roles for various public and private companies, including Veritas, Symantec, and XDegrees. Nick has also been an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Trinity Ventures and Accel Partners.

What prompted you to say “Yes” to Athena?

How I got introduced to Athena Alliance is sort of funny. I was at a conference in Hawaii (seriously, it was a work thing!) and they had this game—basically a human Scrabble on a giant court (you had to be there), and the woman next to me was actually Coco [Brown, Founder & CEO of Athena Alliance]. So from there, I was introduced to the opportunities Athena provides. Gainsight has a large community of executives, and so many are talented women. After I met Coco, I could immediately see how valuable a relationship with Athena Alliance could be. After several discussions with Coco and her team, we decided to work with them on their executive development program. To make that happen, Coco spoke at our Customer Success industry conference, Pulse, where she shared Athena’s mission with thousands of executives in the audience. From there, we sponsored scholarships for five talented female executives in the Customer Success community.

What’s been the response?

The recipients were so thrilled. That’s the best part of this—getting people excited about their potential in their careers.

What specifically about Athena’s program drew you in?

I like Athena because it’s very action-oriented. Athena is all about real impact. There are so many issues that need to be fixed with respect to diversity, and it can be overwhelming for some. But it’s awesome to see something that you can do by getting involved with Athena that can immediately help. Athena makes it tangible in terms of having an impact.

What legacy do you want to leave behind with your involvement in Athena?

I want to do my part in driving change. But we’re not celebrating just yet—there is a lot more that needs to be done to promote and support women in leadership. But if we can use the Customer Success Movement to help more women rise up to the board level, that will make us all very proud.

How has your relationship with Athena impacted Gainsight from a business perspective?

I’m always a little careful about this idea. Working with Athena is good for business, yes, but it’s also just right. It’s the right thing to do. It shouldn’t need any additional justification because of the economics. Even if there were zero business impact, it’s still the right thing to do. That being said, the partnership does have an impact on the business. Gainsight’s community is very diverse and in an industry where you’re serving a large population, having a diverse company and board just makes sense. We all benefit from having broader perspectives and pulling in people from different backgrounds. It drives diversity in both conversation and business approach. Having too many people who are alike means you don’t take the time to pause and evaluate appropriately, and we become blind to risks and opportunities. That’s one of the many reasons why intersectionality is so important.

What’s next?

Customer success is a profession that grew out of functions like customer support and service, and while those roles were always important, it wasn’t always considered strategic. But now that perspective has changed and it’s being seen as critical to business success. What’s exciting about this is you have a profession that naturally has more gender diversity and is proving to be a viable career. The risk in that, from what we’ve seen in the past, is when a profession becomes more important, it gets taken over by men. The all-time example of this is computer science, which had so many women in the ‘40s and ‘50s but obviously has major balance issues now. So we need to be aware of that possibility with the Customer Success profession and ensure we don’t repeat history.

Meet Our Members: Patty Hatter

By | Meet Our Members | No Comments


We’re thrilled to have Patty Hatter as a member of the Athena community. She’s a veteran leader in the cybersecurity and technology transformation space, whose leadership experience and digital expertise earned her a board seat with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Internet Security and Privacy Advisory Board, as well as a Board Member of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation. She recently joined as a Director of the Board at the Barrick Gold Corporation (NYSE- ABX), the world’s largest gold mining company.

Patty is unique among Athena members in that her journey to the boardroom was a bit fast-tracked (in our interview with Patty, she explains why she feels it was so—and the important epiphany she had along the way).

Patty serves as a trusted advisor to early-stage technology companies focused on key technologies such as cybersecurity, cloud infrastructure, and blockchain-enabled enterprise applications. Prior, she served as Senior VP of the McAfee Services organization, where she also held leadership roles as CIO and Senior VP of Operations, managing budgets of $250M and leading 800 staff members. Under her leadership, the company increased its Services business by an astounding 50%. Patty also led massive IT transformation initiatives, including multiple M&A and divestitures.

During this time, Patty also served as General Manager of Security and Software and CIO for Intel Security. There, she orchestrated a global reconstruction of IT and Operations—driving the overhaul of the Intel-wide security and privacy teams. Previously, she was Vice President of Business Operations at Cisco Systems Inc., where she set the strategy for their digital reorganization, driving innovation and collaboration.

Patty has received some of the industry’s most coveted awards, including “Women of Influence” and “Power Executive” by Silicon Valley Business Journal; “Bay Area CIO of the Year” by both Silicon Valley Business Journal and SF Business Times; HMG’s 2016 “Transformational CIO Award” and The National Diversity Council’s “Most Powerful and Influential Woman.”

What prompted your interest in Athena Alliance?

I got introduced to Coco and Athena Alliance through a friend of mine last year. At the time, I knew I wanted to put more effort into joining a public company board. Periodically I would get a phone call inquiring if I was interested in a board position. But it was never the time; I always felt too busy.

However, I knew I needed to take on a board position because I could see a growing interest in cybersecurity. A lot of my background is in cybersecurity, as a CIO, and years of doing digital transformation. I had a strong epiphany last fall that I needed to focus on this now. Athena helped me get the critical basics in place, like my board bio. It wasn’t soon after I got involved with Athena that a board opportunity presented itself that I was very interested in. I remember talking to Coco and her team. They were willing to do whatever the organization could do to help me pull the pieces together that I so urgently needed to go through the board interview process. That made a big impression on me; it’s very apparent that she and her team truly believe in the cause.

Your journey is very unique in that boards were knocking on your door. Tell us more about how you knew you had to go for it and make it a priority.

There’s being prepared and being proactive to seek out what you need to know, and then not going so overboard and worrying about a situation that you’re not even in yet. It’s finding that balance. To me, the thing that helped me the most was this: first, pick up the phone. Talk to people about these opportunities. You make your own luck to a certain point. Engage in all the networking opportunities where you can to find out what’s going on in the market. And then find out what other people’s experiences are; find out the hot topics. Discover what boards are interested in and what they need more of, and figure out what you can bring to the table. And then you need to communicate that you are the one to bring those skills to the table.

You have to be comfortable with selling yourself. How did that feel to you?

I’ve had a lot of front-facing roles where you’re out selling ideas, trying to get funding, trying to sell to a customer—selling all sorts of things. For me, it’s about believing what you’re saying. If I believe what I am saying, I automatically get passionate about it and it becomes easier. And it’s easy for me to sell things that I feel passionate about, whether it’s a technology or a solution or a proposed path to funding.

The areas I focus on are the ones that I feel are relevant to a board. And those are easy for me to talk about because I have a lot of passion for them.

It’s interesting how you relate your personal elevator pitch to sales for other aspects of your career.

It absolutely is an elevator pitch. You need to be able to explain your value to a board in two sentences. Just like you would simplify or coalesce a message about a product or service your company sells. It’s a different topic, but the need for an elevator pitch is just the same.

Were you surprised that a board directorship happened for you so quickly?

I would have been surprised if I hadn’t been previously getting phone calls. But based on prior interests and conversations I was having, it validated my value proposition. It is not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when, of finding the right fit. And it happens for everyone at a different time.

What about your current board position felt so right?

I joined McAfee in 2010. I had been through the whole lifecycle—of a public company / security company, acquired by Intel, wholly-owned subsidiary, integrated business unit and then spun out again last summer. But there are such current-state challenges that industrial companies are having in how to take advantage of new technologies and drive to a better place; not just waste your money by buying new technology that no one can get value from.

A lot of times, industrials companies haven’t taken advantage of emerging technologies as much as other industries. It’s a digital challenge, coupled with cybersecurity. And that’s something that is super interesting to me. I have experience in it from a subject matter expertise and industry perspective. I knew I enjoyed the topic and I also felt it was an important area for someone with my skill set.

What’s been the biggest surprise about this whole process for you? Or what have you found to be the most interesting?   

I’m so excited about the opportunity and I’m glad it came together as quickly as it did. One of the things that you know is coming, but it’s different when you experience it is the move to a guidance role. Everyone’s typically the first to make a decision, jump in, take the reins. But that’s when you’re in the operating role. And that’s what you’ve accelerated at and spent a whole career in. You know when you join a board that you’re not there for an operating role, you’re there more to govern and to guide. Even though you intellectually know that, what I’m finding now is that I have to sometimes sit on my hands and control myself not to get ahead of what the role should be. It’s not your decision to decide individual things; it’s your role to guide, ask questions, make sure the leadership team is looking at all the angles and the perspectives on the decision they have in front of them. It is hard to rein in your opinions.

For aspiring directors, what advice do you have for them?

Just know that it’s so helpful to have a group in your corner. I’m sure everyone who is seeking a board seat is doing all the things like activating their network, talking to their network about their interests, and talking to their friends. But it’s great to have a process and a group of people that are stepping you through the process for your first time, and working through fundamentals like your board package. These are people who have seen the bad and the good. They’re thinking about all the elements, all the different levers you should try to be moving to give yourself the best chance to secure a good position. That’s what I found super helpful, even though I moved through the process in an accelerated way.

Participation is Required, Own Your Journey

By | Athena In Action, Executive Development | No Comments

by Danna Lewis, COO of Athena Alliance

I stumbled upon this quote recently while looking at my intense schedule and wondering how to fit ‘it’ all in. You cannot fail without your consent. You cannot succeed without your consent.

I’ve been reflecting on this quote as it pertains to my personal and professional life, and how the two integrate and intertwine. I’m (still relatively) new to Athena Alliance and I’m swimming in the daily intensity and demands of a startup COO. That means seemingly endless meetings, events and networking, projects, an inbox that multiplies by the minute–and of course my personal obligations. Sometimes it all flows and sometimes these elements collide to resemble more of a rollercoaster ride than a smooth-flowing schedule of activities and events folding into each other.

Happening in parallel: my own executive development journey. As a leading member of the Athena team, I’m grateful to have the incredible opportunity to become more board savvy, increase and improve my leadership presence, and work towards my own journey to the boardroom—with Athena Alliance backing me every step of the way. Not only am I deeply enthusiastic about the possibilities this holds, but it’s been a process I’ve enjoyed. So far.

That is, until I realized it had been at least two months since I looked at my board bio.

That is, until I realized I had missed that meeting with a journey advisor.

That is, until I didn’t take the time to send our writer edits on my resume.

 

Sometimes I forget: I’m in charge.

I know better. After 25+ years in the business world, along with the importance of integrating a healthy work-life space, success doesn’t happen by accident. You have to set yourself up for it. Just like board seats don’t happen by accident, you have to set yourself up to be ready in advance of the opportunity.  Whether it’s the last mile to the boardroom or the journey to higher ranks of advancement, it takes directed effort.

I realized that I was putting it off. Weekly. In the competition of everyday priorities, my board “homework” lost the fight, every time. There was always a tomorrow. Always a proclamation of “I’ll get to it later.”

Then, I realized the crazy in my procrastination. There I was, with a huge gift in front of me in the form of the Athena Alliance executive development program—and I wasn’t holding up my part of the deal. Guilty as charged. As an Athena member, your journey is a shared responsibility. On Athena’s end of it, there’s an ocean of resources at members’ disposal from our Member Success Managers to the resource library to the expert executive coaches all there in my corner, ready to guide, coach, and connect me.

And on my end, I had homework to do. Each part of the journey requires personal input. That meant allowing time to think about my career wins. Quantifying them. Reflecting on where I’ve been and where I stand today. It also meant being willing to let go of some things that, even though they were accomplishments, didn’t necessarily feed or support where I would like the journey to take me.

Athena Alliance brings extraordinary women together. Many join through individual membership. And, often, it’s because their employer is sponsoring their membership. In those cases, that means the employer is investing heavily in its female executive leaders. They want to see these remarkable women hit the next level of their career. They’re not just checking a box, they’re championing the success of their female leaders.

When I was the Brand & Marketing Director for Bar Method, it wasn’t just a perk that I could attend the company’s top-rated exercise classes during the day, it was part of my job and part of creating a successful company for me to participate in every way. I realized the same is in play here, participating in the executive development coaching not only contributes to my personal success journey, it also contributes to me creating successful services for Athena members.

I can see the same holding true for any of our members. Participating in Athena’s executive development program will absolutely contribute to you at a very personal level but it will also contribute directly to your company and all of the stakeholders of your company. You leading at your highest levels of impact is a win for you and every stakeholder in your company and the company of which you land a board role.

 

How I’m making it happen.

I’ve done some shuffling on my end, and I’m sharing it here in hopes it inspires other members to act. Beyond making the commitment to myself (it’s the start), the most powerful thing I’ve found is letting others you work with know that this is a priority.

I’ve also let my administrative team know. I lean on them to help carve out time in my day to make this a reality; to guard my inbox and my calendar so that I can make it happen. They know, now, that when I have a meeting on the calendar to meet with a coach, discuss a challenge, or do my ‘homework’—well, it’s a priority. I’ve found it powerful to let others in my life know about my goals and to help them keep me accountable. Is there another Athena member that could perhaps be your accountability buddy? Athena’s member success manager, Shanna, may also offer an opportunity for you to have a chain of accountability.

We’re an organization of extraordinary women. We comprise some of the top leaders in our industries. We have so much to offer and so much experience to share with each other, with our companies, with the boards of today, and with future board opportunities—but we’re not superwomen (though, we’re awfully close!)

I encourage you to let influencers in your life know what targets are on your horizon and the importance of this journey to you. And let them know that you’d like their support in making it happen. I suspect that you’ll find momentum in that support system.

Now, that’s something worth working towards.  

Creating a Go-to-Market Portfolio that Conveys Your Leadership and Results

By | Athena In Action, Board Savvy | No Comments

Journey Tip of the Month

By Adriana Azuri, Executive Coach—Board Package Creation

As you come across a board opportunity through Athena, a friend, or network contact that seems to beckon your leadership skills and expertise, please ask yourself, “Do I have a board portfolio that best aligns my leadership and history of results to what this board is looking for?” In some cases, all you may need is an introduction to that “right” person. But after that introduction has been made, that person—or board—will need to know about you, what you have accomplished, and how your contributions compare to those of others, before they can determine if you are best aligned with what they’re looking for. While some may be fortunate to only need an introduction to receive a call and the ability to position themselves the right way and land that opportunity, many also will be asked for a resume and a bio to know more or share with others who are key in making that decision.

As I work with my members in step two of the 6-step journey, we do a deep dive, collaborating through a discovery process to determine your best leadership attributes with your most impactful career achievements, while ensuring these align with the board opportunities for which you are best suited. It is critical to know and be able to convey the value YOU bring to the board that sets you apart from other peers who would be trying to attain the same board seat. Our outcome together is a portfolio with an executive-branded resume or CV, board bio, elevator pitch, and LinkedIn profile with a consistent message and branding of that value.  

How to Create Your Message

Regardless of your industry or executive role, to be successful in crafting your message of leadership and experience, we begin by depicting the initiatives you’ve spearheaded and the results you’ve generated, substantiated by metrics of results and scope to promote the impact or place it on a map. We set forth to create your competitive advantage, much like you would do for a business through an innovative product – but now this product is YOU.

As we look under every metaphorical rock, consistent themes start to emerge, making you synonymous with stories of growth, turnarounds, successful strategies, and innovation, just to name a few. Leveraging the scope of the organizations for whom you’ve delivered high value—along with the budgets, P&L, or revenue amounts you’ve delivered and the size of teams you’ve overseen—your picture of leadership becomes clearer and more convincing. We then merge that with the results you’ve garnered benefiting those businesses including revenue growth or creation, cost savings, efficiencies, and improvements. Additionally, we incorporate your professional affiliations, non-profit service, speaking engagements, keynotes, published materials, education, and relevant information that convey your thought leadership in a well-rounded manner alongside your career progression.

As we position these in their respective format structures of an executive resume or CV, a board bio, and your LinkedIn profile, we ensure that despite where someone reads about your leadership and experience, your brand and messaging is consistently depicted. Further, we collaborate to develop your elevator pitch for you to use in a conversation or interview for an opportunity, a network contact that can help connect you to an opportunity, or anywhere you are introducing yourself. This pitch will also be aligned to the message and brand from your other portfolio pieces, answering the questions of who you are, what you do, and how you deliver value.

While most wish to immediately start by writing a board bio and pitch, it is important to devote the time to go through this process. It is critical to deliberately discover and elevate the position of your overall career achievements, ensuring these are well-rounded and not all about the same type of value, inadvertently providing a narrow view of your leadership. I guide my members through this purposeful process in 1:1 sessions, asking the right questions to optimize these stories. If you set specific time to go through this process with intention and attention, collecting and telling your best stories of leadership and accomplishments, your materials will truly reflect them.

How To Build Your Board With Intention

By | Building the Modern Boardroom | No Comments

By Coco Brown, Founder & CEO of Athena Alliance

There are many misconceptions about boards, but one of the most popular may be that boards are only necessary for companies of a certain size or stage. It’s not that founders and CEOs fail to grasp the value of boards—they place them on the backburner. All too often, boards become a checklist item that many CEOs choose to deal with down the road.

“When we get funded.”

Or, “When we hit X revenue milestone.”

Or, “When we need to make a board, we’ll take care of it.”

The truth is, delaying your board is akin to leaving money on the table.

The right board can deliver incredible value regardless of what stage you’re in. It’s an opportunity for CEOs to gather valuable feedback from diverse perspectives, to ensure they have advisors in their corner to help them navigate any issue that comes their way, to gain confidence and credibility, and to open up revenue streams and identify game-changing partners. Truly, boards can elevate and strengthen a company at any stage. Here’s how.

 

The idea stage: Tap into priceless expertise.

The earliest stages of a company are overwhelming. You don’t know what you don’t know. You may be entering an entirely new market or field; you probably don’t have a giant rolodex of critical contacts just yet; you’re testing for product-market fit; your business model is rapidly coming together (or falling apart).

In this early stage, there’s a good chance a board may be the furthest thing from your mind. However, surrounding yourself with a team of advisors—even informal ones—can be a smart move to help you define your product and strategy.

Scott Tavenner, founder and CEO of Savino, knew he needed outside expertise when he launched his company. Savino makes a wine preservation system. While Scott was enthusiastic about the idea, it was an entirely new market for him.

“I didn’t know retail. I came from software,” he explained. “I needed to learn everything—about manufacturing, retail, product development, how to get my foot in the door at retailers.”

Rather than operate in a vacuum, Scott turned to outside help from the beginning. He started with his immediate network. He reached out to contacts in a very personal email with very specific requests. Which trade shows have you found to be most valuable? How did you start selling at this retail chain? He took the time to do research and to hone in on specific contacts who could help him tackle specific challenges.

As Scott gathered information and refined his product along the way, he continued to expand his circle of contacts. He would get introduced to others outside his initial “layer” and leverage them for advice and industry expertise. But as he refined his business along the way, he would continue to go back to contacts he had already spoken with and check-in again. It was a meticulous, interactive process of learning, refining, and validating his early-stage product using a “concentric circles” approach.

“I would listen to feedback and then make an active decision whether to follow it,” he said.

In addition to gathering insider knowledge, Scott structured his business to mimic that of a VC-backed business—with a similar governance structure. He made that choice to make the transition easier when and if the day came that it was necessary. He pointed out that when you start selling, things will only get busier and you’ll have less time than ever—so go through the board and governance process now.

 

The product stage: get serious about your strategy.

What happens when you gain some traction and hit revenues ranging from hundreds of thousands to millions? This is what I refer to as the “product stage,” where you may have a combination of individual advisors at your side and a formalized board of advisors. The individual advisors serve as critical connections as you build your rolodex and seek to gain credibility in the outside world. And, your Board of Advisors guides you as you determine product-market fit.

This stage of a company is complex, if only for the slew of decisions that you must make combined with the enormous pressure to perform. Founders and CEOs must make decisions such as whether to accept outside funding, whether to trade ownership for advisory positions, and more. They’re also typically new to the role of managing a board—building those relationships and getting the most value from them.

“I had one seat to fill. And I knew I wanted to fill it with a woman, someone who can navigate new markets, someone comfortable with Silicon Valley,” reflected Mowgli Holmes, founder and CEO of Phylos Bioscience. He knew what he wanted in his last board director. At this point, his startup, which specializes in genetic certifications for the cannabis industry, had raised minimal funding but had grown to over 50 employees. Pioneering a new industry opened up canyons of opportunity for him and his team. It also meant the stakes were high. Mowgli was set on building a board that would help him navigate all the complexities before him.

“A lot of people choose board members for the optics,” he said. “I wanted to make sure we were doing the right thing. We didn’t want to make the classic mistakes. We wanted to make intelligent decisions.”

Mowgli knew a board could help him get there. This is a crucial stage that can make or break a company. He spent countless hours looking for his perfect board candidate, but something happened along the way: he met numerous experienced leaders in bioscience and tech. These were people who were passionate about the industry, excited about the potential, and enthusiastic about helping Mowlgi find his way. So, while Mowlgi launched his search with a laser-focus on finding one individual, he wound up with numerous advisors. His challenge now: continuing to navigate a more formal structure and making some serious decisions about board seats and advisory roles.

“I’m not sure I want to give any of them up,” he said, referring to the pool of candidates he discovered. He’s got some tough decisions to make, but he’s absolutely right to believe that he doesn’t have to give anyone up entirely. Each of these connections is a competitive advantage. Each of these advisors can help Mowgli and his business secure their relevance in a fast-changing, tech-driven economy. This is the power of advisors as you grow your company.

 

When you’re gaining traction: find those who can help you scale.

In the tech world, hitting revenues of millions and multi-millions is impressive, but there’s much more to be had. As you take in more investor dollars, the pressure is on to drive value and dramatically increase your customers and revenue.

If you’ve received outside funding, consider adding one or two independent directors. These outside viewpoints will help shape your company’s narrative and solidify your value. You should also think about them differently than the board members who came along with funding or founding. Instead, consider these independent directors the way a public company would: with a sense of tenure (to take us from here to there over a two-year period) and the ability to fill a critical gap in thought leadership at the board level around the key imperatives the company must achieve to get from millions to hundreds of millions. These directors are critical in shaping everything from go-to-market strategy and customer success to product scalability and vertical expansion.  

If you’re self-funded, consider structuring your company with a true fiduciary board, or an advisory board that operates as if it were a fiduciary board. Remember, board members exist to help guide your company at the highest levels. They’re on your team, championing your success. Creating a more formal board structure (even for informal boards) isn’t just good for your business, it’s good practice for when you do require a formal board.

 

When you’re scaling: Be prepared to address any threat and any opportunity

As companies mature and hit the tens of millions in revenue and higher, it’s critical to place even more structure around your board so you can gain the most value. This means you need to not only give thought to the value your board members bring to the table, but also to the greatest challenges your business is facing. You should be molding your board to address these challenges.

Crafting a board capabilities matrix can help. This serves as a visual map of capabilities and gaps, helping to highlight areas of weakness as well. It also means you should continue to build your committees and hold them accountable. A board that is positioned to address your unique challenges will be one that can steward your company to the next point on the horizon.

 

Make your board your greatest competitive advantage.

Forming a board takes work, and managing a board takes work. But founders and CEOs who work to build boards, starting from the very early stages, gain immediate ROI. And established companies who put thought and strategy into their board structure gain a competitive advantage in a market where every move counts.

It can feel like it’s you against the world. But it doesn’t have to be. Choose to take outside feedback. Choose to put the strongest, healthiest structure in place to help you find solid footing. Choose to get laser-focused on doing what’s right for long-term success. You can achieve this by building your board with intention.

Meet Our Members: Merline Saintil

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Merline Saintil is a force. She’s a senior technology executive with more than 20 years of experience in guiding companies to develop award-winning products for a global base of consumers. She’s on the Board of Directors for Banner Corporation (NASDAQ: BANR), a bank holding company in Washington state where she advises the company on cyber risk and technology trends and is a member of the Risk Committee and Compensation Committee. She also sits on the Board of Directors of Nav Inc., a venture-backed, late-stage pre-IPO company that helps small businesses build, protect, and leverage their credit data for access to streamlined financing.

As one of Athena’s earliest members and supporters, Merline holds a special place in our hearts. Through her partnership and leadership, Merline helped Athena secure initial investment through Intuit, and today she sits on our board.  Currently, Merline is the Chief Operating Officer at 7 Cups, the world’s largest artificial intelligence (AI) platform for anonymous and holistic mental health support and emotional well-being. Prior to 7 Cups, she was a senior executive in the Product & Technology group at Intuit, a Fortune 500 company and maker of QuickBooks and TurboTax.

Business Insider recently recognized Merline as #6 on their list of the 22 Most Powerful Women Engineers in the World. Beyond this, she is recognized as a Women of Influence 2017 by Silicon Valley Business Journal and was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by Girls in Tech. And recently, Carnegie Mellon honored Merline with its prestigious “Return on Education” award.

 

Tell us about your early involvement in Athena Alliance. What piqued your interest?

There’s a significant gap for female executives, it’s the last mile that’s the hardest for them when it comes to achieving a board seat. The question is, how do you get high-touch, one-on-one connections? Athena helps executives shape a board bio, tell their story, and connect to the right networks to ensure you are in the right place at the right time —all of which are difficult to do when you’re super busy. Getting involved was a no-brainer for me.

How did you know a board seat was right for you?

In a theoretical sense, many people will aspire to be at the top. I don’t just mean CEO, because ultimately the true top is the board—the body the CEO reports to. It’s a big responsibility to serve on a board. You need to understand why you want to do it, what you can get out of it, and what you will need to put into it. I wanted to join a board for several reasons, but I think two reasons are important for others to consider. I wanted to have the experience that comes from the overarching stewardship of an entire business. Secondly, I wanted to embrace the duties of care and loyalty that come along with being a fiduciary of a company. It’s a level of accountability and oversight I really want to contribute.

How did you work Athena Alliance into your busy executive schedule?

I love that the program can be totally customized. For me, I was pretty aggressive and I just went through it. However, there were other members who were busy and it took longer, and some who fell in between. The fact that it can be tailored to each individual member is amazing. The flexibility of the program is one of the things most members will find appealing. Athena will go at your pace.

Were there any surprises along the way as you went through the Board interview process?

There was one good question that came my way. If a person is not retired, you’re called an operator. I was asked, “Merline, are you done operating?” All that question is supposed to elicit is if you understand the difference in being a board member with oversight responsibilities versus having a role in managing the company. You need to clearly understand the difference and it can be nuanced. If you can’t understand the difference between the two, you’ll trip up pretty quickly in the board meeting. As I’ve heard it described best “eyes in, fingers out.”

That must be a tough switch, to understand the different roles.

It was spot on; it was the best question to ask. Of course, there’s the basic stuff, too, like will you fit in, the culture, all the obvious stuff. But fully understanding what your role is, that unwritten rule about how to be successful or start to be successful is vital. For example, just like people can’t tell you that you’re talking or solutioning too much in a meeting, you need to have self-awareness about the dynamics in the boardroom. It’s a skill to move from solving the problem to guiding others to solutions with experienced and thoughtful questions. This need is magnified in the boardroom.

How do you continue to learn through this experience?

I constantly seek feedback. I ask board members privately: how did you think this went? I’m constantly looking for that feedback to make sure I’m balancing my self-awareness and other people’s perceptions of me. Athena also creates a structure for intimate ongoing learning through salons [salons are events that Athena Pioneers—members who have achieved board seats—host in their homes to share insights.] It’s an opportunity to learn how to approach and behave with respect to a variety of boardroom topics and concerns.

What advice about networking do you have for other members?

Just do it. It takes a lot of time and effort. But you just have to do it. [Editorial Note: Athena CEO, Coco Brown, just wrote an article on the importance of networking and staying top of mind. Read it here.]

How can current aspiring directors in the Athena program get the most out of their investment?

Taking advantage of the high-touch programs and tools are just table stakes. Leveraging Athena to expand your network is the harder part. It requires that you engage the Athena team to ask for connections to VCs, seated directors (board influencers and decision makers), and that you attend the events they host where these key connections are present as well. Most board searches—I think more than 80 percent—happen because of a network connection. When you’re asked to make a connection regarding a board search, people will have likely already done homework on you and they aren’t going to take you through a traditional interview process. Athena will connect you to Pioneer mentors who can help you prepare for what’s to come in the formal and informal selection process ahead of you.

How do you maintain confidence as a board member who is new to a company and new to the process?

We now have three women on the board, but at the time, I was just the second. And I was the first person of color. The average age is 63, and I am definitely younger than that. But I’ve never let my differences not let me be confident with what I bring to the table. They wanted me for my cybersecurity and technology experience. I was also in the California market, a market they were very interested in.

So, that’s what I lead with. They know I’m not a former CEO of a bank. People tend to get hung up that they aren’t the same, but it’s important to celebrate your differences. And—if board composition is done right—they are looking for different skill sets. Embrace who you are and lead with that.

Is there anything else you want aspiring directors to know to hit the ground running as a new Director?

Don’t wait to find your voice; that advice is passé. Find your voice immediately in the area that you were brought on to oversee, and use it. You can bring value on day one after joining a board.

Connect with Merline through LinkedIn or on the Athena website.

Women Helping Women: The Three-Minute Challenge

By | Athena In Action, Executive Development | No Comments

By Danna Lewis, COO of Athena Alliance

I was having lunch a few weeks ago with a friend and professional colleague who told me a story. A true story about two women. One woman had a direct connection to a high-powered executive role. The other woman was interested in the position but needed an introduction to get her foot in the door. While the first woman expressed enthusiasm at the idea—and even promised to make an introduction—it just didn’t happen.

“It’s frustrating,” my friend told me. “Because the candidate is a perfect fit for the job. She just needs the intro to get things going.”

The story is disappointing, but it’s especially concerning to me because that was the fourth time within a few weeks that similar stories were shared with me about a missed connection. An introduction not made. A deal falling through. An opportunity missed. And each instance was an event that transpired between women.

I want to talk about women helping women.

 

Cues from our male allies

It’s tough to discuss this topic without discussing men. While this isn’t meant to be a male versus female comparison, I think there’s always room to learn from one another. The following story from a friend’s husband is a great example:

A friend of mine mentioned that her husband is interviewing for an executive position in a new city. He’s more than ready for the next move in his career, but the relocation factor is a big deal. It makes it a far bigger commitment. He’s also moving to a different market. He wanted to know: was he receiving a fair job offer? Was he expecting too much (or not asking for enough?)

Here’s what he did to evaluate the opportunity: he asked five or six friends (who all happened to be men) what they thought of his offer. He asked friends in his field, inside and outside his market. It was purely about gathering data, it was all about the numbers, no arrogance, no ego in any of the information sharing.

His friends gave him inside information he never could have received from online research. Not only did they throw out a range of numbers, giving him something to consider, but they also gave feedback on potential challenges and roadblocks he may experience. They suggested questions to ask as he evaluated the opportunity. There was a shared interest and action-oriented response to ensure these phone calls were about banding together, exchanging information, and making sure he was receiving a fair offer.

My friend told me this isn’t the first time she’s seen her husband and his male allies do this. In fact, she said there’s an inherent trust in his network—he knows he can pick up the phone, reach out to a friend regarding a matter like this, and the friend will have his best interests in mind. This could mean connections to jobs, insights into a company he may be evaluating, referrals, or more. It’s completely organic and instinctual. The shared pragmatic approach of the collective group leaves no room for bragging, competing, or exclusion.

What would this look like if women took the same approach? Pragmatically empowering each other with insights, knowledge, and connections to truly soar in our careers?

 

A place of abundance

What is the hesitation in women helping women? How has this become an issue?

Some of it could stem from a feeling or perception of a lack of abundance. To many, there is the belief we’ve always had it harder. Often, we’ve had to work harder (from degree programs to the hours we put into our jobs). Often, we’ve had to justify our way into leadership roles at both big companies and small (validating our experience and proving our expertise). And let’s face it, many of us feel like we must go to superhero lengths to prove that we can do it all. Perhaps these experiences have hardwired within many of us to laser-focus on our own goals, rather than take an active interest—or take action to support—the goals of the collective group.

Prosperity consciousness is the mindset that there is more than enough available of what you desire and seek in life and work. While there may be more than one right person for a job or a board role, what if supporting each other in our endeavors allows a place of abundance? Taking this approach may connect us to opportunities we weren’t even aware of simply due to a lack of connecting, follow-up, or following through.

I see confidence within women who take the time for action-oriented support, a confidence in knowing that there’s enough opportunity to go around. A confidence in knowing that you can look to your network of women for just about anything, including evaluating an offer or connecting you with an opportunity. It’s confidence in knowing that, without a doubt, these women have your best interest in mind.

 

What can you do for your network?

No doubt, another challenge women face is time and resources. We’re all busy. We’re all juggling competing priorities, often we’re just trying to do too much.

But I invite you to challenge yourself: What can you do for your network? This month, this week, or even today? What can you do in just three to five minutes of your time?

What would it take for you to make the time to introduce an ambitious, intelligent colleague you know to a career-changing opportunity?

What would happen if you followed up on that introduction request from a few weeks ago?

Who do you know who would make a great asset to your company board, or to a contemporary’s board?

How can you give feedback or advice to a woman you work with or network with—advice that could change their outlook or open new doors?

What women in your circles deserve to know each other, but they just need someone to facilitate the introduction?

 

We’re stronger together.

We all have the opportunity to impact each other’s days and lives in a positive way. Opening doors and helping our network form the right connections is one important way you can achieve this. We’re all in this together. Some of you are absolutely determined to get that first board seat, while others simply want to connect with other powerful women and men and continue on your executive development journey.

There are great opportunities out there for each of us. And they may just be one email or introduction away. We can get there faster if we proactively support on each other.

What can you do for another woman in your network today?

Building an Ecosystem for the Modern Boardroom

By | Announcements, Athena In Action, Meet Our Partners | No Comments

Meet Our Latest Partners

We’re thrilled to announce that six additional organizations have partnered with Athena Alliance, making the commitment to helping their executive women lead at their highest levels of impact. Our new partners, LinkedIn, Gainsight, Okta, Workfront, Delphix and Costanoa Ventures, are investing in the development of their women VP- and C-suite leaders by sponsoring their participation in a custom-tailored Athena Alliance program. The program will increase their board savvy, prepare them for board engagement and, should they desire, board directorship.

These partners are making an investment in the executive development of their women. They’re also making an investment in the health, sustainability and future of their organizations and others, as many of these women may join the boards of public and private companies around the globe. Helping women refine their leadership abilities and lead at their highest level of impact is a critical missing piece at organizations of all sizes, and the data illustrates this point: women hold just 11 percent of board seats for companies under the $1 billion market cap (which account for 67 percent of NASDAQ companies and 24 percent of NYSE companies), and women hold only 9 percent of board seats for companies under the $500 million market cap. We need to make more progress, and it begins with investing in executive women.

By partnering with the Athena Alliance, these new partners are not only helping to lift their female leaders, but they’re leading the charge in making a potentially domino-like difference in boardrooms around the world. Every woman they sponsor may lead to another board, diversified. Every woman they sponsor may lead to an organization, more capable of radical innovation and more prepared to take on the competition. Imagine the possibilities; these six partners alone may open the doors to enabling dozens of boards to future-proof their companies for business in the modern era.

 

Athena: a launch pad for women, a catalyst for radical board transformation

Athena Alliance works with individual women, as well as public and private organizations of all sizes, to craft customized programs. Every program is personally tailored, as we work intimately with our female members on board readiness assessments, coaching sessions, workshops, and salons. We’re built to foster access (between the right executives and into the right boardrooms); to expand networks (to remarkable women leaders and one-of-a-kind opportunities); and to prepare the next generation of board directors (ones truly prepared to tackle today’s digital and global threats and opportunities).

Athena Alliance seeks to assist four main audiences:

  • Forward-Thinking Leaders (Grand Benefactors and CEO Champions): We work with leaders across a wide set of industries who have vested their personal time and interest into contributing to women leading at their highest levels of impact and developing an ecosystem of diverse boards.
  • Corporations: We help corporations nurture their top female talent.
  • Investors: We help venture capital firms create more effective, diverse boards across their set of portfolio companies. We expand their networks by providing access to a range of experienced, insightful female leaders. We empower the top women across their portfolio companies through our customized executive development programs.
  • Individual Women: We cultivate a network of experienced VP- and C-level female leadership. These women are aspiring directors or existing board members who are looking for their next position, or who can help mentor aspiring directors.

What our partners have to say

“The statistics speak for themselves: companies with diversity in leadership consistently outperform their peers. There’s no industry where diversity and representation are more important than the technology sector as the things we build have the power to reach everyone in the world. The Athena Alliance is a leader at helping to accelerate gender diversity in the boardroom, and at Okta we’re committed to working closely with Athena to champion our powerful, cross-functional female leaders – together taking one step closer to gender parity in the boardroom, and across our industry.”

– Kristina Johnson, Chief People Officer at Okta.

 

“Gainsight is deeply aligned with Athena Alliance’s mission to increase gender parity in the boardroom. We’re honored to take a role in creating more awareness around this critical issue, and we’re committed to making boardrooms more diverse.”

– Nick Mehta, CEO, Gainsight

 

 “We felt it was important to take explicit action that helps our companies move toward gender equality. Athena Alliance gave us a partner at the board, buyer, and leadership development levels, so we were excited by all the ways it can help our companies improve.”

– Greg Sands, Founding Partner, Costanoa Ventures

 

“Workfront is a pre-IPO company that may have the opportunity to become a public company in the future. Many times, when a venture-backed company evolves from being private to being public there are changes to the board structure. We want to begin to build relationships with talented individuals who may be interested in a board role with Workfront in the future.  

And, every time we work with an organization like the Athena Alliance we learn something, we grow, and we improve. What I am most excited about the partnership with Athena is the opportunity for Workfront to be a better Workfront.” 

– Alex Shootman – President & CEO, Workfront

 

Poised for growth

In addition to these partners, Intuit, Athena’s first corporate partner, has committed to expanding the relationship further offering this program to a wider range of their executive women. Also, Athena recently announced a new investor program partnership with TA Associates, a leading global growth private equity firm.

These partnerships mark a strong first half 2018 for our organization. We’re excited to set these women up for success as they begin their personal executive development journeys. We’ll be working with each, individually, to help them grow in our community and expand their own network to create meaningful, career-changing connections. And, we’re honored to work with these bold new partners to help them invest in their top leadership and champion diversity at the board level.

What a powerful start to 2018!

Catalyzing Ecosystems: A Peek Inside Athena Alliance’s City Launch Guide

By | Athena In Action | No Comments

A Letter from Athena Alliance Founder & CEO Coco Brown & COO Danna Lewis

 

Dear Athena Members, Partners, and Supporters:

Athena Alliance began as small, quarterly gathering of women executives in quiet and interesting restaurants, for which the attendees would trade off footing the bill. The early goals of Athena were simple: to create an intimate environment through which a curated group of top female executives could learn from and support each other. At first these were gatherings of technology executives, simply because it matched to Coco’s background running a technology company herself.

The technology-centric theme quickly faded away as women invited others to the table. Chief marketing officers. Heads of human resources. Chief financial officers. Venture capitalists. It was all the things relationship-driven networking should be: organic, warm, authentic. These women weren’t gathering to collect business cards; they were gathering to learn from each other and to give each other strength. In doing so, they created stepping stones and career ladders for one another. Athena Alliance was born.

San Francisco and Silicon Valley, the heart of the organization, grew fast. Members popped up at a steady rate. Intuit and Autodesk came to the table as early corporate partners, setting the tone for long-term success. Seattle quickly followed as a thriving market, thanks to a significant investment from Microsoft, with many members, brands, and Athena ambassadors coming to the table with offerings of support. Then Boston joined with significant collaborative partnership with two investment leaders, OpenView Venture Partners, and TA Associates.

These are the roots of Athena’s ecosystem of connections and partnerships, built to empower women to lead at their highest level of impact, to help companies develop their top-tier female leadership, and to create sustainable, healthy businesses and communities.

But that was just the beginning. Now, Athena is on the precipice of expansion. Read on to see how we’ll continue to build our ecosystem across the U.S. and beyond.

 

Key cities. Strategic events.

Athena builds a stronghold in key cities in two ways. The first is an organic sprouting of members in a location. As a member base grows in any single city, it makes sense that we find a more formal home there. The second is a strategic targeting of key markets throughout the U.S. where we have a natural, simmering hub of opportunity—the right blend of progressive companies and corporations, potential CEO champions, investment firms, and our backbone: extraordinary female leadership.

We envision our first year in a new city to be guided by series of four events:

  • Event One: Stewarding long-term corporate value. We’ll pull together a wide net of stakeholders in a new market. We’ll bring them together for an intimate, fireside-chat style conversation on what it means to be a healthy, sustainable, socially-responsible business for that particular market. What does that demand, and what (or who?) is needed to achieve it? We’ll cover topics such as executive development, board-savviness, network leverage, and shareholder value.
  • Event Two: The Modern Boardroom. What does an ideal boardroom look like, and what does the construct look like for a business ready to succeed in a highly competitive environment? Through a panel discussion, various Athena leaders and partners will discuss topics such as how to build your board with intention, what’s required of boards at various company stages, and how to think through what an organization needs in a board director.
  • Event Three: Crafting your story. Here, we’ll speak to Athena members and aspiring members, walking them through strategies for branding their relevance and gaining executive buy-in. We’ll host an exclusive private workshop on storytelling and branding. Additionally, we’ll have a networking event where women can connect with one another and learn branding wisdom from an experienced speaker.
  • Event Four: Celebration and reflection. This final event culminates a year of growth. It’s a celebration through which we can look at where we started and where we’re heading.

Once we’ve hosted these four events, we’ll no longer be looking to enter a region; we’ll have claimed a regional presence. This means we have a critical mass of members, including Pioneers (women on public or large private boards) and Aspiring Directors (women who today are ready to be recognized at the board level whether to join an outside board or be more relevant and elevated in stature with respect to their own board) across a region. Along with these members, we envision three to five investor partners and three to five corporate partners to help solidify our presence. Additionally, we’ll identify a noteworthy female leader in the region to be our regional ambassador.

By then, Athena will have developed an ecosystem where female leaders, at the top ranks of leadership, will be nurtured through white glove, one-on-one executive coaching and monthly salon events—intimate evenings hosted by existing members who have achieved a board seat.

Simultaneously, we will introduce these women to board influencers and decision makers in all locations, well in advance of opportunity. Our goal will be to enable women to be in the right place at the right time, or be a known thought leader within the right circles where she can shape opportunity for herself.

 

We hope you’ll join us.

You don’t have to wait until we’re launching in a new city to join us at an event. Following is a list of upcoming Athena events. Are we coming to a city near you? We’d welcome an opportunity to meet you in person.

  • Seattle: Salon | Board Effectiveness – How to Develop a High-Functioning Board | Tuesday, September 18
  • Silicon Valley: Salon | What I Wish I’d Know About the Board Selection Process – Hindsights of a New Director | Wednesday, September 19
  • Houston | Stewarding Longterm Corporate Value with Director’s Academy and Baker McKenzie | Friday, September 28
  • Silicon Valley: Salon | Making it Work – Board Service and an Executive Role | Monday, October 1
  • San Francisco | The Modern Boardroom and the Diverse Roles It Requires, co-hosted with Okta | Wednesday, October 3
  • Chicago | Stewarding Longterm Corporate Value, co-hosted by Morningstar | Wednesday October 3
  • San Francisco: Workshop | Board Bio Workshop, hosted by Deloitte | Thursday, October 11

 

This is what momentum looks like.

Any time there’s growth, there’s an opportunity to leap forward, to look behind—and even to stumble. As we develop and implement this framework for cultivating new regions, our goal is to maintain the intimacy and warmth of the culture we were founded upon. A place where existing female directors can lend a hand (and solid advice) to aspiring members; where members know they can call upon each other—and us—when they need some encouragement, or even just a friendly voice at the end of a chaotic week; where corporations and investors become intimately intertwined with the communities they serve.

As we grow, community and connection will continue to be at the center of our operations. Stick with us. The only way to go is up.

Now, onward.

Calif Bill 826: Stop Fixating On Women. Focus On Board Composition.

By | Announcements, Building the Modern Boardroom | One Comment

By Coco Brown, Founder and CEO of The Athena Alliance, an organization dedicated to helping more women attain board seats

California Bill 826, which would require women to be on the board of any public company headquartered in California, is sitting on California Governor Jerry Brown’s desk. It calls for boards to have one woman by the end of 2019, and by the end of 2021, it would require two women for a five-person board and three women for a six-person board. If I were Governor, I would vote to enact this bill, despite its numerous flaws. But I would be voting for it with a heavy heart, disappointed that it has come to this.

Here’s why: women can, and should, be earning board seats based on their own merit. Companies can, and should, be building thoughtful boards that are stronger and more diverse than ever. Achieving this isn’t difficult when we shift the conversation away from a talent pipeline issue, and instead focus on the board construct issue. Companies should be constructing boards with leaders that offer contemporary experience, from a wider range of roles than just the traditional (and now antiquated) construct of primarily CEOs and CFOs. By focusing on the skill sets and perspectives that can truly lead a company in today’s modern age, boards would naturally be more diverse.

As founder and CEO of Athena Alliance, an organization dedicated to seeing that women can lead at their highest level of impact, I work with women every day who are qualified to be on boards. But first they need boards to value roles beyond the CEO and CFO.

 

Are we making progress? No.

Everyone from major media outlets to CEOs across industries of all sizes—they want to believe we are making progress. Companies have invested in roles such as Head of Diversity; they’ve lined up inspirational speakers and progressive workshops; they’ve formed committees; they’ve performed compensation analyses, you name it. It’s no wonder that so many leaders look at these positive actions and feel reassured. We’re moving in the right direction, they think.

How do I know we aren’t making progress? Because the data says so. The media and almost anyone tracking “progress” focus only on the top companies. This tells us that women hold 22 percent of S&P 500 board seats (or that 22 percent of board seats are held by women in companies with $50 billion or greater market caps). When you look at things that way, it doesn’t sound too terrible. Yet, these figures only speak to giant, global companies—they don’t represent the masses.

Here’s another way to look at it. Research we conducted with The Bahnsen Group shows only 135 companies (just seven percent!) on the NYSE and 43 companies (less than 2 percent!) on the NASDAQ have market caps greater than $50 billion. And, as a 2018 study by the Business Journal found, the reality is that women hold only 11 percent of board seats for companies that fall below $1 billion market cap (68% of NASDAQ companies!), and only 9 percent of board seats for companies under $500 million market cap. These figures mirror reality for the majority of companies. Who can confidently call this progress?

 

A corporation should conform to the values of its community

The importance of board diversity extends far beyond maximizing profits and governance. Corporations have a responsibility to represent their communities and integrate with them. This is necessary to secure long-term company value, sustainable purpose, and address valuable matters of Environmental, Social, and Governance Criteria (ESG). Boards that are mostly white, older men who are retired CEOs or CFOs will not achieve this.

Some argue that Bill 826 interferes with the corporate structure that allows for corporations to be governed by the laws of the state in which they are incorporated. I’m not an expert in corporate law, nor will I pretend to be, but I will point out that corporations religiously dodge laws for tax breaks and other benefits. It’s contradictory for corporations to pick and choose the laws they feel “interfere” with governance. Instead, corporations should focus on serving their communities and leading with purpose.

Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, with $6.3 trillion assets under management, said it well in his recent letter to portfolio company CEOs. He called on them to create more diverse boards because “society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose. To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society. Companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate.” Through Bill 826, California calls upon corporations to operate in accordance to its stated values.

 

Diverse boards will naturally include women

My proposal: rather than companies fixating on women (or even women focusing on women), focus on building thoughtful, strategic board structures that reflect modern challenges and opportunities.

To form smarter boards, companies must look at their greatest imperatives and their greatest threats. They must consider the expertise that can help them achieve these imperatives. If more companies were honest with themselves about the real skill sets and expertise they require, then their board compositions would shift to include roles such as chief marketing officers, chief customer officers, chief human resource officers, chief medical officers, and so on. And guess what: more than one-third of the executives in these roles are women (whereas women are only six percent of CEOs and 11 percent of CFOs).

It’s time that companies widen their view on what skills are critical in the boardroom. By doing so, companies would naturally open the door wider, inviting women to the table, as well as men of different backgrounds and ages. It wouldn’t be about avoiding a fine. It wouldn’t be about checking the box. (Frankly, it wouldn’t even be about doing the right thing, but there is that to consider, too).

It would be about building strong, healthy businesses.

Coco Brown is founder and CEO of The Athena Alliance, a non-profit organization dedicated to building the modern boardroom and advancing women in the top ranks of leadership. She is on the board of DevOpsGroup, Athena Alliance, and previously Taos Mountain Software. Twitter: @CocoBrown1020