Welcome To Your Athena Journey!

Getting Started

This portal is a comprehensive resource for board service preparation and includes opportunities for connecting with the Athena community and applying for board opportunities.

When you dismiss this message, you will see your "Journey Dashboard." This dashboard is your roadmap for growth and has been specially designed to prepare you for board service.

You'll start with "Goal Setting and Journey Planning" with your mentor and then move into phase work. Please note that, although all phase resources are available to you at any time, we strongly suggest completing your current phase before moving on to the next.

If ever you get lost, simply click the "My Journey" button in the upper right-hand corner of the site to return to your Journey Dashboard. It is of the utmost importance to us that this portal provide you with all resources you need to reach your board goals. Please don't hesitate to reach out to coco@athenaalliance.org with any questions, concerns, or suggestions.

Thank you for being a member of The Athena Alliance. We look forward to the journey ahead!

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How Much are Silicon Valley Boards Improving Gender Diversity?

By | Board Gender Diversity | No Comments

Findings from the Fenwick & West Gender Diversity 2016 Proxy Season Survey, which looks at women’s positions on boards based on SEC data since 1996, point to a few promising trends and areas where Silicon Valley’s top public firms surpass the S&P 100 in their inclusion.

2016 continued a long-term trend in the SV 150 (top 150 public companies in Silicon Valley) of increasing the number of women directors. Since their 2014 survey, the average percentage of women directors increased 4 percentage points in the SV 150 to 14% and in the S&P 100 rose just 2 percentage points to 23% (with the top 15 companies in the SV 150 increasing 6.5 percentage points to 22%). However, 25% of SV 150 still have NO women on their board.

Key excerpts from the 2016 Fenwick Survey:

Why so few women directors on SV company boards?

In addition to their focus on CEO experience and their own networks that plague many nominating committees when searching for new board members,  additional factors that contribute to the lack of women on the boards of technology and life sciences companies in the SV 150 appear to be that:

  • SV firms’ average board size is smaller than S&P 500;
  • VCs hold many of the seats on SV firms, as they hold sizable shares of the companies’ stock, and women make up a small percentage of such investors.How do women directors fare in leadership positions on SV company boards?

How do women directors fare in leadership positions on SV company boards?

The frequency with which women are included in leadership positions on the board is useful as an important indicator of whether they are being viewed as equal partners with their male peers. While the numbers of women remain relatively small, the SV 150 and the Top 15 SV have surpassed the S&P 100 in this measure.

In recent years, the top 15 largest companies in the SV 150 have surpassed the S&P 100 in percentage of women in board leadership positions, including board chairs, lead directors and committee chairs.

What’s more, when measured in terms of likelihood of being in a board leadership position among women who serve as board members, the top 15 of the SV 150 and the SV 150 overall have been significantly more likely to include women in board leadership positions than the S&P 100.  

Women board chairs are rare at public companies around the world. That is also true for the SV 150 (4.2%) and the S&P 100 (6.0%), although the Top 15 SV companies had more women in this position (13.3%). A major reason for this low number is that many CEOs also serve as chair of their board, and there are few women CEOs.

S&P 100 companies tended to have more women as a percentage of the total number of audit committee members, but the increase in women has been much greater for SV firms during the past 21 years (S&P 100 moving from 14.9% in 1996 to 24.8% in 2016; SV 150 moving from only 1.3% in 1996 to 17.9% in 2016.  The SV 15 has the highest number of women with 29.1% last year.  

Women Directors on Audit Committees 

For more detailed information about other committees and executive management, download their executive summary or their full report.

The Athena Alliance works closely with SV firms to expand their networks to women qualified to serve on their boards. We are here to help. Just ask us how we can introduce you to the talent you need.

Finding Your Unique Selling Proposition

By | Board Bio, The Athena Program | No Comments

Gary Purece is one of several executive advisors for Athena members.  He is a communications advisor who assists executives in clearly articulating their corporate and personal brand message.  Athena Alliance members receive two hours of coaching with Gary to start the process of writing their own board bio for future placement.

Gary penned this advice on how to identify your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)a term which is interchangeable with “value proposition” or “brand statement.”

Think advertising… 

Advertising works only when the words differentiate the product from similar products. BMW differentiates itself with “the Ultimate Driving Machine” (the word car is not even mentioned); GE states “We make things that very few in the world can, but that everyone needs.” These slogans depict a unique selling proposition to help these two companies stand out for those in the market for similar goods and services.

The Unique Selling Proposition contains words that, when clearly stated, explain how you solve problems or help make the company relevant, meet specific needs, and explain to the listener why they should choose you. The USP establishes the unique differentiation between you and the competition.

As an example, I chose the following USP; “Coaching that helps executives communicate with confidence and authority.” In one sentence, I describe my audience (executives), what I do (verbal communication coaching), and the impact (communicate with confidence and authority).

Today, the differentiator statement is not just a necessity, it is a requirement.

As you continue to review your brand statement (it is a work-in-process statement) the following questions will help you refine and update your USP.

  • What is unique about the way I think?
  • What makes me distinctive as a leader?
  • What impact do others expect from me?
  • What impact do others receive from me?
  • What types of solutions do I consistently deliver?
  • What is my legacy/what do I want my legacy to be?

Competition for board seats can be fierce. In order to earn a spot, you must present your unique value to the reader and listener. This is your USP.

Thanks to Gary’s 1:1 coaching on this process, Athena members can clearly define their value in their bios, their LinkedIn profiles and their elevator pitches so that board members seeking directors can more easily see the reasons to consider them.

 

Having Your Voice at the Table

By | The Athena Program | No Comments

In making my decision to join the Leadership Team of The Athena Alliance, I looked at various parts of the program that distinguish it from other board preparation programs. The voice coach is one benefit that jumped out at me.

Voice is one of the most powerful ways by which we convey intent, emphasis, and lasting impression. Yet, very few of us understand how to use the power of voice effectively. Worse, most of us are unconscious of current speaking habits that undermine our authority, negatively impact the way we are perceived and ultimately keep us from having the impact and success we want in the world.

As your journey towards the boardroom progresses, you will be evaluated on what you say and how you say it. Are you conveying your intent, conveying both strength around your conviction and confidence, while at the same time communicating the warmth and openness you want to express to invite discussion and collaboration? If you aren’t perceived as someone the board wants to spend time with for the next 6-10 years, your chances of being selected drop significantly, no matter what your skills.

Voice expert and Athena coach, Hillary Wicht, plays a key role in your membership journey. Through 1:1 coaching with Hillary, you’ll be able to: uncover unconscious habits that are undermining your authority; learn tools you can begin implementing immediately to create the impact you want to have; understand the psychology behind what it means to earn trust and confidence with your communication.

And, having your seat at the table is not the same as having your voice at the table. If you cannot command a space with your voice, you will not be able to fully leverage your knowledge and authority. If you cannot get a word in—if you make a suggestion that seems to go unnoticed, then your colleague three chairs down makes the same suggestion and suddenly the room is buzzing with praise—you are not owning and extending the power of your voice.

This benefit of membership is one of many elements in Athena’s white-glove approach to presenting you as the best choice for a board position and in assisting you in showing up as a great board member once at the table.

by Nancy Sheppard, Member, Athena Leadership Team

 

The Athena Alliance Welcomes Nancy Sheppard, Founder of Women2Boards, to Our Leadership Team

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There is no shortage of qualified women for boards, but there is a need to connect these exceptional women to boards looking to fill an open seat. The current pace of change toward gender parity in the boardroom is 1% per year. At this rate parity for the largest companies will be achieved in 30 years, and for the smallest 50 or more.

The need for an organization that can scale to accelerate the pace of change has become increasingly apparent. We believe Athena is that organization! We expect to see significant expansion for the organization in 2017 through membership development, program sponsorships, and board opportunities. To accelerate our own scale and ability to drive change, Nancy Sheppard, who has expertly led Women2Boards with the same mission, is joining us. Her addition provides us with more resources to augment that expansion.

Nancy founded Women2Boards in late 2014 to provide matching services for smaller company boards. Women2Boards also assisted its members on their journey, providing 1:1 coaching and guidance as they explored board opportunities. Since its inception, the organization has served over 100 women nationwide, and has made more than 30 referrals of qualified women to boards and search firms.

Since Athena’s inception less than one year ago, we have connected women with 17 board opportunities at organizations of all sizes, from large public companies to late-stage private companies; there are more board opportunities on deck to be added this quarter. The organization has received more than $400,000 in donations, including major support from industry leaders Autodesk, Intuit and DLA Piper.

The Athena Alliance is not a recruiting firm and it is not a board training program. Rather, the organization serves as an extension of a board’s intimate network, introducing them to incredible executive women. At the same time, we are an essential part of a woman’s support structure, helping her overcome the ‘last mile’ barriers to board service and ensuring that she is prepared, such that when she is tapped for a board opportunity it’s hers if she wants it.

Nancy will join The Athena Alliance as a member of our Leadership Team with a focus on membership advisory services for women preparing to serve in board roles. She will also drive communications strategies and programs to advance Athena’s mission.

Nancy’s past experience includes 20+ years as CEO and director, Western Independent Bankers, founding board member for a bank services corporation, and trustee for a workers’ self-insurance group. She was a member of the leadership team at the California Bankers Association and spent several years on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. Her record of working in male-dominated environments has given her a passion to assist more women break through the boardroom ceiling. She was selected as one of the Most Influential Women in Business by the San Francisco Business Times. Because of her leadership in the board diversity movement, she was asked to chair the 2020 Women on Boards San Francisco, National Discussion on Board Diversity for the past two years.

I am delighted that Nancy is joining Athena and bringing with her the best practices and wisdom she has developed through Women2Boards. Her past experience, obvious passion for and dedication to helping women as they reach for a board seat will be an incredible asset to our program..

 

The Boardroom: By Invitation Only

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Being considered for an open board seat is an “invitation only” affair. Why? Because deciding who to put on the board is a deeply personal, high stakes decision for the CEO and other board directors. Therefore, you must be part of a trusted network to be seriously considered.

It is important to note that this “invitation only” experience is not usually associated with large, high-profile companies. Larger companies are likely to have brought on more than a few directors over the years and developed a mature Nominating Committee structure and process. They are also likely to hire a recruiting firm to support them. Instead, board additions made through a trusted network are usually those of the young, or small to mid-cap public companies, or well-backed private companies on a trajectory toward a winning exit and looking for their first or second independent director.

Why is the process an “invitation only” experience with these companies? For two very personal reasons:

  1. The process is the only one in which the CEO participates in hiring their own boss.
  2. This new director will be on the board for six to 10 years, or even decades.

Considering these facts, it’s not surprising that personal success and company success are obscurely intertwined in the board decision process. In such a high-stakes situation, board members, usually men, will usually pick — consciously or unconsciously — someone from their network. More often than not, this person will look a lot like them. This inevitability, when viewed through the lens of unconscious bias, makes the progress of diversity in the boardroom achingly slow.

However, when an informed advocate for diversity enters the network and is able to make the case for diverse board candidates, change can happen very quickly. This change relies on access, influence, and positioning. It also requires an awareness of the perspective of the CEO and the board as a whole, who will be evaluating candidates by asking:

  • “Will this person add value?” (i.e. “Will the company thrive as a result of what this person brings to the table?” “Will they evolve as quickly as we do?)
  • “Can we, the board, trust them?” (i.e. “Will they have our best interests at heart?””When we need to make a tough call, do we share the same values and leverage them in similar ways?” “Do we know their triggers, and can they manage them well?”)

“Will our chemistry be strong?” (i.e. “Do we ‘get’ them?” “Do they ‘get’ us?” “Do we understand how they think?” “Will our collaboration make all of us better leaders for this company?”)

Here are my thoughts on the best ways to move the needle more quickly for women (or anyone outside the network) within the realities of how board selection decisions are made.

Access

For those of us sponsoring women, our sharpest focus should be on joining the trusted network of CEOs, VCs, and seated board directors. It is almost guaranteed that these individuals will be male and that their network will not boast many qualified women. Becoming a part of their trusted network means that you are more likely to be made aware of open board opportunities and to be able to put forward qualified women for those roles.

To become part of this trusted network, you must consciously pursue it. If you are a senior executive or in the C-suite, you know at least one CEO, are likely to interact with your company’s board, and are probably invited to events where you mingle with CEOs and board directors. To be aware of open board positions and put forward qualified women, strengthen your connections with these individuals and ask them for introductions to other CEOs, VCs, and seated directors.

I have yet to meet a male leader who won’t consider a woman candidate when they are recommended by someone they trust. In fact, when I tell CEOs, VCs, and seated board directors that I know women who would be excellent choices, their response is usually, “Great! Please introduce me to them so I can consider them for the role.”

Influence

When my organization (The Athena Alliance) speaks with a board influencer or decision-maker about an open board seat, we are careful to move past the discussion of a candidate’s desired title, industry, and company size. We are quick to ask “why” these details matter to them. This question expands the conversation to include the trajectory of the business model and its services, the opportunities and challenges the business faces in scaling, the gaps in the experience and capability of the existing board, and the thought leadership and temperament that is desired in this next director. The result is a broadening of the possibilities around board fit.

The Athena Alliance is a mission-based organization working to advance gender diversity in the boardroom. We are not a recruiting firm and are not hired by the board to find a director. However, we do make introductions between boards seeking directors, and amazing women for them to consider. To begin a dialogue with the CEO and board, we approach them as a trusted member of their network and develop credibility by demonstrating our ability to understand the needs of their business. With this trust and credibility comes a displacement of any unconscious bias as well as an increased interest in considering our recommendations.

Positioning

When you have a clearer understanding of why a board is seeking certain qualities, position a qualified woman by telling a story that illustrates the value she brings to the table. Stories go beyond qualifications to connect the audience with character, context, and contribution. They can be far more memorable than a CV or bio, and can better map a woman’s experience to the needs of the business and the board. Furthermore, by engaging an influencer with a story, we focus on relevant experience rather than job title. This chips away at bias and makes the influencer more willing to consider the candidate. In providing the influencer with a personal story that can’t be found on a resume, we position a woman for success from the start. Unconscious bias is naturally eliminated or suppressed in the face of relevant stories of realized value.

Make it easy:

My final word of advice is this — don’t ask boards to create or participate in a process that they are not already familiar with. Between 94% and 99% of board seats are filled through a network, and this is especially true for small-cap public or the private companies. Networks do not follow a formal recruiting process, and trying to introduce a new process is a superfluous barrier to entry. Instead, meet boards where they are — become a part of the trusted network, help the board’s articulate the value of the right candidate, and present women by telling stories that illustrate the value the board is looking for.

The Athena Alliance Secures Its First Champion-level Sponsorship from Autodesk

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The Athena Alliance is thrilled to announce our first Champion-level sponsorship from Autodesk, a global leader in 3D design, engineering and entertainment software. Autodesk’s generosity will enable The Athena Alliance to increase the visibility of executive women by diversifying their leadership opportunities through networking and corporate board matching.

The Athena Alliance wishes to extend special thanks to Amy Bunszel, Autodesk’s Vice President of Digital Engineering Products and our champion at the company. “At Autodesk, we enable people to imagine, design and create a better world,” said Bunszel. “In pursuing this mission, we are committed to advancing diversity at all levels of leadership and are proud to support efforts to increase diversity in the boardroom.”

In addition to sponsoring The Athena Alliance, Autodesk also supports the advancement of women in technology through involvement with Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code, YesWeCode and TechWomen.

The Athena Alliance wishes to extend our sincerest thanks to Autodesk for their support.

If you or your company would like to sponsor The Athena Alliance in their mission to advance women’s leadership and visibility, please reach out to our CEO at coco@athenaalliance.org.

Lights, Camera, Action at New Relic!

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On Friday, July 22nd, The Athena Alliance joined Emmy Award-winning producer Patsy Northcutt, director Henry Hopkins of H2Video, and executive coach Nan Crawford for a day of filming at New Relic HQ. Together, Patsy, Henry, and Nan directed the development of 15 incredible short videos for The Athena Member Library. Here’s a sneak peek of what they shot:

Interview with Ann Winblad

Ann Winblad is one of the top female venture capitalists and founding partner of Hummer Winblad Venture Partners. She shared incredible insights into board service, from understanding the what, when, and how of introducing the first independent director to a board, to how board dynamics and needs change depending on company type and size. Ann also touched on how a wide variety of executive backgrounds – from HR, to legal, to product – can apply to different boards. Our video interview with Ann will be available exclusively to Athena members to enhance their journey towards board seat attainment.

Interviews with The Athena Alliance Executive Partners

We held interviews with several of Athena’s Executive Partners – Nan Crawford, Hilary Wicht, Hillary Weber, Donna Hamlin, Gary Purece, and Murray Cook. These interviews will be available exclusively to our members in the Athena Member Portal to give members a clearer understanding of how each partner can support them in pursuing their goals around board service.

Training videos from Athena Executive Partners Nan Crawford, Hilary Wicht, and Gary Purece

Topics include:

  • How to Increase Your Impact Through Storytelling
  • Defining Your Unique Selling Proposition
  • Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking and Conquer Stage Fright Forever
  • Create an Authentic Connection with Your Audience
  • Eliminate Unconscious Habits that Undermine Your Authority
  • Expand the Expressive Power of Your Voice to Speak with Confidence and Conviction
  • Embody Your Message With Congruent and Compelling Physicality

We’ll be in video editing for a few weeks, but stay tuned for these new additions to our Member Resource Library!

Event Recap: July’s Elevator Pitch Night

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Elevator rides can be short, so if you need to describe your personal brand and experience in the time it takes to climb a few floors, you’re going to need an elevator pitch that is concise, comprehensive, and well-rehearsed. That’s the idea behind The Athena Alliance’s Elevator Pitch Nights, where Athena women try out their pitches on Athena’s board and executive experts. Our experts provided feedback not only on each pitch’s content but on each woman’s delivery and presence. Here are the unique perspectives each expert brought to the critique:

  • Dora Vell, Board Recruiter – Dora has placed many board directors over the years and homed in on how each woman’s differentiating value was represented in their pitch versus their LinkedIn profile. After comparing the two, she provided on the spot guidance for adjusting the essence and content of each woman’s pitch.
  • Gary Purece, Executive Advisor and Coach – Gary used his expertise in radio, advertising, and branding to enhance the storytelling aspect of each woman’s pitch. He helped strengthen each woman’s unique message of impact and value.
  • Hillary Wicht, Voice Coach – Hilary adjusted for tone, inflection, and physical presence to ensure that each woman’s words and actions were polished and effective. There were a handful of moments in which Hillary worked magic on the pitches of our women, transforming a relatively plain narrative into a powerful one.
  • Hilary Weber, Executive Coach and Innovation Expert – Hilary has consulted a variety of companies and executives around innovation and transformation. She helped our members articulate their true passions and ensure that the types of boards roles they were pursuing would enable them to drive scale and success.

After our experts were introduced, Athena women sat in groups of five with each expert, then rotated to the next table after each of their pitches had been reviewed. As Athena Founder Coco Brown noted, “‘holy cow!’ moments were a constant throughout the evening” and energy was high. Athena women were continually surprised and thrilled with the adjustments and guidance they received. “We genuinely could have gone on for hours,” says Coco, “in fact, we did run well over letting time just fly by! Most of the attendees expressed interest in joining us again for our August pitch night for more refinement and fun.”

Are you an Athena member interested in attending August’s Pitch Night? Click here to RSVP.

The Athena Alliance is now a 501c3 Nonprofit Organization

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Dear members, supporters, and friends,

The Athena Alliance has achieved many important goals in its first six months of operations – we have strengthened our network, expanded our community, and made our very first board match. Today, we are proud to announce one of our most exciting achievements to date – the approval of our application for federal tax-exempt status!

The approval of this status is especially meaningful for me as both an Athena board member and as an attorney at DLA Piper LLP, Athena’s pro bono counsel. Together with my colleagues in DLA Piper’s tax group, we prepared and filed Athena’s application for tax exempt status. This status, more commonly known as 501c3 status for the section of the federal tax code which establishes the exemption, will enable The Athena Alliance to more effectively pursue its mission of board gender parity. The benefits of 501c3 status to Athena, and many other nonprofits, may include:

Fundraising
Donations from individuals and corporations to a nonprofit with 501c3 tax exempt status are generally tax deductible for the donors, which often enhances fundraising efforts significantly.

Grant Funding
Most foundations require a nonprofit organization to have 501c3 status as a condition of eligibility for grant funding. Nonprofit organizations without 501c3 status may miss out on these funding opportunities.

Tax savings
A 501c3 organization is exempt from federal taxes on income derived from activities related to organization’s tax-exempt purpose. The organization may also be exempt from state income taxes, sales taxes, and employment tax in certain states. Every dollar in tax savings may be used to advance the organization’s mission, a valuable benefit for every nonprofit.

Other perks
Nonprofit organizations with 501c3 status may be entitled to various other perks, including discounted rates from vendors and suppliers, discounted postage rates, and lower media outlet rates for announcements and press releases.

Overall, 501c3 status is a game changer for The Athena Alliance and its mission. With tax-exempt status, Athena will be even more capable of creating change at the highest levels of leadership.

Ready to support gender parity in the boardroom? Donate to The Athena Alliance here.

Many thanks to my colleagues at DLA Piper for all of their contributions to The Athena Alliance.

Sincerely,
Debra Vernon
Attorney at DLA Piper & Board Member, The Athena Alliance

The Athena Alliance makes its first board match

By | Announcements, Board Matching | No Comments

The Athena Alliance is proud to announce that FireEye CMO Kara Wilson has been appointed to the board of enterprise software company Jitterbit. Read the press release below to learn more.


Jitterbit Appoints Seasoned Marketing Executive Kara Wilson to Its Board of Directors

Current FireEye CMO Brings Deep Go-To-Market Expertise to Cloud Integration Leader

Alameda, Calif., June  13, 2016Jitterbit, the leading provider of fast, agile integration solutions for the modern enterprise, today announced that it has named Kara Wilson, a seasoned marketing executive with experience scaling enterprise technology companies, to its board of directors. Wilson has deep expertise building marketing teams and implementing go-to-market strategies and will leverage her experience to help Jitterbit expand its market presence and build visibility in the competitive integration market.

“Kara brings an impressive track record of marketing leadership that made her an ideal fit for our board as we continue our market expansion globally,” said Jitterbit CEO George Gallegos. “This hands-on background, coupled with her incredible team spirit and competitive drive, will give Jitterbit an edge as we continue to build upon our marketing strategies and execution.”

Wilson currently serves as chief marketing officer (CMO) at FireEye. She has previously held marketing leadership positions at a number of leading enterprise technology companies, including CMO of Okta, CMO of SAP Cloud, CMO of SuccessFactors, vice president of collaboration solutions marketing at Cisco Systems, CMO of Network General (acquired by NetScout) and vice president of marketing communications at PeopleSoft before its acquisition by Oracle.

“This is a critical and exciting time for the cloud integration market and Jitterbit’s differentiated product sets the company apart from the pack,” said Wilson. “Enterprises today are digitizing every aspect of their business, from the supply chain to the customer journey and everywhere in between. Jitterbit’s adaptive approach to cloud integration, putting the business analyst at the heart of connectivity, is a unique and compelling approach for today’s digital enterprise and I look forward to helping the team continue to tell their story to the market.”

Jitterbit consulted with The Athena Alliance on Wilson’s appointment to its board of directors, and her addition increases the total number of board members to five. KKR director Vincent Letteri was also added to the board in January as part of the Series B funding round led by his company.

About Jitterbit, Inc.
Jitterbit amplifies the value of enterprise applications with a modern, flexible and easy-to-use integration cloud platform. Designed for the technical business analyst, Jitterbit allows companies of all sizes to solve the challenges of application, data and business process integration between on-premise and cloud systems. Jitterbit’s graphical “clicks not code” approach and modern cloud platform accelerate and simplify the design, deployment and management of modern integration projects. Privately held, Jitterbit is headquartered in Alameda, CA. To learn more about Jitterbit’s application integrationdata integration and cloud integration solutions, visit www.jitterbit.com. To join the conversation, follow @Jitterbit on Twitter.

Media Contact:
Alyssa Marty
BOCA Communications
jitterbit@bocacommunications.com