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.