10 tips for CIOs looking for a seat on the board

Board appointments require careful consideration and preparation. Here’s how IT leaders from Procter & Gamble, Biogen and Google Ventures secured their seats.

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CIOs who strive to be board members must be able to communicate with senior executives and rapidly analyze balance sheets, 10-K filings and other financial documents. But there is much more to serving on a board than showing up for meetings and discussing corporate strategies. Board membership requires CIOs to build rapports with senior managers, which they say helps them become better leaders at their own companies

That was the gist of a Forbes CIO Summit panel Monday in Half Moon Bay, Calif., where roughly 100 CIOs met to discuss digital transformations, the evolution of the CIO role and several other pertinent topics. Linda Clement-Holmes, Procter & Gamble CIO; Andi Karaboutis, Biogen executive vice president of technology operations; and Stephen Gillett, former Starbucks CIO and Symantec COO and current Google Ventures resident, discussed how they landed their board seats and offered some advice to CIOs who wish to occupy a board seat.

Not too cool for school. To better prepare for her board seats at Advanced Auto Parts and Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts (BCBS), Karaboutis took classes in accounting, paired assets and financial management at Harvard University. She also took a biology class to prepare for her role at Biogen, which makes drugs that fight neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis, hemophilia and autoimmune diseases. "You figure out where your gaps are and then you go for it," says Karaboutis, who worked as the CIO of Dell before joining Biogen in 2014. She adds that CIOs are better positioned than any other executive to have a unique of the breadth of operations across the entire company.

cio board panel

From left to right are Andi Karaboutis, Stephen Gillett, Linda Clement-Holmes and moderator Peter High. (Click for a larger image.)

Getting the board seat: Karaboutis says that while she didn't actively lobby to be a board member, being a known quantity with a broad network of IT and business leaders helps immensely. She also made sure her LinkedIn profile was professionally curated, citing the breadth of her experience, including past roles and membership in organizations such as the Women in Technology and Michigan Council of Women in Technology. "A lot of people don't know how important that is," she says. That networking and awareness doesn't end once you land the seat. Once installed on her boards, she made sure to know all of the biggest investors and stakeholders in those organizations. "Widen the aperture, take that all in and note all of your constituents," she says.

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