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Four building blocks to that first board post

illustration of woman with key to locked question
Diana Wilde 25 February 2021
Writing for gender gap campaigner EVE List, I outline four building blocks to your first board appointment.

1. Plan your career

If you are interested to develop a successful board career, start by planning your career trajectory in the company you’re with. You also need to consider the kind of board you aspire to be a director with – aside from common board skillsets such as governance and financial acumen, different boards require expertise on specific areas. For instance, large corporate boards often value M&A experience, or look for prior C-suite experience in similar sized companies. Make sure your HR teams are aware of your career aspirations, and ask them to support you with charting your career development path.

2. Get the right experience

While you’re building your corporate profile, volunteering on a board of a not-for-profit, academic institution or similar organisations can help to get a head start on your board career. These opportunities will enable you to develop essential board skills – such as governance, and gain the experience that will positively contribute towards future board appointments. Additionally, this serves as a great way to build your network – you never know who is volunteering beside you!
[Aurora50’s Gateway online programme is for women in senior management looking to secure their first board position.]

3. Keep up with ‘in-demand’ skills

Increasingly, boards have started appointing individuals – especially younger ones, with specialist skill sets in directorship roles. Areas such as AI, big data, cyber security and digitisation are only some of the new, in-demand skills that boards are looking for, in response to a changing digital-first landscape.

4. Put yourself out there

Don’t assume that people are aware of your board aspirations. Make sure you tell relevant individuals, such as those who currently serve on boards, so they can recommend you where possible. You can also explore opportunities within your own organisation that allow you to volunteer for internal committees, such as ‘youth councils’ etc. Find a mentor or coach, preferably within your company, who can help with furthering your career aspirations. Make sure you make the best of networking opportunities – whether professional mixers, industry events or training and development sessions.
Serving on the board of an organisation is a position of great responsibility. As a board director, you are responsible for aspects such as ‘horizon scanning’, risk planning/ mitigation and overall financial control and governance. In short – you can be a part of, and drive, the success of a company!