Networking is obviously crucial, particularly for building connections outside of the tech world, whether internally or externally. What is less obvious is that networking is a skill that needs honing, particularly if you are not a natural.
For those tech leaders whose daily conversations are jargon heavy, practicing how to communicate your expertise in an engaging and simple manner is key to successful networking with non-tech peers.
It is arguably even more important to listen. Again, as obvious as that sounds, many slip up when networking because they are overeager to sell themselves. Self-promotion is important. But you are networking to learn about board responsibilities, opportunities and how you can contribute. Those kind enough to help you will appreciate being heard and remember you for it.
If you are among the many people who aren’t natural networkers, consider hiring an executive coach to help identify social behaviors and blind spots to work on. These coaches are well connected with executive search consultants with access to unique board opportunities.
“If you receive a call from someone in executive search, take the call and have that conversation. At the very least, you can build your network and get on their radar,” says Stefanie Kutteh, a Senior Client Partner in Korn Ferry’s Technology and Software Practice.
And don’t forget to talk with your executive co-workers. A number of them will already be board members and can provide excellent advice.
4 Unique perspective
As a technology leader, you are already in a unique position to add value to a board, thanks to your holistic understanding of a company. After all, tech is now embedded in every aspect of corporate life, every business unit and department. Few other roles can boast this all-encompassing perspective.
“The technology leader’s role has never been viewed as more strategic,” says Kutteh. “Companies are now demanding that technology officers serve as strategic business partners to senior leadership teams and across organizations”.
Take advantage of your unique company-wide technological perspective to form clear points on how your expertise will contribute to the board, backed up with evidence of your track record. How did your initiatives improve revenue and productivity? What innovations did you lead? How did you handle that ransomware attack? Do you have any patents to your name?
Moreover, as our relationship with technology deepens, boards need tech leaders to guide them through the opportunities and the risks it presents—particularly the risks. AI is going to play an increasing role in companies’ growth and product development plans, so boards need to have solid governance in place to protect the company and its stakeholders. As such, next year is going to be an important year for developing AI governance guidelines, says Chris Cantarella, a Korn Ferry Managing Partner, Global Software Sector.
For this reason alone, boards need more tech experts, particularly as many directors feel undereducated and fear being left behind amid an AI arms race. It’s time to compete for a seat at the table.
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