Tuesday, 31 October 2017 01:58

Simple steps to your next board seat

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Are you seeking your next board seat in a technology company? It is often helpful to look at the current composition of technology boards and what skills and experiences are currently in demand. 

Public Tech Companies over $100m

We studied public technology companies studied in the US and Canada with at least $100m in revenues.

The number of companies is 581.  There were 4,305 individual board members occupying 4,830 board seats.

Executives Seeking their First or Next Board Seat: while this report focuses on technology company boards, we are seeing more and more corporations of all industries needing technology executives. We touch on this in the technology hot topics. More to come on corporate boards seeking technology executives in an upcoming newsletter. 

We welcome your comments, questions, and also trends you may have observed. 

Thanks again and all the best,

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Managing Partner, Vell Executive Search
Veteran recruiters for Tech board members and C level executives 
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.* (617) 530-1260 * www.vell.com


In this Newsletter 

Summary of what we learned 

Where are the board seats?

- Average number of board seats by company size
- Overall number of board seats by company revenues
- Number of board seats by tech industry sub-sector

Tech Hot Topics in tech boards & other corporate boards 

Age Distribution 

Functional background of Board Members sitting on Multiple Tech Boards 

Education Matters

- Highest degree attained - overall
- Highest degree attained – single & multiple boards
- Percentage of Board Members from Top Schools 

About Vell Executive Search

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Where are the board seats?

Summary of What We Learned

  • There are more board roles in the $100m to $500m companies overall, even though they have fewer board seats per company.
  • Industry sub-sectors with the most board seats: Software leads the way with 30% of the board seats, the Hardware sector has almost 20%.
  • Getting on your own company’s board: you may have a shot if you have one of the following roles. Companies between $100m to $500m have 18% insiders and include non-founder CEOs, including CTOs, CMOs, COOs and Presidents.

Technology Hot Topics in Tech Companies & All Industries

  • Analytics & Data, Virtual Reality and leaders in the innovative breakthrough sectors.
  • Hot topics in all Industry Sectors:  Cybersecurity, Digital Transformation, Analytics & Data,  Cloud operation and  ERP (from a Deloitte study lines up with our own)

Ages:  41% are between 50 to 60, and 36% over 60.  But ages vary from 25 to 94. 

Education Matters

  • Harvard leads the way in all categories and some of the other Top Ranked Universities. As with everything else, it is an indicator of success. Other factors also weigh in, like deep expertise in something hot or have recognizable company names.
  • 75% have an advanced degree. The top degree in demand seems to be an MBA. The second highest degree attained is a Bachelor’s.

Committee Leadership Specialization: specializing in a specific committee and leading one gets you multiple boards and board leadership opportunities to head up committees.

Functional Representation:

  • For executives sitting on multiple boards., CEOs and GMs take up 53% of the roles, and CFOs make up for another 22% of the roles.
  • New functional areas: a new trend are  CHROs with Succession Planning experience to supplement compensation committees.


Where are the board seats? 

Smaller companies have smaller boards:


There are less board seats in smaller companies (7 on average) than in the larger companies (11.1 on average).

2017 October 31 Average Number of Board Seats by Co. Size png

However, most of the board seats are in smaller companies.

2017 October 31 of board seats Available by Revenue Companies

Number of Board seats by Industry sub-sectors: Software companies have about 31% of the seats, followed by hardware companies at close to 20%.

2017 October 31 Seats Available by industry Subsector png


Technology Hot Topics

Analytics & Data, Virtual Reality and leaders in the innovative breakthrough sectors.

Our study lined up with Deloitte’s textual analysis of 7,925 companies' public documents (specifically 10ks) tech themes:


Emerging technologies (e.g., bitcoin, cognitive computing, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, Internet of Things)

Core/legacy systems (e.g., legacy IT, legacy systems, core systems, application modernization)

Security and privacy (e.g., security, privacy, privacy policy, risk management, cyber, cybersecurity, customer privacy, data breach, CISO)

Analytics and insights (e.g., data analytics, data insights, artificial intelligence, big data, business intelligence)

Cloud (e.g., cloud, software as a service, platform as a service, infrastructure as a service, names of key technology firms and their products)

Enterprise resource planning (e.g., enterprise resource planning, ERP, names of key technology firms and their products)

Customers (e.g., customer, customer relationship management)

Ecosystem (e.g., ecosystem technology partner, technology ecosystem, technology vendor)

Technology-enabled business/digital transformation (e.g., digital innovation, digital transformation, technology disruption, technology innovation, technology road map, technology transformation) 

Technology strategy (e.g., technology strategy, IT strategy)

Age Distribution

The preponderance of tech directors – over three-fourths – are in their 50s (41% overall) and 60s (36%), with an average between 57 and 58 years of age. However, among companies with over $5b in revenue, the order is reversed –directors in their 60s outnumber those in their 50s. 

Looking across the industry sub-sectors, we find the youngest average age among directors in Internet Retail and Software (around 54), and the oldest in Electronic Components and Healthcare Tech (around 61). 

The Fast Starters (board members under 40) generally fit into one of three categories:

Strategists and investors: Highly educated from top tier schools and have experience in highly respected companies.

Technologists and entrepreneurs: Have expertise in highly hot tech topics, such as big data and analytics, social networking and consumer acquisition, digital transformation, merging virtual reality and traditional media, and others.

The well-connected: Well-known or family connections; many hold distinguished backgrounds that rival the other two categories.

The Grey Hair

Notwithstanding mandatory retirement ages in governance charters, there are quite a few board members older than 70.

  • There are 24 women and 717 men 70 years or older.
  • The oldest woman is 79. The oldest man is 94.
  • 77 men are over 80, and seven are over 90. 
  • Some are “new hires”: Salesforce named a 74-year-old European regulator to its board.


Functional Expertise for Executives Serving on Multiple Boards 

It is not surprising that CEOs and CFOs are the top two functions occupying technology board seats. General Managers typically are GMs or Presidents of divisions of well known large companies. 

A couple of notes: 

  • There is a broader representation of functional areas within the overall group.
  • Technology execs with different functional backgrounds are in increasing demand for corporate boards (non - tech boards). They are sought after for specific expertise in digital transformation, analytics and data, cybersecurity and many other areas, as outlined in tech topics above. 

2017 October 31 Percentage of Board Members from Top Schools png


Education Matters 

We tracked the highest degree attained for tech board members:

  • 76% of board members overall have an advanced degree. 
  • 84% of board members sitting on multiple tech boards have an advanced degree.
  • MBA is the most common such degree, followed by Bachelor's degrees and then other advanced degrees.


2017 October 31 Highest degree Attained Single and Multiple boards png

 Having a degree from a top school (as defined by US News ranking “Top Colleges”) helps... the distribution below is the subset of all tech board members we studied. 

The distribution is fairly similar for large company boards. 53% of large company board members have attended at least one top school with Harvard at 11%, Stanford at 9%, Wisconsin at 7%, MIT at 5.5%, Princeton 5.5%, UCLA 3.6%, U Penn at 3.6% and the University of Texas at 3.6%.

2017 October 31 Percentage of Board Members from Top Schools png 


About Vell Executive Search 

Vell Executive Search is a retained executive search firm that specializes in recruiting technology board directors, CEOs and C-Level executives. Since 2005, 

Vell has built a reputation for recruiting talented diverse high-performing leadership teams globally. 

Our services are designed to help you build strong leadership teams that deliver success.

We are a boutique firm with Fortune 500 experience. Veteran senior consultants with backgrounds at the world’s largest executive search firms handle our board and C-level assignments. Because our executive recruiters are technology industry specialists, we can focus more time and attention on fewer searches and projects – and drive strong results.

With our unique operational and technical background, Vell becomes deeply versed with your company faster, helping not only find the right candidates, but also excite them about your opportunity and perform assessments to ensure the right skills and cultural match. 


You can reach us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 617-530-1260.

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Read 2074 times Last modified on Monday, 17 August 2020 16:20
Dora Vell

Managing Partner

Dora Vell is the CEO of Vell Executive Search, a boutique executive search firm in Boston that recruits technology executives and board members for companies ranging from promising tech startups to Fortune 100 companies. Throughout her 22-year career in executive search, she has successfully completed hundreds of assignments, placing board members, CEOs, COOs, CIOs, technology officers, vice presidents and many other C-level executives. Vell’s clients span both private and public companies and her work has included searches in markets large and small across the U.S. and Canada.

Prior to founding Vell Executive Search in 2005, she was a partner at the executive search consulting firm Heidrick & Struggles for seven years. She started in the Technology Practice in the Toronto office, became the firm’s Technology Practice leader for Canada, and then joined the firm’s Boston office.

Before her career in executive search, Vell worked for 11 years at IBM Canada in software-related roles of increasing responsibility. She started as a software engineer, managed a software engineering team of 100, and then led software sales for IBM Canada. She holds seven worldwide software patents. This deep industry understanding has helped Vell Executive Search become a recognized leader in finding senior executive and board talent for software and SaaS companies.

Vell is a recognized industry thought leader who has published several reports on governance and leadership topics. She has been frequently quoted as an expert on executive and board leadership by outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Business Week, Fortune, Agenda Week, MSNBC, Mass High Tech, The OPUS for the World Economic Forum, Boston Business Journal, The Globe & Mail, CIO Magazine, and IEEE. She has been a featured speaker on leadership at numerous conferences and at Columbia University's MBA program.

Vell has been a Fellow of the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) and the Boston CEO Roundtable. She has served on the boards of Framingham State University, Entrepreneur's Organization, Goodwill, Mary Centre for Developmentally Handicapped Adults, garage.ca, and RBC Capital Partners.

The trilingual daughter of a diplomat, Vell grew up in Canada, Greece, France, Switzerland and China. Her unique multicultural and international perspective, experiences as a woman in the male-dominated software field, and insights as a dual Canadian and U.S. citizen inform all her work for clients.

Vell received an MBA from the University of Toronto, a master’s in Computer Science from the University of Waterloo, and a bachelor’s in Computer Science from Carleton University.  She has also completed the MIT Entrepreneurial Master’s program.

Areas of Practice:

  • C-Level Technology Executives
  • CEOs, CROs, Heads of Sales, Heads of Marketing, Chief Product Officers
  • Technology Officers: CTOs, CIOs, Heads of Engineering, CISOs, Chief Data Officers
  • Board Directors
  • Diversity Executives and Board Directors
  • Canadian Executives and Board Directors



1 comment

  • Comment Link Niraj Jetly Saturday, 04 November 2017 13:48 posted by Niraj Jetly

    Very insightful about board composition and trend by industry sector vs. company size.

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