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Monday, 13 January 2014 10:00

Five Leadership Trends and Patterns - Technology Company Board of Director Appointments

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Vell Executive Search has summarized Board of Director changes in major technology companies in 2013. We looked at 83 companies in the software, digital media, telecom and tech services sectors.

There were 112 appointments, of which eleven were Chairman Appointments, and 29 total departures, with a split as follows:
Q1 - 17 Appointments, 8 departures
Q2 - 24 Appointments, 9 departures
Q3 - 36 Appointments, 8 departures
Q4 - 35 Appointments, 4 departures

Out of the departures, there were 20 total resignations and nine retirements.

Diversity observations:
1. There were 29 women directors appointed, or close to 26% of the total appointments. Four women left or about 13% of the departures.
2. The diversity prize, in my opinion, goes to Sprint for appointing a Hispanic female to its board. This is a very rare category for technology board members.
3. The telecommunications services board appointments also deserve special mention, as they were predominantly female in 2013.
4.  Finally, Advent software had the sole female Chairman appointment.

We observed five patterns in the 2013 Board appointments:
1. More CIOs/CTOs and Engineering execs: There is an increasing number of technology function execs on boards, CIO/CTOs and Engineers. Microsoft’s former Chief Software Architect, Ray Ozzie, was appointed to HP’s board. Riverbed technology welcomed Intel’s CIO and a Microsoft R&D vet.  We expect this pattern to continue; these new board members either represent a customer set,  or help companies think through complex strategic technology decisions.
2. Functional Diversification: We have observed a diversification of functional experience, although the traditional CEOs and CFOs continue to be well represented. Academics joined the likes of Facebook,’s SVP of strategy joined Rackspace, Qualcomm welcomed a diplomat, and salesforce an ambassador with strong legal chops.
3. Normalized ages: Unlike prior years, ages were more normalized. There are still appointments that are not within the norm, such as the 73 year old lead independent director at Accenture. I think that age diversification is good in general and that individual capacity should outweigh any other measure.
4. Lack of industry cross-pollination: Industry expertise/diversification is low, except for the Telecom Services sector. A handful of executives (non-CIO/CTO) came from other industries, which include automotive, retail, and public sector executives were appointed. However, the presence of other industries was remarkably absent.
5.  Lack of deep global experience: Deep global expertise is making an appearance. I would have expected more than that in light of the global nature of most of these companies.

For more information, please refer to our newsletter, where we examine in some detail the following:

New 2013 Chairmen: New Chairmen were appointed in nine companies. Accenture and Fortinet combined the roles and Symantec and e*Trade split the roles. Former execs and founders were appointed at Infosys, Fortinet, and Advent. See Section on New 2013 Chairs.

Boards with High Turnover: In addition to the Chair turnover, HP had two directors step down, on the advice of ISS, because of their role in the controversial Autonomy software acquisition; Yahoo’s extensive changes were associated with the departure of shareholder activists and their appointees;  salesforce revitalized its board, after two long serving execs retired; e*trade saw a number of changes, after four years of un-profitable results; similarly Compuware appointed a new Chair and board members after an announcement of missing earnings targets. See section on Boards with High Turnover.

We also look at specific sectors, such as Digital Media, Software, Telecom Services, IT Services and Telecom Products.

Vell Executive Search is a retained executive search firm that specializes in recruiting board directors, CEOs and C-Level executives in the software industry. Vell has built a reputation for recruiting talented high-performing leadership teams globally. You can reach us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and our website is

Read 4821 times Last modified on Tuesday, 08 September 2020 12:03
Dora Vell

Dora Vell is the Managing Partner of Vell Executive Search, a boutique executive search firm in Boston focused on recruiting technology executives and board members. Vell has successfully completed numerous board member and C-level executive searches, including CEOs, COOs, CIOs, and Vice Presidents - at both public and private companies.

Prior to founding the firm in 2005, Vell was a Partner at Heidrick & Struggles' Technology practice for seven years.  Before her career in executive search, she worked at IBM for 11 years, managing software engineering organizations of 100 people and software sales organizations with revenues of $150 million. She has also served as an executive assistant to the CEO of IBM Canada for one year.

Vell holds seven worldwide software patents. She has published several Business of Leadership reports on governance and leadership and has been quoted in numerous articles including 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 also has been a featured speaker on leadership at numerous conferences and at Columbia University's MBA program.

Vell is a member of the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD), the Boston CEO Roundtable. She has served on the boards of Framingham State, Entrepreneur's Organization, Goodwill, Mary Centre for developmentally handicapped adults,, and RBC Capital Partners.

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

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