Q&A: Rent-A-Center’s Angela Yochem Wants More CIOs on Boards
More companies are adding technology executives to their boards of directors as business models come to rely increasingly on IT and data. “The thought of having your business governed by a board without strong technology foundations, it doesn’t make any sense,” says Angela Yochem, CIO of Rent-A-Center Inc. Last month Ms. Yochem joined the board of analytics startup Rocana Inc.
Still, CIOs are not well-represented on public boards because boards are sometimes unsure about the kind of technology skills and experience they need and turnover among directors is slow, she says.
Ms. Yochem, who also served on the board of Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh for more than two years, talked with CIO Journal about what boards should seek in a CIO and what CIOs should gain from a board appointment.
What was your early board experience?
At the Federal Home Loan Bank, they were explicitly seeking somebody who could provide expertise in cybersecurity. This was soon after the Target breach, where directors were removed from the Target’s board. That’s no joke. That’s a black mark. They also wanted to look at technology in terms of innovation, not just protection. It used to be that boards designated a technology person from a large tech vendor. That is well and good but not sufficient. It takes somebody with deep understand of how to introduce risk and opportunity in the corporate use of technology.
What holds CIOs back?
There is a level of sophistication expected at the board level that sometimes is not found in a sitting CIO. That’s changing as the demands and expectations for a good CIO generally are changing. CIOs now should be strong business leaders in addition to deep technologists. It’s hard to find people of that mix, though they are growing in number.
What do you want from participating on a board?
When I consider whether to join a board, what I think about is, is it an interesting company. The second thing is the people. Do I respect them? Do I believe they’re ethical? Am I going to learn from them? Am I going to grow as a result of this engagement? And am I going to enjoy this engagement? What I think is foundational to this idea of CIOs joining boards is that today it’s just impossible to separate business evolution from technology advancement. The thought of having your business governed by a board without strong technology foundations, it doesn’t make any sense.
Source: The Wall Street Journal