Becoming a High-Tech Director: Three board members share their journeys and advice.

Author:Tahmincioglu, Eve
Position:BEING A HIGH-TECH DIRECTOR - Cover story

There's a building drumbeat to get technology expertise on company boards, and that even includes legislation to push the issue in boardrooms. While the answer is often to bring in younger, geekier directors, the best candidate may already be sitting at the boardroom table.

Existing directors, even those past retirement age, are starting to look in the mirror and say, "I can be a high-tech director."

With technology invading almost every part of business, from computers to e-commerce, it makes sense for all directors to have a level of tech knowledge in order to do their jobs well. It's imperative for everything from making sure company systems and customer information are protected to spotting the next disruptive technology that could impact business.

"We have to raise the existing board members' digital competency," says Bob Zukis, a technology consultant, a senior fellow with The Conference Board Governance Center, and an adjunct professor of Management and Organization for the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California. "It demands regular board attention from a risk standpoint, but more importantly, from the strategic opportunity standpoint--how technology creates and captures value."

Many board members are starting to take these words to heart.

Directors & Boards spoke to three board members about their paths to high-tech literacy, what they see as a director's role and advice to get your geek on:

Eric McCarthey

Director, Spar Group, Saulsbury Industries, Interra International LLC. Managing partner, Crestlight Ventures & Productions; CEO, Shelty-Viking Capital Group LLC.

When McCarthey was a senior executive at The Coca-Cola Company and part of the strategic planning group, he had to confront the tech world while mapping growth and investments a few years out. The team had to figure out how to utilize and grow the company's digital infrastructure.

Figuring out how technology applied to everything from the supply chain to marketing was a "painstaking process," says McCarthey, who was with the soda giant from 1981 to 2011.

He came up with a formula to simplify the process that has served him well to this day.

"Any business, I don't care what it is, is defined by its business model; that's a combination of the company's capabilities, the markets it services, the value proposition, its operating culture, its leadership culture, etc." he explains.

With all that in mind, he creates a tech map, or matrix, including columns that look at what the...

To continue reading