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Ridgeway Partners Tech Leaders on the Move – Q3 2021

By Newsletter

Here is the next installment of my tech talent newsletter. My goal is to give you relevant insights into talent, hiring, and corporate governance within the technology space. This newsletter will look at trends across the:

  • Board level
  • Executive (C-suite) level, and
  • Earlier stage talent (0-10 years of work experience)

Board Level Trend: Cross-Industry Diversity of Thought

We’ve heard it before—bringing different perspectives and wider experiences to the board level improves your company’s performance. But in addition to companies making their boards more gender and racially diverse, companies are now more often adding board directors from outside their industry who can bring a fresh and different perspective.

Examples of Cross-industry Board Appointments

  • Cisco appointed Marianna Tessel to NED. Tessel was formerly CTO at Intuit.
  • General Motors named Meg Whitman NED. Whitman comes from Hewlett-Packard, where she was President and CEO.
  • Cigna appointed George Kurian, former CEO of NetApp, to NED.

While the first outside board member is most often from the company’s industry, there is increasing cross-pollination between regulated industries, like financial services and tech, which makes sense; boards are looking at leaders who can provide a new way of thinking, but boards want those leaders to have experience operating in heavily regulated industry.

Examples of Fintech/Tech & Banking Cross-Industry Board Appointments

  • Marqeta named Martha Cumming NED. She comes from Wells Fargo, where she was Head of Compliance Strategy & Operations.
  • ACI Worldwide hired Mary Harma as NED. Harma was previously Managing Director of Enterprise Payments at Bank of America
  • FVC Bankcorp appointed Meena Krishnan to NED. Krishnan comes from Inoventures, LLC, a national award-winning business analytics firm, where she was President and Chief Executive Officer.
  • Lendingtree named Erin Selleck NED. Selleck was previously Treasurer at Union Bank.

Executive Level Trend: Stopping the “Brain Drain”: The Rise of the Head of Digital Workplace & Tech Employee Experience Leaders:

After a long year and a half since the onset COVID, in a world that’s becoming more accepting of remote/hybrid work, there’s been a shift in focus on employee tenure and stopping the “brain drain”. Why? Because it’s typically harder to onboard employees due to less impromptu conversations and “water cooler” talk. Current employees also have a better sense of a firm’s culture, business objectives, and already have the internal relationships in place to move the needle.

Yet how do you ensure that these employees are not only happy but equally effective in a remote/hybrid work environment? By adding talent in newly created employee engagement/tech chief of staff roles, of course! This is different from finding a former HR leader or Chief Talent Officer to be your Head of Employee experience (like what PayPal did), I’m talking about companies finding a former tech leader to figure out how to make your employees happier and more efficient by leveraging tech.

Examples of moves

  • JPMorgan is taking this seriously and promoted JR Reid of the newly created employee experience and corporate tech group, which is
    modernizing the tech platforms employees internally to improve employee engagement and efficiency.
  • Salesforce hired Jill Tucker (a former CTO) as VP of Business Technology & Employee Experience
  • Raytheon hired Kelly Candler as VP, Digital Workplace & Employee experience. She was previously VP, Product Delivery, Digital Workplace at GE

Even if your firm will be going back into the office full-time and remote onboarding isn’t an issue, reversing the “brain drain” and improving employee tenure is still a pressing issue. Did you realize the average employee tenure is only 1.1, years at Google, 1.8 years at Uber and only 2.1 years at Dropbox? Clearly there’s lots of room for improvement when it comes to employee tenure.

Earlier-Stage Talent Trend (0-10 years of work experience): Universities team up with private companies for mutual benefit

The demand for the top tech talent is so fierce that companies are engaging this talent as early as possible. They do this not just by setting up innovation labs (many of which are near universities), but also by funding AI departments and labs at universities themselves, in order to gain access to research, experts, and young talent (such as IBM’s $20 million pledge to Notre Dame’s Tech Ethics lab).

Additionally, companies are adding top AI & Computer Science professors as Advisors. One of the main benefits of doing this? These advisors can serve as recruiting/brand ambassadors by connecting their employer to their top students. By working with university professors, companies are able to have an inside view of (and early access to) up and coming talent, while also promoting brand awareness. On the flipside, professors are able to increase their salary, and prime themselves for potential future board appointments at tech companies.


  • Experian appointed Renato Vicente, associate professor of applied mathematics at the University of São Paulo, as chief data scientist in one of its research-and-development labs.
  • Morgan Stanley hired Michael Kearns, a part-time computer and information science professor at the University of Pennsylvania, as a
    senior adviser in its AI Center of Excellence.
  • JPMorgan Chase & Co. appointed Manuela Veloso, a Carnegie Mellon University professor currently on leave, to be its head of artificial
    intelligence research.

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About Us:
Ridgeway Partners is a 50-person, retained executive search firm with offices in Boston, New York and London. We specialize in technology, financial services and where they intersect.

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