Exclusive Video: Nadine Thomson on the new digital non-exec

Nadine Thomson, Group CTO at GroupM (WPP) speaks at Tech LIVE Virtual on the rise of the new digital non-exec

In this Fireside Chat at Tech LIVE Virtual, Nadine Thomson, Group Chief Technology Officer at GroupM, speaks about the rise of the digital non-exec.

The session explores how the boardroom is currently transforming in terms of digital and data expertise and the opportunity for technology leaders to serve in a Non-Executive Director (NED) role.

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Speaking at Tech LIVE Virtual, Nadine Thomson provided insights on what boards look for in NED roles, what these roles involve, and how technology leaders should go about navigating the journey to the boardroom.

“When you're in an executive role, you're working within an organisation, you're delivering a program or a project or a product or multiple programs, projects and products. But when you're in a non-executive role, you're advising and directing the strategic direction, but you don't operationally deliver,” Thomson explains. 

“It's a very different type of mindset. One important thing when technology leaders take on a non-executive role is having that mindset of not operationally delivering, but more about providing strategic advice. That sort of leadership is what a board is looking for. 

“Boards set the strategic aims of organisations. They look at the short term and the long term opportunities, threats, risks, both externally - so other businesses and competition and the geopolitical landscape - and then, of course, look internally as to what challenges are coming up internally.

“They oversee the management of the organisation, so they ultimately have the power to hire or fire a CEO. They look at executive compensation and they manage executive performance. They're ultimately accountable to shareholders. 

“If you're thinking about that, that is very different to what a sort of a leadership role in technology might be. It's not operational and it's not necessarily problem solving, which a lot of us as technology leaders are really good at. It's more directional, it's more thinking about the bigger picture, asking questions, and coaching.”

As Thomson describes, NED roles require a number of particular skillsets, from commercial accumen to an ability to see the bigger picture.

“It needs commercial acumen, so really being able to understand the numbers, which is an important skillset that we really drive in technology.

“It also requires skills like seeing the bigger picture, and this is beyond technology, seeing the bigger picture in a business conversation or a HR conversation or a finance conversation. So rather than seeking to problem solve, which is an element of it, it's more taking a step back and seeing all the different parts and then potentially what risks and opportunities that might bring.

“Another skill set you need to bring to a non-executive director role is reducing complexity. And I think that can be challenging sometimes for US technology leaders because we do live in a very complex world, but that sets a skill set I think that you need to bring to a board. 

“And I think finally, and this is a really important one, it does require charisma, requires people skills.

“You've got to influence other board members.And I know that a lot of technologists do develop these skills as they influence their organisations to take different paths in technology or digital decisions.”

To watch any of our other speakers from Tech LIVE Virtual, click here.

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