Athena member Alexa King is an accomplished Silicon Valley leader with experience as both an executive and a board member of public and private companies. Alexa brings more than 20 years of experience scaling high-growth businesses from startup stages through IPO and holds deep expertise in cybersecurity, legal, privacy, and compliance issues. She currently serves as EVP of Corporate & Legal Affairs at FireEye. Below, we speak with Alexa about the value she brings to the boardroom, her advice for women leaders aspiring to board service, and her cybersecurity predictions for 2021 and beyond.

Tell us about your executive journey up to this point.

I started as a litigator in law firms and quickly realized that I prefer being an employee of one company over being a hired gun for many. Since then, I’ve been in-house at three disruptive, fast-growing tech companies – and was the General Counsel who took two of them public. As GC, my role is that of “consigliere” to the board, CEO, and executive team. In this cross-functional role, I have a voice in everything from acquisitions to government affairs to patents to employment to contracts. The exhilaration of building a global team and constantly needing to pivot and use different “muscles” as various issues present themselves is what invigorates me. 

What is the unique value you bring to the boardroom? 

I have broad experience both inside the boardroom and as an operational executive helping companies scale and expand internationally through an IPO and beyond. As a sitting director of a public company board at Vocera and as GC of preeminent cybersecurity firm FireEye, I am very familiar with governance issues and understand what makes a board effective and constructive. Additionally, I recently had the privilege of overseeing the investigation and disclosure of one of the most massive cyberespionage campaigns in history, and my expertise in cybersecurity enables me to advise on the board’s fiduciary duties related to this area.

What legacy do you hope to leave through your leadership?

I hope that my legacy will be one of leading by example and helping others grow. I have people on my team who have been with me for decades, across several companies. That loyalty can only be earned through being approachable, supportive, and holding yourself to the same high standards and accountability that you set for others. I hire people who have the potential to be the best of the best, and do everything I can to help them succeed and achieve. 

What changes have you noticed in the discourse on cybersecurity? What predictions do you have for 2021 and beyond? 

With ransomware and other cyber-attacks at an all-time high, we are all more aware of the harm that a breach does to customer confidence and a company’s reputation, not to mention enormous investigation, mitigation, and legal costs. As a result, cybersecurity is no longer the purview of “just” the CTO or IT; it is a team sport involving the GC, CTO, CMO, and CEO, among others. It also sits squarely within the board’s fiduciary duties and responsibilities, and I have seen more and more boards add cybersecurity to their agendas. I always advise companies to be as prepared as possible through tabletop exercises and by developing a crisis plan, and advise board members to engage in the topic just as they would engage in a discussion of financial or other enterprise risk. While every board and every company will approach cybersecurity differently depending on their culture, industry, and business, one thing is for certain: it must be addressed.

What three steps should boards take now to start preparing their cybersecurity plan? 

  1. Ensure the board (or a committee to which cybersecurity has been delegated) receives regular updates from the CTO or other expert about their company’s cybersecurity posture, including third-party pentest results.
  2. Advise management to run tabletop exercises to prepare for a breach, including identifying the incident responders (like FireEye/Mandiant) and law firms they will engage, as well as thinking through their communication strategy. 
  3. Consider cybersecurity insurance.

You mentor women leaders through NextLeap Ventures and Athena. Why is it important for you to give back, and what do you yourself gain from your service

I share my knowledge and experience to help founders and women leaders bring their visions and goals to life. My greatest pleasure – and privilege – is watching the success of a founder, a woman, or anyone with great potential who may face a closed door and knowing I played a role in helping them get there. 

What parts of your Athena membership have been most valuable for you as a leader? 

One of the first female Directors on FireEye’s board introduced me to Athena as I was embarking on my own journey to a board seat. Now that I sit on a board and chair Nom Corp Gov for Vocera, I appreciate Athena as both a member who is currently seeking a second board seat and as someone looking to identify strong female candidates for a board seat. It’s a terrific organization that supports me in my own career goals, and also gives me access to an amazing group of women that I can hopefully help either through advising as a pioneer member or as a network of potential candidates that I can help place.

What advice do you have for women leaders aspiring to board service? 

Be clear on why you aspire to board service and what you can bring to the table – then put it out there. Tell your colleagues. Tell any board directors in your network. Join Athena. Ensure that those who may become aware of an opportunity that would suit you know that you are interested and would bring value to the right board. 

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