May 18th, 2022

Margaret Hardin is a global products CXO and board director who came to Athena Alliance in October 2020 with the goal of landing a board seat. Margaret previously served on a publicly-traded board in the mid-2000s, but was told her past board experience was too old to be relevant.

Athena helps women leaders expand their impact and accelerate their path to the top, providing the learning, community, and access to opportunities they need to reach their goals. With a board seat in mind, Margaret joined an Athena Accelerator—including 8 hours of coaching and a Branded Career Portfolio (a board-focused bio, resume, and LinkedIn update).

“I didn’t know where to start my board search or get the support I needed,” Margaret said. “Athena provided full-cycle support, from doing the internal work of preparing for the search all the way through landing the seat. I worked with my coaches to understand what boards I wanted to serve on and the value I brought. I worked with Athena’s writers to overhaul my board application materials, and learned best practices to pitch myself for opportunities through Salons. The board opportunity itself came through Athena as well—I applied directly through Athena’s opportunities portal.”

Below, learn how Athena accelerated Margaret’s path to the boardroom—working with coaches, refining her board docs, and pitching herself for that coveted board seat. 

Working with coaches to understand her path & value 

After two sessions with Athena Coach Cheemin Bo-Linn, Margaret found she needed to translate her executive experience in baby consumer durables to a broader market to find a board seat. She then met with Athena Coach Tissa Richards to hone in on her value proposition.

“With Cheemin, I was in brainstorming mode—then Tissa came in to really refine it. She took what was still a big laundry list of 20 years of experience in consumer goods, understood what I wanted to do in this next phase, and completely translated that into a workable pitch. It’s such a difference moving from talking about the company you built to talking about you. I was very grateful for her and that process,” she said.

A Branded Career Portfolio tailored for the boardroom

Margaret had worked with executive writers in the past and thought her application materials were in order. But after meeting with her coaches and attending an Athena Salon on executive resume best practices, she realized she started on the wrong side of the journey.

“I started with my resume first versus meeting with a coach to discuss what I wanted to do, what I’m good at, and how to best present it. I had it completely in reverse,” she said.

Her BCP process started with an in-depth kick-off call with her writer to capture the most important elements of Margaret’s executive journey and leadership.

“The process was iterative, and I took advantage of the opportunity to include Tissa as well to stay focused on clear messaging,” Margaret said. “I’m still using the final product today for board opportunity submissions.”

Advancing her search with live & on-demand executive learning

As she prepared her positioning for the board search, Margaret also brushed up on the board best practices (like the rise of ESG and SPACs) she missed in the 15+ years since she last served. And she found value in Athena’s learning in other ways, diving into content on wealth management, investing, and scaling your small business. 

“I’ve done three different tracks because they’re all so interesting to me,” Margaret said. “The investing track helped me understand limited partners, venture capitalists, and how to get started now—where I am. Then there’s a track on women and wealth from a woman at UBS Wealth. Personally, I’ve gotten so much financial advice in addition to governance, onboarding, and audit committee best practices.”

One Salon in particular changed the way Margaret approached her board search: How to Apply for a Board Seat (members can watch the Salon on-demand here). Led by Samantha Lorenzo, Athena’s director of board recruitment, members got an overview of how Athena pitches members for opportunities and what’s happening behind the scenes as boards review candidates. 

“Samantha told us what she needs to see and what winning candidates were presenting,” Margaret recalled. “That was my next really big ah-ha.”

Pitching herself for the opportunity & interviewing with the board

Within 3 weeks, the board seat at Australia-based Hydralyte was posted to Athena’s members-only opportunities portal. Margaret said, “the process to apply was so easy!” Following Samantha’s guidance to tweak her resume to each board opportunity and speak specifically to the director requirements in the cover letter, Margaret submitted her application in October 2021 (one year after joining Athena).

“I used the format Samantha provided, used the value proposition I developed with Tissa, and ultimately was selected for an interview,” Margaret said. 

Margaret’s last board service spanned from 2004-2007, when Sarbanes-Oxley was first enacted and companies were scrambling to re-organize their audit committees. She was specifically tapped for this role by someone in her network, served four years on their audit committee, and didn’t think about board service again for more than a decade.

“Now, a decade later, I realized I don’t actually know how to get on a board—it just happened for me,” she said. “There was an interview, but the chairperson had recommended me to the CEO. The Hydralyte board was definitely doing a more thorough search.”

When she was called in to interview with the CEO, Margaret again turned to Tissa for what she calls a “morale booster call”. They ran through the questions: What is the board looking for? Have I done it before? What value do I bring? Am I really prepared for this? (A resounding yes!)

“My experience with 20 years in US retail sales was definitely a selling point, as they were specifically looking for someone with experience in the US market,” Margaret said. “We had a great back and forth interview, and he did a formal proposal to the board with his top three candidates. I then interviewed with the three current board members, which ended up being a really interesting dialogue about where Hydralyte is now, where we want it to be in five years, and what I can add to the board. By the end of that 3:1 board interview, I thought ‘This is the group I want to spend the next 3-4 years with.’ The idea behind Hydralyte is whole family health, and I want to help fulfill that vision.”

Athena helps women leaders pursue their biggest career goals—joining a board, rising into the C-suite, starting their own ventures, and breaking into the world of investing. Learn more about our proven process to help women land a board seat or join now to get started.



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