June 23rd, 2021

Loni Mahanta is an experienced executive, legal and policy expert, and strategic advisor formerly serving as VP of Policy Development & Research at Lyft. Loni came to Athena in June 2020 in the midst of a career transition, embarking on a new journey as an advisor and board director.

“I had questions about how the board process worked, how the board operates, and how to even begin my boardroom journey,” Loni said. “I got a lot of that information from Athena’s Learning Library and virtual events.”

Loni started her due diligence for her board search, taking lessons on board service from experienced board directors like Patty Hatter (Chief Customer Officer at Palo Alto Networks with board experience at II-VI Inc., WootCloud, Qualys, and Barrick Gold). As she developed her leadership story with her Brand Package writers, she also honed her board pitch with tips in the Library from Athena Coaches Nancy Sheppard and Christy Abele.

“I knew that my own background and expertise made me well-suited for the board of the right company, but I still needed additional information and prep for these conversations. I am certain that I would not have been nearly as prepared for the board interview process without Athena,” Loni said.

When venture capital firm Greycroft contacted Athena to help source vetted, qualified board candidates for open board seats in their portfolio companies, Loni was one of 100 Athena members selected to attend.

At the event, she interviewed with startup HopSkipDrive, a tech-enabled ride service for kids. This was a perfect alignment with Loni’s background in ridesharing policy and law as well as her passion for helping underserved populations. 

“I hit it off with the CEO in our 15-minute speed dating session. I subsequently met with all the other board members, and between each meeting I would do more research to make sure I was proficient on the board perspective,” she said.

When it was time to discuss her compensation, Loni turned again to the Athena Library to understand the range for standard equity grants in Series C companies—leading her to more effectively negotiate her compensation package by benchmarking against industry standards.

From their first conversation in September 2020, it took nine months to complete the search process and nominate Loni to the HopSkipDrive board.

For leaders who are considering board service, Loni encourages you to get started now.

“There’s currently a lot of opportunity due to an increased willingness to find talented leaders who don’t have prior board experience,” she said.

To begin, she says it’s important to “understand the distinction between being an operator and a strong director. You use the same skills, but you approach them in a different way.” Athena members can dive into the following Library content to get started:

Athena provides the persistent learning and support women leaders need as they transform their careers. Learn more here.



Join Top Women Executives

Invest in your senior leadership career and join our global, virtual community of the most influential women in business.