Athena member Mandy Berman has led an impressive career spanning education to healthcare, and maintains a record of growth and service delivery through operational excellence and technology innovation. Serving in a variety of C-suite roles (including COO, CAO, and CIO), mission-driven leadership is the defining thread of her career in the C-suite, boardroom, and beyond.

Below, we speak with Mandy about her executive journey, her journey to her first board seat, and how women leaders can advocate for themselves.

What are some of the highlights of your executive journey?

My first roles were in management consulting and on the founding team of an education-related Internet start-up. I then stumbled upon a private company providing backup childcare in downtown urban areas. I had never done multi-site operations or managed distributed teams, but I was really drawn to the purpose and mission of the organization.

When that company was acquired by Bright Horizons, I stayed with them; I built a new network-based backup care service that grew from $5 million to $200 million during my tenure through growth and acquisitions, oversaw a 24/7 contact center that grew to 300 consultants, and moved to the UK to launch our market in India. For two years, I served as interim CIO, which was another huge but rewarding learning curve.

After a long career at Bright Horizons, I decided to switch industries into healthcare and am now the COO of Marathon Health. Our mission is to transform patients’ lives through the worksite health centers that we manage. Joining a new field, I continue to learn a tremendous amount every day. and I strongly believe in supporting people’s health and wellbeing. It’s been very rewarding to help build the team, the organization, and work to serve our patients better.

What is the thread that defines your leadership through the various C-suite positions you’ve held?

The first thread is that I’m mission driven—I have to truly believe in the work and service we’re doing as an organization. The second piece is that my experience tends to be in people-to-people service delivery, meaning I’m always trying to deliver exceptional service to our customers, whether that’s children or parents or patients. The final thread is that I really focus on building teams. I enjoy growing an organization by bringing on the right people, identifying the right roles, and supporting their best performance.

Tell us about landing your first board seat at Harbor One.

When I first got a letter from a local search firm seeking a board member for a financial institution, I almost put it aside because I had no experience in financial services. But as I kept reading, I learned they were looking for someone with experience in multi-site operations, in a heavily regulated industry, and in technology and service delivery roles—not necessarily financial industry operations. I called the headhunter and was asked to send in my board bio, which I had just finished putting together with Athena a week before.

Athena really helped guide me through the specifics of the board application process, creating a targeted message about my value proposition, and familiarized me with the process. After that, the process was rapid; the selection was made within 3-4 months, and I was seated as the first woman on the board.

What is the unique value you bring to the boardroom?

I have broad operational experience spanning multiple industries, including multi-site and distributed operations both nationally and internationally . Additionally, my experience scaling an organization, whether that’s growing a PE-backed private company or a product within a larger public company, has allowed me to identify and implement the foundational components you need for growth.

You give back as a mentor for rising women leaders. What are some topics you find yourself coming back to time and again in these conversations?

I talk a lot about ways to advocate for yourself. Not just at the beginning of your career, but as you continue to progress, advocate for the work that you’re interested in, and what you believe yourself capable of doing in the wider organization.

Sometimes you see a project you could be doing, or a responsibility you could take on, but you’re not immediately getting that opportunity, or are hesitant about how to approach it. Really, you should just ask. At a minimum, you have to put your hand up and say, “I feel like I could do more”. The second tip I have is to seek out mentorship opportunities within the organization. Having a strong and concerned female mentor at Bright Horizons who I knew was my advocate was invaluable.

How has Athena been valuable for your growth as a leader?

Athena really helped me put together my elevator pitch and hone a concise way to communicate my value proposition. Additionally, having guidance navigating my first board seat application was invaluable. Getting a board seat seemed like this funny club where you can’t figure out how to get in unless you’re already a member. Having Athena’s support made things so much less confusing and opaque.

What advice do you have for women who are aspiring to their first board seat?

Participating in the Athena process is really helpful. Make use of the guidance and tap into the network to reach out to women with similar interests or careers to have meaningful dialogues.

Popular

Related

Join Top Women Executives

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