PDA Member Spotlight Meghan Anzelc, Ph.D.

Meghan serves as President and Chief Data and Analytics Officer at Three Arc Advisory. She also serves on the Advisory Board of the Athena Alliance, a private for-profit organization in the US. In August 2023, she joined the Private Directors Association’s Chicago Chapter and sits on the National Cybersecurity Committee and the Chicago Chapter Programming Committee.

Tell us about your business career, including your education, first job, and current executive roles.

My career has been centered on integrating technical capabilities into organizations for long-term value creation. I hold a bachelor’s degree in physics from Loyola University Chicago and a master’s and Ph.D. in physics and astronomy from Northwestern University. After graduate school, I entered the property-casualty insurance industry, where I found the business challenges complex and intriguing, and I developed a passion for building and deploying data and AI-based products.

I spent a decade in the insurance industry before transitioning to bring AI capabilities into a private executive search firm. Currently, I am the President and Chief Data & Analytics Officer at Three Arc Advisory and serve on the Advisory Board of the Athena Alliance. Within PDA, I am a member of the National Cybersecurity Committee and the Chicago Chapter Programming Committee.

Why is it crucial for boards to have technology expertise in the boardroom?

Technology is fundamental to an organization’s capabilities. Boards need to understand both current and emerging technological advancements to craft effective strategies and envision competitive positioning as these capabilities evolve. For instance, my expertise in AI is valuable for boards looking to comprehend the current and future landscape of AI and generative AI and its implications on talent and business strategy.

Additionally, technological expertise is essential for risk management. This includes understanding risks inherent in technologies, such as data privacy and AI hallucinations, as well as broader organizational risks, such as competitive standing and talent strategy. Technology expertise enables boards to identify and capitalize on opportunities while mitigating risks.

What value do technologists bring to a board, and why is this important?

Technologists bring firsthand experience with organizational transformation and change management. They are accustomed to tackling complex problems and continuously learning new things. This adaptability and expertise are vital as boards face increasingly sophisticated challenges and need to upskill continuously.

Having technologists on the board helps build a stronger capacity to navigate new and existing complexities and challenges, contributing to a more resilient and adaptable board.

How can boards avoid a “board of one” mentality regarding technology?

A culture of continuous learning is critical. While not all board directors need to be technology experts, they should understand key technological aspects essential for strategy and risk management. Encouraging curiosity and continuous learning, bringing in outside experts for specific topics, and having individual learning plans for board directors are effective approaches.

Cross-disciplinary discussions are also crucial to understand the broader impact of technology on the organization and its strategy. While AI is most often viewed through a technology lens, implications to talent strategy and compliance are critical to consider. Avoiding a “board of one” mentality ensures that the board fully grasps the multifaceted role of technology.

How can board directors keep their knowledge current in a rapidly changing technological landscape?

A multi-faceted approach is necessary. Each board director should learn independently, leverage experts for specific topics, and stay informed about competitors and related organizations. For example, to stay current on AI, I follow key experts, keep up with emerging tools and solutions through a few trusted sources, and stay updated with AI-related news from various industry forums.

How can technologists bring their expertise to non-technology conversations in the boardroom?

Technologists can contribute valuable perspectives to various boardroom discussions. For example, my experience in organizational design, talent strategies, and change management allows me to offer insights on talent-related conversations, new ways of working, and generational differences. This broader perspective enhances board discussions and decision-making.

What are the most significant challenges and opportunities for companies regarding IT, cybersecurity, and AI?

One challenge is keeping up with the rapid advancements in technology and understanding the associated risks and opportunities. Boards must avoid the tendency to shy away from difficult technical topics.

Another challenge is making strategic decisions without a clear understanding of organizational risk tolerance and priorities for long-term value creation. It’s crucial to recognize the importance of data and technology in value creation and have a clear vision and risk management strategy.

What risks do companies face if they lack technology expertise on their boards?

For most organizations, lacking technology expertise on the board is a significant oversight. External consultants can provide some insights, but they may not fully understand the organization’s needs and strategies. Having the right experts on the board is essential to address both risks and opportunities effectively. For example, governance and principles for AI usage are crucial to avoid risks such as IP leakage and data privacy issues, particularly as more and more employees leverage AI tools in their day-to-day work.

What mistakes do companies make in their approach to data, analytics, cybersecurity, and other IT concerns?

A common mistake is assuming all technologies are closely related and that a single technologist can cover every aspect of every technology. Boards need to consider which specific areas of expertise are necessary.

Another mistake is not right-sizing technology solutions for the organization. Overly complex proposals or focusing on less relevant hot topics can lead to misaligned priorities and investments. Align solutions closely to your business strategy and risk tolerance.

When did you become a member of PDA?

I joined PDA in August 2023 after several recommendations. I have followed PDA for years and now serve on the National Cybersecurity Committee and the Chicago Chapter Programming Committee.

What is PDA’s value nationally and in the Chicago business community?

PDA is renowned for its strength in governance and board topics for the private company sector. Being part of the founding chapter in Chicago has been invaluable due to the wealth of knowledge and experience among PDA members. As PDA continues to grow, its quality content on core board topics and emerging strategy and risk areas, such as AI, will remain a key resource.

Are you currently serving on a Board of Directors?

I serve on the Advisory Board of the Athena Alliance and am looking to expand my board portfolio with for-profit board opportunities where my expertise in AI, talent strategy, and change leadership can add value.

Tell us about your personal life, including where you live, family, hobbies, and interests outside work.

I live in the far northwest suburbs of Chicago. I’m married, and my in-laws live with us, which works well for all of us. I recently resumed playing the piano after a long hiatus and play almost every day. We enjoy spending time with friends and family and often host holiday gatherings and other events.

Why would you recommend a businessperson in Chicago join the PDA?

I have recommended PDA to several contacts, including those exploring board roles and looking to expand their private-company board service. PDA members are welcoming and generous with their expertise and networks. I have also advised founders and investors to utilize PDA as a resource for growing their companies and portfolios.

What is PDA’s value to its members regarding networking and education through events and programming?

Networking opportunities are a common theme among PDA members. In-person events facilitate direct networking, while virtual events offer the chance to connect with members nationwide. Group mentoring sessions and case study discussions are excellent avenues for networking and learning from new and seasoned PDA members.

What are you most excited about?

The current moment in AI is unique and exciting. I look forward to how companies navigate this rapidly changing landscape and deliver value through AI capabilities. The broad interest in AI from various aspects of my life and work is unprecedented, and I am eager to see how organizations responsibly utilize AI for long-term value creation.

How should boards consider technologists from diverse candidate pools as they diversify skillsets and backgrounds?

Technologists from underrepresented backgrounds bring unique perspectives to the boardroom. They are often adept at navigating both challenging technical topics and people dynamics, educating others, and incorporating diverse perspectives. Boards should actively seek and build pipelines of board candidates from diverse backgrounds to enhance their effectiveness.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the authors providing them and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of the Private Directors Association, its members, affiliates, or employees.

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