NEDonBoard, Institute of Board Members interviewed Gina Gray, non-executive director and commercial advisor in April 2023. She exemplifies how engaging in her NEDonBoard membership created exciting opportunities and led her to success. Her interview is complemented by a few words from Nick Russell, founder of Dualo who recruited Gina as a non-executive board advisor. Happy and inspiring reading!
Questions for Gina Gray, NED and Commercial Advisor
What has been the outcome of your membership with NEDonBoard?
Between 2014 and 2022 I held an executive position as Commercial Director on the board of an Intelligent Document Processing SaaS business, Celaton, delivering digital transformation projects. During that time, I was mentored on the role of a board member and was involved in strategy, finances and had a vote in all decisions. It was during my tenure that the global pandemic hit so I was involved in ensuring the longevity of the business through a challenging time.
After my departure, I joined a couple of NED member groups, one of which is NEDonBoard where I started to learn about the role of a non-executive, the various types of roles and how they operate within a business. I have since found 2 roles, both via NEDonBoard:
- A non-exec advisory role with Dualo, a start-up software company in the insights space, a new market that is rapidly growing. I got this role just 6 weeks after joining NEDonBoard.
- An executive role with an Indian founded software company in the SaaS ERP space, Dhi. Originally, I joined to head up the UK and Europe, and am now Head of the Business Unit so have a global role reporting into the founder and CEO. This was 4 months after I joined NEDonBoard.
How have you engaged in your NEDonBoard membership to achieve this?
Both roles came about through connections with NEDonBoard.
- The Dualo opportunity arose following a networking event set up in London between NEDonBoard and the Natwest entrepreneur accelerator cohort, connecting the board community with those seeking their expertise.
- The Dhi opportunity arose after I responded to a NED role advertised by NEDonBoard. Having spoken to their Advisory, I felt that the NED role was not for me. The Advisory, however, thought the executive position with Dhi, who he also worked with, was well suited to my experience and so I was introduced to this opportunity. [Whilst NEDonBoard, Institute of Board Members support careers at board level, our membership also enables broader opportunities.]
How else has NEDonBoard supported your board development and positioning for roles?
Through the online events and presentations, I was able to create a plan to find NED roles in the first instance. It was my first foray into the non-executive world, and it can be easy to spend a lot of time and effort with the wrong focus, ending up not achieving your goals. There was an excellent session with a headhunter who really explained how best to approach the market and reminded NED’s that headhunters work for the employers, not the NED! (To access the insights of this excellent session referred above by Gina, click here.)
Another session I joined was really helpful in providing a structured process to keep abreast of contacts and opportunities. (Members can also access the learning resources at this link.)
In addition to these sessions, there is really good material and regular sessions on governance, D&I, CSR which are critical for any NED to be fully apprised.
What tips would you share with other aspirant NEDs and board members?
Make sure you apply for roles where you can demonstrate knowledge and experience. My background for the past 20+ years has been in disruptive technology start-ups, and although there are not as many of those looking for non-execs with sales and commercial experience, it is where I focused as I can demonstrate value, and I was successful.
Do not be tempted to spend a lot of time applying for roles where you don’t have experience, even though the remuneration may look appealing, there is a lot of competition and few roles. There would be no point in my applying for non-exec roles with global FTSE businesses as that is not my background.
It is hard work, and you must put in the effort to be successful but don’t give up!
Why did you choose NEDonBoard over other organisations?
I was initially recommended to join NEDonBoard by someone who has been a member for a number of years and found multiple roles via their jobs board.
I carried out some research and also felt that they were the most recognised NED organisation / member group with real credibility with both organisations looking for non-execs and the non-execs themselves.
I like the culture within the organisation, it is inclusive and supportive, and you have access to the team who want to help you find the right roles.
There is a great peer network and regular sessions covering multiple topics so you can be confident any subject on which you need information and support will be available to you.
Questions to Nick Russell, founder of Dualo
What has been the outcome of networking with the NEDonBoard board level community?
We were able to meet with and onboard Gina Gray, a highly experienced sales director, as our commercial non-executive board advisor for Dualo.
What stage is your business at, and what has been the impact so far of appointing an advisory board member?
We are a scale up, currently looking to build out a scalable sales-led approach to growing our business. Bringing Gina onboard has helped us to refine our end-to-end sales process, build out the relevant governance and documentation required to close larger deals, and ultimately land more new business. Outside of the sales advice, Gina has offered ongoing support and advice to us as founders, to help us work better together as a founding team, and making herself available for 1-1 coaching and mentoring.
Would you use the NEDonBoard talent pool in future to access board level professionals, or recommend for other organisations to do so?
We would recommend NEDonBoard for any business looking to establish and grow their board of directors, as part of their journey to establishing a successful and sustainable business.
Interview facilitated by Liv Noble, Chief Engagement Officer.
If you are not a member yet, join NEDonBoard, Institute of Board Members today and achieve your board career objectives, like Gina.
If you are a company, looking for board talents, promote your non-executive vacancy to the NEDonBoard community. Click on this link to find the right recruitment package for your board, advisory board and organisation.