Board certified: Brocaglia’s new digital education company prepares professionals to earn seats on corporate boards

For more than 30 years, Joyce Brocaglia, founder, CEO and president of Flemington-based Alta Associates, has helped place C-level executives with leading companies in roles such as chief information security officer. 

Now, Brocaglia said she wants to help employees at all levels get into the boardroom, while also increasing the pipeline and diversity of qualified candidates. 

“Given that digital transformation, cybersecurity and diversity are all board-level imperatives, we believe that our timing could not be better,” she said. 

BoardSuited, Brocaglia’s recently launched affordable and accessible digital education company, teaches executives how to accelerate their board-readiness and maximize their credibility to get the attention of nominating and governance committees. 

“Our goal is to give professionals of all backgrounds the education and tools they need to get an early start on assessing their skills and identifying gaps so they can course correct and gain the qualifications necessary for board service,” she said. 

Brocaglia has spent her entire career advising executives, building world-class organizations and developing leaders, she added. 

Joyce Brocaglia, founder, CEO and president of Flemington-based Alta Associates and BoardSuited.

Alta Associates, her executive search firm specializing in cybersecurity, information technology risk management and privacy, has been in existence since 1986. 

“But, because that is a male-dominated field, 17 years ago I also founded the Executive Women’s Forum on Information Security, Risk Management and Privacy,” Brocaglia said. “We are now the largest member organization dedicated to the engagement, development and advancement of women leaders in the field.” 

Brocaglia said she also has personally sat on a number of advisory boards and is currently a trustee for Drew University. 

“I’ve therefore had the opportunity to gain unique perspectives from both corporations and the executives who lead them,” she said. 

That is why she often is asked how one can obtain a seat on a board, she added. 

“It makes sense that I am often asked this question, because we are seeing a surge of interest in diversifying boards and companies are beginning to recognize the value of having someone with cybersecurity knowledge as a board member,” Brocaglia said. 

However, in her research, Brocaglia said she discovered there are many great programs that train existing board members and C-suite professionals, but few that prepare executives seeking their first board appointment. 

There also often exist multiple barriers to entry. 

“You often have to be nominated as a member of an organization or already on a board,” Brocaglia said. 

Then there are the costs and the ability to travel and take time off work, with associate courses costing nearly $5,000 and competitive university courses costing upwards of $12,500. 

“So, I began researching, interviewing and videotaping currently seated board members, CEOs, venture capitalists and other board subject matter experts for nearly two years,” Brocaglia said. 

She then launched BoardSuited in June, and, at $3,000 for the program, participants already are enrolled. 

“We are getting tremendous feedback,” Brocaglia said. “If you are a professional who aspires to be on a board, this is the perfect educational tool to help you structure your own customized roadmap to getting there.” 

BoardSuited is a six-month online e-learning course designed to best prepare and position executives for board candidacy and service. 

It takes nearly 20 hours to complete, Brocaglia said, but requires no prerequisites, travel or time off. 

“With so many experienced executives I know finding it difficult to get the attention of nominating and governance committees, we created a program that offers executives the comprehensive preparation they need with the convenience of a self-paced, online learning environment they seek,” she said. “We also combined this robust online curriculum with insights from seated board members that walk participants through the basics, including how boards operate and are structured, as well as the roles and responsibilities of different board members.” 

Contributors to BoardSuited are from some of the largest companies in the world, Brocaglia added. 

“These are people who currently are chairs of audit, nominating and governance committees who are willing to provide us with their expertise and talk about their insights and experiences in those roles,” she said. 

Need to learn about legal liability? A leading attorney can do that. Want to know more about cybersecurity? A chief information security officer will help. 

“Melissa L. Means, managing director at Pearl Meyer, answers questions about compensation, while Maria Cimino, founding managing partner of .406 Ventures, speaks about startup boards,” Brocaglia said. “All of our contributors are subject matter experts, so this is a very unique way to not only be educated via a top-notch learning management platform but also to have access to videos from and Webex (conferences) with over 20 contributors talking about their own personal experiences.” 

Through various tools, templates and exercises, students also gain a foundational understanding of the expectations and skillsets required of public, private, nonprofit and advisory board members; the fundamentals of board governance and how it differs from management; the legal and regulatory environments affecting board members; how to effectively work with and evaluate a CEO; and how to create a board resume, bio and pitch to best position themselves for nomination. 

Then, students undergo a skills assessment and social media review to develop a personalized roadmap and networking plan to help raise their profile and advance their candidacy by making connections with directors, founders, funders and search firms. 

“We help to match our participants’ skills and experiences with particular types of boards and then help to package that all up properly so they can get noticed and nominated for board service,” Brocaglia said. 

Brocaglia said she also hopes BoardSuited with continue to diversify boards in terms of gender, race, age and professional skills as the digital age continues. 

“One of the things we’re seeing is that boards are hiring digital directors, or people with an understanding of technology, cybersecurity and digital transformation,” she said. “That not only is diversifying the skillsets but also many times the age of board members because those who are that technically savvy are typically much younger.

“What I hope to do is give professionals this education earlier on in their career so they can fill any gaps while also giving them a formal strategy for thinking about how to position themselves for their first board seat.”

Alliance affiliates

Joyce Brocaglia said BoardSuited currently is working with universities to offer the online course to alumni and with membership organizations to offer it to professionals in all fields. 

“As we continue to receive reviews, we hope in our first year to develop more alliances with mission- and education-driven organizations whose participants and members include diverse executives,” she said. “If there is an organization or association that thinks BoardSuited can benefit their members, we’d be happy to have a conversation.” 

New Jersey boards

Joyce Brocaglia said she is a big fan of the new law in California that now requires publicly traded corporations to include at least one woman on their boards of directors. 

“This will result in the addition of at least 184 women to board seats in the state of California by the end of this year,” she said. “And, by the end of the next year, that number must jump to 1,060.” 

According to the new law, a minimum of two women must sit on boards with five members and a minimum of three women must sit on boards with six or more members by the end of July 2021. 

“I’d love to see New Jersey follow in that same footstep,” Brocaglia said. “There is tons of research out there that proves how having women on boards results in better returns on investments for companies, and what we’re seeing is that many asset managers and investors are also now requiring their portfolio companies and the companies they invest in to have women on boards as well.”

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