Tech industry boards

Connie Guglielmo has a piece in Forbes where she explores the qualifications for board members of tech companies. She argues that a degree in French literature might be more important than a knowledge of programming.

Lise Buyer, a board member of several Silicon Valley companies was quoted. “I have never, not even once, been in a meeting where at any time, even for five minutes, any board member of any gender was asked to give a company directive in machine language, scratch out a decision policy in Ruby on Rails or, for that matter, code anything at all in any language.”

I haven’t been in as many board meetings, but I have seen companies make decisions that might have worked out better if they understood the technology their companies create.

Since Twitter is where the current discussion is centering, it’s interesting that they basically tossed their developer community with executive-level decisions a couple of years ago. Was the board well enough informed to participate in or oversee these decisions? Were the shareholders well-served? I have no idea. But it seems they would want to understand the implications of the decisions they were making.

This is not a gender thing. I’m not arguing for or against having men or women on boards, just noting that tech boards are generally a void of technical knowledge, and that the tech industry might work better if they were better at tech. It’s analogous to having knowledge of medicine among the decision-makers at a pharmaceuticals company. Or an understanding of music at an entertainment company.

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About Dave Winer

Dave Winer, 54, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.
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