Cultivating Your Own Personal Board of Directors for Career Growth

Diana Albarran
Power Propulsion Element (PPE) Deputy Program Manager
Automatic Summary

Why You Need a Personal Board of Directors for Career Growth

Having a personal board of directors can propel your career advancement in significant ways. This article will explain the concept, share insights from my personal journey, highlight key benefits, and provide actionable steps on how to cultivate your personal board of directors.

Understanding the Personal Board of Directors Concept

A personal board of directors is essentially a group of people you identify as mentors that evolve into allies and ultimately become sponsors of your career. It embodies your professional tribe aiding you in ascending your career ladder. These are individuals who will likely provide answers to daunting questions, give you introductions to key players, and possibly advocate for you behind closed doors.

Practical Examples from My Own Career

As an immigrant from Mexico, the first in my family to graduate from high school and college, (East Coast's Massachusetts Institute of Technology), I faced challenges in my career journey. Despite being successful at work, there were instances when I didn't understand some idioms or phrases. My experience is proof that having a dedicated group of professionals to guide and advise you makes all the difference.

Steps to Forming Your Personal Board of Directors

The following are steps that will guide you in cultivating your personalized board of directors for career growth:

1. Identify the Goal of your Personal Board of Directors

Start by identifying what you want to achieve. Are you looking for mentorship, feedback, introductions, or advocacy? This goal must align with your personal brand. Understand whether you are known for being a go-getter, a rally person, or someone else entirely.

2. Assemble your Team

Identify who you want on your board. You should start with 3 to 5 members, and ensure that at least one person is from outside your workplace. These individuals should be respected and admired by you, and capable of helping you reach your goals.

3. Set a Schedule for Meetings

Decide on how often to connect and update your board. Aim for at least a quarterly meeting. However, monthly meetings of about 30 minutes each could be more effective.

4. Implement the Given Feedback

One of the key steps in achieving career growth with your personal board of directors is by implementing their feedback. Not only should you provide them with progress updates, but you should also give them insights into the challenges you're facing and their possible solutions.

The Power of Building Relationships for Career Growth

Your personal board of directors becomes your differentiator and your positioned support system, they aid your rise in your career. The power of this group accelerates your learning path and reduces the gaps in your growth journey much faster than you would alone.

Behind every successful professional, there lies a supportive network. I owe my current success, as a Deputy Program Manager at Max Star Space, to my personal board of directors. Therefore, establish your personal board of directors, implement their feedback, and watch your career soar.

Video Transcription

Hello, everyone. Good afternoon. Good morning. Depending on where you are in the world. It's great to um to virtually be in this room with you. I'm very excited to be here today.Um I look forward to your interactions um and walking through a little bit of some of what has helped me in the past, um cultivate my own personal board of directors for my career growth. So, um I'll give folks maybe another five or 10 seconds and then um looking forward to having a great discussion and share a little bit of what has helped with me in the past. Uh And hopefully, um you're able to walk away with actionable things to go move forward with as part of, of this uh this virtual meeting. I've been listening in to some of the conversations on the main stage and I think this really resonates with a lot of what's already been discussed uh as part of the um the conference today. I hope many of you are taking good notes and you are taking the time to really use this uh as your own personal time to develop your own skills and uh walk away with actionable next steps. So I will go ahead and get started.

Uh part of it, I'm, I'm motivated to hopefully leave a few minutes in the end to potentially answer one or two questions. Um And I'm happy to answer more questions. Uh and happy to have you also reach out to me through linkedin um and continue the conversation after that. So, um a little bit about a personal board of directors, right? Um And the whole concept, uh I think it's kind of important uh to make sure to talk through a little bit about me and who I am. Um uh My name is, is uh Diana Baran. Um I'm an immigrant actually born in Mexico. Uh English is the second, is a second language to me. I'm a Spanish native speaker. Uh and I'm often told, uh oh, but you don't have an accent. Oh, but uh you speak very proficiently. Um And it's taken years and years of school. Um But even to this day, there's instances that I don't understand a lot of the idioms or a lot of the phrases and I'm have the courage now to speak up. I, I don't really understand what you're telling me. I, I don't have the context. Um And I think that's helped a lot. I'm also the first in my family to graduate from high school and college. Uh I was actually uh very fortunate to attend MIT I have a degree in electrical engineering.

Um And I have been very fortunate for the last uh 16, almost 17 years to work for um Max Star Space. Um Max Technologies, which is really a fully integrated um space um company that really focuses on developing a new generation of technology for space and uh leveraging also our Earth Imaging um to really make a difference in the world. Um I'm often uh the only one like me in spaces uh or in many spaces um I don't encounter um Unfortunately, many women of color, uh I have seen an increase in number of women and some of the representations and some of the spaces that I've been a part of. Uh but uh it's uh definitely, I definitely often feel like I'm one of the very few. Uh But I have been very fortunate to be mentored and sponsored since high school. I had an amazing um counselor in high school that really advocated for me and actually was the one that encouraged me and pushed me to apply to mit I would have never done that. Had I had, I never uh had she never really urged me and, and have seen the potential and as you can see that would have drastically changed the transition or trajectory of my life.

Um I'm often asked like, how did you do it and how do you continue doing it? Right. And uh there's a little bit about the pictures that I hear. One is when I graduated from college and my brother, um, who was, uh, only six years old at that time, uh, being there with me and my parents and my family. Uh, and then the picture underneath is a picture of me when I was married with all of my college, uh, friends and, um, college and, uh, family and friends and continuing to build, um, network of people that really resonate and connect with me has been a very important and critical part of a lot of the things that I've been able to do.

And so with that, a lot of what the a lot of the what has helped me in the past to be successful has actually been uh developing what I have uh now termed, which I'm, I know I'm not the only person that uses the term, but it's uh a personal board of directors, right? And so a little bit about what a personal board of directors is. So it's a personalized network of people that start off potentially as mentors evolve into allies and then ultimately can become sponsors. And it's essentially a group of people that you identify as your uh as your professional network. Uh and in other terms, as like your um professional tribe that's gonna help you really um elevate to the next level, right? Whether it's answering questions, whether it's potentially providing introductions or whether in the end, it's actually um potentially advocating for you behind closed doors and why is it important to do this? Right. Why would we spend the time to go off and actually develop these relationship?

Uh And ultimately, it's because your allies can advocate for you on your behalf behind closed doors when you're not in those discussions, when you're not part of those meetings and when you don't know, um when you don't know that some potential discussions are being held that uh can potentially impact the work that you're doing or the next projects that you'll be a part of.

And um and so it's important to establish this uh uh person board of directors because you need to develop the relationships, right? You need to, you need to give the, the people that will become your advocates and your sponsors the information to get to know you to understand you to better uh realize what your aspirations and what your ultimate goals are gonna be. They can't do that if you never reach out to them, if they don't know who you are, if they can't vouch for you in those moments of conversations, uh when some decisions are being held and decisions are being made for those of you that have attended graduate school, it's very similar uh to or even when you apply to college for letters of recommendation, right?

You were always um you were always told to develop relationships so that you can actually go off and actually see um and have a conversation with them. And so that at the end of, of either your high school trajectory or your college trajectory, they could write letters of recommendation. I could speak to the value that bri bring who you are and how you can actually continue to evolve and provide um and, and be successful in whatever they're recommending you to do. So, this is something very similar. But at a professional level where you're establishing yourself a group of, of, of professionals and people that you respect to serve as that sounding board, to serve as that uh professional tribe to kind of help you through some of those uh next steps uh in in your conversations.

So a little bit of um best practices that I have found, right? Uh You wanna identify uh what the goal of your personal board of directors is, is it looking for mentorship? Is it looking for honest feedback? Is it looking to provide introductions or is it to potentially provide uh some level of advocacy on your be on your behalf? This also needs to be aligned to your personal brand and your personal brand? Is what are you known for? Right. Are you known for being a go-getter for getting things done for driving results for being the person that could really help bring closure to something that's been lingering or are you someone that uh that is known for uh being able to rally the troops and get them to, to to unite um and work through a very difficult and complex situation.

And so based on that, you want to look at what is the goal of your personal board of directors? What are you looking to get out of it? Right. Um For me, I, I will say that some of the goals of my board of directors um has actually changed over the years. I think in the beginning, I was looking for more mentorship, a kind of more exposure. Like, how did you get to where you are? What are the best practices? What do you, what do you recommend that I really go out and maybe focus on in the next 2 to 3 years to see if I can improve something on myself personally. Now I'm looking more towards advocacy, right? I feel like I've more established, I've been uh in the industry for almost 17 years and I'm looking to more into executive uh sponsorship, right? How do I move into the executive realms? And that's a different type of ask with a different type of makeup of the people that I'm reaching out to? And so that moves into the next uh important uh item which is identifying who you want to be part of your personal board of directors. Uh My recommendation is to start with a group of no more than 3 to 5 members.

Um And because it is, it does require a time commitment, it does require a follow through and so making it much larger than that makes it very difficult to actually drive results and, and be actionable. And I would actually also recommend to have at least one person outside of your workplace. Uh And this really helps in terms of just providing some leveling of guidance and advice of what has been successful uh in your workplace versus some other common practices outside that actually can be leveraged in your workplace as well. Uh Obviously, these should be people that you respect you admire and that can help you reach your goals. Um But I, um and, and what I've mentioned, right is that as my personal board of directors goals has changed, um I have changed the makeup of that team, right? I have pivoted maybe from maybe some peer uh peers in my group, some senior managers to now uh having more executives um within, within my company and outside to be able to talk through. Ok, how, what do I need to start doing and changing to move into a senior director or vice president uh role going forward? Um You also need to identify how often uh you will connect and, and update your personal board of directors. I recommend meeting with them.

Um one on one, right? Because you wanna have one on one conversations again, individualized, asks to each of those members of what are you really asking them and what are you gonna need from them? Um I at a minimum. I I recommend that that happens quarterly. Uh but preferably monthly. Um, it can be as, as small as a 30 minute conversation. It could be going out for coffee or lunch. Um It could be a, a zoom meeting for 30 minutes, but it really needs to be something also consistent so that there's awareness that there's this conversation happening and that you're coming back the following month after having done and explored whatever you discussed in that one on one conversation that you would go work on to see your progress.

And uh one of the other very critical things is actually implementing your personal boards of directors feedback, right? This is key because everyone wants to feel like they're adding value and if you come back month after month and have the same conversation, but you don't actually follow through and do any of the things that your personal board of directors is recommending for you to do or to look at or to change.

Um It's gonna start to be discouraging and they will start questioning whether one you're really committed to change and growth or whether um it's actually a valuable time spent on their end. So you wanna make sure that you're actually doing the work, you're actually providing them progress and you're being open and transparent about what is working, what is not working and some of the challenges that you have so that they can actually also be more specific and actionable, driven and some of the feedback that they're providing you.

And one of the things that I have most recently learned uh from one of my members of my person board of directors is that coachability solves a lot of sense, right? So if you're coachable and even if there's a lot of room for growth in your area to elevate to the next level, if you're willing to put in the work and do the things that you need to do and actually go through and incorporate the feedback that you're providing and things are changing your perception around your company or even externally are gonna start to change.

People are gonna start seeing like, oh OK, um This person just actually needed some more actionable and very specific feedback and look at what a transformation has happened. And so that becomes really key and actually making sure that you're connecting all of this, right? Being very clear on what the goal of your personal board of directors is who you have included as part of that, how often you're meeting and actually implementing the feedback and the the context and the recommendations that they have. Because ultimately relationships matter, right?

Relationships is how things uh in your career could evolve faster, how you actually get feedback in a way. Um That really helps evolved your your career to the next level. Um And I, I think for me personally taking it back a little bit to my upbringing and who, who I was. Right. I'm the first in my family to attend college, like I mentioned the first in my family to actually be in a corporate job. Uh And so I would have to be doing all of this on my own and it would be unrealistic. Right? And so I've created a network of people that actually help me fill in the gaps and a lot of the knowledge that I don't know that maybe some other people by default just are more aware of. Um And this is how I have figured out how to address things that I don't know, exist that I need to go off and do. Or another way that I've explained this is it's kind of like realizing that you're in, you're playing a game, right? And uh and that you've only been given a certain amount of those rules.

But if you create a board of directors that's gonna help you and help you provide insight into those other missing rules, then you can close the gap much faster in this game and then you can evolve and quickly become um and add, continue to start adding more value to a lot of the things that you wanna do.

So this is how I have been able to actually quickly, more quickly elevate and change some of the things uh and fill in some of the gaps and, and not understanding a lot of the things uh in the corporate world and how I have been able to actually show what I can do drive results.

And as a result, get tapped for additional um additional opportunities in the future. And um one of the things that I want to highlight here, right is that uh we need to really set time aside for relationship building. It's really important. Again, it's often the way that you are tapped for career making opportunities uh at a minimum, you need a quarterly assessment of where you are and meeting your career goals. This helps really develop clear ask for the members of your personal board of directors. Um And it's something that we often don't do, right? We don't stop and think of like, where am I over the quarter? How successful was I did. I actually achieve everything I wanted to, am I on track to achieve the goals that I expected uh or what do I need help with? And how do I use my board of directors to kind of help me fill in those gaps or, or shorten those gaps? Um because ultimately your personal board of directors is your differentiator, right? They will help you stand out. Uh And as you succeed, your personal board of directors succeeds too because you by defect, become their protege, right? You become the person that they say, look, I helped this person and I coached them and I mentored them and look at all the amazing things that they're doing and they feel like they have added value.

And as I've continued having more conversations with some of the executives that I've worked with, a lot of them are at a point in their careers where they want to do that and they want to start mentoring the next the next generation. And they actually want to provide context and feedback to, to people that will help them grow and ensure that things in the future for um for organizations or for the company are going to actually be successful. So, one of the things I wanna show here very quickly or, or point out to is that um one of the, I'm very excited, I recently became the Deputy program manager for the uh power and propulsion Element mission that's gonna ultimately um power the Artemis mission and nasa's um nasa's ambitions of going back to the moon and Mars.

Um So that's the first picture in the bottom picture. I had the pleasure of being featured in Vanity Fair as part of some step uh stem change makers uh where one of my key moments was actually meeting um as the astronaut James James. Um and I was just super excited to meet her and to be able to be on a, on a picture with her. And it was such a fulfilling moment in my, in my career and the work that I've done. Um I think I am probably at a minute. I don't know that I'll have more time to answer some of the questions, but I hope that this has left you with a few very practical things to go off and do. Uh So you can actually elevate your career to the next level and um I'm looking forward to get feedback or your, some of your questions uh through linkedin. Um And I'm excited for you to continue making use of this time to really explore some of the things for your career as you continue to, to grow. Have a great rest of your conference. Mhm.