Becoming A Young Non-Executive Director: Shona Marsh

Shona has two board roles: Trustee with Disability Snowsports UK, and Non-Executive Director at Visit Scotland.

Shona became a non-exec at 31. She emailed Dynamic Boards to share that someone she knew asked her ‘what experience have YOU got that would be suitable for a board?’ in a rather condescending way. The person who asked that knew little of her experience… 

Shona built a company ‘Accomable’ from inception through a seed funding round, and it was then acquired by Airbnb. It was a platform business designed to enable people with disabilities to access accommodation and services in the tourism industry in a way that met their needs. She then worked for Airbnb and launched their ‘Experiences’ business.

At Dynamic Boards when we think about the mix of skills, experience and perspectives that we need on boards we think of people like Shona. Given her tech background, the experience she has in fast growth start-ups, and the perspective she has being young and female; Shona brings thinking that is classically under-represented on UK boards.

Watch our conversation with Shona here: 

How did Shona become a Non-Exec?

She didn’t think being a Non-Exec would be on the cards at her age, but having heard about Dynamic Boards and about another young Non-Exec, she realised it was something she wanted to do. She worked with a professional coach who helped keep her accountable to her plans to become a Non-Exec.

Shona loves the saying that ‘luck is when preparation meets opportunity’. As a result of the preparedness, she was quick to pounce on the opportunity to join the board of Disability Snowsport UK when she spotted them advertising a trustee role. Then she spotted Visit Scotland on Dynamic Boards and she applied feeling she might not have enough experience, but it is clear from hearing her story that she put a lot of work into preparing for the interview, and when she came out she thought “I really loved that!” She joined their board earlier this year.

In both instances she applied to her board roles cold – she knew no-one on either board, she applied to an advert with a passionate and well thought through application. The message you might often hear that you need to network to find your board roles is flawed for two reasons: (1) you can get board roles by applying ‘cold’, just like Shona did in both these instances, (2) if we want independence around the boardroom then we need people who do not all know each other!

What would Shona’s message be for younger people applying for a Non-Exec role?

  • Try to find a sponsor. It doesn’t need to be a coach – could be a family member, a friend, a manager at work. Someone who can hold you accountable to your plans.
  • Watch lots of the Dynamic Boards videos to help prepare! Check them out here.
  • Reach out to people who are trustees / governors/ Non-Execs in your network to chat with them about the role (search for each of those words under the ‘people’ section). You are your own barrier! It can help to talk to other people to help boost your confidence.
  • You need to have the time to do the role properly.

Shona’s tips for your first few board meetings?

  • Absorb everything that is going on.
  • Write lots of notes.
  • Write down all the questions other board members ask. Your role is to ask the questions that help the executive team to think more about what they are doing at the operational level. Shona shared that by writing down their questions it helps her think through the level at which the board members are asking questions, and helps her understand the profile of the other board members and their specialisms so she can either go to them when she have a question in that area, or so she can spot where there are gaps that she has specialist knowledge in.
  • Do it your way. They’ve appointed you for a reason. Bring whatever you bring, don’t try to fit in with the way you think it should be done.

Resource mentioned in the video: ‘The Right Questions To Ask’ by Charlotte Valeur and Clare Fargeot. Download the free Ebook here



Can Dynamic Boards help you?

  • Are you recruiting a Non-Executive Director? Get in touch with us and we can reach out on your behalf to candidates on our database who meet your brief.
  • Are you looking for Non-Exec roles?  Click here to view our board roles. It’s free to join Dynamic Boards and view our board roles, the last thing this industry needs is more pay to view or exclusive access clubs! 

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