JILL S. TIETJEN, P.E.
President & CEO, Technically Speaking, Inc.
VIP Member, Women in the Boardroom
Outside Director and Vice Chair, Merrick & Company
Outside Director, Georgia Transmission Corporation
Jill’s keys to success:
- Remember, the keys to success are passion, determination and persistence.
- Understand your value as well as the political realities of the boards on which you sit.
- Never underestimate the power of your network. It is key to finding a board seat.
Jill, how did your journey to the boardroom as a corporate director begin?
My journey to the boardroom began with my election as National President of the Society of Women Engineers (1991-1992). Not only did that process educate me about board governance, organizational politics, and parliamentary procedures, it also opened doors for me. I was asked to moderate a panel at the 1991 Utility Women’s Conference. There, in the hospitality suite, I bonded for life with a corporate attorney who later recommended me for a seat on the board of Georgia Transmission Corporation.
What characteristic or behavior did you exhibit that you believe was a critical factor in your successful candidacy for your first board appointment?
My knowledge of the industry, my training as an engineer, and my ability to successfully function in an almost completely male environment.
How did you prepare – in every sense: emotionally, intellectually, practically – for your first board meeting and in what ways did that preparation pay off?
I don’t really remember how I prepared but what I do remember as clearly as yesterday is that no matter how complete I thought that preparation was – I was not prepared for the first question: “Introduce yourself, say how old you are and how many years you have been married.” Being the youngest on the board and the only divorced member of the board (and a woman and an outside director), I was thankful that I was the last one who was going to answer the question and I had time to really think about what would be most appropriate.
What have you learned about yourself through serving as a corporate board director – how have you grown?
I want to ask the same questions that everyone else wants to ask! My re-election to the two boards I sit on demonstrates that the other members of the board (and the nominating committees) have confidence in my service – so I should, too. No more imposter syndrome. I have learned that I can express my opinion forcefully and that I can be heard. I have learned that I really do know my industry and that my opinion is sought.
Help, hindrance or both – how does board service complement your professional career?
Board service has been a help to my career. It has provided me with contacts and knowledge that I use in many aspects of my life and professional career.
What is the ONE essential piece of advice you’d give to other senior-level women who are on a journey to their first seat at the table?
Build and nourish your network. It is the most important factor in getting a board seat – and is the way I have gotten both of my board seats.
Jill S. Tietjen, P.E. is the President and CEO of Technically Speaking, Inc., through which she provides consulting services to the electric utility industry in the areas of integrated resource planning and fuels. She is also an author, national speaker and advocate for women. A blogger for The Huffington Post, her eight books to date include the bestseller and award-winner, Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America.
Views From The Boardroom is an exclusive series from Women In The Boardroom, where corporate board directors share their experience, insight and wisdom and their view from the boardroom. Corporate board directors interested in participating should email firstname.lastname@example.org