Anne DelSanto is a global executive in technology and product platforms most recently working for Salesforce when she first became interested in Women in the Boardroom. It began when she had an influx of inquiries from CEOs of software/SaaS companies who were interested in her professional advice. Because of how gratifying she felt this work was, DelSanto sensed this was a sign for the next big shift in her career. She had done her due diligence and researched and explored a handful of organizations that encouraged women’s participation in the boardroom. Many offered broad advice and best practices, but in the end, Anne landed on Women in the Boardroom because she felt that, unlike the other organizations, WIB specifically prepared women, like her, for the next step in their careers. And she was right.
Anne’s first interaction with Women in the Boardroom, aside from signing up for a VIP II membership, was the Annual Board Assembly (ABA), an exclusive gathering of aspiring and experienced female corporate directors with boardroom experts, recruiters, influencers hosted by WIB Founder, Sheila Ronning. The goal of the event is to help these women develop articulating their unique value by honing an elevator pitch and delivering it live to executives and board members. There are also structured networking breakout sessions for attendees, designed to create a setting to develop true connections with others in the corporate board sphere.
“For my first breakout session I landed in a room with Sheila, and she immediately called on me,” said DelSanto. “I had just come from a meeting, wasn’t prepared, and responded that I was planning to just learn and gather information from the event. I wanted to observe, but she wouldn’t allow it.” Ronning challenged DelSanto to give her elevator pitch, and to not to sit on the sidelines. And so, after everyone around the room presented their pitches, Anne gave hers.
“Sheila held me accountable to further my career goals. That was something I realized I needed at the time,” said DelSanto. At the end of that breakout session, she was approached by another ABA attendee in search of a board member for his virtual reality company. According to DelSanto, “He pitched me the board seat, I went to NY for interviews and got the offer. It immediately demonstrated the power of the ABA.”
That wasn’t all for Anne. She aspired to transition entirely to board service from her full-time role and ended up doing so very successfully. She credits her initial inspiration to another WIB member, Tina Donikowski, who achieved three corporate board seats in just six months.
“I started to listen to the WIB webinars because I wanted to keep learning and growing as a board candidate. Tina’s story inspired me. She was the subject of the first webinar I listened to, and she encouraged board candidates to do our homework, prepare ourselves, and to not get sidetracked by rejection,” said DelSanto. She continued, “I was very encouraged by Tina’s practical story and knew now was the time to be bold, I was going to bet on me.”
DelSanto decided she would step away from her executive operator role for a year in order to pursue board service full-time. She credits her success to the inspiration from Donikowski and her expanding network of executive women who shared precious insights, putting the work in, beefing up her LinkedIn profile, her one on ones with Sheila, and applying what she was hearing in the webinars.
Almost immediately and before her resignation from her current role became final, DelSanto got another inquiry for a board via LinkedIn. She currently sits on five boards: two are private and three are public. Coincidentally, she now works with Tina and has been able to personally thank her for sharing her inspirational story.
DelSanto said that there were many unknowns about board service and the recruitment process, but WIB offered the right mix of targeted education and coaching sessions. Her confidence in her experience and career grew as CEOs and corporate boards illustrated that they valued her 30 years of operator experience. Anne found that the work to forge forward with her aspiration to board service paid off and this new chapter was incredibly rewarding.
Anne says that she’d challenge women who are considering board service to contemplate why they want to be leaders and to think about who might step into those roles if they don’t, asking themselves, “If not me, then who?” She also advised potential candidates to remember that women have a unique perspective, contributing tremendous value to important decisions in the boardroom.
DelSanto is grateful and happy with the evolution of her career. “The older I got the more I realized the importance of being in control of my schedule, so I could spend time on things that matter most. As a board member, you have much greater control of your schedule while tapping into every experience from a lifetime career. I love that I was able to start this new chapter as the ‘CEO’ of my life.”