Isaura Gaeta is a Global Technology Executive and Governance & Security Leader who challenges assumptions and pioneers innovation for the companies and communities she serves. Isaura serves on the board of Stearns Bank N.A., on the board of the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley as the chair of the Nominating and Governance committee, and on Intel’s Executive Diversity Council with the company’s CEO and Board Secretary. She has instituted transformative success metrics and operational strategies to optimize Intel’s delivery on its global product lines, while overseeing 25K employees across multiple countries, executing a $3B R&D budget for enterprise-wide product development, and initiating a company-wide security-first mindset. Isaura is the first from her Latin American family to graduate from college, earning bachelor and graduate degrees from Stanford University. Today, she frequently speaks internationally on diversity and inclusion in the tech workplace.
Tell me about the process of landing your board seat through Women in the Boardroom.
The job opening didn’t say exactly what the name of the company was, but it gave enough information that I could look at how I could potentially match to that opportunity, what type of experience they were looking for, and any unique areas that I could speak about. So, I prepared my pitch based on the information that was in the board spec. And then it was a while before I heard back. I think sometimes for some of the women you start thinking in that time period, “is anyone looking at this? Was it a match or not?” But ultimately I did get contacted by the Nominating and Governing chair, and she’s actually also the chair of the board, and she said they’d like to speak to me. I was so thrilled when I was able to speak with her. She basically felt very comfortable with my candidacy and recommended that I meet with the rest of the Nom and Gov committee. So I met with them, and again you don’t really know exactly how it goes, but I felt comfortable. I didn’t know exactly if I was going to be a match for what they were looking for, but I immediately had a very strong connection with the rest of the board members, so I had a very good feeling about it. And then it was a little bit more time before I was contacted again. And good news — they really liked me, and they offered me the opportunity to join the board. So from the spec being posted to when I got onto the board was probably about 5 months.
What other advice would you give to someone who is looking to start their board journey?
It takes time and also you learn as you go through. I did ultimately interview for maybe three or four other board opening opportunities, and each time I felt like I was getting better about tuning my unique value proposition to what I could offer a board. I think the first time I went in, I was still kind of thinking “here’s my resume for a job,” but it’s very different when you apply for a board opportunity. It’s really “what value can I bring to the board?” “How can I help this Board with a unique perspective?” I think I probably would have felt more comfortable if someone had told me at the beginning, “You’re going to get a lot of no’s at first, but keep going. It’s making you a stronger candidate. You will keep learning. This is normal. It’s a very competitive area. So don’t give up. Keep going.”
How did Women in the Boardroom prepare you for the Stearns Bank N.A. board seat?
The information available from Women in the Boardroom is very practical, easy-to-understand advice — here’s how to build your network step-by-step, here’s how to prepare your pitch, and here are some examples. And so I followed that advice. I first started by just connecting with my network and letting them know that I was interested in a board opportunity. The second part is the job specs, the descriptions of available board opportunities that periodically come through. Women in the Boardroom’s advice really helped me tune my pitch to the various opportunities that I observed. And then obviously the Stearns Bank N.A. opportunity that I ultimately got selected for came through Women in the Boardroom. So I really appreciate just having that visibility and the preparation that helped me highlight how I was a good match for what they were looking for.
Tell me about your one-on-one meeting with Sheila, our CEO & Founder.
Wow, she’s very high-energy! It was very short, probably like a 15-minute talk with her. It was affirming the process and holding me accountable to following the steps that she outlined, which is really good. Basically “here’s the formula that we think would work for you. Are you following it?” And luckily I could say, “yes.”
How was your first board meeting?
It was great. It was very welcoming. Before the first meeting, there was an onboarding for myself and another individual who joined at the same time. That was very helpful. I went in knowing more than I would have had I just gone in without any background. I’ve served on nonprofit boards before, so I kind of knew a little bit about how a boardroom works, but from the nonprofit side. So it went really well, and I am very happy.
Have you noticed any differences between the corporate board and the nonprofit board? If I were to say the difference in the two boards that I’m on right now is that there’s a lot more governance focus in the corporate board, and then there’s the need for more fundraising and brainstorming on a nonprofit board.
What would you say to someone who’s on the fence about Women in the Boardroom?
I think Women in the Boardroom is really tailored for executive women like us. They understand where we’re coming from and some of the little voices in our head that we have to overcome to really say, “yes I do have the credentials. I would be a great asset to the board, and here’s how I need to do it.” So I really appreciated that. Also, the job opportunities that come through are very one-of-a-kind. I’m just amazed that Sheila and the team have the ability to source and connect to so many openings. The type of board opportunities that came through are not things that I would see in other forums. So I’m very appreciative of the fact that we have a chance to apply to these specific opportunities. And there is some curation going on behind the scenes. Knowing that someone is being careful about who they bring forward to make sure you’re a good match for that Board — I appreciate that.
If you’re ready to start your journey to the boardroom, join Isaura and thousands of other business women who have found success as a VIP Member of Women in the Boardroom.