Making the Transition from Executive to Non-Executive – David Shriver, Ocado

David Shriver, Director of Communications at Ocado is the latest corporate affairs leader to join a small but growing group of non-executives who have come from a communications background having recently secured his appointment on the supervisory board of zooplus AG.  And in doing so, he joins a group of pioneering communications leaders who were profiled in our recent report, From Corporate Affairs to Non-Executive Director.

NEDs have traditionally been drawn from the legal and accountancy professions, as well as industry and business. Yet, revolutionising the mix of boards means that other disciplines are increasingly being explored as valuable sources of board wisdom and insight.

In this context, corporate communications professionals have a valuable role to play, opening career possibilities that were previously few and far between. As evidenced by David Shriver’s appointment, NED positions are beginning to be gained by existing senior communications leaders who see them as opportunities to broaden their experience and prepare themselves for possible executive C-suite positions.

At Broome Yasar, we have predicted and witnessed this emerging trend of communications professionals escaping the risk of operating in silos to make valuable contributions at board level. As the leading specialist corporate affairs executive search firm, we regularly advise and counsel leaders in communications who are seeking career advancement, including in the non-executive arena.

We believe it is an exciting development that offers much potential for career advancement and diversification and for this reason we made it the subject of our third major industry report into the changing career paths of communications leaders.

Like senior C-suite positions, board membership as a non-executive director requires experience across a range of industries and sectors. It necessitates acumen in financial and strategic understanding and means that communications professionals with aspirations to follow this route need to step out of their comfort zone and gain hands-on experience early in their careers that they can utilize in their boardroom advice later.

Yet the unique role at the very centre of an organisation’s reputation and brand challenges that communications executives occupy may well mean that progress to NED positions develops from its current humble roots to become one of the most common career paths.

These are early days for this new career route and its challenges and opportunities need to be understood. By exploring the issues raised, through interviews with ten communications professionals who have made the move into non-executive positions, we hope to make it a more-travelled route for both the career paths of these talented employees and the corporate futures that they can help guide.

At Broome Yasar, we continue to raise the profile of corporate affairs as a potential talent pool for the NEDs and business leaders of the future, but such appointments will rarely be made by accident. Those who want to be part of the brave new world of non-executive directors should start preparing themselves now.