My journey Tamara Sakovska CDir, Lavra Group
Tamara Sakovska joined the IoD in 2015 and won the Chartered Director of the Year award in 2018. Tamara sits on a number of boards, and praises the chartered director community - both on and offline - for helping her succeed.
I am a founder of Lavra Group, where I advise companies and investors on private equity and corporate governance decision-making. I also serve as a Non-Executive Director, Member of the Audit Committee and Member of the Nomination Committee at JPMorgan Russian Plc, an investment company listed on the LSE and managed by JPMorgan Asset Management.
I have 20 years of finance and investment experience gained at Goldman Sachs, HarbourVest Partners, Warburg Pincus, Permira, Eton Park and Global Family Partners. My investment experience includes originating, leading and executing leveraged buyouts, minority and control growth equity transactions as well as financings and investments in publicly listed companies. I am an experienced board director who has served on multiple company boards.
Why I undertook the CDir programme
I joined the board of a publicly listed company as a non-executive director in 2016. Having sat on several boards of private-equity backed businesses before, I found that serving as an independent director in a listed company required a different mindset and additional skills. I felt that completing the Chartered Director Programme would be an effective way to strengthen my knowledge of corporate governance best practices, including those applying to listed companies.
I looked into several providers of corporate governance training but the IoD programme stood out by offering a truly comprehensive and systematic curriculum. Before committing to the programme, I met with the IoD course coordinators and looked at the learning materials. I was pleasantly surprised to see how relevant, up-to-date and practical the case studies were and decided to join the programme. Little did I know that it would take almost two years for me to complete the requirements and take all the exams!
My key learnings
My favourite part of the programme was the diploma course, as it was a great opportunity to consolidate key learnings from all prior units and apply them in a realistic board scenario. I met an interesting group of people ranging from a high-ranking naval officer to a CFO of a FTSE business. We really bonded over those couple of days, as we had to deal with a dysfunctional board, a takeover, a PR crisis, a management change and an economic meltdown, to name a few challenges.
How the CDir programme has helped me
There are two valuable takeways from the programme that support my journey as a director. The first one is finding a community of people who have diverse backgrounds but who all want to see higher standards of corporate governance adopted across more company boards. The second takeway is seeing my director duties with greater clarity and making decisions that are better informed.
I was very honoured to win the Chartered Director of the Year award in 2018. It was great to see how proud my family members were and how much fun my children had playing with my award plaque. Many other chartered directors and IoD members reached out to me afterwards, and it feels like I am now a part of a new network of like-minded people.
My biggest challenge
I have always worked in male-dominated environments and generally build great working relationships with professionals of both genders. However, as a female board director, I face a new dilemma. How does one combine influencing skills and professional gravitas with authenticity? I am still searching for an answer that would work well for females in the boardroom, especially those representing a younger generation of directors.
The most important attributes of a modern director
I believe that great board directors need to have a rich palette of almost conflicting attributes. For example, they need to be able to build productive relationships yet also challenge constructively; be disciplined and knowledgeable yet flexible and open to new ideas. The best director is someone who is an independent thinker, a good listener and someone who truly cares about the company and its stakeholders.
My advice for new directors
Build relationships: The board acts as a collective brain of the company, so it is important to build a relationship of trust with other directors and contribute to a collaborative working environment.
Watch out for macro shifts: While the company executives are busy working towards near-term goals, focus relentlessly on the company’s long-term future. Pay special attention to any concerning changes in the industry landscape or secular trends that might damage the company’s business in the future.
Prepare for crises: Every company board encounters a difficult situation at one point driven by sector challenges, regulatory pressure, underperformance, or an unforeseen event. Understand as early as possible who the company’s key stakeholder groups are, so that you can act confidently in their best interest during the times of crisis.