Interview with Athena Chairman, Karen Fisher
Karen Fisher served as the Chairman on the Board of Directors for Athena this year. She sat down with us to review the changes made within Athena in 2016 that will pave the way for future growth in the organization.
Q: Let’s start at the beginning. What drew you to Athena?
I relocated from Phoenix to San Diego in 1999 and became involved with Athena San Diego in 2010. A group from Athena visited my place of work and I recognized the business organization from my time in Phoenix where I had been nominated for a Pinnacle award.
I had been looking for a dynamic organization where I could network with business leaders in different industries. In talking with several members on the Athena Board, as well as its members, I knew this was an organization where my contributions would count. I wanted to connect with people who I could learn from and who would help me to continue to grow personally and professionally.
Q: What have been some of the most rewarding experiences as an Athena member?
The Athena Forums for Executive Women (FEW) are invaluable. Athena’s FEW groups are open to all members. I have been in the same group since 2010 and continue to meet with this group on a regular basis. We share career goals, personal and professional challenges, as well as support each other in many ways. No matter how much time it takes, FEW members are committed to helping each other.
Q: When you accepted the Chairman position on the Board, what goals did you have for Athena?
Developing and clarifying short and long-term goals for Athena’s organizational growth and leadership, as well as meeting the needs of its diverse membership and corporate sponsors.
Q: Let’s talk about the many changes made this year and how they factor into your long-term goals for Athena. You have a new Executive Director and a completely new staff. Athena also has two new offices.
With more businesses locating to North San Diego, we felt our membership would increase and be better supported if we had a physical presence. Relocating a business is never an easy task, but we were able to not only relocate our offices to downtown San Diego from the Carmel Valley area, but we now have a satellite office in North County which serves a multitude of members, as well as corporate sponsors.
Q: What prompted you to develop a new website and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) database?
Like all businesses, we recognized a few years ago that an upgrade to our technology was needed. Under Athena’s new leadership, the organization developed a project plan to upgrade the organization’s web site. At the same time, it made sense to develop a CRM database to track membership data, prospective members, committee activities, and corporate sponsors. Keeping abreast of this data is critical to building business relationships which directly affects the growth of the organization. It also enables us to do a better job of managing the numerous educational events sponsored by Athena while providing significant staff efficiencies.
Q: How do you see Athena’s membership evolving?
In addition to our associate, executive and corporate memberships, we recently added two new membership categories - entrepreneurs and educators. Both of these groups will bring different experiences and value to the organization. In recognizing entrepreneurs as a new membership category, Athena supports the many individuals coming out of school today who would rather start their own business versus joining a large corporation. These entrepreneurs are becoming an important part of San Diego’s business culture and its reputation as a hub for new technology, biotech and healthcare businesses. It fits with Athena’s mission and values to support these individuals in their career choices.
Q: Is this why Athena recently partnered with the UCSD Rady School of Management on mystartupXX – an accelerator for female entrepreneurs?
Working and partnering with UCSD just makes sense for Athena. Many of these women will lead companies that transform the business landscape in science, engineering and technology. As an organization, we need to support leaders in these fields. Learn more about mystartupXX.
Q: How has Athena attracted such an impressive list of corporate sponsors?
San Diego’s leading companies recognize the value Athena provides to an important segment of the workforce. It speaks to the progress they are making for diversity in their own organizations and their support for the community.
Our corporate sponsors directly receive value for employees through Athena’s mentoring, education and development programs. Our many education programs tap renowned experts to provide insight about issues that are important to our members, as well as our corporate sponsors.
Q: As you prepare to leave the board, do you have any hopes you want to express for Athena’s future?
I am confident Athena will continue on the growth trajectory we started this year. We set some ambitious goals and established a good foundation. With the guidance, insight and counsel of its Board of Directors, the organization will excel locally, as well as regionally.
Celebrate the Season with Your Athena Friends
Tuesday, December 6th at 5:30pm
Latham & Watkins LLP
12670 High Bluff Dr
San Diego CA, 92130