My first board role: How HR was instrumental in Amy Tankard's orchestra board move

Amy Tankard is CEO of Passive House Institute New Zealand - an incorporated Charitable Trust advocating for healthy, highly energy efficient homes and public buildings in New Zealand - and recently gained her first Board role on the volunteer board of Opus Orchestra - the professional orchestra for the Waikato/Bay of Plenty region and the wider Central North Island.

Congratulations on your first Board role. What led you to the Opus Orchestra?

Opus Orchestra’s mission is to inspire and connect people through performing quality music across our region, making a distinctive contribution to a vibrant arts community. In my role at Opus, it's striking the balance between listening and learning and wanting to make a valuable contribution as soon as possible. I’m not musical but I do think it is important to have a wide spectrum of skills, experiences and perspectives on a board and the Opus Board valued my HR background as it is looking at taking on more paid staff in the future.

The rest of the Board has been very welcoming and happy to share their knowledge, and very patient given that I don't come from a musical background and I’m looking forward to attending my first concert in Board capacity soon.

When and why did you decide to pursue boards?

Last year when I was trying to develop my knowledge to improve my performance in my CEO role I realised there was so much to learn about good governance and the tools a Board can utilise to function well. I attended quite a few Board Pro webinars which led me to Women on Boards, which led me to consider that being on a Board was something that was open to me - why not? 

Did you come across any challenges along the way?

The first Board role I put myself forward for received absolutely no response, despite me following up a few times. That was disheartening and quite frankly annoying! 

What areas of expertise do you feel you bring to the board table?

My extensive HR background in a number of sectors means I have been able to contribute on policy writing, recruitment and legal matters, and most importantly the ‘people perspective’. My last HR role was with Unitec Institute of Technology, which with its partnership model of leadership and strong values has given me a good basic grounding of te Tiriti o Waitangi and Te Ao Māori, although I still have a lot to learn in this space.

In my time as CEO of the Passive House Institute New Zealand, reporting to a Volunteer Board, I have seen it from the other side, in particular how important it is for the Board to have a clear, agreed strategy and direction.  

What do you most like about being on a board?

Knowing that my many years of experience as an employee has given me transferable skills and allows me to make a valuable contribution. Being involved in the big picture and part of the decision-making process.  

Have you had mentors and/or sponsors?

I have managed to find a number of lovely, experienced women who help to build me up and generously share the benefit of their experience with me. I also have to acknowledge the former Chair of the Passive House Institute New Zealand, Elrond Burrell. He was key in my appointment into the CEO role, and spent a lot of his time giving me ideas, guidance and support. 

How has WOB helped on your board journey?

WOB has given me the confidence to even consider that being on a Board is something I could do. Also a great help is how WOB collates all the vacancies in one place, showcases the successes of other women like me, and provides lots of great advice on how to target your CV, how to approach becoming a Board member and tips for once you're on a Board. 

What skills have helped in your Board career?

Constantly considering the ‘people implications’ of any decision. Presentation skills - being able to stand confidently in a room full of professionals and believe that they want to hear what you've got to say. 

Do you have any tips for others starting out? 

Just go for it. The more I've put myself forward and gone through the process of tailoring my CV and cover letter to apply, the more I've realised just how much I have to offer, and that I have a lot of transferable skills. 

Can you share a surprising fact about yourself?

For the first two years of her life I chaperoned my daughter to play a main character on New Zealand's favourite soap, Shortland Street. She’s still a toddler but is certainly a diva and knows how to act to get what she wants - so perhaps this is a future career for her!

You can find out more about Amy on her LinkedIn profile