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Continuing Curiosity: My CES Experience

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Kathleen Misunas

I first attended the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) more than 30 years ago and have visited periodically over the intervening years. Rest assured that the creativity and sheer volume of innovation exhibited there never ceases to amaze and impress me. While some of it is developed and showcased by global companies such as Samsung and Kohler, the showroom floor is also filled with talent previously working behind the scenes at various brands, or by truly start-up entrepreneurs.

This was the first time that I have viewed the show through the eyes of a corporate director. As I walked more than 10 miles through the aisles over the course of CES 2018, I considered the governance implications of what I saw.

To me, one of the benefits of being at CES is being away from daily routines and taking the opportunity to observe and just let your mind cogitate the possibilities. And cogitate I did. In some cases, I wanted to know not only what the product did, but how it was made. In other instances, I wondered how a product could be marketed or sold, what companies would create its competitor products, and what adoption rate was required to make the product financially successful.

So, what did I find exciting? What made the governance wheels in my head turn? Below are a few themes that stood out.

  • Quantum Computers. From a pure technology standpoint, the quantum computer stands out due to its astounding small size yet incredible processing power. Intel, which is one of the leaders of the quantum computing race, kicked the week off by exhibiting its own advancements in engineering one of the most powerful quantum chips yet. The IBM Research group, on the other hand, displayed its quantum computer as a stunning piece of art.
  • Sensors and the Internet of Things. Sensors—which were imbedded in everything from fabrics to headsets, from vehicles to medical products, and in everything else you might imagine would benefit from being connected—continued to impress due to the breadth of their utility. One clever use of sensors was the ShadeCraft patio umbrella whose electronics and robotics allowed it to automatically raise and lower itself based upon current light and weather conditions. This product not only understood sunrise and sunset, but followed the sun throughout the day to properly tilt the umbrella and gauged wind speed or rain to automatically close the umbrella without human intervention. No more worrying about your expensive patio umbrella being turned inside out, upending your table, or taking off as a projectile when you weren’t available to tend it.
  • Autonomous Vehicles. There was an incredible number of offerings around autonomous vehicles. I use the term vehicles instead of cars because the auto-drive implications are also clear for vans, trucks, tractors, forklifts, campers, and other vehicles. Here again the use of sensors was key, and there is no doubt that many of these machines will perform better than the drivers that we currently encounter on the road, human foibles and all.
  • Medical Aids. Regarding other products, I found so many to be interesting. There was an audio system that not only provided a hearing test but progressed to actually construct an ear bud that utilized the results of the hearing test to produce a customized hearing aid. Phenomenal! Anyone who has gone through the rigor of selecting a hearing aid device can appreciate this speedy, streamlined approach, especially when it is at half the price point of today’s offerings. Next, I liked the Gyenno Co., which developed a special spoon that automatically levels its contents to eliminate spilling. This will provide such a caring and practical solution for those with Parkinson’s or other medical issues that have a problem feeding themselves due to tremors.
  • 3D Printing. Another greatly improved invention is 3D printing. Although the method has been around for a while, it is now not limited to plastics or small items. Printers can fabricate in a variety of mediums and to great scale. For example, there was a camper-type van displayed on the showroom floor that was created by 3D printing. It was produced quickly and at much less expense than a traditional van. It is easy to extrapolate the utility of 3D printing to assist various businesses since it permits specialty solutions that previously did not have the volume to be economically feasible from the producer’s perspective, and were not affordable from the buyer’s standpoint.
  • Odds and Ends. Three fun offerings were related to beer, fingernails, and laundry. Although I am not a beer drinker, the PicoBrew easily allows making craft beers at home and would be a hit with many of my friends. And I know those who would like the fingernail machine that can use any photos to create vinyl nails for application at home. Finally I’ll introduce the FoldiMate, a device that folds your laundry when you feed it into the machine. It could be the next best thing since sliced bread for the lazy among us.

It is worth noting that one of the great joys of CES is that everyone is welcome, and that the exhibitors and subject-matter experts arrive from many countries. CES makes clear that the desire to innovate transcends borders and creeds, and that the glue holding this incredible meeting together is not so-called “geekiness,” but a superior level of creativity, intellectual curiosity, and desire for business success—and, perhaps above all, the desire by many to improve living conditions around the world.

I’ll close by saying everyone should attend this show once their life time. As a director, I suggest setting the goal of attending every three to five years. CES presents a soup-to-nuts view of developments in products and technology that consumers will anticipate. Even if you are not affiliated with what is considered a consumer business, you do serve customers that will continue to expect innovation. As I absorbed the week’s events and considered the possibilities around every corner, CES opened my mind about what could or should be considered in the boardroom related to strategy and risk. It was well worth my time, and would be for you, too.

Kathleen Misunas is a director of Boingo Wireless and Tech Data Corp., two publicly traded technology companies. 

Want to learn more about NACD’s CES Experience? Explore dispatches from the event here

NACD Staff Gives Back

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This past Friday, October 20, National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) staff packed up and readied itself for a big move. After five years on Pennsylvania Ave., NACD’s national office relocated across the Potomac River to Arlington, Virginia. NACD staff turned what could have been a stressful moving day into an opportunity to give back to the community that it works in through its first Day of Service.

Packaging food for delivery

Serving hot meals from a mobile food kitchen

President and CEO Peter Gleason championed NACD’s Day of Service as a way to involve staff in volunteer activity and to demonstrate that the organization is dedicated to supporting the lives of others. NACD spent time with several  local nonprofit organizations, including:

  • Martha’s Table, an organization that seeks to provide healthy meal and food programs for children and their families. For over 37 years, Martha’s Table has worked to support children, families, and neighbors by making healthy food and quality learning more accessible.
  • DC Central Kitchen, whose mission is to use food as a tool to strengthen bodies, empower minds, and build communities. This organization provides culinary training for jobless adults and then hires them to prepare 3 million meals annually for homeless shelters, schools, and nonprofits.
  • Capital Area Food Bank, an organization working to solver hunger, chronic malnourishment, heart disease, and obesity. It provides 540,000 people in and around the nation’s Capital access to healthy food annually.
  • Arlington Food Assistance Center, which obtains and distributes groceries directly and free of charge to those in Arlington who cannot afford groceries.
  • Food & Friends, whose vision is to provide meal delivery to people with HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other serious illnesses who have limited ability to provide nourishment for themselves. Their simple premise is that anyone can get sick and everyone can help.

Organizing food for a “market day” at an elementary school

One group of NACD volunteers reported back from Martha’s Table with this experience:

“Our crew of four baked about 230 muffins in one afternoon for our Day of Service assignment. Martha’s Table is a charity that has various aims, including introducing healthy eating to those who might not have access to traditional resources, such as those experiencing homelessness. Their mobile soup kitchen, McKenna’s Wagon, provides meals daily at various locations. The muffins we baked and packaged were destined to go on the truck Friday night as dessert for those that McKenna’s Wagon served. We had a lot of fun baking at Martha’s Table. We had a recipe for apple spice muffins and an aggressive timeline to meet! Everyone pitched in, bonded, and encouraged each other. It was a rewarding experience.”

Baking for a mobile soup kitchen

Do you know a deserving organization in the metropolitan Washington, DC area that could use volunteers in the future? Make your suggestion by leaving us a comment.

NACD Remembers Roger W. Raber

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Dr. Roger W. Raber

The National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) mourns the loss of our past president Dr. Roger W. Raber, who died peacefully at home on the evening of October 10, 2017, after a long and valiant struggle against an illness. No mere summary can express the value he brought NACD, the nation, and the world. The details of his extraordinary life of service can be found in his obituary notice below, and members can read more about his dedication to NACD here.

Peter Gleason

President & CEO, NACD


OBITUARY NOTICE

Dr. Roger W. Raber

November 28, 1942 – October 10, 2017

Dr. Roger W. Raber, whose advocacy work helped to usher in the modern era of corporate governance, died peacefully at his home in Washington, DC, on October 10th. He was 74. The cause was complications from Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Raber was born in Jamaica, New York. After attending Saint Anthony College in New Hampshire, he received a BA in Philosophy and an MA in Theology and Religious Education from Manhattan College. He later received an MA and doctorate in Administration in Higher Education from Teachers College at Columbia University.

From an early interest in theology, his career evolved from educational administration to professional education, this latter area focused at first in banking and later in corporate governance.

Dr. Raber served as director of admissions at the City University of New York in the early 1970s, and as Deputy Provost at the College at Old Westbury, State University of New York, later that decade. In 1980, he became director of education for the National Association of Mutual Savings Banks in New York City, and for the next two decades he would apply his educational expertise in the banking field, moving on to become an executive vice president of the National Council of Community Bankers; president and CEO of the Center for Financial Studies in Connecticut; and managing director, member services, at America’s Community Bankers. While living in Connecticut he chaired the Weston School District, elected by the residents to restore the integrity of the school system following several crises. During the 1980s he served as a director of Starpointe Savings Bank, staying on the board while it integrated into Dime Savings of New York.

In 1999, he began his service as president and CEO of the National Association of Corporate Directors, serving for the next seven years in this capacity, where he built an organization that was strong both financially and culturally.

In his role as CEO, he responded at a personal level to NACD members affected by the tragedy of September 11, 2001, strengthened by his faith. His ability to steer through crisis would be tested at the national level soon thereafter following the December 2001 bankruptcy of Enron, when he testified on the nature of good governance to Congress. His remarks were influential in determining the governance standards later set by the major stock exchanges.

During his tenure at NACD, paid membership grew from 1,800 to 10,000. He developed educational partnerships with a variety of organizations, including Dartmouth College, University of Southern California, Rice University, Duke University, and University of Georgia and created relationships with Association of Corporate Counsels, Financial Executives International, National Investor Relations Institute, America’s Community Banks, Executive Leadership Council, World Bank/IFC) and several governance institutes in Asia, Central Europe, and Latin America. He also established strategic alliances with several leading professional Institutional Shareholder Services, the Nasdaq Stock Market, New York Stock Exchange, major D&O insurers, and leading professional service providers.

Dr. Raber had a special love for the nonprofit sector. He formed a Not-for-Profit Council at NACD, and conducted the first surveys of nonprofit governance. And although he presented boardroom education programs to many of the nation’s largest public companies, his most treasured assignment was his work with the board of the American Red Cross.

He practiced what he preached about governance, ensuring that NACD would have an independent and diverse board and strong bench strength. Many of the employees he mentored are still with NACD, including its current leader. Thus the Raber legacy lives on.

During his years at NACD and after retirement, he served in many advisory roles. He was a member of the board of overseers of Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Program at the U.S. Department of Commerce, and an advisory board member at the University of Delaware, Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance. He also served on the board of Washington Campus, a nonprofit facilitating a better understanding of government. His three professional engagements in the NACD years included service as an advisory board member to CFM Partners in Washington, DC (banking education), James F. Reda & Associates in New York and Atlanta, a compensation practice (now part of Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.), and the Project Management Institute.

In 2007, after stepping down from NACD leadership to serve as a senior advisor to the organization, he continued some of his advisory roles. In 2010, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and faced the disease with all the energy and good cheer he had given his life’s earlier missions. He agreed to participate in two clinical studies at the Memory Disorders Program at Georgetown University Medical Center. During these seven years as he came to terms with the disease, he continued his volunteer work with the West End Library, as well as So Others Might Eat, and Miriam’s Kitchen, two social service programs for the homeless population in Washington, DC. Always a family man, his final years were full of joy as his beloved children themselves became parents. His last gift of many to humanity was the donation of his brain to Georgetown University Medical Center for further research with Alzheimer’s disease.

He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Dr. Marie Raber, Associate Dean of the School of Social Work at Catholic University; their son Commander Roger W. Raber, Jr., U.S.N., his wife Heather, and their two sons, Jack and Elliot; as well as their daughter, Robyn Borgelt, her husband Nate, and their children Anna and William.

A funeral Mass will be held at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown on October 21, 2017, at 10:30 A.M.. There will be a one-day wake at De Vol Funeral Home the day before from 2:00 P.M. to 4:00 P.M., and from 6:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. All are welcome. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be sent to Georgetown University, Attn: Memory Disorders Program, Bldg. D, Suite 177, 4000 Reservoir Rd., NW, Washington DC, 20057.