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NEDs sharing wisdom from the boardroom


Xuelian Chi is a seasoned Non-Executive Director (NED) and with two roles in her portfolio at present, she brings her varied experience from the tech industry to the boardroom. Xuelian carved out a career in the heart of Silicon Valley, a path that many dream of but few achieve. Born in mainland China and transplanting her roots to the United States after high school, her career is a rich tapestry that interweaves diverse experiences from start-ups to publicly traded companies. It's her journey through these varied landscapes that has shaped her NED profile.


What useful advice would you give to someone who is at the beginning of their boardroom career?

When stepping into your first role, it's crucial to embrace a different type of mindset. It's not only about your professional background or experiences, but also about your intention to help the CEO and the team build a better company from a governance perspective. This means guiding and coaching with kindness and understanding the balance between mentorship and direct involvement.

I remember the shift I needed to make when I first took on a board role. You might be used to being hands-on, but in the boardroom, your role is to advise, oversee and to bring a strategic mindset. It's about being the voice of reason and guidance, not the one executing the plan. Prepare yourself to inspire and empower others to perform at their best.


How did you make the transition into becoming a NED? How did you prepare yourself and continue to stay up to date and on top of being in ‘good shape’ in the Boardroom?

My transition was about building a strong network and understanding what part of my unique skills and values were relevant to the boardroom. I also learnt about the extent of the risk you take on as a NED, so it is vital to demonstrate integrity. To stay current, I am a lifelong learner, attending webinars, taking classes and keeping abreast of industry and economic trends. A daily dose of the Harvard Business Review keeps me informed and inspired.


What has been the best and the worst thing about being a NED, the biggest challenge and the most valuable thing you've learnt so far?

As a naturally positive person, I believe that the best learning comes from tackling challenges head-on. The role of a NED involves critically reviewing the CEO's performance, which can be tough when dealing with strong personalities. I’ve learned the importance of setting realistic goals, building bridges and collaborating to reach joint solutions. My most valuable lesson has been about how to help leaders grow and companies' flourish.


NEDs are supposed to bring wisdom to the boardroom. What does that mean and how would you describe a wise NED?

To me, a strategic mindset involves seeing the bigger picture and thinking creatively. A wise NED combines a solid knowledge base with practical experience. They're like a wise master who sees further into the horizon, providing insights that help shape a comprehensive strategy for the company.


What do you do to step out of your ‘echo chamber’ to challenge your own thinking and broaden your mindset and perspective?

I believe a healthy board culture should make sure all voices are heard. But it is the responsibility of NEDs to present our perspectives in a professional manner, supported with data and evidence aligning it all with the current situation. We should not assume others to buy into our ideas because of our past experiences. It is essential to maintain an open and humble mindset, but also reminding ourselves that other people’s perspectives should not replace our own understanding.


What transferrable learnings and different perspective could you take to the boardroom from your life outside your work and professional life?

My personal hobbies, like playing ping-pong and watching sports, have taught me about teamwork, handling failure, and celebrating wins, big and small. These are directly transferable to the boardroom. Understanding how to coach a team, motivate individuals, and work together towards a common goal are skills I bring from the sports arena to the corporate table.


What question would you like to ask a peer NED yourself?

With globalization continuously reshaping our world, understanding the skill sets and value one can bring to an international table is critical. How can a NED be most valuable in a multinational company?


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The Non-Executive Directors’ Association (NEDA), is a professional Association that develops and promote competent NEDs throughout their boardroom career with the right skills, knowledge and mindset. To find out more how we support our members to stay up to date through certified training, insight updates, coaching, networking and more, please go to



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