Coco Brown is using Athena Alliance to activate the connections, knowledge, & opportunities women executives need to lead at their highest level of impact
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Coco Brown: Thanks for asking. We are doing great — one son graduated from high school and is in Costa Rica on a surf trip, and I was fortunate enough to recently visit him with my husband, Scott.
Overall, I’m extremely grateful that my entire family has been safe during this time. Not to mention, since Athena Alliance has always been virtual, the transition to remote work was seamless.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Athena Alliance.
Coco Brown: Athena Alliance is the pragmatic learning and support I needed as a new executive when starting my career and that I rely on today as the founder and CEO of the company.
When starting my career, I didn’t have the time even to consider an MBA, let alone apply, wait to be accepted and then go through an expensive, two-year program. When I became VP of Professional Services for Taos, a top global IT managed services firm recently acquired by IBM, I was just 28 years old. Every challenge I faced was new to me and required fast action. I constantly sought new information, better practices, and opportunities to learn from others at my level. My solution was to surround myself with Taos’ clients, typically CIOs. I built my own personal Executive Education system through these leaders. This network ultimately became my circle of teachers, and many still are to this day.
This personal network became the foundation for Athena Alliance. Today, we have one of the largest communities of executives who constantly support and learn from each other through on-demand learning, personalized coaching, and extensive networking opportunities.
How does Athena Alliance innovate?
Coco Brown: Athena Alliance is a community-driven, SaaS-based executive education company that makes it easy and accessible for leaders to learn from their peers. As the first Executive-Education-as-a-Service platform, we provide personalized, exclusive access to on-demand learning, one-on-one coaching, and virtual networking for “in the know” executives. Modern global leaders, from venture-backed, growth-stage startups to the Fortune 50, join Athena to access the most current business lessons and executive knowledge taught by other leaders at some of the world’s most reputable brands.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Coco Brown: As a virtual community, we’ve seen continuous growth throughout the pandemic, with more and more leaders joining Athena to connect with other executives when in-person networking events and coffee dates were scarce. Further, our community leaders mobilized to educate members on supply chain, distribution risk, and other relevant topics to stay one step ahead of the volatile business landscape at the height of the pandemic.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Coco Brown: While we’ve had to make difficult decisions throughout the pandemic, we were fortunate enough to see consistent, sustained growth. Our team stabilized and even grew throughout COVID-19 — without any layoffs or need for loans. We’re thrilled to have tripled our membership base!
How do you project yourself and Athena Alliance in the future?
Coco Brown: While Athena’s origin story lies inboard placements for women executives, today, we aim to redefine executive education as continuous learning that matches the rapid pace of business and the world we’re living and working in. We envision a world where every executive uses Athena, not just for a short period but for the entirety of their career.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Coco Brown: While networking groups and other communities exist today, they lack deeper learning and education. However, Athena is built for today’s world. We are the only platform to deliver executive learning in a way that is engaging, persistent, and peer-based. And, as a fully virtual platform, we provide our members with a unique opportunity to make connections on a global scale. Our platform offers the greatest breadth of resources in terms of who our members are and what they have to teach and share with the world. Not to mention that we are seeing a tremendous amount of large corporations approaching us to receive consistent support for their executive base. This is a clear indicator that we are breaking through the noise and are becoming the go-to network for the top executives wanting to permanently stay “in the know.”
Your final thoughts?
Coco Brown: To be successful as an executive, it’s crucial to learn from other executives who are active and in the know now. That’s why Athena’s learning stems from a powerful community, where women executives teach women executives. We exist to support women executives for the entirety of their careers, not just a point in time.
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