O’Hanley takes over as the chamber’s board chair this month for Micho Spring, the Weber Shandwick executive, for a two-year term. He said he’s looking forward to balancing the demands of his day job running a global financial services company with giving back to the community as the chamber’s new chairman, working with a staff led by chief executive Jim Rooney. In a memo to chamber members, O’Hanley wrote that he believes “the Greater Boston Chamber has become the most influential business group” in Massachusetts.
The chamber already encourages members to contract with small businesses owned by people of color, through its Pacesetters program. O’Hanley said he wants members to foster diversity and inclusion through recruiting and training, as well procurement practices.
O’Hanley’s appointment comes amid a series of videoconferences the chamber is holding to address the “Racial Wealth Gap.” The most recent one took place last Wednesday, and featured Pam Eddinger, president of Bunker Hill Community College, Kenn Turner, chief executive of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, and Boston mayor-turned-Labor Secretary Martin J. Walsh. Karilyn Crockett, who once worked for Walsh but now does consulting work for the chamber, moderated the discussion. Eddinger talked about how communities of color face higher unemployment rates, while Turner talked about the staffing shortage he is seeing almost everywhere in his industry.
Can that mismatch be solved? It’s a question O’Hanley wants the chamber to keep exploring.
Racial equity might be the most important topic, but it’s not the only one on O’Hanley’s agenda. Other priorities include transportation and housing. The chamber, he said, can act as a convener, to bring together experts from various local institutions to help tackle these problems.
Then there’s the ballot question heading to voters in November that would raise the income tax for residents who earn more than $1 million a year, a proposal the chamber opposes. O’Hanley said the members he talks to are worried about the signal the so-called “millionaires tax” would send about Massachusetts, particularly at a time when it’s easier than ever to work remotely.
“Massachusetts has done a good job over the last 30 years shedding that Taxachusetts label,” O’Hanley said. “It’s still a costly place to do business but that cost has been largely offset by other assets.”
A new post for Cowan
The Greater Boston Chamber isn’t the only prominent business organization with a new person running the board meetings.
As a key aide to then-governor Deval Patrick, Mo Cowan helped get MassChallenge off the ground in 2009. Now, his career is coming full circle: Cowan was just appointed chair of the board at MassChallenge, a Seaport-based nonprofit that helps startups. Cowan is the organization’s first designated chair; Cait Brumme was recently promoted to be its chief executive.
Cowan, of course, has held a few high profile jobs over the past decade: Patrick named Cowan to be interim US senator after John Kerry left. He later helped Steve Tocco run ML Strategies, the lobbying arm of Mintz Levin, before joining General Electric. Cowan left his job leading global policy at GE last year to join Devoted Health, a Medicare Advantage provider, as the health tech startup’s top legal and external affairs executive.
Cowan would like to see MassChallenge open more new locations, either in the United States or through a licensing agreement oversees. But he also wants MassChallenge to wave the Boston flag as often as possible, to underscore this city’s rich and diverse tech ecosystem.
“We want to be a part of making sure Boston is seen as being as open as it has ever been to entrepreneurship and innovation,” Cowan said. “As we come out of the pandemic and the world has opened back up, MassChallenge exists to create a place where people can come together locally to think globally, to solve some of the biggest problems.”
A new job, a new commute
Workhuman chief executive Eric Mosley has lured Tom Libretto away from Pegasystems to be chief marketing officer at his Framingham firm. Libretto had the same job at Pega, overseeing a team of about 250 people. While Workhuman (formerly Globoforce) is smaller than Pega and they are both subscription software firms, Libretto said he was attracted to Workhuman’s mission of helping corporate clients retain and reward their employees. (Pega’s focus is workflow automation.) Among other things, Workhuman’s software allows companies to recognize employees through a system that accumulates points that can be redeemed for merchandise.
“It boiled down to the purpose-driven nature of what Workhuman does,” Libretto said.
The commute also might feel like an improvement. No more driving into Cambridge from Lexington. Framingham is actually further away from home for Libretto. But he spends about the same time in the car, because he’s driving opposite the rush hour traffic once he hits the Mass. Pike. “The traffic going east [into Boston], I can’t imagine it,” Libretto said. “It feels like it is heavier than it ever has been.”
Back in the groove at CyberArk
Count CyberArk chief executive Udi Mokady is among the businesspeople who are excited to be back in person again. The Newton cybersecurity firm held its signature “Impact” conference last week at the Hynes Convention Center in the Back Bay. It was the first in-person Impact conference for CyberArk since the pandemic began two years ago. More than 1,000 employees and customers attended.
One thing Mokady loves about these kinds of events is all the unscripted moments, the kind that rarely seem to happen on Zoom. One such moment occurred when Mokady was sharing a keynote talk on Thursday with Robert Herjavec, a Canadian businessman who stars on the ABC TV show “Shark Tank.” Mokady referenced the concept of “cyber debt,” in which companies add to their cybersecurity risk by moving data to cloud storage, for example, or allowing employees to work remotely. Herjavec loved the phrase, as Mokady put it, and jokingly turned to Mokady to say, “I’m going to start using it, and I’m not sure I’m going to give you credit for it.”
Even more unexpected was the jam session involving Ethan Ben-Joseph, a security services manager at CyberArk, and the Boston-born rock band Guster, which played a set for CyberArk at the House of Blues. Ben-Joseph apparently reached out to the band on Instagram and asked if he could join in on saxophone. The band was all for it, and Ben-Joseph ended up hopping on stage during the show for Guster’s single “Satellite” as well as a cover of Wham’s “Careless Whisper.”
“I loved it,’ Mokady said. “It was very much in character for CyberArk.” Mokady said that means being smart but humble, or in the case of an employee cajoling a famous rock band to let him play with them, make that: bold but humble.