Technically, Deb Frodl is retired. Yet with board of director roles at four energy companies in five years, she’s far from done with her professional accomplishments. In fact, after a distinguished career of nearly 30 years as a GE executive, she’s now being recognized with an Outstanding Directors Award from Twin Cities Business magazine.
Frodl’s board service centers on clean energy, transportation, and sustainability, a passion she discovered during her work at GE. For two years, she served as Chief Strategy Officer of GE Capital’s Fleet Services & Global Alternative Fuels, followed by five years as Global Executive Director of GE Ecomagination. Both roles enabled her to lead lead pioneering global strategies to support customer needs and reduce the company’s carbon footprint.
Within months of retiring from GE, Frodl landed her first director role, joining the board of Renewable Energy Group in 2018. From there, she deliberately cultivated a diverse portfolio of companies within the energy sector, including Spring Valley Acquisition Corporation, Spruce Power Holdings, and her current board service with ITC Holdings Corporation.
Board work is about giving and helping companies navigate but it’s also getting back—it is a continual journey of learning
“I’ve had an incredible career journey—very fulfilling and continuous learning,” she said. “When I retired, I really wanted to continue my focus on clean energy. I wanted a next chapter that let me bring my global business, executive leadership, industry experience and broad network to help companies accelerate progress.”
Making the Pivot from Corporate Leader to Board Service
Frodl’s senior executive roles, broad leadership experience with GE and deep expertise in clean energy made her a prime candidate for board service. She had served previously on non-profit boards, industry associations, and advisory boards. However, she realized that even with her impressive background, outside guidance would make her a stronger director.
Navigate Forward has been a critical part of my board journey. I am so grateful for their professional guidance and expertise.
She completed executive education governance courses at Harvard Business School and Stanford Business School, and became a Board Leadership Fellow with the National Association of Corporate Directors. She also reached out to Navigate Forward.
“I wanted to invest in myself. I needed expert guidance on how to transition from a senior executive into a board director—refining the key skills and experiences that I really bring to the boardroom,” she explained.
Frodl worked one-on-one with Patti O’Leary, Executive Consultant and Practice Lead for Navigate Forward’s Board Readiness service. Together, they crafted a professional narrative that honed in on Frodl’s strengths and the specific ways she could help corporate boards. Next, they built her board bio. Creating a marketing strategy and networking plan was the final step in their engagement.
You must package yourself as a prospective board candidate. Then, it’s building your plan. Who are you going to speak with? What companies interest you?
“You must package yourself as a prospective board candidate—you can’t just use your executive CV,” Frodl explained. “Then, it’s building your plan. Who are you going to speak with? What companies interest you? Who are the executive recruiters with board practices in your industry? When will you speak with your network?”
She added, “Navigate Forward has been a critical part of my board journey. I am so grateful for their professional guidance and expertise. Whether you’re going from an executive to board, or you’re looking for your next career move, investing in yourself and having that third-party expertise is so valuable.”
A Personal ‘Call to Action’ on Diversity
Through her board service, Frodl has explored numerous aspects of the energy and transportation industry and helped guide companies large and small through critical transformations.
She was purposeful in her board choices, opting for a mix of private and public, small and mid-cap companies. She was equally intentional in her committee work. When she found herself as the first female director on three of her four boards, she knew joining nominating and governance committees could accelerate progress on diversity.
I joined nominating and governance committees so I can help enhance the board’s composition
“I wasn’t discouraged,” she recalled. “I took it as a call to action for me personally. I joined (and ultimately chaired) nominating and governance committees so I can help enhance the board’s composition matrix, succession planning and pipeline, and governance guidelines.”
Her efforts paid off, and championing diversity has become a cornerstone of Frodl’s work. She currently serves on the advisory boards of C3E, the U.S. Department of Energy’s initiative to advance women in clean energy, and Masdar’s Women in Sustainability, Environment and Renewable Energy in the UAE.
While serving with Renewable Energy Group, the board hired its first female CEO, with the nominating and governance committee leading the succession planning effort. Frodl also led efforts to set and attain a target of 40 percent diverse representation on the board.
“In a very short time, when you put the process and the leadership in place, you can make it happen,” Frodl said. “Companies do so much better when there’s diversity around the boardroom table.”
Harvest Your Network and Find the Right Board Fit
Frodl’s board journey and thoughtful preparation can serve as a roadmap for other aspiring directors. She noted the importance of becoming board ready—packaging yourself and planning your strategy—before jumping into engagement.
Building professional relationships then becomes key. A combination of networking and outreach to executive recruiters led to Frodl’s board roles.
Be patient. Be open. It may take time to find your first board.
“Harvest your network,” Frodl advised “Make sure they’re aware that you are seeking a board opportunity. Share your board bio. Write a paragraph about yourself that they’re able to share with their network as well, to identify a potential board opportunity.
“And,” she added, “Always remember to give back to them. How can you be helpful in return?”
She encourages others to do their due diligence in finding the right board fit.
“You’re interviewing the board just as much as they’re interviewing you,” she noted. “You want to make sure it is a good cultural fit. There is a significant responsibility and commitment to serving on a board.”
You’re interviewing the board just as much as they’re interviewing you. You want to make sure it is a good cultural fit.
She added, “Be patient. Be open. It may take time to find your first board. I know everybody is enamored with public companies, but there are so many private companies doing tremendous and exciting work.”
‘A Continual Journey of Learning’
As she sets her sights on the next phase of her own board service, Frodl is excited to continue her work with ITC Holdings Corporation and several advisory boards, including Greenbelt Capital Partners, C3E at the U.S. Department of Energy, and University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. She’s open to additional governance work across the industrial, technology, energy and transportation sectors.
“Board work is about giving and helping companies navigate but it’s also getting back—it is a continual journey of learning,” Frodl said “It’s been very, very interesting work; some of the most fulfilling and rewarding work I’ve ever had in my career.”
Read more about Deb Frodl’s outstanding board service in this Twin Cities Business profile.