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Marina Levinson’s Path From CIO To Venture Capitalist

Marina Levinson has had a distinguished career as a CIO at multiple companies in Silicon Valley including NetApp and Palm. When she left the former company in September of 2011, she started a company that helped venture capitalists establish CIO advisory boards, among other things. As she became more involved with VCs, she discovered that it was a field of interest. In April of 2014, Levinson joined Benhamou Global Ventures as a partner. She brings the experience of a practitioner and a former buyer of technology, which has been invaluable to the company’s portfolio of enterprise technology start-ups. Levinson serves on the boards of a number of companies, including Ellie Mae, for which she is the Chair of the Technology Advisory Board. Levinson’s path is highly unusual, but she believes that others will soon follow in her footsteps, as technology opportunities in the form of innovation and issues in the form of cybersecurity concerns dominate the agendas of boards far and wide. (To listen to an unabridged audio version of this interview, please visit this link. This is the 22nd article in the Beyond CIO series. To read interviews with past interviewees from American Express, HP, Aetna, AllState, and Schneider National, please visit this link. To read future interviews in the series, please click the “Follow” link above.) Peter High: Marina, some know you as the former Chief Information Officer of NetApp, where you spent nearly six and a half years, or as CIO of Palm for another six years before that, but it has been awhile since you have been a full-time CIO. A lot of your time has been spent in recent years in a variety of ways in the venture capital realm, capped off with your joining Benhamou Global Ventures as a partner. Could you talk a about that career path that you have taken from CIO to VC, how those opportunities presented themselves to you, and how it occurred to you to pursue that career path, which is quite an unusual one for a former CIO? Marina Levinson: It is unusual. I think it is a very attractive career path for technologists, including CIOs. It is interesting that not that many CIOs decide to pursue this career path, but in order for you to understand how I got there, let me give you a little background on myself. You already mentioned my tenure as CIOs of Palm and NetApp. Before becoming CIO of Palm, I was actually a senior IT executive at 3Com. I was there for more than 12 years, and when 3Com decided to spin off Palm, I got an opportunity to be their first CIO. As far as my tenure at both 3Com and Palm, I worked for Eric Benhamou, who was CEO and Chairman of 3Com, and Chairman of Palm, and when I left Palm to go to NetApp, we continued our relationship and stayed in touch. So when I decided to leave NetApp to start my own technology advisory business “CIO Advisory Group”, Eric became one of my clients.