Andrea James, a regular over the years at IR Magazine's events and webinars, is on sabbatical, taking time out from the world of investor relations and educating the investment community about Axon Enterprise’s tech solutions in defense.
Erik Lapinski takes over as senior director of investor relations, having been trained up over the course of a year since joining Axon after a seven-year stint in equity research at Morgan Stanley.
So what does a high-profile IR professional do on sabbatical? James shares her plans on LinkedIn.
‘I finished 2023 softly, quietly, humbly, with hot tea and movies, under blankets,’ she tells her more than 2,000 followers. ‘And I brought that chill vibe into 2024, so far. Those of you who know me well, and have worked with me, (ahem!), know that ‘chill vibes’ are not my usual! But I trust this ancient practice of sabbatical. For me, it’s been particularly meaningful after a wonderful, whirlwind, winning six years at Axon.’
In ‘letting go of a company that took up a lot of space in my life and held a lot of meaning’, James explains that she’s going to focus on four areas – some professional, some personal – as she takes her sabbatical.
The first, she writes, is SeattleCoach: ‘I re-enrolled in the coaching modules I took in 2015 and 2016! This is an important reset for me and a return to the successful leadership coaching practice, Solve For X, that I opened in 2016.’ She describes herself as ‘a front-porch-light-is-on kind of coach’, with a ‘no hard-sells, here-if-you-need-me’ approach.
James also talks about a focus on the boardroom. ‘I am taking Athena Alliance’s Board Readiness course and connecting with and learning alongside many accomplished, intelligent, wow women,’ she writes.
But James’ sabbatical is not all about professional development, and that ‘chill factor’ she talks about bringing into the new year extends to a rediscovery of yoga, for example.
‘In my 20s, yoga was a big part of my life,’ explains James. ‘Then children and career took up all the free space. I did not practice in my 30s. Now, in my 40s, after having had three children, I’m investing in this body that’s done so much for me and my family.
‘Yoga also helps me to reconnect with that part of me that is eternal. I truly love these familiar poses and I have to laugh as I practice alongside the younger people, whose presence I enjoy. Good for them! My body can’t do those things [theirs can]. I’m just glad I’m there, creaks and all!’
Finally, James says she’ll be using her extra time to focus on family: ‘Using some freed-up headspace to better love my husband and children, savoring being grounded (ie, not flying off to investor conferences and HQ every few weeks), skiing, Disney, and so on. Not forever. For now.’
Goodbye and hello – on the earnings call
James’ sabbatical was announced back in November when Axon CEO and founder Rick Smith told investors it would be James’ last quarterly earnings call. Taking ‘a moment to acknowledge and thank’ her, Smith said that in talking about life and the future, he and James – who he described as ‘one of my closest personal advisers’ – talked about his own previous sabbatical.
‘I remembered one of my favorite quotes from Ray Kurtzweil: The most important decisions we make are how we spend our time,’ Smith said. ‘Back around 2013 when my kids were in preschool, I had the wonderful opportunity to go spend a year in Europe and walk my kids to kindergarten every day. And when talking with AJ about her budding and growing family, I couldn't disagree with the assessment that how she spends her time might be to take advantage of some of the success from Axon. We talked about her doing advisory and board work, given the amazing experience she's had at Tesla and here at Axon.’
Acknowledging the relationships James has established both internally and with the investment community, he added: ‘I'll be keeping you on speed-dial, AJ.’
Smith also took the opportunity to welcome Lapinski: ‘We are thrilled that Erik joined us earlier this year to help to lead our IR efforts. He's really hit the ground running and was there to catch the baton from one of the greats.’