Technologist and business strategist Shona L. Brown elected to Knight Foundation Board of Trustees

MIAMI — March 25, 2019 — Shona L. Brown, a technologist and business strategist who led Google’s business operations and then its technology for social impact efforts, has been elected to the Board of Trustees of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Dr. Shona L. Brown (pictured)

“We are delighted that Dr. Brown, a cutting-edge strategic thinker, will bring her technology and business expertise to Knight Foundation at a time when technology has never been more important to how communities are informed and engaged,” said John Palfrey, who chairs Knight’s board. Brown has a doctor of philosophy from Stanford University’s Department of Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management.

“Knight Foundation embraces the potential of new technology to transform journalism, the arts and communities by supporting innovation that is designed in partnership with the people and communities it is intended to serve,” said Brown, who is also a former McKinsey & Co. partner. “I look forward to working with an organization that cares so deeply about community and understands the potential of leveraging technology to create outsized impact in their work.”

“Shona Brown will bring an incisive intellect and deep knowledge of Silicon Valley to our board. Her background in engineering, business and philanthropy and her interest in informed communities make her the perfect trustee for Knight Foundation,” said Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation president. 

Brown joined Google’s executive team in 2003. She served as senior vice president of business operations until 2011 when she transitioned to a role leading Google’s technology for social impact efforts; in January of 2013, she moved into an advisory role with the company. 

Currently, Dr. Brown is an independent board member for a portfolio of private technology startups. In addition, she serves on the board of PepsiCo and Atlassian Corp. She is also a board member of several nonprofit organizations, including Code for America, The Nature Conservancy and The Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford. 

Prior to joining Google, Dr. Brown was a partner at McKinsey & Company, where her focus was working with technology companies on growth strategy and portfolio transformation. She is the author of “Competing on the Edge: Strategy as Structured Chaos,” which introduced a new strategic model for competing in volatile markets. She has a bachelor’s degree in computer systems engineering from Carleton University in Canada, a master’s degree in economics and philosophy from Oxford University (which she attended as a Rhodes scholar), in addition to her Ph.D. from Stanford. 

Brown follows Adriana Cisneros, Miami-based CEO of international media and real estate group Cisneros, as the most recent to join Knight’s Board of Trustees. Palfrey will step down as board chair in December, as he will become the president of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Palfrey is expected to remain a Knight trustee.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit


Anusha Alikhan, communications director, Knight Foundation, 305-908-2646, [email protected]