Take a look at what our participants have shared on what inspired them to pursue a career in corporate finance:
1.Took Accounting Classes
“I have a non-traditional path to my position. I kind of stumbled into it. As you mentioned, my degree is in communication. Specifically, I was going for advertising, and as I got into it, media planning, the numbers side of it really interested me. As I got toward the end of my degree, I realized that’s not really the direction I want to go. I went ahead and finished my degree. Well, in college, my dad, who is a CPA, encouraged me to take an accounting class. He’s like, “Just take a basic accounting class just so that you have some basic understanding of the finance side of a business.” I took one and I really enjoyed it. I took several more, and I ended up getting a minor in business.”
Ashley Pena, Finance Director for the New York Philharmonic
2. Wanted to be CEO
“I just really watched my dad manage staff and really be in a CEO type position. And so, I always really gravitated and wanted to be a CEO, and moreso of a meaningful organization, directing strategy, improving business in ways that either deliver products and services, but also being able to be CEO that can deliver on quality, but also on price and value. So, when I really began my career early in the 1990s, the only way to become a CEO was through that journey, from the CFO role to the COO, and then into the CEO position. And I think it’s quite a forgotten path and one in which I believe is partly why the CFOO role is becoming ever so important. We’re seeing CEOs with very limited executive experience; you see little to no financial acumen and often only technical or creative experience. We’re seeing people come out of technology roles, out of creative and marketing, really driving revenue growth and driving customer list, but they’re not really managing the back office or the business.”
John Bozin, CFO of Armanino Strategic Finance Outsourcing (SFO), and CFOO specialist
3. Finding Things He Didn’t Like
“Personally, what inspired me was finding out things that I didn’t like, and I took a myriad of different courses in school. I had thoughts and plans to attend law school but doing a hard look at the numbers in terms of just future employment and what would be more beneficial for my career, I decided to go in the corporate accounting/finance world, and I haven’t looked back ever since. I have no regrets. It’s been great for me and my family, and it’s really, really broadened my horizon as far as my career.”
Lensford McKenzie, Financial Controller at Americas at Argus Media.
4. Always Liked Finance and Numbers
“Well, I’ll start with the fact that I always liked finance and numbers. Even if you think about tax law and going into that type of law, I was always leaning towards that area of the law that dealt a lot with numbers and understanding a lot about how business works.
So, at a certain point I hit a fork in the road and realized that I just wanted to be closer to the business. I wanted to understand business operations. I wanted to understand how to run a P&L. And so really the best way with my background to do that was to kind of go the finance track.”
Shannon Nash, CFO at Wing, an Alphabet Company
5. Liked Analytical Side of Things
“From my perspective, I always enjoyed the analytical side of things of my studies, whether it be in the space of finance or accounting. I chose to apply my trade within that specific sphere. I very much enjoy the notion of our profession and how it supports a business. That corporate finance and accounting function, I think, allow for a very broad aperture to deploy that level of skill set.”
Mike Polaha, SVP Finance at BlackLine
6. Dream Job as a Little Kid
“I think like everyone as a little kid, it was either going to be astronaut, firefighter, professional football player, President of the United States, or a corporate finance guy. So, I chose corporate finance guy out of that and no, it was a circuitous path to get here. I don’t know how many people have a direct shot into corporate finance, but in undergrad I was on the seven year program. I think I changed majors four or five times. I went from mechanical engineering, to philosophy, to literature, and then to journalism, and that’s where I landed was on journalism. And I worked for a while in that space. And then I did a stint in marketing, and I enjoyed the creative endeavors, but I’ve got this OCD nature that I think a lot of us in accounting and finance do where you’re looking for more objective truth that you can just find in the numbers.”
Glenn Hopper, CFO of Sandline Global, a legal tech company
7. Switched from Coding to Business in College
“ It’s interesting that I started my career off as a computer engineer. My first two years of school I took CPlusPlus, Pascal, Cobal, all this stuff. I don’t have the greatest story in the world before I switched, but I was taking these coding classes. Back then there were no laptops and you had to go to the computer lab and stay until 3:00 in the morning, get stuff done and wait times. I decided, hey, computer programming, I enjoy it, but maybe it’s not the right career for me and I switched to business.
Then once I was in business, I took an accounting class and I fell in love with it right away. I love the logic and kind of thought behind trying to solve a problem presented with facts and different scenarios that are presented. Accounting is a lot more than debits and credits. It’s decision-making using kind logic and thought patterns and looking at things from a bunch of angles”
Brandt Kucharski, Chief Accounting Officer of Ethos Life (former CAO of Grubhub)
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Participate in Our Controller/CFO – Interview Series
We would like to thank our participants for sharing their valuable career advice so far. For more information about the Interview Series, or if you’re interested in participating please visit https://controllerscouncil.org/controller-cfo-interview-series/