Tiziana Figliolia has more than 25 years experience in the technology industry leading a wide range of strategic, financial, and operational functions at billion-dollar global publicly traded companies. Currently, she is CFO at Hootsuite, the global leader in social media management. Having a passion for advancing diversity and inclusion initiatives in the workplace and in the community, she is also the co-founder of Full STEAM Forward, a non-profit whose mission is to tackle inequalities in education.
In this episode of The CFO Playbook, Tiziana talks about her experience working internationally in China and how it has prepared her to take on the tasks of running finance at Hootsuite, which impacts people and companies across the globe. She discusses the importance of relationships and partnerships within your company and with your customers, as well as the importance of implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion practices in any corporate environment. Tiziana also speaks about digital transformation and why it is important to push yourself to take on new challenges throughout your career.
To be successful as an executive for a company you always have to build for the long term, even when you’re executing for the short term and during times of crisis.
You need to stay focused on building a financially sustainable company at all times. As a CFO you’re a key stakeholder in driving solutions to create value. One way is through digital transformation.
“If you think about digital transformation and digital businesses, how do we create value through the use of technology in our product, in our services? How do we partner? How do we collaborate? How do we execute for work? And so asking the right questions around what problems are we trying to solve? How do we implement technology to solve those problems, but do it in a strategic way, right? So we’re not going in and just solving for the low hanging fruit, we’re going in with a more strategic approach.”
The value that can be created through embedding digital solutions can be of great help to your company. It allows automation and removing friction for your employees and your customers, helping to ensure smoother and more efficient business processes.
No matter what role you are in, be commercially minded and be customer obsessed. You can learn so much from meeting customers and help them in any role that you have.
From a front office perspective, think about what kind of important role you can play to help your organization succeed. Part of that is being a great business partner. To achieve that you need to gain the trust of others, be someone that is able to listen, and have conversations about challenging tasks.
“Step up, be customer obsessed, go fast, be a giant, play to win – these are all things that play to that growth mindset. So I’m very lucky that I joined a team that already has that culture. And so it’s continuing to reinforce that and take on new challenges. And continuing to understand the customers and the customer’s wants and needs. Being customer obsessed will continue to drive that mindset and change. I believe that every single employee of the company and also everyone that works in finance is a business partner to the rest of the organization. So with that, you always have to think about how you can make things better.”
Through constructive conversation with your leaders, employees, and customers, you can get to better outcomes. You can be an effective business partner if you build personal and professional relationships, listen, guide, and become a trusted advisor.
You want to help improve the experience for your employees by doing whatever you can to remove friction from their daily working environment. This will help your employees in their interactions externally with customers to ensure they have a delightful experience.
As a CFO you are a partner with the rest of the organization in driving that agenda. Make sure you provide staff with the best tools to do their jobs, and opportunities to learn new digital skills and competencies. By doing so, you will help employees to be competitive and relevant in the future market, by acquiring skill sets that revolve around technology.
“It goes back to creating the best employee experience. We want to make sure that everyone feels that they’re valued, there’s inclusiveness in how we manage our business. And that’s really important, I think in a competitive labor market to see what kind of company you’re going to work for and what guiding principle, and putting actions should be a decision factor on joining a company. And new generations value these more and more I think.”
It is also critical to have a real connection with the community internally and around your company. You should be one of the main stakeholders helping to ensure an opportunity for growth, learning, and engagement.
Any type of career progression, whether in finance or not, really stands on the basis of continuous learning. Education is one of the major catalysts of success. But, it doesn’t have to be done necessarily through institutional education, you can just be a continuous learner in all aspects of your life.
Don’t be afraid to take on chances and new roles, no matter if it is in your core competencies, traditional verticals, or even the same country.
“Be curious and don’t be afraid to take on new challenges, even when you feel fear that you might not have everything you need to be successful at their role. We all should take different roles when we’re not a hundred percent ready. Why take a new role if you feel like you can master that job, right? But, just have that confidence. That allows you to then go in and learn and learn and perform and exceed expectations over time.”
Part of learning is finding mentors and building your network, creating allies and relationships that will help your career journey.
To help your organization become world-class as a CFO, you need to get your processes, policies, and systems right. You can help achieve this by supporting your employees, whether it be through building relationships, paying attention to health and wellness, ensuring equality, or providing opportunities for them to improve and grow.
It’s also important that, as a CFO, you have a strong relationship with the CEO, with a cooperative commitment to each other to support long term financial success and create equity opportunities for your company.