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Episode 42: Highlight | Career Advice

On this episode of The CFO Playbook, we share some of the best career advice for aspiring CFOs that we’ve received from CFOs who have been guests on the show.

Lessons we cover in this episode:

An aspiring CFO must diversify their areas of expertise

  1. It’s critical to gain experience outside of the finance function.
  2. Finance leaders should be proactive in making themselves partners to other areas of the business.
  3. While gaining experience in areas of the business beyond finance is key, it’s also important for finance professionals to diversify their experiences within finance.

Don’t be overly concerned about timetable or titles in your quest for the CFO position

  1. Your working life is long, be patient as you build your career over time.
  2. You don’t have to rush into the CFO role. If you’re able to, work for a great CFO first and learn.

As you cultivate your hard, practical business skills, don’t forget to focus on your ‘soft skills’

  1. Great CFOs develop their EQ as much as their technical skills and understanding of the business.
  2. Own your strengths and your unique vulnerabilities. It’ll make you a more relatable leader and help you build relationships with your employees.
  3. As the role of CFO continues to evolve from being purely an accountant to being an advisor to the rest of the executive team, and a driver of the business generally, it’s becoming more important to focus on these ‘soft skills’ that are required of leaders.

On your path to CFO, keep an open mind

  1. Take advantage and learn from other CFOs you meet throughout your career.
  2. Stay curious, take risks, and keep learning.

Guests Featured 

Name: Tony Russo

What he does: Tony Russo is the CFO of Imply, a full stack, multi-cloud data platform pioneering ‘analytics-in-motion.’ With a successful track record scaling B2B SaaS and enterprise software companies through organic growth and acquisitions, Tony has a wealth of knowledge about evaluating opportunities as a CFO.

Key Quote:  “I would say that it’s good to find work for a good CFO, as opposed to getting the title early by joining a really early stage company because you think you need to have the title.”               

Where to find Tony: LinkedIn

Name: Anup Singh

What he does: In Anup’s second CFO role, at Clearwell Systems, he intentionally built a positive culture that contributed to the company winning an award for being one of the best places to work in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area. With 15 years’ experience as a CFO at various companies, he currently holds the position at cybersecurity company Illumio.  

Key Quote: “I encourage all of the aspiring CFOs to just spend time away from your desk and to get involved with the business.”          

Where to find Anup: LinkedIn

Name: Jeannie De Guzman

What she does: Jeannie De Guzman is the CFO at 1Password, a $2B password management company trusted by more than 90,000 businesses. In her role as CFO, Jeannie makes sure finance functions as a valued business partner to the rest of the organization, and implements modern tools that help her people do more meaningful work.

Key Quote: “When I think about what helped me get to where I am today: when I worked at the companies and I saw an opportunity to do something that was outside of my role, I tried to do it.”           

Where to find Jeannie: LinkedIn

Name: Jim Buckle

What he does: Jim Buckle is the CFO at Gousto, a meal delivery company and one of the fastest growing businesses in the UK: it doubled its meal deliveries from 2.5M to over 5M during lockdown. In his role as CFO, Jim ensures Gousto is scaling in a sustainable way that benefits all stakeholders, be they employees, investors, customers, or the planet — all without sacrificing profit.

Key Quote: “Certainly one of the things that COVID did for us last year…was a very increased frequency of forecasting because it was very hard to predict customer demand. And so I’m constantly iterating how the future looks and what that means in terms of growing the size of the team or what it will mean in terms of customer demand.”                

Where to find Jim: LinkedIn

Name: Tatiana Rezende

What She Does: Tatiana Rezende is CFO of Nuvemshop, a Brazil-based e-commerce platform that leads the e-commerce industry in Latin America.

Key Quote: “The best advice that I can give for any leaders in general are two words, words that I realized in my personal and professional life the importance of…empathy and authenticity..”

Where to find Tatiana: LinkedIn

Name: Mark Nasiff

What He Does: Mark Nasiff is the CFO and COO at Lookout, a cloud-based security company deployed on over 200 million mobile devices. As a dual CFO and COO with a background in sales operations, Mark balances risk and reward through data analysis while underlining the importance of understanding the whole business in order to help shape company strategy.

Key Quote: “Apply the knowledge and the experience you have, understand your business, take some risk and keep learning.”

Where to find Mark: LinkedIn

Name: Francis Trudeau

What He Does: Francis Trudeau is the CFO at BrainBox AI, a tech scale-up fighting climate change by bringing artificial intelligence to the built environment, making buildings smarter and greener.

Key Quote: “Align the company interests with finance interests and be open to that. Your goal should be to propel those divisions and those internal clients and bring them value so that they go to you and they utilize you and they see that it’s fun to work with finance.”

Where to find Francis: LinkedIn

Top quotes:

“I think if I were going to a CFO cocktail party, which sounds like all kinds of fun, I would talk to folks about how have they chosen their positions? How have things evolved? What’s worked for you? What’s not worked for you? What have you learned? What are the mistakes you’ve made, that sort of thing.” — Tony Russo

“For me it was completely an eye opening exercise just to be away from my desk, away from the books, you know, the Excel sheets and just to be out there. Learning about the business, learning about all aspects of the business, I think is super, super important.” – Anup Singh

“Our working career is a very long time I’ve been working for 30 something years. I’ve done a lot of different roles in that time period. And I see people get very hung up on: What am I going to be doing next year? Or it’s really important to me that I now have this new job title, or I need this extra bit of salary right now…Whereas actually you need to build a career over time and ultimately do things that you find enjoyable and rewarding and not get too hung up on the precise status and everything else.” – Jim Buckle

“The importance of emotional intelligence. So continue to hone and develop that area. I’m sure all of them are super smart and qualified and they have all the chops to be great accountants and great CFOs. But if you want to be a great leader, I think having the EQ, having the emotional intelligence is really important.” – Anup Singh