My friend from middle and high school, Kristyn, started out as an accountant and has taken her path to becoming a Chief Financial Officer! I am starting to see a pattern here as my friend Jere took the same path from accounting! And how about the loyalty to Michigan State- also a pattern! Let’s read about what Kristyn has to say about her career path…
Q: What is the title of your profession?
A: I am a Chief Financial Officer (CFO).
Q: What do you do?
A: I work for growth companies that are in the software or new media industry. Although I manage accounting, finance and human resources, I also work as part of a Management team to provide strategic direction and create value for companies and our investors. The companies I join are usually backed by venture capital firms and I help to grow (and often sell) them.
Q: Have you always worked in this field?
A: I started my career in public accounting. I left after I became a Manager and decided to return to graduate school for a master’s in Social Sciences (economic development). I thought I was “burnt out” on the corporate world and looking for a way to make a bigger difference in the world. When writing my master’s thesis, I ended up consulting for an entrepreneurial “start-up” company. I LOVED it and got completely addicted to the fun, chaos and opportunity of emerging growth companies. I found my niche and have joined growth companies since then (last 12+ years).
Q: Why did you choose this profession?
A: Quite honestly…rather accidentally. I did well in my first couple Accounting classes at Michigan State. The Dean wrote students a letter if they had achieved high grades and personally asked them to become an accounting major due to their early aptitude. At 19, that sounded good to me! (He probably sent the letter to tons of students )
Q: How would you define your profession?
A: Business partner to my team of other Management Team members; Dedicated to building high growth companies with a particular focus on managing the accounting, finance and human resources departments.
Q: Did you go to college or a trade school for this profession?
Graduate degree (1 ½ yrs): M.A. in Social Sciences from University of Chicago
Q: Do you use your degree in your job?
Q: Can your degree be used as a basis for any other professions?
A: Yes. Accounting degrees can be used in other general business management roles. Master’s could have taken me down a completely different path (working for State Dept, NGO’s, other domestic or international ventures that would support economic development in local or global communities)
Q: What type of schooling do you need to be in your profession?
A: Yes. It requires at least an undergraduate degree but that could generally be in Accounting, Finance or Economics. If you have an MBA and / or CPA, you can also become a CFO even with an undergraduate degree in something completely different.
Q: Does your job require a certification or board testing?
A: Not necessarily but many have their CPA or CMA certification (Certified Public Accountant or Certified Management Accountant)
Q: What is a day in the life of your job? Does it change day to day?
A: It changes a fair amount on a day to day basis depending on what the highest priorities for the company are and depending on where the company is in its life cycle. In other words, I could be focused on raising investment capital for several months and then, later that year, I could focused on business and financial planning for the new fiscal year. Other times, I am focused on providing real time financial information that helps the team and our investors make decisions for the company. The work varies a great deal and is not routine each day or month but as I look at each company I have been with, I have performed most of the same activities multiple times.
Q: Does your profession require travel?
A: It depends on the company and depends on what the company is focused on. I have had some roles where I traveled every other week across the country and several times a year to India or the UK – primarily for operational reasons as we had business and offices in many locations. In other roles, I have had very little travel unless I am in the midst of raising capital or helping to sell the company in which case it is a bunch of travel in a concentrated time frame to NYC, San Francisco or Boston.
Q: What is the typical schedule/hours?
A: 50 – 60 hour weeks generally but I do take a fair amount of vacation! When I have a 40 hour week, I am very happy.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
A: Building a business with a ton a fun, engaging and smart people and creating value for our investors and employees.
Q: What do you dislike about your job?
A: Stress can be difficult to manage.
Q: What advice would you give to a child/student that is considering this profession?
A: Make sure you love it because you will spend a lot of time dedicated to your profession.
Q: If you had to do it all over again, would you chose the same profession?
Q: Is your job regional (ie: found in only certain parts of the country?).
A: No. CFO’s are everywhere but if you focus on growth companies, they tend to be a bit more concentrated in certain cities / regions.
Q: Ryan and Nick want to know if you have fun?
A: Absolutely but not always! It is definitely more fun than not…
Q: Do you receive a pension?
A: No but I have always had a 401k plan. Sometimes the company matches your contributions and sometimes they do not. That said, I rely only on myself to ensure I have enough for retirement