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The Art of Rising in Finance: A CFO’s Advice on Job Selection

By October 24, 2019December 20th, 2019No Comments

One woman’s criteria for choosing new jobs that lead to higher rungs on the professional ladder.

At the latest Women in NeuGroup* event, held at Expedia in Seattle, Jenny Ceran, CFO of Smartsheet, suggested that women moving up the ladder should take chances—and take a job even if it means most of it would be learning. 

Her path to CFO. After working in finance at Sara Lee and Cisco, Ms. Ceran won the treasurer’s job at eBay at age 39 ¾., achieving her goal of becoming treasurer by the time she turned 40. Also cool: She was a member of NeuGroup’s Tech20 Treasurers’ Peer Group.

  • After nine years in the role, she was ready for a new job at the company. She set her sights on investor relations, a learn-on-the-job opportunity for which she ended up earning accolades but was criticized for not having sharp enough elbows.
  • Not only that, in order to do investor relations, she also had to take on FP&A, a combination that can be too much for one person with a small team at a multi-billion dollar organization.

After eBay, she served as treasurer and head of IR at Box, before becoming CFO for the first time, at a publicly-traded digital coupon company. She took the CFO job at Smartsheet three years ago.

Shoulda done it earlier. The CFO job is a big one that requires a lot of energy. If she had to do it over again, Ms. Ceran would have gunned for the CFO job earlier in her career when she had more of it. Lesson: Don’t wait.

Picking the next job: Follow your heart. Ms. Ceran advises careful consideration of the following five criteria whenever faced with an opportunity for a new role:

  1. Find an industry that excites you. Work in industries that are compelling. The internet was a big draw for Ms. Ceran at the time internet-enabled businesses burst onto the scene, and that brought her to Cisco.
  2. What work will I be doing? Ask yourself, “Will I learn something new or just reapply skills I’ve already developed?”
  3. Who’s the boss? It’s important that you have chemistry with your boss. Remember: people don’t leave companies, they leave bosses.
  4. Is the corporate culture a fit? Does it require you to behave in ways that go against your character? If you speak up about unacceptable behavior, how will that be received? Women in particular need to look out for signs of a “bro culture.”
  5. The Money: Last and always last. Take the job if it fits your criteria, even if it’s less money. “I’ve taken jobs that pay less because they fit the above four so well,” Ms. Ceran said. “I ended up learning so much and it enabled me to pivot to greater things over the long-term.”

*The next WiNG event is in New York City in spring 2020. To receive an invitation, please email [email protected].

Jacob Bromsey

Author Jacob Bromsey

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