Meet the Controller/CFO interview series includes Financial Controllers, Chief Financial Officers (CFOs), and related executive titles with a focus on career advice, roles, and responsibilities, and ultimately “secrets to success”.

Take a look at what some of our participants have shared on advice for finance career seekers below:

1. Get Uncomfortable

“I would say ask questions, collaborate, volunteer, be a connector, be a problem solver, take calculated risks. When I look back on my career, I realized where I’m the happiest, it’s in a role that makes me a little uncomfortable. It’s something that pushes me and challenges me and makes me ask, “I wonder if I could pull that off.” Big things do not happen inside your comfort zone.”

Ashley Pena, Finance Director for the New York Philharmonic

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2. You Can’t Stay Within the Margins

“If you’re someone who’s staying within the margins, I don’t even think you’re a CFO today, those days are removed by 20 years. If you’re sitting behind a desk counting and being, you’re not a CFO, you’ve got to… At the same time though, you don’t want to be a maverick, you don’t want to go outside the margins in any maverick way, but it’s about being inquisitive. You must have a desire for learning new concepts. Again, also it’s about dialogue. Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue, and then ask more questions and then make it a habit to never eat lunch alone. I mean, you just don’t want to. Every opportunity you must eat lunch, why not invite someone where you can have dialogue and you can learn? If you don’t have someone to meet up for lunch, eat lunch while you’re watching a LinkedIn learning or reading a book.”

John Bozin

John Bozin, CFO of Armanino Strategic Finance Outsourcing (SFO), and CFOO specialist

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3. Find Supporters

“It starts about get a supporter, but I like to call it get your own personal board of directors. And that board of directors is, it includes your supporters, but it also includes your peers, it includes finding that core group of five, seven, whatever, 10 people that really help you navigate your career, really help you evaluate opportunities. Everybody needs their own personal board of directors.”

Shannon Nash

Shannon Nash, CFO at Wing, an Alphabet Company

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4. Understand Technology

“Over the durational portion of my career, I’ve seen technology play a deeper and more substantive role within the office of the CFO, the office of controller, chief accounting officer, and any other roles where our business partners, both internally and… are looking to us to understand.

As professionals in this space, the ability to stay up to date in terms of what’s happening in the market; whether it be ERP technology, technology that would sit on top of the ERP like BlackLine (which is the company that I am now a member of), and/or planning and forecasting and analytics technology that are more on the data consumption side… Important as professionals that we stay attuned to how it could help us in our roles.”

Mike Polaha

Mike Polaha, SVP Finance at BlackLine

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5. Get Exposure to Management

“The best advice I can give is you have to push your current boss to give the exposure to the audit committee, complex issues, get exposure to management and kind of exposure to things outside of just doing month end close. Second is you got to get experience with the audit committee. You’re not going to be talking during that audit committee, but it’s very, very valuable to listen and kind of hear the questions the audit committee asks.”

Brandt Kucharski

Brandt Kucharski, Chief Accounting Officer of Ethos Life (former CAO of Grubhub)

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Looking to learn more about career successControllers Council is a national community and platform of Controllers, Accounting and Finance professionals focused on accounting best practices, information and resources, recognition, and networking. Membership has many features and benefits to propel your career and expertise, and to be an active participant in our exciting community. Discuss topics like today’s job market and more in our forum. Become a member today.

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 

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