From Intern to CFO: Accelerate Your Corporate Finance Career Path

Wherever you are on your Finance career path, now is the time to accelerate. Enhance your data analysis and application skills. Develop your leadership skills. Drive innovation in Finance and take on a larger role in your corporation.

Aim for the CFO office—and beyond.

This page is designed to be a practical resource for Finance professionals to accelerate their careers. Here you’ll find inspiring and instructive success stories from Finance experts, and next steps you can take wherever you are in your career path.

Pick a topic to get started, or just scroll down.
 

How to Become a CFO: Leadership Skills for Finance Managers

The CFO office is one of the most coveted positions for Finance professionals. It can seem like the easiest way to become a CFO is to already be one. The truth is, however, that fully 80% of sitting CFOs have no prior CFO experience at another company. It’s not impossible to take the path from CPA to CFO. It just requires exceptional qualifications and modern skill sets to stand out from the crowd.

Perhaps the most crucial trait for an aspiring CFO is a desire to continue learning. The most successful Finance executives we know are always continuing to expand their knowledgebase, whether it’s keeping up with the latest trends, trying out new technology, or just expanding their industry specific education. A dedication to ongoing learning is a surefire way to stand out when a promotion is on the line.

Don’t take our word for it, though: Check out the video below from Amie Roach, CFO at Lochmueller Group. Amie explains how she directed her career path from Accounting Manager to CFO, and how she chooses people to promote. Watch below:

 
Amie Roach Amie Roach CMA, CSCA
CFO, Lochmueller Group

With over 20 years in Finance, Amie has grown from Accounting Manager to Controller to CFO.

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The Value of Education for the CFO Role

One way to make yourself more valuable as an aspiring CFO is to round out your education. A business degree, in addition to your accounting credential, can be a powerful differentiator. For example, Jack McCullough, President of the CFO Leadership Council, rounded out his education to be a better CFO candidate. “I earned an MBA and positioned myself as a well-rounded and strategic thinker, not just a numbers guy. The MBA is an invaluable tool for a CFO. In fact, today more CFOs hold MBAs than a CPA certificate among the Fortune 5000. It is a credential that accelerates your entry into the club.”

I positioned myself as a well-rounded and strategic thinker, not just a ‘numbers guy.’
Jack McCullough
Jack McCullough
President of the CFO Leadership Council

Must-Have CFO Soft Skills

Your formal education is a key part of becoming a viable CFO candidate. But the other part of the equation is the so-called “soft skills,” leadership traits that will serve you well in any managerial role. Jennifer Warawa, EVP Partners; Accounts & Alliances at Sage, puts it this way: “The best CFOs know what they know best, and they know who knows what they don’t. Being a leader at that scale, you need to know how to delegate, work well with others and you must know who to turn to in terms of specific expertise.” In other words, being a Finance leader is about managing people as much as it is marshalling numbers.

The best CFOs know what they know best, and they know who knows what they don’t.
Jennifer Warawa
Jennifer Warawa
EVP Partners, Accounts & Alliances, Sage
 

How to Move Ahead on the Finance Career Path

The CFO role isn’t the only possible goal for your Finance career. You could start your own consulting firm, pursue public speaking, write the book that will inspire countless others to follow in your footsteps. Or, you might make CFO and set your sights still higher: The CEO office. Going from CFO to CEO is uncommon but not impossible. A survey of 673 Fortune and S&P 500 countries found at least 45 CEOs who were promoted from CFO, a number that is poised to expand as CFOs round out their leadership skills.

All of these career opportunities require a willingness to learn, the ability to lead, and the capability to provide exceptional value to the leadership team at your organization.

For a stellar example of how adding value leads to career acceleration, check out this story from Denise Feece, Corporate Controller at Urschel. In the video below, Denise explains how she became a data-driven advisor to her executive team:

 
Denise Feece Denise Feece
Corporate Controller at Urschel

Denise used her command of data to become a go-to resource in her department, wow her new CEO, and get on the management track.

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Reach across Departments to Gather Knowledge

The best way to prepare for your next career phase is to start branching out, says CFO Coach Cindy Kraft. “Get involved in operations and work internally with other departments. Finance is no longer a silo function, but has a hand in every part of a company’s operations. Operational CFOs with a knowledge of technology are quite marketable,” Kraft says. “The most effective and in-demand CFOs today are really more Chief Everything Officers with a strong focus on setting strategic vision and driving growth initiatives.”

The most effective and in-demand CFOs today are really more ‘Chief Everything Officers.’
Cindy Kraft
Cindy Kraft
CFO-Coach

Share Your Own Knowledge to Build Thought Leadership

Granted, the executive path isn’t for everyone. But the same soft skills that make valuable executives — leadership, empathy, people skills, willingness to teach and learn — will help you accelerate a career as a consultant and thought leader, too. Dawn Brolin is the CEO of her own consulting firm, Powerful Accounting, LLC. She’s also a sought-after Finance speaker. “I found that I loved speaking and helping people, so it came very naturally to me,” says Dawn. “I started speaking for non-profit organizations or other thought-leadership-types of conferences to get my name out there. Now I have a talent manager, a social media team, and I’m on track to write my first book this year.” For Dawn, sharing her knowledge was key to her success. “Be proactive and contribute knowledge to your industry,” she says. “You will get back as much as you give and more.”

Be proactive and contribute knowledge to your industry. You will get back more than you give.
Dawn Brolin
Dawn Brolin
CEO, Powerful Accounting

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone to Move Ahead

As you might have guessed, accelerating your career in Finance definitely involves going outside of your traditional area of expertise. It means reaching across departments to build new skills, taking ownership of data, and becoming an advisor, either to your C-suite or to the industry as a consultant. Robert Kugel, Senior VP at Ventana Research, has this advice: “In accounting, doing the same thing over and over again the exact same way is good. That’s why accounting attracts people who like consistency, precision and routine. That quality can be a disability when it leads to rigidity of thought and inflexibility to change. It’s necessary to balance the need for consistency and precision with taking a more flexible approach to dealing with issues as they arise.” In other words, it takes an ever-evolving Finance professional to fill ever-evolving roles… or to create a new role entirely.

It’s necessary to balance the need for consistency and precision in performing accounting tasks with taking a more flexible approach to dealing with issues as they arise.
Rob Kugel
Rob Kugel
Senior VP, Ventana Research

Climb the Corporate Ladder with Prophix

What makes a Finance professional stand out from a crowd of equally-qualified applicants? Whether it’s an external job interview or a review for promotion, it’s all about who can bring the most value to the role.

Our customers have found that Prophix empowers a whole new suite of skills and capabilities, the type of value that gets a hiring committee’s attention. “I’m able to help other people streamline their processes and make their jobs easier,” says Donna Ferrante, Financial & Project Analyst at Gift of Hope.

Johan Keller, Accounting Manager at Energetiq, agrees: “I’ve almost created a whole new job for myself. It’s good for my resume, but it also saves my company a lot of money.”

Watch the video to learn exactly how you can accelerate your Finance career with Prophix.

 

Enter the Next Phase of Your Finance Career

The most successful consultants, controllers, and CFOs today have one thing in common: They have a mastery of data that extends beyond traditional Finance reporting. Prophix is committed to helping Finance professionals consolidate and activate data, moving toward real-time reporting that helps drive business decisions.

Learn more about how Prophix accelerates the Office of Finance.

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