For finance professionals, it might seem difficult to consider opportunities outside of the banking, investment, accounting and consulting world. The lure remains, it seems, even with the continuing rounds of layoffs across the space. But according to Therese Tucker, CEO and founder of Los Angeles-based financial software provider BlackLine Systems, there are many opportunities in financial and accounting software companies, as well as in corporate accounting, finance, audit and compliance.
Tucker previously served as Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at SunGard Treasury Systems. She recently spoke to eFinancialCareers to offer advice on the best ways to widen your job search net.
eFC: Undergraduate finance and accounting grads, and especially MBAs, still look to the Big 4, global banks and bulge bracket for job opportunities. Why would you recommend that this pool of job applicants reconsider their target and look toward financial and accounting software companies, corporate accounting, finance, audit and compliance?
Tucker: Banking and consulting firms can be a great place for young graduates to get started in their careers. They can provide terrific opportunities for additional degrees and certifications, like the CPA accreditation. But, over time, the fast-paced environment, long hours, demanding travel schedules and repetitive job responsibilities take their toll. It’s well known that there’s a price to pay for moving up in these organizations and many people may decide it’s too high.
Alternative environments can provide some terrific advantages. In the case of BlackLine, the environment, application, customers and projects are constantly changing, so BlackLine employees are always learning new skills, working with different people and being challenged to grow. I would encourage finance and accounting graduates to look for a company that’s growing. Growth in and of itself will create opportunities for advancement and an expansion of their skill sets.
eFC: If you were set to interview a former finance professional, what sort of skills would you look for to get them hired? What sort of role could they assume in a financial tech firm?
Tucker: BlackLine hires many finance professionals, across all areas. We hire into our accounting department. However, because our software addresses various financial close and accounting activities, we utilize finance professionals across all departments. We’ve hired accountants into sales, solution consulting, support, implementations and product management. The skills required differ from department to department. Any roles on the sales side require someone who is comfortable presenting in front of an audience. Support and implementations may require people with more technical skills. Product management may require strategic thinking about finance and accounting as a whole.
Finally, talent and attitude are very important. We work closely, in a constantly changing environment. There’s no time or energy spared for internal politics—we succeed or fail together by helping one another.
eFC: You mentioned that technology skills are critical to success, and that’s certainly true. But depending on the role in finance, some job seekers might be more IT-adept than others. For someone who isn’t an IT professional, having top notch tech skills may be easier said than done. If someone is looking to gain these skills on the job or looking to go back to school for it, what do you see as some of the major tech skills that are a must have for finance professionals today?
Tucker: Well, first and foremost, finance candidates must be willing and eager to embrace technology in what’s been a traditionally manual accounting world. Of course they will need to be proficient in general and sub-ledger systems, as well as Excel, but it’s important that they see the value and benefits in leveraging automation to eliminate manual, labor-intensive processes that are primarily done using spreadsheets. Helping a company implement internal systems can give exposure to IT in an easily digestible way.