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620: When People Matter Most | Laurie Krebs, CFO, Red Hat

CFO Thought Leader

Release Date: 07/29/2020

636: Being Part of the Team | Marsha Smith, CFO, Siemens, USA show art 636: Being Part of the Team | Marsha Smith, CFO, Siemens, USA

CFO Thought Leader

Members of Siemens USA’s finance team would probably not be surprised to learn that when their CFO, Marsha Smith, is asked to reveal the experiences that prepared her for a finance leadership role, the ones that she relates most often originate from being part of a team. Such was the case in 2004, when she had been assigned to a Siemens joint venture as a commercial project manager. “I’ll never forget: It was my first week on the job, and the project manager came up to me and said, ‘Hey, Marsha, we need to ask for a change order on this one, so write a letter to the customer,’”...

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635: Finding Your  Finance Team's North Star | Markus Harder, CFO, Contentful show art 635: Finding Your Finance Team's North Star | Markus Harder, CFO, Contentful

CFO Thought Leader

The Berlin headquarters of software developer Contentful occupies an old brick warehouse with heavy metal doors and broad functional corridors and spaces native to its industrial past. Standing six stories high, the structure once accommodated its worker population with a miniature kitchen on every floor, a favorite employee perk perhaps first introduced by a coffee-loving tenant.    Still, not everyone at Contentful loves coffee—or at least its CFO, Markus Harder, doesn’t. “My secret is that I hate coffee—I just don’t like it,” says Harder, who shortly after his arrival...

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634: Milestones for M&A Success  | Steve Young, CFO, Duke Energy show art 634: Milestones for M&A Success | Steve Young, CFO, Duke Energy

CFO Thought Leader

It was a little over 40 years ago when Steve Young first joined what would become Duke Energy, the giant electric power holding company headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Not only has it been a long tenure, but also it is the only post-college job that I’ve ever had,” says Young, who first roamed the energy giant’s corridors as a finance assistant. In the years that followed, Young says, he became involved in various finance-related projects as different executives sought him out because he had become recognized as a hard worker. One such senior executive, who sat inside...

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633:  Marching to Fintech's New Beat | Matt Briers, CFO, TransferWise show art 633: Marching to Fintech's New Beat | Matt Briers, CFO, TransferWise

CFO Thought Leader

Among the more transformative chapters of Matt Briers’s finance career was his 3-year stint monitoring and forecasting margin performance inside Google’s UK operations. “The core role was really to understand what was happening in the organization from a revenue and margin performance perspective and then help to operate the organization so that it could better drive that revenue,” explains Briers, who says that his responsibilities included an unyielding effort to expose new drivers of Google revenue “even down to keyword searches.” “My role was to provide a hotline back to...

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632: Exposing the Connection Between Financial and Operational Data | Jacqueline Purcell, CFO, Deputy show art 632: Exposing the Connection Between Financial and Operational Data | Jacqueline Purcell, CFO, Deputy

CFO Thought Leader

Jacqueline Purcell’s path to the CFO office began inside an Australian law firm where as a young attorney she was advising corporate clients and their bankers on how to best address some of the legal hurdles that their M&A deal-making might confront. At the time, her routine collaboration with different banking executives gave her a point of comparison to the seemingly less energetic legal world. “They seemed to be having a little more fun and a lot more impact on the outcomes,” she recalls. “This is what sparked my interest in moving into finance,” continues Purcell, who was...

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631:  Explaining the Business Reason Behind the Number | Steven Springsteel, CFO, betterworks show art 631: Explaining the Business Reason Behind the Number | Steven Springsteel, CFO, betterworks

CFO Thought Leader

Back in the early 1990s, Steven Springsteel nabbed an interview for a CFO role with a high-flying tech start-up. At the time, he was controller for Apple’s worldwide manufacturing operations, but the buzz surrounding the brash start-up intrigued him, and the young but accomplished executive shortly found himself waiting to be interviewed by the firm’s CEO. According to Springsteel, his interview aspirations quickly became somewhat tempered as he sat listening to a stream of expletives originating from the CEO’s office.  Within minutes, the CEO’s door swung open and several...

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630: Building the Business Case | Bennett Thiemann, CFO, Applicaster show art 630: Building the Business Case | Bennett Thiemann, CFO, Applicaster

CFO Thought Leader

It was the type of role that any recent business school graduate could envy—not because of the position’s title (Chief of Staff) or how much it paid, but because of its proximity to management decision-making. The job is one that Bennett Theimann remembers well as he looks back on the days when he served as chief of staff for the president of Gruner + Jahr’s German magazine division. “It exposed me to that sort of very-high-level strategic thinking. We launched magazines, we sold magazines, we bought magazines,” says Theimann, who very often found himself finalizing some of the...

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629: Freshly Ripens On The Vine |  Matt Hagel, CFO, Freshly show art 629: Freshly Ripens On The Vine | Matt Hagel, CFO, Freshly

CFO Thought Leader

It’s a story that Matt Hagel likes to share as he networks with fellow finance executives and accounting types. Back in 2017—only days after stepping into a finance leadership role at the online prepared meals company Freshly—Hagel was reviewing the company’s chart of accounts when he asked himself: “Why is Plant, Property, and Equipment (PPE) under Operating Expenses?” As he soon learned, this stalwart accounting acronym has long led a double life and is also used by various industries (notably healthcare and food prep) as a shorthand designation for Personal Protective Equipment....

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628: Allocating Resources to Achieve the Right Outcomes | Inder Singh, CFO, Arm show art 628: Allocating Resources to Achieve the Right Outcomes | Inder Singh, CFO, Arm

CFO Thought Leader

Inder Singh started off his professional life as an engineer, only to learn that the large engineering projects that he aspired to someday lead often faced as many financial obstacles as they did engineering challenges. So, Singh says, he went back to school and earned an MBA in finance, allowing him to redirect his career down a path populated with unique and imaginative financing deals to support engineering feats as well as business transformations. One of the more innovative financing projects that Singh has helped to champion came along in the 1990s, when he was working as a business...

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627: Learning the Lyrics to a Finance Career | Mark Sargent, CFO, Westhaven Power show art 627: Learning the Lyrics to a Finance Career | Mark Sargent, CFO, Westhaven Power

CFO Thought Leader

At the start of his finance career, Mark Sargent says, he could not picture himself working for a large, big-name corporation. He says that he was drawn instead to smaller companies, which he believed would be more accepting of “creative types” or those employees more prone to self-expression. In Sargent’s case, an accounting and finance job was Plan B, or a “safety” occupation in case his aspirations to become a rock musician didn’t pan out. Interestingly, it was Sargent’s deliberate avoidance of big business that undoubtedly allowed him to quickly garner some of the experiences...

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It was October 2019. Red Hat, Inc., was preparing to submit its latest quarterly results to its new parent, IBM Corp., and Laurie Krebs had just been named Red Hat software’s new CFO.

As a senior vice president of finance for Red Hat, Krebs had worked closely with the former CFO and more or less assumed that the acquiring company would likely prefer to fill C-suite spots from its “home team” talent bench of senior executives.

In fact, Krebs says that during the course of her career she had never truly aspired to be a CFO: “I often wondered who would want all of that responsibility, especially after Sarbanes-Oxley came in. And then, at the time, I realized that IBM had just acquired us for $34 billion and that it was going to be up to us to deliver the results that were needed.”  

Krebs says that the finance team at Red Hat, like many executive teams within newly acquired companies, had experienced some attrition and was perhaps not as highly functioning as it had been prior to its acquisition.  

As the first quarterly close for the newly acquired Red Hat approached, Krebs sought to reassure her CEO that she would continue to lead the team. “I’ll help you out until you get a legit CFO,” Krebs recalls saying—to which her CEO replied: “No, no, no—we want you to be it.”

The CEO then reassured Krebs that it had been a unanimous opinion across Red Hat’s and IBM’s leadership teams that she should become Red Hat’s next CFO.

Still, the pressure was on, and Krebs had to not only deliver the company’s first post-acquisition quarterly results but also activate the collaborative processes required to satisfy a giant parent company.  

“I did what I always do. I surrounded myself with the right talent and strong skillsets and created a team out of it,” comments Krebs, who says that her team today includes a seasoned “IBM finance partner” now tasked as sort of a go-between and translator for Red Hat and its parent.

Echoing the executive’s words, Krebs relays his guidance: “Here are the deliverables that IBM’s looking for. Here’s why they look for them. When they ask for this, this is typically what CFO’s look for.”

Krebs adds: “He has been what I call a ‘gift’ on our team." - Jack Sweeney  SUBSCRIBE