Drawing on experiences from working with Corporate America giants, DigiWorks Corp. CFO and Chief Revenue Officer Gayle Anderson shares five lessons she’s learned and brought with her to a startup she’s been with since its first customer.
Gayle Anderson was right there when DigiWorksCorp received its first check from a paying customer—what a world of difference from her days at such well-established giants as KPMG, Match.com and The Walt Disney Co.
Anderson is Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Chief Revenue Officer at DigiWorksCorp, which provides proprietary tools and technology that enable companies to micro-target customers across digital touchpoints—Web, mobile and social media—over their lifetimes, delivering one-to-one messages that will increase mutual lifetime value.
She joined DigiWorksCorp in January 2014 to help the company pursue investor funding and grow the business. Starting her career at global professional services firm KPMG, which she calls “one of the best training grounds for future CFOs,” Anderson also has served as Executive Vice President (EVP) of Corporate Development and CFO at Match.com and Vice President (VP) of Studio Planning at The Walt Disney Co.
With her experience at more established companies and now a start-up, Anderson offers a wealth of hard-won lessons.
Lesson No. 1: Don’t Overextend Yourself
Anderson’s experience at International Rectifier, a world leader in power management technology, taught her that she’s responsible for understanding when she’s overextending herself and needs help.
“I took on too much work. I didn’t go after additional resources, so I burned myself out. I tried to resign,” said Anderson, who was convinced to stay and then given more support to get the work done. “Nobody else can know that I’m entering mental or physical exhaustion. It’s my responsibility to balance my life, and to have these conversations about capacity earlier. I waited too long to sound the alarm.”
When Anderson moved to Match.com and was asked to close four significant merger and acquisition transactions in a single year, along with performing her “normal” CFO duties, she knew exactly when she was close to burnout. She discussed trade-offs and priorities ahead of time with her Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and her team. The prior lesson paid off significantly at a critical time in her career.
Lesson No. 2: Fear Not the Lateral Move
Anderson was completely impressed by Anne Gates, a former CFO and EVP at Disney Consumer Products, who advised her to “not be afraid to take a lateral move as long as you are going to learn something new.”
Anderson did just that. In fact, she left her VP role at Disney to take a Director-level role at International Rectifier. What she gained in the process was more experience in operations, which served her well at Match.com and in her current role at DigiWorksCorp.
Lesson No. 3: Take & Give Credit for Hard Work
When she advises women in business, Anderson always recommends that they take credit for their hard work. “You must find a way to tell people about it, without being obnoxious or arrogant. Point to your achievements,” she advised. “I ask people to work extremely hard. I try to make it fun as well. I celebrate the wins and recognize those who contributed, which adds to loyalty, lower turnover and increased productivity. It’s the right and smart thing to do.”
Lesson No. 4: Pay Attention to the Political Climate
At one point in her career, Anderson tried to get three divisions to work together to benefit the company by redistributing traffic among its various online properties. That, of course, required that the three divisions work together toward a common goal.
Anderson didn’t pay close enough attention, however, to the fact that the leaders of the three divisions were all vying for the same promotion. The political climate for her initiative was just wrong.
“It was pretty obvious,” Anderson recalled,” this should have been the next year’s project. But I forged on ahead. I was unable to get it launched.”
Her takeaway and thus advice: Make sure you get buy-in early, and pay attention to the political climate. Delay, if it is necessary, to get complete support from those who will need to be co-champions of the project.
Lesson No. 5: Be Mindful of Your Career Compass
Anderson credits the time she’s taken away from full-time work to really assess where she’s going in her career. When her children, a son and a daughter, were younger, she took a break from her career to spend more time with them. Recently, she chose to focus again on her family and on volunteer work in her community.
“Taking that break,” she said, “can cause you to step back and ask yourself, ‘Is this the path I want? What are my long-term objectives?’”
Her parting advice to those who decide to step off the corporate ladder for a couple of months or even years? Keep going to those professional meetings and remind people that you’re still around, no matter how tired you are at the end of the day with your family.
“When you’re ready to return to work,” Anderson said, “you will have maintained your networks and kept your industry and functional education current.”
Gayle's Key Partners:Yellow Brick Path Consulting (Board Bio consulting services)
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