After graduating from the University of Miami, Alena Kerins moved to New York to pursue her dream of becoming an actress. She had studied acting for a very long time and had some success, but while she was building her acting career she took a position as an executive assistant. While in this role she assumed some of the responsibilities normally given to a financial professional and began to realize how much she liked finance and accounting, and how good she was at it. Eventually she started her own bookkeeping business, at first mostly for architectural and design firms, and now she is the CFO for 87AM, a creative agency.
You should pay special attention to this conversation for one of two reasons, depending on your situation:
- If you are coming to finance from an “unconventional” path, Alena’s story should inspire you. Your career journey is all about finding your strengths and passion and we talk a lot about how to find both. It is never a straight line so don’t worry if you’re not there yet.
- If you are a conventional finance professional or student (like me), listen carefully to what her flexibility, patience, openness, perspective on relationships and communication skills have done for her career. We can learn a lot from someone who came to the finance world from a different background. Let it influence the way you approach your career.
In this episode we discuss:
- How corporate finance is less about math and is more about being organized and enjoying puzzles and detective work
- The broad responsibilities often included in the CFO role
- Being OK with never “arriving” and staying open to changes in the industry, technology, etc.
- The integration of finance with other operations of a business
- Why you should build relationships throughout an organization (all levels and disciplines)
- Viewing numbers as an illustration or a story and the importance of being able to communicate that story to other people in ways they can understand
- Taking the pressure off young professionals and students to land that “perfect” first job
- The benefits of putting yourself in situations that challenge you or make you uncomfortable
- What it is like to be a woman in a high-level finance role
Music by Elijah from NOMADS