Like so many finance professionals, I started my career in public accounting. It was more than just a career-launching point, it was a reflection of where I came from. My father was a partner at Peat Marwick Mitchell & Co. back when it was still the “Big 8” accounting firm. My mother taught herself Quickbooks to manage the bookkeeping of the Church where she worked. My oldest brother worked for Grant Thornton and my other brother, who followed his passion into youth sports coaching, couldn’t escape managing the books for the baseball league. Everyone in my family is heavily right-brained and shows a strong genetic predisposition towards order and pragmatism that is perfect for the accounting world.
In my first semester at UCSB I took introductory courses in Economics, Political Science, and Psychology, thinking it would help me narrow down a major. In reality, it took very little time for me to realize that Economics with an Accounting focus was the choice for me, and I quickly declared it to the world (or at least the Business school).
The road I followed after graduation has been well-traveled. It feels like every PE/VC CFO I meet got their start in public accounting, and I was no different. My first two clients at E&Y were Lightspeed Venture Partners and Zappos.com. Nothing against Zappos, after all they had top-tier snacks and a break-room equipped with a mini trampoline, foosball table, and Playstation, but much like my choice of majors in college, the answer seemed obvious. Alternative Investments were the place for me. I spent six years auditing all kinds of fund structures. Wind Farms? Check! Airplane Leasing? Check! VC, PE, Solar? Check, check, and check!
After EY I spent a decade at a private equity firm that took over management of the HRJ Capital Fund of Funds after HRJ collapsed in the credit crunch of 2008. I got married, started a family, and continued to sharpen my skills. Once my 2nd son (finally) started sleeping through the night, I knew that it was time for me to find a new challenge. That led me to my role as VP of Finance at a blue-chip venture firm focused on Biotech investing.
They say if you want to get smarter, you should put yourself in a room with people smarter than you. This was never clearer to me than during investment team meetings when I sat amongst a group of folks whose title was MD2 (i.e. Managing Director and Medical Doctor/PhD). Most of the medical jargon went about a mile over my head, but I was fascinated nonetheless. The most rewarding part was listening to academic founders speak passionately about the role of science in helping people.
After some time, I decided I had learned enough to be ready for another challenge, and the natural next step for me was a CFO job. Becoming CFO of a PE/VC firm had been my goal for 15 years, but it had to be the right firm. For those of you familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality test, I am a big-time INFJ. People with this personality type tend to seek careers that align with their values. As such, finding a firm that embraced a commitment to making the world a better place was my #1 priority in assessing potential landing spots.
At Powerplant, I found a group of people who feel passionately about Impact as a core investment thesis, not just a box to check on a DDQ. Everyone at Powerplant walks the walk, and measures success based on ROI2, which does not just return on investment, but also return on impact. The former pays the bills, but it is the latter that nourishes the soul. It’s been about three months since I joined the team, and much like my choice of majors and industry, the obvious choice ended up being the right one.
Thanks for reading and ‘ll be back with more soon. I’m kind of on Twitter now too, here.