Top career advice from leading female CFO points way to success for women in finance

11 Dec 2019

Top career advice from leading female CFO points way to success for women in finance

Julie Brown, three-time FTSE 100 female CFO, gave a candid and thought-provoking talk at the final 2019 Odgers Berndtson Women in Finance networking lunch.

CFO and COO at Burberry plc, Audit Chair at Roche, and previously CFO at Smith & Nephew plc and AstraZeneca plc, Julie Brown certainly had a wealth of key insights to share on navigating a career in finance.

Julia van den Bosch Wazen, Associate in the CFO Practice, welcomed the guests from a range of sectors,  including M&A Directors, Divisional FDs, and plc CFOs.

Mark Freebairn, Head of the CFO Practice, then introduced Julie, summarising her career to date, highlighting how transformative she has been for the companies she has worked at, with the share price more than doubling in her last two.

Take risks, be mindful of culture, and seek out mentoring

There were some distinct themes that emerged during Julie’s talk and the subsequent Q&A, hosted by Baroness Virginia Bottomley, Chair of the Odgers Berndtson Board Practice.

With regards to picking roles, Julie advised the audience to take risks, and go for roles outside of your comfort zone, as these serve as the best learning curves.

The example Julie gave was taking a Regional Vice President role at AstraZeneca, which significantly aided her ability to act as a commercial business partner when moving back into finance.

When changing firms, culture should be front and centre of your decision, was her advice.

If you find you are changing yourself too much to fit a culture, then perhaps it is not going to be the right environment for you to perform at your best.

‘When deciding what job to do next, know your external worth’

Invest in your team, take the time to build effective relationships with them, and make sure that you have a mentor and advocate who can advise on your career moves.

In Julie’s opinion, these were crucial elements in shaping the CFO and COO she is today.

Finally, she suggested that it always pays to put yourself in your audience’s shoes. What does your CEO or Audit Chair want to see to make an informed decision? Use this to affect how and what you present.

We look forward to Odgers Berndtson’s 2020 series of Women in Finance networking lunches, providing a platform for notable leaders to share career insights with an invited audience of talented senior leaders.