Meet A Minnesota Tech CFO: Amy Anderson, Parallel Technologies

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Thanks to local commercial real estate pros CBRE for sponsoring the Meet A Minnesota Tech CFO series.

The CFO: Amy Anderson, Parallel Technologies

When and how did you get started in your finance career, specifically within the tech industry?

I started my accounting career on the tax side, with PricewaterhouseCoopers. My clients were mainly
controllers and CFOs and those roles were appealing to me as they seemed to be more well-rounded,
rather than a specialization, like tax.

When the opportunity arose, I took a leap of faith and joined a local investment banking company as the controller. I had a lot to learn fast and had a great experience working and learning a broader role outside of public accounting. From there, moved to Parallel Technologies even though I didn’t know a lot about the tech industry. Like my past jobs, I taught myself a lot and learned about the industry from CEO Dale Klein and the business unit executives. I also make an effort to attend vendor tradeshows and industry conferences for continued exposure and learning opportunities.

What is unique about your role with the technology industry, compared to other industries?

The CFO role is more strategic than a controller. The difference between the positions is that the controller is more “back of ship: – telling you what we passed, here’s the reports, what the weather was, etc -whereas the CFO is on the “front of ship” and helps predict weather and where we are going. At Parallel, I work alongside the CEO on the front of ship to bring Dale’s vision to life, from the financial aspect.

Technology is always evolving and tech companies need to stay up-to-date if they don’t want to become obsolete. Since I’ve been with Parallel Technologies, the company has expanded with several new delivery solution offerings which demands an increase in headcount and technical experts. All the growth keeps things exciting while also challenging as the business becomes more complex and diverse.

It’s crazy how much the company has evolved since I came on board two years ago. I can truly say I have not had one day I was ever bored at work!

What do you find most interesting or challenging about being a modern-day CFO?

The greatest challenge I have is reconciling the speed of technology with the human element of our business. Everything is faster with technology, but we still rely on people for the operational aspects of the company. In today’s business climate, the expectations are to deliver faster, more accurate information and it doesn’t always scale. There are still many instances where we can only go so fast as the people and processes we have in place, so continually managing expectations

Why did you decide to join Parallel Technologies?

I was looking to make a change and was drawn to Parallel for its culture. There’s an excellent work/life balance at Parallel, from the top down. I’m part of our Culture Committee; planning employee events and activities focusing on fun, family and/or fitness. Having a warehouse also has its perks; scheduled yoga classes, a pickup basketball game on a random day of the week, or fire up the golf simulator to practice your golf stroke when you need a mental break. I even bring my dog to work most days so I don’t have to worry about him being cooped up at home. That’s what a great, relaxed culture it is here. We care about each other here and want employees to feel valued and that they’re doing important work while also having fun doing it!

What do you enjoy doing with your time outside of the office?

I love to travel, I love animals (I have a dog and two cats), making Halloween costumes and enjoy playing BlackJack and Poker.

What advice would you have for someone in finance who wants to become a CFO?

Find a good mentor. Find someone within your organization or industry that you can talk to and bounce ideas off of, this will help guide your career. I also always say to be mindful of relationships. People are often surprised when I tell them I’m an accountant because I’m a “people person” defying the stereotype; they don’t think those skills are as important in accounting but they absolutely are. The CFO role is a leadership role that requires developing trust across the organization (both ways) which is crucial to success. As a CFO, you need to depend on your team to get their jobs done so you can focus on pushing the organization to its best potential. Investing in relationships is critical in all facets of an organization, even accounting!

How is success measured in your role as a CFO?

For me, it is empowering my team to innovate and think outside the box. I often ask “why are we doing it this way?” to avoid the status quo and ensure we are thinking creatively to produce our best results, as efficiently as possible. I am also breaking down internal siloes so we work more collaboratively as a company, something that can be challenging across generations and various departments, but it really does lend itself to having a lean management mentality.

I get a lot of satisfaction seeing light bulbs go off in co-workers’ heads. For me, it’s not about completing a checklist under your job description, but explaining the “why” and how it all fits together; it’s giving people the opportunity to see the bigger picture, providing people purpose and work satisfaction that they’re making an impact, regardless of what title they hold at the company.

What is one question you want to ask of your tech CFO peers?

Because things move so quickly these days, I am always looking for more efficient forecasting and budgeting tools and processes. It’s a challenge to navigate the financial complexity of a business that continues to evolve through the year, so always curious as to what other tech CFOs use to do this.

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