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54 Driving for Diversity with Tiziana Figliolia, CFO at Hootsuite

Tiziana Figliolia has more than 25 years experience in the technology industry leading a wide range of strategic, financial, and operational functions at billion-dollar global publicly traded companies. Currently, she is CFO at Hootsuite, the global leader in social media management. Having a passion for advancing diversity and inclusion initiatives in the workplace and in the community, she is also the co-founder of Full STEAM Forward, a non-profit whose mission is to tackle inequalities in education. Tiziana focuses on a growth mindset in her work to be successful as a CFO. To do this, she feels you need to be customer obsessed, provide the best employee experience, and always build for the long term financial sustainability of the company.

Notes

Episode 54: Hootsuite | With Tiziana Figliolia, CFO

Tiziana Figliolia has more than 25 years experience in the technology industry leading a wide range of strategic, financial, and operational functions at billion-dollar global publicly traded companies. Currently, she is CFO at Hootsuite, the global leader in social media management. Having a passion for advancing diversity and inclusion initiatives in the workplace and in the community, she is also the co-founder of Full STEAM Forward, a non-profit whose mission is to tackle inequalities in education. 

To be a successful CFO, Tiziana believes you need to focus on having a growth mindset. To do this she feels you need to be customer obsessed, provide the best employee experience, and always build for the long term financial sustainability of the company. Tiziana feels strongly that you need to look at the opportunities that you have in front of you and double down on the investments you have with your customers and partners. 

To help your organization become world-class as a CFO, you need to get your processes, policies, and systems right. You can help achieve this by supporting your employees, whether it be through building relationships, paying attention to health and wellness, ensuring equality, or providing opportunities for them to improve and grow. It’s also important that you as a CFO have a strong relationship with the CEO, with a cooperative commitment to each other to support long term financial success and create equity opportunities for your company. 

In this episode of The CFO Playbook, Tiziana talks about her experience working internationally in China and how it has prepared her to take on the tasks of running finance at Hootsuite which impacts people and companies across the globe. She discusses the importance of relationships and partnerships within your company and with your customers, as well as the importance of implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion practices to any corporate environment. Tiziana also speaks about digital transformation and why it is important to push yourself to take on new challenges throughout your career.

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Guest Analysis

Name: Tiziana Figliolia

What she does: Tiziana Figliolia has more than 25 years experience in the technology industry leading a wide range of strategic, financial, and operational functions at billion-dollar global publicly traded companies. Currently, she is CFO at Hootsuite, the global leader in social media management. Having a passion for advancing diversity and inclusion initiatives in the workplace and in the community, she is also the co-founder of Full STEAM Forward, a non-profit whose mission is to tackle inequalities in education. Tiziana focuses on a growth mindset in her work to be successful as a CFO. To do this she feels you need to be customer obsessed, provide the best employee experience, and always build for the long term financial sustainability of the company. 

Key Quote: “I don't think it's really a surprise, but I think one of the things that becomes more and more important as CFO is how you impact people. How you lead and how you show up is ever more important in this role. Not just leading the CF organization, but also being a leader for the entire company. And, not a surprise, but that is something that is different from being in a functional role.”            

Where to find Tiziana: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tizianafigliolia/

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From Tiziana’s Playbook

Build for future success

To be successful as an executive for a company you always have to build for the long term, even when you're executing for the short term and during times of crisis. You need to stay focused on building a financially sustainable company at all times. As a CFO you’re a key stakeholder in driving solutions to create value. One way is through digital transformation. The value that can be created through embedding digital solutions can be of great help to your company. It allows automation and removing friction for your employees and your customers, helping to ensure smoother and more efficient business processes.

Be customer obsessed

No matter what role you are in, be commercially minded and be customer obsessed. You can learn so much from meeting customers and help them in any role that you have. From a front office perspective, think about what kind of important role you can play to help your organization succeed. Part of that is being a great business partner. To achieve that you need to gain the trust of others, be someone that is able to listen, and have conversations about challenging tasks. Through constructive conversation with your leaders, employees, and customers, you can get to better outcomes. You can be an effective business partner if you build personal and professional relationships, listen, guide, and become a trusted advisor.

Create an environment of growth and engagement

You want to help improve the experience for your employees by doing whatever you can to remove friction from their daily working environment. This will help your employees in their interactions externally with customers to ensure they have a delightful experience. As a CFO you are a partner with the rest of the organization in driving that agenda. Make sure you provide staff with the best tools to do their jobs, and opportunities to learn new digital skills and competencies. By doing so, you will help employees to be competitive and relevant in the future market, by acquiring skill sets that revolve around technology. It is also critical to have a real connection with the community internally and around your company. You should be one of the main stakeholders helping to ensure an opportunity for growth, learning, and engagement.

Always be a continuous learner

Any type of career progression, whether in finance or not, really stands on the basis of continuous learning. Education is one of the major catalysts of success. But, it doesn't have to be done necessarily through institutional education, you can just be a continuous learner in all aspects of your life. Don’t be afraid to take on chances and new roles, no matter if it is in your core competencies, traditional verticals, or even the same country. Part of learning is finding mentors and building your network, creating allies and relationships that will help your career journey. 

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Episode Highlights

Be a strategic solution solver

“If you think about digital transformation and digital businesses, how do we create value through the use of technology in our product, in our services? How do we partner? How do we collaborate? How do we execute for work? And so asking the right questions around what problems are we trying to solve? How do we implement technology to solve those problems, but do it in a strategic way, right? So we're not going in and just solving for the low hanging fruit, we're going in with a more strategic approach.”

The customer comes first

“Step up, be customer obsessed, go fast, be a giant, play to win - these are all things that play to that growth mindset. So I'm very lucky that I joined a team that already has that culture. And so it's continuing to reinforce that and take on new challenges. And continuing to understand the customers and the customer's wants and needs. Being customer obsessed will continue to drive that mindset and change. I believe that every single employee of the company and also everyone that works in finance is a business partner to the rest of the organization. So with that, you always have to think about how you can make things better.” 

Encourage an environment for everyone

“It goes back to creating the best employee experience. We want to make sure that everyone feels that they're valued, there's inclusiveness in how we manage our business. And that's really important, I think in a competitive labor market to see what kind of company you're going to work for and what guiding principle, and putting actions should be a decision factor on joining a company. And new generations value these more and more I think.”

Chase the challenges

“Be curious and don't be afraid to take on new challenges, even when you feel fear that you might not have everything you need to be successful at their role. We all should take different roles when we're not a hundred percent ready. Why take a new role if you feel like you can master that job, right? But, just have that confidence. That allows you to then go in and learn and learn and perform and exceed expectations over time.”

Top quotes:

6:06

“I don't think it's really a surprise, but I think one of the things that becomes more and more important as CFO is how you impact people. And, how you lead and how you show up is ever more important in this role. Not just leading you know the CF organization, but also being a leader for the entire company. And, not a surprise, but that is something that is different I think from being in a functional role.”

07:11 

“The way I see the relationship between CEO and CFO, it's really to be equal open partnership, you know, where we establish a trusted partnership, but open and one in which we are able to really talk to each other, with no sacred cows, hidden agendas, and challenge each other as well. But at the same time, be very united on how we communicate. There's a storytelling aspect for both CEO and CFO, that comes into place when we're talking to all our stakeholders and that united front that consistency, it's extremely important. But, also compensating each other. Right? When we'll say the CEO is the glass half full, the CFO is the glass half empty sometimes. So really make sure that there is that partnership and balancing act between the two roles.”

8:39

“To be successful as an executive for a company, CEO or CFO, you always have to build for the long term even when you're executing for the short term. And so, even during a time of crisis, I think it's always very important to not lose sight of the long term and see what opportunities you have in the short term, working with the card you're dealt with. But, most importantly is really to stay focused in building a financially sustainable company.”

14:25

“One of the ways that I think about digital transformation for me is always how does it create value? So it's not digital transformation for the sake of, you know, using that buzzword really, but how do we transform our business to a digital business?”

15:00

“If you think about digital transformation and digital businesses, how do we create value through the use of technology in our product, in our services? How do we partner? How do we collaborate? How do we execute for work? And so asking the right questions around what problems are we trying to solve? How do we implement technology to solve those problems, but do it in a strategic way, right? So we're not going in and just solving for the low hanging fruit, we're going in with a more strategic approach. But then the delivery is bite-sized so no more of those horror stories of the past decades of ERP implementations. Although I still hear they're happening somewhere. I think that delivering through sprints and having that mindset, it's what I think will drive the pace of transformation.”

16:15

“I feel like I'm a key stakeholder, and as a CFO and a driver of this transformation that entails a digital transformation, because I think the value creation that it's embedded with such activity is really great. It allows automation and removing customer friction. When I say customer, I mean internal customers. So improving the employee experience. When people come into work every morning they turn on their computer and they use their tools to do their job and they experience friction, doesn't make it a really great place to work for them. So, and then externally as well for our customer to ensure they have a delightful experience, a lot of that is driven by our own digital set up in architecture. And so I see myself as a partner with the rest of the organization in driving that agenda.”

18:47

“It's a tough market for recruiting and retaining quite frankly. And providing our employees with the best tools is paramount, but also providing them with the opportunity to learn new skills. And, if we think about the finance of the future, digital skills and digital competencies is one of the highest rated…I do think even from an employee perspective to be competitive and relevant in the future market, you have to acquire some of those skill sets that revolve around technology.”

20:27

“Step up, be customer obsessed, go fast, be a giant, play to win - these are all things that play to that growth mindset. So I'm very lucky that I joined a team that already has that culture. And so it's continuing to reinforce that and take on new challenges. And continuing to understand the customers and the customer's wants and needs. Being customer obsessed will continue to drive that mindset and change. I believe that every single employee of the company and also everyone that works in finance is a business partner to the rest of the organization. So with that, you always have to think about how you can make things better.” 

21:33

“A great business partner is someone that gains the trust, someone that is able to listen, but also that is able to have that conversation about challenging the status. I mentioned earlier around the CEO and CFO relationship, almost being like an equally open partnership where, you know, there are no hidden agendas and anything can be brought to the table. And so I see it exactly the same way at any level of business partnership. Through that constructive conversation, you can get to better outcomes. And so listening, guiding, and becoming really a trusted advisor is how I think you can be a really effective business partner. Building personal relationships is key as well. It's just human nature, right? We spend almost more time with each other at work than we actually do with our family, if you count the number of hours. So it's very important to have those personal relationships as well embedded into that professional relationship.”

22:42 

“As you grow in your career and continue to become a trusted advisor, I think it's very important to do that more and more through storytelling and alignment around that. So if I think about my relationship with the CEO and how I become and I strive to become a better partner for him is to really tell the story through numbers, bring the numbers to life, and really get to the why of things. And then if you get to the why of things, that's the point where you support value creation. And value creation is yes, it could be financial value creation, it could be human capital value creations, it could be how do we really end up building a best place to work at the end of the day.” 

25:47

“I think the real connection starts with community. It's really critical that people connect with their communities, and companies connect with their communities. Community should be one of the main stakeholders for companies by the way, not just employee, customer, and partners, communities as well. And, there is opportunity for growth, and learning, and so on when you engage with your community.”

32:53

“It goes back to creating the best employee experience. We want to make sure that everyone feels that they're valued, there's inclusiveness in how we manage our business. And that's really important, I think in a competitive labor market to see what kind of company you're going to work for and what guiding principle, and putting actions should be a decision factor on joining a company. And new generations value these more and more I think.”

34:06

“Be a continuous learner always. Any type of career progressions, whether in finance or not, really stands on the basis of continuous learning. Education, it's one of the major catalysts of success. But, it doesn't have to be done necessarily through institutional education, you can just be a continuous learner.”

34:21

“Be curious and don't be afraid to take on new challenges, even when you feel fear that you might not have everything you need to be successful at their role. We all should take different roles when we're not a hundred percent ready. Why take a new role if you feel like you can master that job, right? But, just have that confidence. That allows you to then go in and learn and learn and perform and exceed expectations over time.”

35:00

“Find a sponsor, that building networks, and sponsorship, and ally-ship will help people in their career journey for sure. So be mindful of those things.”

35:14

“No matter what role you are in, be commercially minded, be customer obsessed. That is something I also learned throughout my journey. You can learn so much from meeting customers and in any role that you have, you can help your customers, even if you're an accounts receivable person, right, in finance, you can help your customers, even more so than other roles. So be really the front office and think about what kind of important role you can play to help your organization succeed.” 

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