Meeting the CFO

How do you get where you’re going? It’s a question we strive to answer every day. Sometimes, it’s a straight line from A to B. But oftentimes, the line zigs and zags all the way to Z.

Kelley School of Business Indianapolis students recently had the opportunity to talk with CFOs of major companies to find out how they got where they are today.

An annual event, CFO Roundtable was held in Bloomington. Its goal is to link the business leaders of today with the business leaders of tomorrow.

Two Indiana University alums spoke at one student session. The alums are now CFOs of their respective companies: Kevin Sierks of Vera Bradley and Michael Sims of AdvancePierre Foods. The discussion was moderated by management professor Dave Steele.

“The students get a chance to see the Kelley Bloomington buildings, hear the stories of these successful Kelley alumni, and represent the best of Kelley Indy,” said Loren Bumbalough, academic advisor for the Kelley Honors Program and instructor for the honors class attending the event. “Students learn about work-life balance and how to develop soft skills through student organizations and involvement. They also learn to understand the importance of working for a company you can believe in and grow in.”

More than a dozen students represented Kelley Indianapolis at the event, including Olivia Becht, BS’19.

“I feel the information you get face-to-face from a CFO about the occupation is much more valuable than the same information that you read,” Olivia explained. She is majoring in human resource management, management, and international studies, hoping someday to work in hospital HR.

“By communicating with CFOs, you can obtain information about practically any part of the company. This shows their dedication to learning everything about their companies and ensuring they can make a decisions confidently based off of their knowledge,” she added.

“The opportunity to meet with people who are experiencing the real world helped give a lot of perspective,” said Ryan Fraser, who plans to graduate in 2020 with a degree in finance.

“I learned a lot of things about business models, private companies vs. public companies, and the roles of CFOs. The main take away, though, was the importance of putting yourself out there. Both CFOs addressed the theme of ‘going for it’ and also the importance of ‘listening to the critical critique.’ You don't have to be the smartest person; you just have to be the one who grows the most.

“For me, being a CFO is something I would love to do as a career, so hearing from them was wonderful. But, also, there is so much you just can't learn from a textbook, and meetings like this one allow you to learn more.”