When you think about the stereotypical chief financial officer what comes to mind? I’ll tell you what comes to mine: strict, penny-pinching, number-crunching, process-driven, introverted, and always with a pocket protector! Am I right? I am all these things when I need to be (minus the pocket protector), but I also break a lot of stereotypes. For example, I’m very outgoing, I love adventures, I dislike math and I have a construction background, all of which makes me an approachable and relatable CFO and that’s good in business.
I had no idea when I began my career in construction that it would expand my world and change how I approached business as much as it did. I helped build a company from the ground up (literally—steel beams and all), so I was heavily engaged in the project management and operations side of things. It was very much like conducting an orchestra and I learned so much about collaboration, alignment, effective communication with all different functions and levels, and most important, how to bring people in line with your vision. Every day pushed me out of my comfort zone, and I loved it because I was being challenged. The fundamental responsibilities of an accountant never did challenge me because math came so easy to me. I was naturally good at it so it didn’t require a lot of effort on my part, which is why I said at the start I didn’t like math. My nature is to constantly push myself, so I’ve always sought out mentors and opportunity that drove me to do that.
When I was deep into my career as a CFO, I embraced a mentor who kept encouraging me to find my purpose. Any issue or challenge I’d bring to him would inevitably lead him to ask the same question of me: how does this link to your purpose? It was frustrating because I couldn’t answer it. I couldn’t articulate my purpose. All I knew was that I wanted to support women and I volunteered in that capacity whenever I got the chance, but I always felt I needed to do more. I didn’t know how or when this desire would manifest itself into a full-time job, but eventually it did. And I was ready.
Enter a Company with Purpose
So I’m backpacking across Southeast Asia. A truly amazing experience but your Wi-Fi is limited and coming from a country where you’re basically on 24/7, you never really get used to it. My daughter and I would get back to our dwelling late in the evening and immediately log in to catch up on everything we had missed. One night I had an interesting note from a recruiter who was inquiring about a CFO position for a high-tech demand gen company based in Phoenix, Arizona called Televerde. As I read further into his email, I learned that more than half their workforce are inmates at the Arizona Department of Corrections in Perryville and the Indiana Department of Corrections in Rockville. To say I was intrigued would be an understatement. I couldn’t get the company out of my mind. And the more I researched, the more I knew this was where I needed to be.
I’m inclined now to give a pitch about the Televerde business model and how it’s literally helped to transform 3,000 lives since 1994, but I’d rather have an objective source do this for me. Recently, our company was featured in Demand Gen Report in an article titled, The ‘Inside’ Story On Televerde’s Workforce and How It May Redefine Business Impact. The reporter addresses really well the misconceptions people have about the incarcerated and is very up front about how his views ultimately changed by his visit to our Perryville operations. “I’d challenge any sales and marketing executive to visit and have a conversation about the day-to-day approach and strategies of demand generation with the woman inside Perryville,” he wrote. That’s powerfully validating.
As the new CFO working on a new Televerde leadership team and for a tech company that’s 87% female, I am committed to doing everything in my power to help grow this company. I know what you’re thinking, “But Jill, how does this link to your purpose?” Well, I finally have an answer.
I will use strategic planning combined with strong financial management to help solidify Televerde’s ability to impact thousands of disempowered people. I will strive every day to support the financial well-being of this organization by working tirelessly to assure we have the financial means to make a difference in the lives of those we are committed to helping.
It’s a mouthful but it’s exactly what motivates me to get out of bed and come to work every day. As a company, we’ve set a goal to transform 10,000 lives over the next decade. It’s a challenge I’m happy to take on.
I read somewhere that if passion is about finding yourself, purpose is about losing yourself because it’s a belief in something bigger than you: your pain, your experiences, your hardships. It’s beautiful when we give ourselves to a greater purpose as individuals, but when we come together as a global team—in my case a global team of 600—and work towards the same purpose, every single moment of every single day is absolutely inspiring.