Job Title: Controller
Type of Company: I work for a 45-person venture capital and growth equity funds partnership.
Education: BA, Economics, Rutgers University MBA, Finance, Boston University Financial Mgmt Program, GE
Previous Experience: I've spent 24 years in accounting and finance. The last 10 have been as Controller & VP Finance for a publicly traded tech firm, then a technology subsidiary of a privately owned $1 billion company.
Job Tasks: Being a Controller means wearing many hats and successfully juggling many balls in the air: Daily, quarterly, and annual accounting for our venture funds for reporting to our investors; all payroll, benefits, and human resources; all IT and systems and facilities responsibilities; creating and maintaining our web site and marketing and branding; raising new funds and closing down old ones; building out new office spaces in Massachusetts and California; managing all cash in and money going out; even taking photos at all company events; budgeting and forecasting; special projects; working with partners here on deals and investments; learning and reviewing and filing hundreds of tax returns annually; learning and putting in technology into conference rooms: things like videoconferencing and interactive white boards; working with all the company's vendors to make sure everything "back office" is running smooth and correctly; etc.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: I think the best part of keeping all parts of the company running smoothly means I add value on a daily basis that's appreciated, and frees up the partners here to do what they do best: invest in start-up companies, ideas and entrepreneurs. Every day brings something new and new skill sets to learn, so there is never a dull day.
The worst is there's always some grunge element to the work. Heck, I'm the resident fix-the-copier guy and fix-the-videoconference-technology guy, because I'm the one who sourced it and put it in. And mobility is always limited in a small firm, so if my boss, the CFO, isn't moving then there's no place for me to be promoted.
1. Knowing the technical stuff is necessary and great, but make sure you come with the softer skills: the ability to work with people and communicate. Be a net worker and an information hound, develop relationships throughout the company.
2. Start out with an accounting or finance job to begin learning about pure accounting, accounting systems, monthly and quarterly and year-end closes and audits, tax, business cycles, analysis of what's going on in the company and the market.
3. Start networking for life now. That means joining industry organizations and attending conferences and getting involved by volunteering for committees. Meet folks in and out of your profession for coffee and lunch to establish relationships. Meet recruiters to see how you can assist them, and vice versa. Read daily and weekly papers like the Wall Street Journal and Boston Business Journal. Make yourself well-read and well-rounded and aware.
Additional Thoughts: What I failed to do in the first half of my career was return phone calls from recruiters, join industry organizations, get involved, and network. I love the classic book title "Dig your well before you're thirsty". Networking is for life as it creates relationships and friendships and mutually benefits your proactive career planning and the other person as well.
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