Leading Financial Transformation: Key Considerations for Modern CFOs

April 20, 2023 Mimi Torrington

leading financial transformation background

Financial transformation leaders are tasked with leading their organizations through periods of significant change. This responsibility can be overwhelming for some CFOs. But not for Janice Stucke, who joins the show to exemplify how to lead your organization to successful financial transformation.

Janice is currently the Chief Financial Officer at Achieving the Dream, which leads America’s largest network of community colleges working to become strong engines of student and community growth. Some of her previous roles include Director of Finance and Business Analysis at SHRM, Controller at CertaTech Solutions, and Lead Accountant at CFO Services Group.

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Welcome back to CFO Weekly, where we're talking with financial leaders about how to build efficiency in their teams, create time for strategy, and ultimately get results with your host, Megan Weis. Let's jump right in.

Megan - 00:00:18: Today my guest is Janice Stucke. Janice is the Chief Financial Officer for Achieving the Dream, reporting to the Vice President of Finance and Administration. In this role, she manages day-to-day financial operations while maintaining accounting records and internal controls in accordance with Generally Accepted accounting principles. She is responsible for leading financial and administrative processes, strategy guidelines, standard operating procedures, and relevant regulations. Janice is a CPA with ten years of finance and accounting experience. She was previously the Director of Finance at the Society for Human Resource Management, SHRM, where she helped SHRM navigate the pandemic by implementing a new investments and growth strategy. Prior to SHRM, she was Controller at two tech companies, CertaTech and Morning Consult. The first ten years of her career were spent managing refugee and asylum-related programs in East Africa, San Diego, and the DC. Metro area. Janice, thank you so much for joining me on today's episode of CFO Weekly.

Janice - 00:01:36: Thank you so much for having me here. I'm super excited.

Megan - 00:01:40: Today we're going to be learning about you and your current organization, but we'll also be discussing the importance of financial transformation and getting some tips on how to get these initiatives right. I'm really looking forward to this conversation, so let's jump right in.

Janice - 00:01:55: Sounds great.

Megan - 00:01:56: First and as always, let's start with you and your story as to how it is that you got to where you are today.

Janice - 00:02:02: So I definitely have had a very unconventional journey to CFO. I hear that a lot these days. Yeah. If anyone had ever mentioned I was going to be a CPA ten years ago, I would have laughed and told them they were crazy, and if they had said, you're going to be a CFO, I would have doubled down in a barrel of laughter and said, completely ludicrous. And so ten years ago, I was working abroad, managing refugee and asylum programs, helping refugees and Asylees navigate out of war zones into the US. Getting documentation, helping them get through the necessary systems to resettle in America. So I was very much mired in program management and assisting people with making a new start in the United States, which I was very passionate about, and feel very wonderful about being able to help so many people start a new life in the country I love. And I think it's an amazing program, but I just felt like it wasn't the right fit for me and my future. And so I started thinking about a career switch I got a career counselor, and she suggested looking into accounting. And so I came back and took a community college course, Accounting Step One, and loved it and decided I was going to become a CPA. And what was really drawn to me in the field because I really want to use my work to help organizations and people and better society. But really what I saw in Refugee Resettlement was managing the budgets, and bringing margins mattered. Development, like all the financials around, mattered so much. And in order to strengthen nonprofits and mission-driven organizations, I wanted to be better in order to be able to help these organizations be strong. So I started at a CDFI doing debt and equity investments while I was going to school and then started taking my exams. And I didn't even tell anyone because I didn't think I would actually pass a CPA exam because it just seemed so ludicrous. And when I did, it was like, in secret, I was taking the CPA exam because I was like, this is so crazy. I paid for it all out of pocket. I didn't tell anybody, and somehow I passed. And then I was like, oh my gosh, I now have to get a job as an accountant to actually finish this license. It was so crazy. And then I actually got my license four years ago, and I went from senior accountant to CFO in this crazy trajectory of what I just summarized as always being uncomfortable and do it scared. Because in four years, I didn't start off in auditing. I've always been in corporate finance. I love corporate finance. I say financial statements is like painting a picture for me. I love financial transformation, and it's just been like, ready, set, go since I entered the field. And it's been an amazing journey. And I definitely encourage anyone who wants to make a career Pivot. I went back to school in my mid-30s. It's not highly publicized, but you can do the untraditional way and succeed in this field. And it's been a great transition for me, and I'm really happy I did it.

Megan - 00:05:37: Yeah, that is an amazing story. And I have to admit, of all of the recordings that I've done over the years, that is the biggest career Pivot and the most nontraditional route to the CFO.

Janice - 00:05:52: It is. And I have a lot of friends who have done the career Pivot, and they've started auditing in their late 30s, early forty s, and they're struggling to pass the CPA exams, and their company offers Becker or surgeon or whatever it is, and it isn't working for them. And I'm like, hey, look, I paid for it all out of pocket. If you really want this, you will find the resources to make it happen. Because I'm a huge proponent of helping anyone get through the exams and get the resources they need. And sometimes you just got to bootleg it and bootstrap it and do it yourself.

Megan - 00:06:25: Yeah, that exam is definitely no joke. I've taken it myself. And you just leave there feeling, like, dizzy. It's just so overwhelming.

Janice - 00:06:37: It is, After every exam, I thought, there is absolutely no way I passed, like, 0%. And then it's like some miracle occurred. And I did, and I was always so happy. So definitely encourage anyone. It's never too late to start. Just put together a plan and give it a go.

Megan - 00:06:56: Yeah. And maybe you've already touched on this or covered it, but are there any stories that stand out in your mind as turning points in your career?

Janice - 00:07:07: So many. The biggest one is I was actually in a huge accident in Africa and ended up in Belgium when I decided to make the career switch to being a CPA. And it seems so ludicrous, but at other times, it's been major projects that's come my way. And one of the big ones was when I was at SHRM, the company wanted to take on RPA and no one wanted to take it. And as Director of Finance, I said, okay, I'll do it, and literally had no idea what I was getting involved in. It was such a big investment for the company, and I did it scared and learned how to implement RPA at SHRM and led the project in so many different departments. And now I'm able to speak about implementing RPA at a number of organizations. That was a huge one. Several NetSuite implementations in which I did it scared. But a lot of being CFO and having courage has been taking on tech projects, which is why Digital Transformation is so pivotal to the journey of my career. But also, I think, the journey in really being able to assist an organization in growing through the analytics and better data sources and increased KPIs that Digital Transformation allows a company to have access to.

Megan - 00:08:37: So talk to us about Achieving the Dream. What is it that this organization does? And then once you've spoken about that, tell us a little bit about your role and how you came to be CFO at Achieving the Dream.

Janice - 00:08:54: So, Achieving the Dream is focused on bettering the community college system. And community colleges here are seen as transformational hubs for a community. So when achieving the dream reached out to me to think about making a Pivot. I was at SHRM, which was a much larger organization, but I am someone that wants to bring meaning and purpose through my work into the world and just really achieve the dream. Like using community colleges to transform communities, and allow equitable access for all Americans or anyone living in this country. Just spoke to my heart. I also did my CPA qualifying courses, the majority of them at Montgomery College, which is a community college. So I really received an excellent education there after having gone to other larger institutions. And I really wanted to be a part of helping this organization grow and be financially strong. So my role here is in keeping us financially stable, managing risk, making sure financials are timely, and the audit is smoothly leading the team. But really, I have started in my year and a half year completely automating our finance department. And so when I came in, it was all checks in, all check out. So I've really taken us on a journey of completely transforming those systems so the executive team has real-time access to information so we can be a much healthier organization.

Megan - 00:10:33: Yeah, so important to go through that transformation these days. I'm always amazed at how many companies are still doing things very manually and they just haven't moved into the future at all.

Janice - 00:10:46: I always tell people and laugh now, I never asked during the interview, are you writing checks? Like, it never occurred to me as a question. So when I got here on day one and it was like, are you going to sign the checks? My mind was fully blown. And then I got this stack of checks that I then needed to stuff into envelopes, right on the MLOp. I'm like, OMG, what have I walked into? And let me tell you, that was priority number one. And so I was off to the races and changing that important questions for the future.

Megan - 00:11:23: Definitely, who would have known? So what are the key factors that you consider when assessing the financial health of an organization first, and then how do you use this information to develop a financial transformation strategy?

Janice - 00:11:38: So of course, being a CPA, I always look at the balance sheet, right? So the assets and what is the financial health of the organization and really, what really is their financial capabilities to take on a digital financial transformation strategy. Because I know it's not cheap and it takes a lot of resources. So definitely before coming here, I made sure to review the financials and make sure that we financially could handle the investments. And I think also it's a matter of in my interview I brought up my plans to lead financial transformation. That's what I'm passionate about as a part of the interview process, I wanted to know before I got here that I had the buy-in of the CEO and the executive team and they were fully on board, hence partly why I was hired. And those two factors really laid the groundwork as to whether I could even come here and implement. I didn't fully have my vision, but at least the groundwork in the discussion of where I thought I could take the company on this transformational journey. And that's just kind of the starting point. Of course, it develops over time and really works with the departments and sees their openness to changing systems. But I also think personally, I'm a very hands-on CFO. I hear that all the time from the micro to the macro when it comes to digital transformation. So a lot of my success in taking this organization to organization is that I'm not putting it on other departments to do it like I'm leading it. I'm involved, I'm the lead implementer from the organization side. So I let other departments know when I need support or buy-in. But I'm really the one taking on the bulk of the I'm going to say the stress, the responsibility, but also the joy of this transformation and making sure it keeps going and it doesn't hit any stalls that stop it.

Megan - 00:13:53: I'm just curious, is there a point where the financial transformation journey is over? Does it ever stop?

Janice - 00:14:02: We were discussing that at the Future of Finance AICPA conference. I really see it as perpetual, right? I mean, things are going faster and faster. Now I'm thinking, now I'm at a $20 million organization, but I'm thinking, how does blockchain apply to us? How can we utilize Chat GPT? How can we graduate the bots? I've already built more robust bots based on AI capabilities. I really think it never ends. And I think a lot of that is because managing risk, things are just transforming. And what you need in order to manage that risk and all that lies out there and the need for more KPIs, more data, I think any CFO that doesn't stay on top of all those changes will be left behind professionally and then also won't be for the betterment of the organization. But I wish there was an endpoint because you can definitely head to Burnout, and I think that is a major part of not burning out your team or even yourself. And we just did a risk assessment as the organization and three of my peers put CFO burnout as the number one risk for the finance department. So it is real. Leading transformation is exhausting. It's tiring and yeah, it's for me constantly. I'm trying to hit the break, hit the gas, hit the break, but it's definitely like a day-to-day thing versus a science.

Megan - 00:15:28: Again, curious, how do you keep yourself from burning out?

Janice - 00:15:32: I think the number one thing is I love what I do. I started a different career and I love that. But it's funny how much corporate finance just is a passion for me. I love what I do. I love the ability to change people's lives. I love logging in to NetSuite and looking at my financial statements and logging in my bank account. So there is a passion. And I work with some really great people and they're excited about what we're doing. So I think there's a lot about the team, my passion for finance, seeing how important this is to stabilizing the organization and the great work we're doing in the field, and knowing that I'm a big part of that. Also, I'm a competitive triathlete. So when I'm not sitting at the financial statements, like, I work, I train, I work, I train. And that's my getting out on the bike and just like decompressing. And I come up with a lot of my ideas on what to do next or how to solve problems or where really we should be going long-term when I'm training. And it's kind of meditative. So I really use that as my exercise and endurance sports as my counterbalance to the stress at work. But it can definitely be a juggle to balance both and to eat well and get enough rest. So it's a day-to-day journey, I say.

Megan - 00:17:01: And how do you balance short-term financial goals with long-term strategic objectives when you're leading a transformation project?

Janice - 00:17:10: When I think of that question I thought of like what's the emergency of the emergencies? The short-term goals are really well, that is the biggest emergency. So when I walked in it was like we are writing checks, this is a massive emergency. So the short-term goal was to get in an AP system and we pretty soon after implemented Tipalti, which I've been really happy with, but all of the bettering the system. So we're moving towards E-bill, so electronic in, electronic out. And then I just did go live on a new FP&A system, or I should say the first FP&A system here. So all this for me is about getting data structured. And it can be challenging because people want to see the KPIs now, they want to see what the data is saying now. But it's such a long journey to structuring the data to be year-over-year comparable to have the systems integrated so you can compare them. So I think when you look at the short term versus the long term, it's key to me that the executive team and staff see where the effort is benefiting them. They're getting paid faster with employee reimbursements, checks are going out to vendors quicker, and they're able to have better access to payroll data or whatever KPIs they need for grant reporting, so they see the benefits to all the effort. But also I feel like a lot of the time I'm saying like wait a little bit longer for the magic on the big dashboards or the big KPI numbers. What really is the cost of turnover when we lose employees? Some of those larger KPIs just take a lot more time to structure and so it's kind of bringing people along on the journey and they can see the change that's happening but also being realistic that it does take time. But I think the things that we've done along the journey, people have been happy with and it makes them excited about what more we can do. I'm moving. My big love is structuring all the data and tagging it appropriately so we can really get into pricing decisions, which was a project I really loved at SHRM and felt like I made a big impact on the organization with and really hope to do here with our new FP&A system. So some of those really big key strategic type decisions that all the data can lead to that I know will be transformational for the future of the organization.

Megan - 00:19:52: And you mentioned the fact that you're always the one to lead these but how do you get buy-in from other departments within the organization, which I know is difficult, but very important?

Janice - 00:20:05: Definitely, it's not easy. And I definitely have learned that on the front end. In picking a system, usually I put together a cross-functional group of people that evaluate systems. So people from programs, people from HR, so I'm not unilaterally making the decision. And they can help me get buy-in in their department as to why they want to work with me on making sure we get the right data in the systems. And it's often on the people working here to add in the additional tagging or do the additional payroll allocations work so we get that more fine-tuned data. So if they're a part of the choosing process and someone in their departments can kind of start rallying excitement around what we're doing, I found that has helped a lot. I also over-communicate with teams, so I let program heads know regularly, like, okay, we're moving this down the pike. And I know this is a problem you've had and what I'm trying to solve. So it's kind of like building anticipation. So for the big reveal, it's like they understand all the steps that went into it. I think a lot of times what I'm trying to do is not make it seem like just one more thing finance needs us to do. What a burden. But really bring them in on the journey of why this is making us a better organization. And a lot of it for us is tied to grants. Like, better reporting for grants means happier funders and then more ability to bring in more money. So helping people connect all the dots to why it's important and why it makes us better as a whole. Not saying that they don't grumble when there's like two more data tags they need to pick when they're putting in their credit card statements and where it should go or their employee reimbursement. So it's definitely a balance.

Megan - 00:22:04: Yeah, I'm sure people are happier, like, knowing that it's something that they're helping with rather than something that's just happening to them.

Janice - 00:22:15: Exactly. Everyone knows these are pain points that everyone is struggling with. I'm not trying to create solutions for nonexistent problems, so that helps as well.

Megan - 00:22:27: So let's talk about data and analytics for a minute and the role that they play in financial transformation.

Janice - 00:22:34: So, data and analytics are huge. And with all these new, more powerful systems, like I was saying, we have four custom data tags. We tag to grants and contracts, we tag to what colleges we're serving, and we tag to class. So there's just a lot of functional expense. We just collect a lot of data on every transaction. And every company I have right, there are more and more data. But how to structure the data, make it year over year comparable, and how that data leads to key strategic decision-making is a much longer journey and takes a lot more collaboration and thoughts. And I think a lot of people, like we say, big data, there are more and more data. But how to structure it and make it useful? It takes a lot of vision to get there and I find that exciting. I know a lot of people find it overwhelming, but that's why I'm really excited about this new FP&A system. And this is the second time I've had the opportunity to do this. So bring all the data from Salesforce, ADP, NetSuite, or other systems into one system so it can be structured year over year and we can have dashboards to make key strategic decisions. And I think this will be the tool where everyone can really see it flow together, but it definitely takes a lot of time to clean it up, structure it and make it usable.

Megan - 00:24:07: Yeah, I'm sure it can feel like trying to boil the ocean. There's so much data out there.

Janice - 00:24:13: There's so much data. And I've seen so many organizations comparing two things where the data changed slightly year over year. But I take reporting on data the same as I take reporting on financial statements like caveats, and transparency. I put that same level of rules and regulations. We're not SEC-regulated, but I just want to make sure that year-over-year comparisons of any KPIs, whatever they are, are very transparent. And any caveats and changes in the data structure, everyone is clear on because those things matter and really how useful it is.

Megan - 00:24:57: And curious to know, which FP&A system did you choose and what went into that decision.

Janice - 00:25:05: So I saw that the CFO of Planful was on here recently and we chose Planful. And I know there are quite a number of options. We're a NetSuite user and I've used the Workday Adaptive product, but I really felt Planful is a newer one on the market. But I'm able to do a lot more in Planful as the CFO and to teach my team. So it has more of a kind of Excel feel where I can lead the transformation, more hands-on. And the consultants have done a lot of teaching me how to build the reports and create the custom things that I want to use. And it's allowed me to be more hands and it's been a really good implementation. I'm really glad I chose the product. Nothing is perfect, but we're really moving in the direction that I had envisioned. And a lot of nonprofits struggle with the budget to actual management for grants and contracts. There are not a lot of systems out there to help with this issue. And even though Planful wasn't built for this, we've been able to implement it. So we can really get a handle on that reporting. And really, I want to move this into managing our indirect cost a lot more aggressively and we'll be able to spread the data and do that. So I'm excited about it and I've been happy with the Planful product so far.

Megan - 00:26:31: Well, thank you for sharing. So how do you manage risk when you're implementing a financial transformation initiative? What steps do you take to mitigate potential negative outcomes? Because we hear about them a lot.

Janice - 00:26:46: Yes, a lot of risks. The biggest risk is it's going to take a lot longer than you expected and it's going to be more expensive.

Megan - 00:26:53: I'm surprised when that doesn't happen.

Janice - 00:26:57: I'm like, I've never been in that situation. And part of that risk is I'm CFO and I'm lead implementer, right? So I'm taking time away from other things and so that's always a risk. And focusing on these things means that I have to work extra right, to make sure I'm covering all the other areas that need to be looked at and also cost containment. You start off here and one of the biggest hurdles with Planful was getting the ADP data into Planful, and we had a cost where that was going to be like a small little portion of the implementation and it just became so challenging and so drug out went in a whole direction I could have never envisioned. And that just happens. I've been fortunate that my CEO has been supportive of this journey, but that's not always the case. And I've been in organizations where that wasn't the case, where you've put so much into it and you're almost at a stopping point because the cost is getting to a place that people aren't sure that it's worth the value anymore. And I say that I over-communicate because I definitely don't want to be in that position to the best of my ability. And I always try to keep it positive, like I'm always problem-solving to get us there. It's just going to take a bit more time and be more expensive. But definitely, I think it's all about containing the message to the best of your ability and that's not always easy to do.

Megan - 00:28:31: And what do you believe are the most important qualities for a leader to have when leading financial transformation and how do you develop those within yourself and also within your team?

Janice - 00:28:44: I think a lot of financial transformation. When I started out, I have this big poster on my wall that said, your comfort zone will kill you anytime. I've taken on implementing a new system. I mean, you can never know everything. Like, I'm not doing them so repetitively that I've seen it all, so there's so much that I can't know what's going to happen or how long it's going to take, but I go with, you just have to be brave and do it scared. And I feel like a lot of times in the accounting field, people get very used to systems and routines and doing a lot of the repetitive, but with any sort of systems implementation or data structuring, you're going to be uncomfortable and you're going to have to problem solve. So I think the two most important things that I bring every day is to allow myself to be uncomfortable. Make sure to self-care so it doesn't drain you too much. I encourage that in my team as well. And then lastly, what was my big idea? I had one more big idea and it lost me. Do it scared. Make sure to self care so you get through it. And I don't know. Hope my big idea for the last one comes to me before the end of the podcast. It clearly was not so ingenious that it came and left. Yeah, I think you're problem-solving. Problem-solving. That's it. Thinking through problems so much occurs. You don't have to know the answer. You don't have to go into it knowing how to solve it. Just think through the steps of problem-solving. I think a lot of people get stuck because this happens, that happens. And I just tell everyone, to think through the steps of problem-solving. Write it out, take a moment, don't get scared, don't get afraid. Don't stop because you hit problems. And I think being uncomfortable and thinking through the problem-solving are the two key points. And everyone can be a problem solver. I tell my team all the time. What do you think we should do? Let me know. Like, 'm happy to discuss it with you.

Megan - 00:30:53: Yeah. I think that being scared is probably the most difficult component of that because especially as accountants, we're trained to not take risks and not be scared. And we like comfort zones, but so important to step out of those.

Janice - 00:31:11: It is. And I think that's where coming from a nontraditional setting, right? Working in war zones, working with people, like, every day is uncomfortable. So I'm more comfortable with being uncomfortable every day than probably the average person and definitely the average accountant. But also at the same time, I tell my team, I kind of have that entrepreneurial, like, let's go type mindset, and I need them sometimes to pull me back and say, let's document. My finance manager is always like, let's document. What are the systems, and what are the process and procedures? Because I'm like, oh, land charge. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. And I know that taking the pause and writing it all down and thinking it all through on paper is not my strong suit. So I have people on my team to help me with that.

Megan - 00:32:02: And what advice do you have for other CFOs? Maybe one who's listening, who's stepping into a role where they're still rating paper checks. Where do you start with a transformational initiative?

Janice - 00:32:16: Definitely, they're welcome to reach out to me. I'd be happy to encourage them, I think because I didn't go started and I always felt like this was a hindrance. Right when I was looking for a job starting out in this field, it was like, what did you do? Come from the big four. And I'm like, no. And I felt like I was doomed. And I do think there's a lot of benefit from starting in that place and kind of learning the ropes and learning the process and procedure and all those methodical sorts of thought processes in accounting. But there are a lot of us that didn't start in that place. And what I can say is you cannot start in the Big Four and still have a successful career and still have the knowledge and tools in order to succeed and lead. And I think besides me, your comfort zone will kill you. I have another poster that says, doubt kills more dreams than failure. And so starting off in this field, I never had a mentor that showed me like, if you do A, then B happens. So next time when you're going to do it, follow what I did and you'll be fine. Like, no, I've had to get in there, look at the issues, use my critical thinking skills, use my knowledge on the gap, and think through the problem-solving. When I have issues, I consult people in the field and then just give them my best. And sometimes that's very risky, right? Because I've advised buying this FP&A system. It's been very expensive. It's taken a huge amount of my time and other times. And so it's a huge risk for me and my career, right? Is it going to work? But I always have to think, okay, I have to believe in myself first. And as long as I go into everything, knowing in my gut that I can do it, and I believe this is the best choice, I can always find a way through the challenges and the problems. So it's like, just put yourself out there. Do your personal internal assessment on whether you believe in it, and if you do, just go for it. Scared, doubts and all. Just don't hold back is my advice. If you believe in it, you can do it.

Megan - 00:34:19: I'd love that advice. So lastly, as a finance leader, what is it that keeps you motivated as a finance leader?

Janice - 00:34:28: As I said, I love what I do. I know that I found my passion and I love being here. I love the ability to help organizations. Johnny Taylor, at SHRM, always said no money, no mission. So I know my role as CFO is very important to keep organizations strong that are helping change the world. And I think now, since I've come from this nontraditional background, I really love working with people who, like I was, are scared to make this step into aiming for CFO or making that shift into the accounting field. At 40, I really love working and helping motivate and teach people about accounting, encouraging them to take the CPA, and teaching them what I've learned. And I think being able to pass it on has really kept me motivated and wanting to see others succeed in this field the same way I have, and that keeps me going day to day.

Megan - 00:35:25: Yeah. Your passion for what it is you do is very clear. So that's amazing. It's amazing that you managed to find a role in this world that seems so perfect for you.

Janice - 00:35:36: Thank you. I'm definitely very happy.

Megan - 00:35:39: Janice, thank you so much for being my guest today.

Janice - 00:35:42: Thanks, Megan. Thanks for having me, and this was a lovely discussion, and I look forward to hearing more of your interviews in the future.

Megan - 00:35:50: Yeah, I really enjoyed learning about you and achieving your dream today. It sounds like both of you are doing amazing things. And thank you for taking the time to be here with us. And to all of our listeners, please tune in next week, and until then, take care.

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In this episode, we discuss:

  • Janice's career pivot from refuge programs to CFO

  • Key considerations for CFOs in planning digital transformation

  • Designing a successful financial transformation strategy

  • Balancing short-term with long-term financial goals when leading a transformation project

  • The role of data and analytics in financial transformation

From Refugee Programs to CFO - Leading Financial Transformation

leading financial transformation from refugee programs

Janice began her career abroad managing refugee and asylee programs before making a career pivot in her mid-thirties. However, she felt that it wasn't the right fit for her. So, she took a community college course in accounting, fell in love with it, and decided to become a CPA. Four years ago, Janice got her license and went from being a senior accountant to becoming a CFO. Her desire to strengthen the finances of nonprofits and mission-driven organizations drew her to accounting.

“I was very much mired in program management and assisting people with making a new start in the United States, which I was very passionate about. And I feel wonderful about being able to help so many people start a new life in the country I love,” Stucke said. - 01:56 - 05:37

Achieving the Dream and Beyond

Janice Stucke CFO achieving the dream

Janice became part of the Achieving the Dream organization due to its mission of using community colleges to transform communities and provide equitable access for all. Janice’s role is to keep the organization financially stable, manage risk, and lead its digital transformation project from the organization's side while ensuring buy-in from the CEO and executive team.

“I am someone that wants to bring meaning and purpose through my work into the world. And really, Achieving the Dream, using community colleges to transform communities and allow equitable access for all Americans or anyone living in this country, just spoke to my heart,” Stucke said. - 08:38 - 11:25

Key Considerations for CFOs in Planning Digital Transformation

Quote cfos in planning financial transformation

As a CFO, it's crucial to examine the organization's balance sheet, assets, financial health, and capabilities before developing a transformation strategy. Implementing digital transformation requires significant resources, and it's essential to ensure that the organization can handle the necessary investments. Although you may not have a detailed plan of the transformation's specifics, you must have a clear vision of the desired outcome. The plan evolves over time as you collaborate with all teams and guide the transformation.

“When it comes to digital transformation, a lot of my success is that I'm not putting it on other departments to do it. I'm involved. I'm the lead implementer from the organization side. So I let other departments know when I need support or buy-in. But I'm the one taking on the bulk of the stress and the responsibility but also like the joy of this transformation,” Stucke said. - 11:25 - 13:53

Balancing Short-Term and Long-Term Goals in Financial Transformation

Quote short term and long term in financial transformation

Effective leadership of a transformation project requires a balance between short-term and long-term financial goals. This balance can be achieved by identifying the organization's priorities first, particularly from an emergency perspective. In most cases, the biggest emergencies revolve around short-term goals, such as the adoption of new AP or FP&A systems to structure data.

However, achieving these goals may take time, and stakeholders must be kept informed that change is happening gradually to ensure that significant KPIs are met successfully. When weighing between short-term and long-term goals, the executive team and staff must understand how their efforts will benefit the organization.

“When you look at the short term versus the long term, it's key to me that the executive team and staff see where the effort is benefiting them,” Stucke said. - 17:01 - 19:52

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