What It Takes to Be a Modern CFO

April 18, 2024 Mimi Torrington

CFO taking a day to learn about modern strategical advancements

Becoming a modern-day CFO takes a lot of hard work and dedication — and for many, it’s the end goal of their career. But if you want to become a CFO, it’s important to focus on the mid-stage of your career to find out how to make it to C-level.

That’s how today’s guest, Zach Howard ended up Chief Financial Officer at ICD Group International. He joins the show today to share the most important steps young professionals should take if they want to travel the same road.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • How technology is shaping the modern-day CFO role

  • The three most important steps young professionals should take to become CFO

  • Why fit and willingness to learn are the most important considerations for hiring in today’s workplace

The Young Professional’s Journey to CFO

Career Success Quote

For a lot of young professionals, the journey to CFO is a natural one. But how do you get started? If you know that your ultimate goal is to become a CFO, where do you need to start? What do you need to focus on? Zach had three steps that he offered to young professionals on their way to CFO.

  1. Find a Mentor

    Whether it’s someone that you work for, a colleague from a former employer, or just someone with a similar background, finding a trusted mentor is key. And finding one early in your career will make all of the difference.

    Having someone that has been down the road you’re looking to head down is a positive influence on your progression.

  2. Advocate for Yourself

    No matter what anybody tells you, your career progression is up to you. While you may have people who advocate for you or hold open doors for you, it’s ultimately up to you to advocate for yourself and where you want to go.

    Zach Howard, Modern CFO at ICD Group

    You’re the captain of your ship. Nobody is going to be more invested in your career progression than you, so stop relying on others to get you where you want to go and do what you have to do to get there.

  3. Appreciate the Early Stages

    So many people speak negatively about the early days in their careers. You’ve had hard challenges, worked jobs that you didn’t love, and it can be easy to view those experiences as roadblocks instead of what they actually are:

    On ramps on the highway of your career. When it comes to your career, the shortest distance between you and the job you want isn’t always a straight line. It’s often filled with off-ramps and on-ramps, so learn to embrace those.

Fit & Willingness to Learn - Modern-Day CFO Skills

Modern Chief Financial Officer Quote

When it comes to today’s workplace, more important than almost anything else are fit, and a willingness to learn.

At least in the finance function, most of the technical skills can be taught. Employees can learn processes and technical skills. What can’t be taught are employee fit, a passion for the work, and a willingness to learn new things.

In today’s fast-paced world, soft skills are becoming more and more important, while those technical skills are less of a deal-breaker, as employees can be taught those skills.

For more interviews from the CFO Weekly podcast, check us out on Apple, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player. Care to learn more tips & insights from top professionals in the industry? Visit our CFO Weekly's archive.

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