Circle CFO Naeem Ishaq’s Forrest Gumpian career trajectory has given him extraordinary exposure to most of Silicon Valley’s touchstone technologies—the semiconductor, cloud computing, mobile payments, and, most recently, cryptocurrency. After a stint as a dot.com-era entrepreneur with a venture he launched as an undergraduate, Ishaq has invested the past 18 years in accumulating a trove of experience within some of the technology industry’s most iconic companies, including Intel, Salesforce, Square, Box, and Circle.
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Along the way, Ishaq has learned crucial leadership lessons from a remarkable collection of CEOs and CFOs, including former Intel finance chief and current Intel chairman Andy Bryant. Ishaq says that Bryant demonstrated what it takes to cultivate a thriving “strategic finance culture.” Today, as head of Circle’s finance team, Ishaq views the ability to quickly “shift context” as key to nurturing his team. He honed this agility at Salesforce, when its market capitalization (now $100 billion) was a plucky $3 billion. As head of finance for Salesforce’s emerging businesses group, Ishaq managed the finance functions of 13 different divisions. “It was definitely great training to be a CFO and to really context-shift between different businesses,” he adds. “The reality of being a CFO is that you are often shifting context between many different parts of the business.”