Several actions proved key as Waifa Chau advanced from financial planning and analysis (FP&A) roles to chief financial officer positions. Collaborating with other functions, gaining an in-depth understanding of the overall business, and helping his colleagues to understand how FP&A benefits an organization have driven his success, says Chau, currently CFO with Nylas, Inc., a provider of productivity infrastructure solutions for software.Read More
Cross-functional collaboration helps in gaining an understanding of a company’s overall business, Chau reports. While working at Gap, Inc., the company behind Gap, Banana Republic, and other apparel brands, Chau focused on driving higher gross margins, which is key in the retail industry.
His curiosity about the business also helped him to propel his career forward, Chau notes. He spent about 2 years in a merchandising role at Gap, during which time he gained a better understanding of the intricacies of operations.
Often, employees in other parts of an organization assume that FP&A’s primary role is to tell them when they’re over or under budget, Chau observes. He has attempted to show how a strong FP&A partner tries to understand performance so that a business can better prepare for the future.
After about 7 years at Gap, Inc., Chau moved to an FP&A role at Walmart.com. In an e-commerce organization, there were “different levers to pull,” he recalls. For instance, along with analyzing gross margins, he reviewed margins on grocery delivery apps.
Building on his success in FP&A, Chau set a new goal: To establish a finance team from the ground up. He joined Birdeye, a marketing platform, as vice president, finance, and advanced to become CFO. Among other accomplishments, he has structured the accounting and FP&A functions and determined how finance would interact with other areas of the business.
At Nylas, Chau again is leveraging his experience to propel himself forward and establish the finance function, this time for a slightly younger and small company.
CFOTL: Tell us about Nylas … what does it do and, what are its offerings?
Chau: Nylas is a developer platform for productivity infrastructure. Our prime customers are software developers and product people, who use Nylas to build software. They use our products to build that next generation of software in terms of working with customers, working with other constituents, and using the software to help leverage data from communication sources such as email, calendars, and contacts and to build the best products that they can for productivity work flows and user and customer experiences. For me, it’s really understanding the interconnections between our product and our sales teams and go-to-market motions and working closely with them to continue our growth.Read More
We’re seeing explosive growth, and I want to make sure that this continues, especially from where we are today. I’m always very much about understanding why things are happening. What can we do to drive more of what’s working and stop doing what isn’t working? The only way to understand this is to continue the partnerships, to do a lot of deep analytics to understand our own data, and to really partner and work with each of our business units and functions. This would probably be my top-of-mind key thing for the next 12 months: Laying the groundwork and setting this framework for building upon what we have now so that we’re all set to continue our growth in the future. This would be my very top priority.
Nylas | www.nylas.com | San Francisco, CA