Jim Moylan is perhaps our first CFO guest to list the leasing of oil rigs as one of the experiences that best prepared him for a CFO role. Of course, he makes it clear that the experience is worthy of mention not so much because of what he was selling but because he was selling at all.
“The best way to learn what a company does and understand its value proposition is to be a salesperson, and I have told this to people everywhere that I’ve been,” comments Moylan, whose stint as a salesman helped to kick off a 22-year career climb inside the ever-evolving world of energy company Sonat, Inc.Read More
Sonat would provide Moylan with an expansive and varied career narrative. Having become known inside the company for his FP&A savvy, Moylan had a tenure that spanned a variety of leadership roles and included overseeing corporate strategy during a period of time when the company executed four acquisitions and two divestitures. He would also serve as president of one of the company’s largest subsidiaries.
Today, while Sonat resembles a sturdy bookend at one end of Moylan’s career, Ciena—the networking systems company where he has now logged 15 years as CFO—could likely serve as the other.
At Ciena, supply chain challenges have remained top-of-mind in 2022.
“The priority for the company and for me personally is to address our supply chain problem, fix it, and repair our image in the minds of our customers—because not only have we disrupted our business, but also we’ve disrupted their businesses,” remarks Moylan, who notes that Ciena’s product offerings depend on the regular replenishment of parts inventories comprising some 10,000 SKUs.
As with many finance leadership resumes, long tenures as well as the transactional nature of the finance field are what punctuate Moylan’s career. Turn back the clock to 1999, and Sonat was being acquired by El Paso Energy, a move that led Moylan to step into a CFO role at SCI Systems, the first of a succession of four CFO appointments for him within a mere 8 years.
Reports Moylan: “If it didn’t work for me, it didn’t work for me—and if I learned that quickly, l would leave.” –Jack Sweeney
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CFOTL: Tell us about Ciena … what does this company do, and what are its offerings today?
Moylan: Ciena is a technology company. We produce and sell hardware, software, and services to companies like AT&T, Verizon, Google, Facebook, and Amazon that own and operate information networks. Our products attach to the network fiber and create and manage the flow of information. We use lasers and software to create information, and because light is the medium of information in a fiber network, we are known as an optical company. I would say that if you think about Porter and his sort of pillars of generic strategies, the thing that we do best is technology. We have leading optical technologies. We’ve been the first to market and the best in market with all of the succeeding generations of optical technology for the past 10 years. I believe that this will probably continue for the foreseeable future.Read More
When I joined Ciena in 2007, we were still a very young company. We have matured greatly over the last 15 years. We did make a transformative acquisition in 2010, which doubled our size, quadrupled our complexity, and gave us an opportunity really to become a leader in the industry. As a result of all that, and by the way, we were below break even at the time we did the deal, we were losing money. We were barely generating cash, but we were still hanging in there, and we still had a heavy debt load.
We began to focus much more on profitability metrics, gross margin, operating margin during those early years. And we showed tremendous progress in all of our profitability measures. As we became more profitable and our balance sheet began to improve metrics like free cash flow, cash balance, leverage ratios became critical metrics, and we developed a cash allocation policy and a model. Now, we’re poised, it’s not going to happen this year or next year, but we’re poised to become the biggest company in our business. So market share is now the highlighted metric.
Ciena | www.ciena.com | Hanover, MD