No matter how many chapters Wailun Chan’s finance career ultimately spans, the decade that he spent at LinkedIn will always stand out.
It perhaps goes without saying that as a finance career investment, a 10-year resume stint is increasingly rare today, and it’s not uncommon for a “decade investor” looking back on his or her lengthy tenure to launch one or two “If onlys,” as in “If only I had left 3 years sooner.”
Such is not the case for Wailun Chan, though, whose LinkedIn career spanned from 2010 to 2020 and overlapped a period during which the social media company’s workforce grew from 400 to 16,000 employees as its annual revenues grew from roughly $100 million (pre-IPO) to nearly $10 billion.Read More
Chan’s investment of career years at LinkedIn arguably represents a case of being in the right place at the right time with the right outcome, which eventually resulted in a CFO job offer that led the seasoned FP&A leader to exit the social media company.
Still, what makes Chan’s LinkedIn career chapter worthy of note to finance career builders is not necessarily its length or ultimate outcome but instead how he was unquestionably up to the challenges ahead even as he arrived at the firm.
In fact, the finance resume of LinkedIn’s new FP&A hire was already a dozen years long and included stints at GE Capital and Kraft Foods as well as a recently added business degree. Consequently, there’s little reason to doubt that the LinkedIn recruiters who first eyeballed Chan knew instantly that they found their future FP&A leader.
First of all, Chan tells us, he was tasked with helping the company to address a lopsided membership model that featured LinkedIn members outside of the U.S. accounting for 60 percent of the overall membership numbers while paying only about 30 percent of the worldwide membership fees.
To support the effort, Chan was deployed as the company’s first sales finance executive, a position that allowed him from the very start of his LinkedIn career to serve as a primary connection between the company’s FP&A and business operations teams.
“We looked at the data together and came up with a playbook outlining that if certain membership thresholds were hit, the inside sales team would get a signal to be led in, to be later followed by the enterprise sales team as other levels were reached,” comments Chan, who credits the “playbook” with influencing the decision-making that led the company to open 20-plus local offices within the next 2 years.
Reports Chan: “This playbook became a primary driver of the speed at which we were able to scale, and this scale enabled the hypergrowth that LinkedIn experienced between 2010 and 2012.” –Jack Sweeney
“Over time, you will develop your own financial management philosophy. Along the way, there will be external factors that may distract you. Develop an investment philosophy that you believe in and don’t let the noise sway you from your guiding principles. Intelligent growth is a philosophy that I have always believed in. As a data visualization company, we use data to inform our strategy in all departments across the entire company. I believe that data doesn’t lie, and in fact it can offer early indicators of what the future holds. Even in the last few years, when many businesses were growing at all costs, we stuck with our growth framework that is guided by rule of 40 and LTV/CAC ratio. You can imagine how challenging it was in 2021, but by believing in our plan, we are well positioned for the future, despite the uncertainties of these economic times. . I can’t predict the future, and the reality is that we may need to alter our path from our original plans due to things that are out of our control, but hopefully our philosophy helps to minimize the swing.” –Wailun Chan, CFO, Grafana Labs
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CFOTL: Tell us about Grafana Labs … what does this company do, and what are its offerings today?
Chan: Grafana Labs is an infrastructure enterprise software company. We are an “open source first” company, which means that we have multiple open source products out there that people can use for free. Then, on top of each of these will be an enterprise version that our paying customers can use to basically get additional features that the open source product does not include.
There are many use cases for Grafana. We have a pretty good representation within the banking and financial industries. For example, Wells Fargo, JPMC, and Citibank use Grafana for their websites and the mobile apps that their consumers use.Read More
We essentially provide the monitoring of these and the capability for online observability of the performance of the app or the website or any products that their customers use to interact with them. If there are any hiccups or a slowdown, Grafana can help them to identify what the cause might be.
Grafana Labs has continued to do really well despite the macroeconomic situation. Still, it’s my job to worry about everything. I keep looking over my shoulder and asking myself, “Hey, how’s the macro going to impact us?” I can’t forecast what the macro is going to look like. I can’t forecast whether there’s going to be a recession or when any recession is going to end—but what I can do is to help us to prepare ourselves for different scenarios and try to come up with plans for what we’re going to do in each one.
Our focus is going to continue to be, “We want to invest for the long term, but at the same time we need to bear in mind that this is a balancing act and we don’t want to overextend ourselves.” This means that on an ongoing basis, on a monthly basis, we continue to forecast. We use data to drive decision-making based on whether we’re getting any signals, and we continuously adjust our plan as we move forward. So, the balancing act of continuously investing for the long term while not overextending ourselves is something that is top-of-mind for us for this year.
Grafana Labs | www.grafana.com | New York, NY