By the time the general manager of Intel’s data center chipset business parted ways with the company, Julie Swinney had already advanced into one of their coveted business unit CFO positions.
To Swinney—who had already served in a series of senior finance roles—the GM’s departure seemed to leave a startling void in a business that served as a key enabler for Intel’s server business at large.
The unexpected opening prompted Swinney to raise her hand and issue what perhaps was a bold proposal to be coming from an executive who had thus far resided within Intel’s career ropes—the functional restraints that gingerly guide the chip maker’s finance career builders.Read More
To jump beyond finance, Swinney tells us, with little hesitation she put forth her solution to the challenge at hand: “We absolutely need a GM. We don’t have one, and I want to step in and run this business.”
It perhaps goes without saying that Intel management accepted Swinney’s bid, allowing her to establish a career point for comparison with the finance roles that she had previously played.
“You don’t always appreciate the gravity of responsibility that a GM experiences when their territory spans from sales and supply chain management to people and culture,” remarks Swinney, who in turn promoted one of her finance team members into the business unit CFO role that she had been required to vacate.
For Swinney, the GM position became just the latest twist in a career that had not always featured traditional moves. In the past, for example, while many of her finance peers had set their sights on Intel’s larger business units, Swinney had opted for a CFO role in Intel’s Software-as-a-Service start-up group.
“I was told by several of my peers that it was not the obvious choice for me,” she recalls, “but that experience turned out to be foundational to building my Software-as-a-Service knowledge.”
Similarly, Swinney tells us that her career chapter as a GM added an indelible lesson to her CFO leadership skillset that she regularly seeks to teach to her finance team members and reports:
“Ultimately, what that experience cemented for me was the enterprise mind-set: Firm over function. It was important that I step into a different role because that is what the company needed of me at that point in time.” –Jack Sweeney
“Intellectual curiosity is the spark that ignites innovation. Lean into learning, inside and outside the company walls. Deploy that learning to connect strategy to execution with an enterprise mind-set and on-the-field execution. Always bring it back to people and culture. They are the foundation that enables success.” –Julie Swinney, CFO, Zendesk
Made Possible By
CFOTL: Tell us about Zendesk … what does this company do, and what are its offerings today?
Swinney: Zendesk powers the customer experience for some of the most transformative companies out there. If you’re a customer of a company like Shopify, Instacart, Stanley, Black and Decker, or Four Seasons—to name a few—you’re actually a Zendesk customer as well. You may not know this, but we’re powering these customer experiences. Globally, we have nearly 1 million customer service agents using Zendesk for a total of some 4 billion tickets per year, so we have a massive scale.Read More
What sets us apart and really drew me here, though, was our unique combination of offerings: powerful, powerful solutions and platforms that are at the same time easy to use and personalized for each digital service experience. We also have an excellent ROI—one of my favorites as CFO—as well as a low total cost of ownership, fast time to value, speed, agility, and scalability. This is rather unique, as it’s not easy to have this combination of powerful, easy-to-use products and a wonderful ROI—which Zendesk really has in spades.
We are now on this profitable growth journey and accelerating to make sure that it continues. Setting a course for this will mean that I will need to have a tremendous focus on prioritization and a trade-off mentality as important parts of my job. I will be enlisting, exciting, and motivating the finance function as well as the broader organization to seize the opportunities that lie ahead.
We all know that the tech sector and industry in general are in rough waters, and tech particularly so. This won’t be an easy path for us to travel and there will be bumps along the way, but if we can help everyone to see the opportunities that lie ahead and are within our grasp and understand the actions that we need to take to get on the right trajectory to achieve them, we will get there. This is really the core focus for us. We are going to realize this increased success by working with our customers to make sure not only that we are always creating value for them but also that we continue to be an innovation engine that causes them to always choose Zendesk.
Zendesk | www.zendesk.com | San Francisco, CA