Just as Michelle McComb was imagining that she would shortly be joining another Silicon Valley start-up as a finance leader, the CFO of Lucent Technologies helped to upend her plans.
Back in the early 2000s, Michelle McComb’s first CFO tour of duty was coming to an end with the successful sale of her company to a larger, publicly held software firm. However, within a matter of months, the buyer was itself acquired by the giant telecommunications player, and Lucent’s CFO offered up a question to McComb: “What would it take to keep you?”
The coveted query is one that career builders long to hear but don’t always answer in optimal ways.
“I packed my bags and moved to England, where I became CFO of one of Lucent’s major divisions,” she explains, leaving little doubt that her answer had landed well.
“I received tremendous international exposure as I traveled extensively and got to deal with finance people with very diverse backgrounds,” says McComb, who worked abroad 5 years before returning to the U.S., where, over time, she has occupied the CFO office for a string of technology companies. The latest is Bluecore, a marketing technology firm that she joined in May of 2020.
Of course, in light of the pandemic, it’s safe to say that Bluecore will likely be a career chapter unlike any that have preceded it, and, not unlike her CFO peers, McComb finds herself now being drawn to the mix of financial and cultural levers that influence Bluecore’s workforce.
CFOTL: What are your priorities as a finance leader as we go forward?
McComb: For me, looking over the next 12 months, especially in light of COVID, I think it’s paying attention to the capital strategy. Around cash management investment, what do we want to do with our investments in our cash strategy?
That’s one side. I’m going to add to that because I think that a lot of times CFOs do tend to focus on capital and cash. I’m one of those CFOs who looks at people as a huge asset. I also look after the people function at Bluecore, and I think that the people strategy, especially as we come through environments like COVID, is going to be extremely important in ensuring that we retain and hire the right talent, especially when it comes to remote. What does the new office environment look like?
Also, I kind of work from philosophies. For example, what is our compensation philosophy? Are we competitive? If I look at similar companies, are we paying employees fairly and competitively? Are we a merit-based company such that if you excel, you’re going to be compensated. And by the way: If you’re mediocre, then you’re not going to be. That’s where we would be establishing fundamental philosophies.