When I was named Chief Financial Officer with an “Interim” tag in front of the title, it was both a great challenge and a great opportunity. I had prepared for years with the goal of becoming a CFO, but when I looked at the criteria in the written description for the CFO position, I understood why our CEO and chairman, Mark Rohr, chose to make me interim rather than full CFO. I came to Celanese with a broad variety of experiences and skill sets in finance and, since 2010, I had had direct ownership of most of the finance and shared services functions at Celanese. But while I had accumulated a great deal of finance experience—and that is what put me in the running for the job—it was clear that I was missing other types of experience. The external search criteria called for candidates who had deep engagement with the business and experience leading cross-company initiatives. My experience in these areas was limited because I’d spent my career playing mostly in the finance sandbox.
When Mark offered me the “interim” position, he told me to charge ahead and forget about the interim label, so I decided to go for it—not think of myself as a placeholder, but as the future CFO. So I asked myself, “Now that I have the interim CFO job, what do I need to do to make me a viable candidate for CFO?” The answer was two-fold: I needed to fill in those experience and skill set gaps, and I needed to show Mark and other leaders that I could be an effective leader across the enterprise while I had the interim CFO role. To do that I set four priorities: fill in my non-finance experience gaps; show I could deploy finance to support the business; figure out what we needed to do in Information Technology, which now reports to me; and ably represent the company to the investment community. It was an ambitious agenda, but I knew that addressing my gaps would help me achieve what I wanted to accomplish in my new role.
I was lucky to work for a CEO who has fostered a highly collaborative and supportive culture. With encouragement, help and mentoring every step of the way, both from Mark and other company leaders, I involved myself in cross-company initiatives providing leadership opportunities. I co-sponsored the establishment of our European head office in Amsterdam with Amy Hebert, who now runs that principal company. That initiative involved virtually all Celanese businesses and functions. I also began partnering with Darren Collins to head our company-wide productivity initiative.
During this time, Celanese rolled out its “two-core” business model, which realigned six businesses under two business cores—Acetyl Chain and Materials Solutions. To help the company show value from that two-core alignment, I began working with the two “core” presidents to see how the finance and IT teams could help them drive value under the new business model.
Preparing for my new role in Investor Relations (IR), I sat down with the head of IR to understand the key messages that we wanted to deliver to external stakeholders and find out what investors were asking. I also read transcripts from investor conference presentations by Mark and the business leads. I studied their presentations, questions they received and how they answered them. I threw myself into traveling to the conferences and meetings with investors.
One of the most challenging aspects of being interim CFO was learning to manage and prioritize my time. I could work 100 hours a week and still not feel caught up, so I had to make sure I was spending my time where my leadership was most required. I also had to improve my delegation skills. I have a talented team that I can rely on, which allows me to operate at a high level—focusing on the business, on investors, on how to develop my people and on strategy, including what we need to change and how we can be more productive.
One of our core company values is Employee Growth. As a leader, I have personally experienced for 10 years how Celanese makes this company a rewarding place to work with growth opportunities that allow me to continue to strive towards my full potential. I’m proud to be a part of a company that provides new development experiences and challenges every employee to be their best.