For this month’s leadership spotlight, we spoke with Cathy Iacobucci, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at Pondurance. Early on, Cathy chose a career path as an industry accountant, contracting with and working for small and medium-sized, tech-related companies. Her ability to self-manage, take ownership of her responsibilities and see opportunities for growth has allowed her to build a successful career.
How did you get into cybersecurity?
I’m an accountant by trade. I worked for an accounting firm prior to joining Pondurance that served small to medium-sized businesses and startups and provided CFO, controller, and bookkeeping services to those kinds of companies. I spent three years with one particular cyber company that I worked for as a contractor and that really piqued my interest in cyber. That company was then acquired by a larger company on the West Coast, and the CEO of the company that was acquired is the person who actually brought me into Pondurance. I made my way into cyber through contracting work that I did with an accounting firm. I had a number of other tech-type companies, not cyber specifically but tech-type companies, that I worked for.
How did you grow into the leadership role you’re in today?
I’m fascinated by the technology and implementation of web-based solutions to form an integrated accounting system. When I came to Pondurance, my initial goals were to create automation and scalability with user-friendly technology. Over time, I became more involved in other aspects of the business and was anxious to become part of the management team. I became the CFO.
What was the biggest lesson you learned as you moved up in your career?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned as I’ve moved up in my career is how to self-manage. I’ve worked in a variety of different roles. I’ve worked for companies and as a contractor for multiple companies, but I learned very early on how to self-manage. I’ve never been one to wait for somebody to tell me what to do. I look for what needs to be done and then I do it, and that’s just sort of been the way I’ve always worked. I’ve had bosses who have been hands-on, but a lot of bosses have been hands-off. I’m very self-motivated and can manage myself well and that really helps. It helps you to grow in a career when you can see opportunities and move toward them.
Why would somebody be excited to join your team?
In a company like ours, there’s an opportunity to get involved in every aspect of accounting. That’s not always the case with larger companies. If you join a very large company, you can be pigeonholed into one area and you don’t get to see the whole picture. In our company, because the accounting team is small, there’s an opportunity to touch every area, and that’s a really good learning experience. It’s very valuable, and I had this advantage very early on in learning how accounting components and all the systems fit together. Once you learn that, you can really understand any accounting system. In our business, we were maximizing accounting technology, a future-oriented system, and I think that if you learn that sort of technology, it will provide you more opportunities in the future, especially if you want to work with small to medium-sized businesses and understand how to put platforms in place and things like that. That’s what we’ve done here. We’ve built this from scratch, and that’s experience you’re not going to get when you walk into a large company with an existing platform and simply have to learn a system.
What advice would you give someone who is interviewing with you for an open role?
I would say be confident, be genuine, be enthused. I like to see an enthusiastic person, somebody I think I would enjoy working with. Be open to technology. When I’ve interviewed people in the past, sometimes I find that people are a little afraid of technology, and so I’d say be really open to it. And because there are different pieces of technology used in all kinds of different places, you have to be willing to adapt and learn. Be willing to keep learning. Then, I would want you to tell me about your accomplishments including what you set out to do and how you did it. Those are things I like to hear about in an interview.
Do you have any advice for individuals just starting their careers?
I think it’s important when you are progressing through your career to get involved and take ownership. Look for areas where you can become more involved and take ownership of them. When somebody works for me, I want them to learn about the area that they’re going to be responsible for and I want them to take ownership of it because that takes it off my plate. I like to feel confident that the person has his or her arms around it and is owning it. To grow, I think it’s important to be able to do that and give confidence to the people that you’re working for that you can handle things, handle more work, and handle different areas. I also really believe in the “work smarter not harder” philosophy. I’m not a person who believes in working yourself to death just to get your job done. I think it’s more important to be efficient, to look for efficiencies, to look for ways to be efficient and effective. So it’s about managing your work and figuring out better ways to do things. Don’t get trapped into the way things have always been done; look for better ways, look for smarter ways. That’s the way I like to approach things. I think when you’re in the earlier stages of your career, always be looking for things you can own and ways you can improve. That’s always going to bode well for you as you move forward. I think it’s important to be able to look out there and ask: What do I need to do here? What does this require from me? How can I do this well?
The other thing I would say is, when you make commitments, be sure to follow through. That’s another philosophy. If I say something’s going to get done, it’s going to get done. I’m not going to commit unless I know I can deliver. If I make a commitment, people can rely on me and they know they can. I think that’s important to understand early in your career.
What qualities do you look for in people who are starting their careers?
I like to see people who are able to credit those around them for things that they’ve done. I like people who aren’t always looking to be the center of attention but can find ways to acknowledge and credit others who have helped them through their work and career. I think it’s a good quality to see somebody who’s more of a servant leader-type person because we’re a very small team. I like to see people who want to be part of a team and can understand that their contribution feeds the team and not just the individual. I like people who are friendly and nice and easy to get along with. Basically, just quality people who are not high maintenance.
What kind of mentorship opportunities are available at Pondurance?
On our team, I work directly with the staff accountant. I’m trying to constantly mentor and teach more areas to take responsibility for and just general learning. So there’s a lot of interaction there because we’re a very small team within the company at large. Even the CEO is pretty clear that he’s happy to meet with anyone at any time. There are a lot of opportunities to communicate with management regularly. I have a one-on-one meeting every week with the CEO, and we’re in contact through the week. Slack and the communication tools that are available now make it very easy to stay in regular communication. Even working remotely, as many of us are doing much of the time, it’s very easy to stay in regular communication.
Is there an advantage to working in an industry versus for an accounting firm?
I’m an industry accountant and have been on the industry track since college. In industry, there’s a lot of variety in experience and many different ways you can go in your career. You don’t necessarily even have to stay in accounting. You can move into leadership roles that are operational or finance. Even CEOs can come from this background. As an accountant, I think you get a good introduction into the management of a business because you have so much exposure through finance to a lot of different areas. So I think it’s a good learning ground when you can come in and learn the inner workings of things and understand how all the business fits together. It really gives you a good foundation to even move into other areas in your career as you go forward.
I think industry accounting is more fun. I find being part of a business a more exciting way to go with accounting, and being the CFO gives me the opportunity to work with the upper levels of management. I really do enjoy that. I like to be able to impact the business and be part of that team. Also, even though we’re in accounting and finance, we still get to wear the T-shirt that says, “I fight cybercrime.” That makes me feel special.
Anything else you want to add?
I do like to make it clear to people that we work within the company. Accounting and finance are not the end result. It’s important to understand that we’re here to support the team at large and not to expect everybody to do what we want because it suits accounting and finance. We’re here to support sales, marketing, management, and everybody else on the team and try to make life as functional and as easy as possible for people. That’s our real goal.
Interested in joining the Pondurance team? View our current openings!
CFO | Pondurance
Cathy built significant experience in the tech industry and served as Controller for businesses in a variety of industries. Since joining Pondurance in 2016, Cathy has implemented various web-based solutions to design an integrated accounting system and built a financial model to aid the company in planning and strategic decision-making. Cathy graduated summa cum laude from Mount St. Joseph University with a bachelor’s degree in accounting.