Meet Kevin Wright, Houston Steering Committee member and Finance Director of SABIC Americas, Inc. As a coach and mentor who believes in taking advantage of all opportunities, Kevin has a wealth of experience, including more than 20 years working for Shell Oil Company and its subsidiaries. Here are his thoughts about his career and the industry:
Describe your career path for us, including your advice along the way for other CFOs interested in this profession.
I began my career after graduating college, doing entry level accounting work and trying to figure out how to apply what I learned in school. As I mastered the basics, I felt like all accounting positions were the same. Reflecting back now, I realize how wrong I was! As my career progressed, I looked for more operational support roles, which, ultimately, led me to several FP&A positions that proved to be much more interesting to me. Then, after a very casual conversation with a senior executive about “strategy,” I was offered a controller position with a small subsidiary. What an opportunity! Not only did I report directly to the president, but I also discovered so much about other aspects of the business to which I had never been exposed. It was during this phase of my career that I realized how finance not only fits in to the overall organizational picture, but also adds value.
As for my advice to others: Do different things, figure out what you are passionate about, and then go after it. And, take advantage of opportunities! Drawing from my own experiences, I began working for a division that was being sold and, when the buyer ended up being a private equity firm, I, ultimately, learned about things that I would not otherwise have discovered.
What’s exciting for you as a CFO?
What’s most exciting to me is the way that CFOs are becoming true business partners, which is what I always believed the position should be.
What do you enjoy the most about your profession?
I like seeing people grow and learn, so I really enjoy teaching, coaching, and mentoring.
What’s the one thing that you could not do without as a CFO?
Honestly, what I could not do without are those who I can always count on to navigate the way around spreadsheets. Even though I keep up pretty well, I do have my limitations. And, of course, my HP12C calculator deserves a mention. I paid $100 for it when I was in college – and that was a lot of money back then!
The CFO/Board landscape changes all the time. How do you keep yourself educated on the latest developments that affect your profession?
I subscribe to several publications, I read all kinds of things, I go to conferences, and, of course, I attend monthly sessions put on by The CFO Leadership Council.
As you work in multiple capacities in your company, how do you stay on top of everything?
Read, listen, and ask questions. Never assume you know everything. Be curious and willing to learn.
Describe your ‘Aha!’ moment, or a crowning achievement to your career.
For me, it was when I realized that accounting is really just a snapshot of all the things that go on in a business on a daily basis. In fact, some of the most valuable people that you will ever find are the ones who can look at this snapshot and explain it to everyone.
Any final words that you’d like to share with our CFOs?
Be curious, be ethical, be aggressive, and take some chances. And, don’t expect things to happen overnight. Soon enough, you will be on the backside of your career looking back and wondering how it all went so fast.