- Current Location
Group CFO – Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia & SEA New Markets at Microsoft
- Program studied
Q&A WITH CAIRINE
Define your experience in the Master in one word.
What were some of the main challenges that you encountered on your way? How did your master program and IE help you through these challenges?
Time management – with a full time job and small children, I found I had to take a military approach to time management to get through everything successfully. And ruthless with my priorities. A lot of things I used to spend time on had to go (some of which I chose to bring back after studying, some of which I realised weren’t needed)!
How did your experience at IE prepare you for your professional career? In what ways do you think program has changed your life professionally and personally?
As I interviewed in different industries / business’s for finance positions, and subsequently after joining Microsoft – for new positions within the company – the Masters has given me a really broad understanding / repertoire of subjects to pull on, and be able to talk to at least at high-level.
What was your favorite memory from your time at IE?
I think I laughed more with my IE colleagues / team members in our project meetings and preparing assignments together than I have laughed in many years. The sense of comradery was as strong as the sense of purpose within our cohort – and it made for many enjoyable (often very late and long) hours!
If someone was considering going to IE, what would you tell them?
I had a very positive experience in terms of the quality of lectures, course content and networking opportunities.
Why did you choose to study this program at IE?
With a full time job and young children I needed a course that was part-time via correspondence, and I also wanted to join a school with a strong global ranking for a Finance Masters plus one where the students I would be studying with were mid vs. early in career. IE was the only School that offered a Masters in Finance met all of my requirements!
What is one thing you wished you knew, when you were a student? What advice would you give to students who are about to begin the program?
Try to enjoy it. You’re so focussed on dead-lines, and making sure you make the grades whilst balancing everything else in your life, you can tend to try to marginalise the experience a little. That is, getting through whilst putting gin the minimum time inputs. Then suddenly it’s over, and you realise that you don’t get the opportunity to take part in debates with your lecturers, spend time with your cohort, or dig into some of the subject areas that most interest you. Try to make the most if it, as the time really does fly!
Can you tell us about what a day as a CFO looks like?
Having spent over a decade with Procter & Gamble and now almost 4 years with Microsoft, I can say that the picture is very different depending on the industry! I took a role with Microsoft as I wanted to move into technology, but I underestimated how different the day to day work is for Finance in Tech vs. FMCG. Whilst the over-riding principles of what we do – driving share holder value, and being the stewards of the business doesn’t change – the reality of what it looks like between these two industries I find quite different.
As a female leader in finance, are there still milestones to overcome?
I think given all the work on equality, diversity and inclusion in most companies (certainly in my experience both in P&G and Microsoft), there are less external barriers to becoming a leader in finance as a female. But I think the personal challenges still remain – in terms of the choices we make with regards to when to have a family, how long to take off, and whether to consider some “ramp off” times in your career based on the needs of a family. I think it helps to take a long-term view of your career, what you want to do and where you want to get to. Sometimes compromises have to be made, to balance what you want outside work as well, but it doesn’t mean you have to give up on goals, just potentially re-adjust your timings.
What has been your experience as an Expat living in Asia Pacific?
I’ve been in Singapore for 13 years now, and have thoroughly enjoyed my time here. There is so much opportunity for growth – both personally and professionally – as you’re exposed to a myriad of cultures and nationalities here, it’s a wonderful experience.
What role does diversity play in the context of your work?
Diversity is a huge part of our focus in Microsoft, as we constantly strive to ensure that as a company, we represent the customers and consumers we serve. This means diversity and inclusion are very top of mind for all of the managers in the company, which makes it a great place to work.
What has been your favourite moment of your career so far?
There are too many to mention! But I always love goodbyes! Whenever you leave a team or a role, everyone tells you all the nice things about yourself that you want to hear, which I always thoroughly enjoy =) In terms of a specific moment – I recently got to meet with several ministers in the Cambodia Government representing Microsoft in a signing ceremony – which was a very memorable experience.
What’s a valuable lesson you have learned throughout your career?
Not to worry and obsess about your career too much. Be flexible and open-minded to ensure you take new opportunities that come your way vs. taking a fixed mind set, and always do your best, and things will work out better than you expect.
If you had a billboard you could display to the entire world, what would you put on it?
Always stay curious and keep learning.
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