The finance job has developed from a singular aim on economical reporting to a strategic job in supporting progress core enterprise targets and reacting to seismic troubles. The Covid-19 disaster has illustrated and arguably accelerated this trend, specifically as it fears possibility mitigation, source chain management and radically re-orienting corporate system amidst one of the most important world crises of our time. I a short while ago spoke with Jennifer Wolfenbarger, VP, CFO World wide Quality & Company Functions, at Stryker, a international health-related know-how corporation, on how the past yr impacted her position and that of the finance purpose more broadly. Wolfenbarger, who managed source chain disruption through the pandemic and amid climbing trade protectionism ahead of that, had essential insights to share on Variety, Fairness and Inclusion (DE&I), corporate tradition, and how finance experts can constructively and continually upskill.

Jeff Thomson: The role of the CFO has been through a profound transformation in current decades—from remaining the chief bookkeeper to much more of a strategic and operational leader. In your recent job and during your career, you have combined the roles of finance main and functions chief, reflecting a broader craze towards the CFO and COO positions overlapping and, in a lot of circumstances, merging. How do you believe overseeing a company’s world-wide functions presents additional perception into handling the finance purpose, and vice versa? Do you experience that finance experts in common ought to get “out of the workplace and on to the store floor” far more often?

Jennifer Wolfenbarger: In excess of the final ten many years there has been a spectacular shift in the part of the CFO from reporting the numbers to driving strategy and outcomes. Expectations of stakeholders have also elevated considerably in the space of levered earnings, specially in the med tech room. As finance gurus we have an up-close and personalized appreciation of not just earnings and current market expansion but also a know-how of the levers we have to pull, as effectively as the degree of effect that every of those levers push. Acquiring fingers-on exposure to all components of the offer chain, which includes manufacturing, sourcing and distribution, provides me the perception to guidebook the small business through transformation and constant improvement.

It is also the expectation of my finance group that they are partners to start with and scorekeepers final. This is specifically vital amid driving significant cost transformation, whilst ensuring we under no circumstances miss out on a defeat in conditions of the supply demands of our clients. It is important that finance industry experts get out of their office and do the job facet by side with our provide chain partners. Not only does this develop our expertise and trustworthiness, but it also presents us front-line insight to the troubles and options, producing us greater associates as a result of the transformation. Sturdy organization partnership has opened doors for finance professionals to attain access to cross-practical assignments during the source chain, supplying great improvement possibility.  

Thomson: You have spent your occupation doing the job in production enterprises with global source chains, such as Typical Motors, Caterpillar and now Stryker. Globalization manufactured global source chains far more economical and desirable, but there have also been latest headwinds in the variety of trade protectionism and the Covid-19 pandemic. How do you enable deal with the pitfalls inherent to your company and deal with sudden, unpredictable activities? What insights would you have for other finance pros operating in international manufacturing enterprises?

Wolfenbarger: Working in a international market place brings its troubles as governing administration administrations evolve across the globe, as regulations evolve in med tech and as other socioeconomic functions transpire all over the environment. What we have discovered with amplified trade protectionism as very well as with Covid is the criticality of remaining agile with regards to our offer chain, in addition to investing in sturdy provide associates.

Adaptability in our offer base has authorized us to pivot among source spots as trade impediments kicked in. In addition, we had been really thriving performing with our crucial suppliers to force out shipments of raw products to avoid stock stock piling as elective surgeries came to a halt. We keep flexibility in our provide chain on our vital procedures like sterilization, which will allow us to shift our procedures all around the globe and stay away from disruption in supply to the purchaser. My assistance to financial pros functioning in world production enterprises is to carefully have an understanding of your business enterprise chance setting, refresh your possibility assessment often and make contingency planning a priority on your significant procedures.

It is also critically significant to spend time in the progress of your exterior partners, whether they be suppliers of parts and products and services that are vital to your small business or regardless of whether they are distribution providers that produce the very last mile to your essential clients. These investments will pay back dividends when confronted with headwinds like Covid. 

Thomson: The situation of gender representation has grow to be much more critical to the finance job, as organizations find to come to be extra gender well balanced. How can firms promote better gender equity and inclusion even though creating up a pipeline of feminine candidates for leadership roles? How has your have activities as a female CFO affected your considering on this matter?

Wolfenbarger: As a economic-minded specific, I instantly go to the money gains of obtaining a additional varied and inclusive talent pressure. A McKinsey examine identified that companies with range are 70% far more likely to seize a new market place and acquire marketplace share. Companies with the optimum quantity of women of all ages in top management had the very best efficiency, with a 43% higher return on fairness than regular. A Deloitte LLP study identified that organizations with inclusive leaders are two instances more possible to fulfill or exceed economical targets and eight situations much more probable to obtain improved company results.

Acquiring gender and ethnic fairness and inclusion starts with casting a extensive web to make sure diverse recruiting slates. It also calls for various job interview panels. We can not appeal to diverse expertise if our interview panels do not mirror the diversity that we want to draw in. And it doesn’t close with recruiting we have to place equivalent emphasis on building an inclusive environment part of our culture as we onboard and build good expertise. This cannot be established overnight and requirements to be a priority not just for management but all elements of the firm. An inclusive ecosystem is 1 total of curiosity and consciousness of unconscious bias. We have to have all fingers-on deck to make inclusion our manner of procedure.

Finally, I am also a agency believer in the worth of powerful feminine part versions in an firm. I attribute considerably of my vocation progression to the potent feminine function designs who encouraged me to consider the seat at the table, to go just after that stretch function and to raise my voice. People quite favourable activities of inclusion are the significant points of my occupation and when I felt most driven. As a end result of my activities, I am extremely passionate about supplying my very best to creating and retaining an inclusive society as nicely as mentoring and sponsoring woman expertise.

Thomson: You have a BA in Accounting in addition to an MBA degree and a CMA (Accredited Administration Accountant) certification. How has your tutorial qualifications geared up you for the purpose you maintain now? What guidance would you give undergraduate accounting learners who aspire to the part of CFO?

Wolfenbarger: The CMA certification and MBA had been game changers for me in phrases of my personalized enterprise management. Both ended up integral in generating a change from a finance experienced to a organization advancement and system chief. As I think about my have crew and the ability sets that are required in my workforce to push the small business ahead, technological techniques are no question vital for individuals overseeing statutory needs. In addition, I am on the lookout for shown practical experience in organization partnership, approach and transformation. The information I offer to incoming graduates and aspiring leaders is to seek out out the CMA certification and seek chances to place your CMA to function by attaining practical experience performing with the business enterprise to travel strategic development and transformation. This kind of experience has been very enriching for me. I am frequently learning and doing work with my companions to drive the company forward. There is almost nothing much more fulfilling than navigating obstructions and crossing a major milestone on a strategic precedence as a crew. 

Thomson: Stryker is a Fortune 500 firm with a effectively-identified, substantial-effectiveness tradition. What do you do to strengthen that tradition among the men and women you lead? How critical is skilled growth and upskilling in that natural environment?

Wolfenbarger: Stryker’s significant-effectiveness society is born from our mission and values, “Together with our prospects, we make health care improved.” Our mission is central to all the things that my staff touches, no matter if it be driving results in any one of our divisions, cultivating lean transformation in our production operations, making sure money compliance or identifying synergies on a potential acquisition. Our mission is the nucleus. Supporting each and every and every single 1 of my group customers obtain their person relationship to the mission is a vital portion of my part as a chief and an crucial aspect to preserving our higher-effectiveness society. 

Professional enhancement and upskilling are very crucial in a substantial-efficiency culture. It’s important to ensure that my workforce has the necessary capabilities to be effective in their existing part and to be outfitted for progression. We shift extremely speedy at Stryker. Stretching and rising into new assignments is the norm, consequently guaranteeing that we continually create crew associates to consider on more worries, to believe critically and to generate innovation and development is really crucial. Our improvement method is composed of a combination of formal advancement packages, extend challenge assignments, on the occupation instruction and coaching and mentoring.   

This write-up has been edited and condensed.