Tag Archives: to thine own self be true

Chief Financial Officer

For the past tw0 years I have had the honor and privilege of being the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of a nonprofit. The organization is a 501(c)7 with annual gross receipts under $50,000.

Image from http://myob.com.au/

I have learned a lot in these years about accounting, forecasting, budgeting, insurance, tax, credit, statistics, and reporting. In the beginning I relied heavily upon resources from preparing for my PHR and World at Works’s Accounting and Finance for the Human Resources Professional. I got to expand my experience in leadership, as the role was an Officer of the organization (reporting to the CEO and on the same level as the COO) as well as management as I had two “minions” that reported to me and assisted me with various items (one was keying data, the other with preparing taxes.)

In my tenure, I accomplished all of the goals I set those 26 months ago. Let me illustrate the situation when I started the role: 5 months before I took the role the former CFO was found to have (and admitted to) stealing funds from the organization. Due to on going investigations I can’t say much, but corporate counsel has stated I can share it was tens of thousands of dollars. The organization, being 100% volunteer run and operations financed 100% by donations this was a huge challenge to take on.

I am very happy to state that through my aforementioned skills (budgeting, etc) and working with a fantastic Executive team, I was able to repay nearly $10,000 in debt; build up a financial cushion of $10,000+; create reporting where previously there was none; documented the heck out of policies and procedures for a layman to understand and is also compliant with FASB standards. Repairing the trust of the organization donors was of paramount importance, to which I went to great lengths to improve transparency surrounding all financial matters. I reduced financial waste with the new procedures/policies saving the organization $1,000+ annually. My biggest accomplishment was playing forensic accountant and going through the previous three years of records to audit, amend taxes, and provide documentation towards the on going actions against the former CFO.

I am very proud of this accomplishment and experience. Like all good things, this is coming to an end. I have submitted my resignation. Being that it was a volunteer position (aka no pay) and it takes a lot of time (30-40 hour a week!) I feel I need to redirect my energy and time into that which pays me and being a more well rounded individual for better balance, grounding, and thus leave me able to offer more in what I do. I look forward to training my successor and ensuring that they are set up for success, so that the organization can also be successful.

Innovative?

http://opencloudconsortium.org/At my work I’m in groundhog mode: keep my head down, do my work (well), and just get by. It is not something I would say is worthy of A or rockstar players, is not something I’m proud of, and has a number of reasons why that I won’t go into.

With that in mind, I was pleasantly surprised when I received a formal recognition from a new hire that I was “mentoring.” Mentoring is in quotes as that is what the program is called, it is not mentoring as most would think.

“Your  guidance and support has given me a fresh outlook on innovation. Having you as a mentor has made a difference in the professional I want to be in my role. Thank you for all that you have shared!”

I appreciate the managing up she is doing. But, I feel a bit chagrined. I told her what is realistic. ‘In 20 months I have never used this program. Be aware it exists and what it offers, don’t stress about the ins and outs of how to use it.’

I dunno. I don’t think I’m innovative.

Yet, on the flip side, at the nonprofit I volunteer for, in training my successor as Director of the Department of Administration I find that >75% of what the department does is due to my seeing a need and getting the programs initiated. This could be seen as innovation. But again, getting performance reviews in place, applicant tracking, showing multi-year trends in reports, adding photos to the Annual Report – those aren’t innovative type things.

What do you think is innovative? Have you done anything that is viewed as such? Share!

Data as snake oil

Lumosity.com

Lumosity Image

In studying for the Quantitative Methods test offered by World at Work, a module is dedicated to spotting when data is presented in a misleading way. The five things it suggests looking for are:

  • railroad tracks that distort intervals
  • graphs showing nominal data, that should be listed alphabetically
  • graphs that show data with no absolute zero (such as temperature scale)
  • graphs where part of the scale is lopped off, giving a false impression  of trends (you can’t see the y-axis zero point.)

A great example of this is the program Lumosity, which uses games to improve your brain in various skills such as remembering names to faces, calculating math in your head, observation, and the word at the tip of your tongue situation. I had seen a commercial for it and being one always looking to improve, decided to try the free version out.

The free version limits both the types of games that are available (maybe 9 out of dozens) and the number of games you perform daily (3 vs. 5.) I don’t recall there being any evaluation to provide a base point in the various skills that was not game related.

I participated on a nearly daily basis (missing 3 days sporadically) in the month of January. After a month I had three types of measurements provided to me through the (free version of the) program – a point value for playing the games (you get points regardless of how you perform), a series of horizontal bar charts that indicated a score in various skills, and a graph plotting the “brain performance index.”

The site provides some white-washed “science behind” it all, that throwing names of doctors at universities did not assuage my desire to understand – instead it made me look at it more askance for not providing the real science behind it. Building neurons is great, but there was no actual proof that the games built said neurons. Sure there are images of brain scans and a bar chart, but they aren’t labeled in a manner that inspired validation.

The three methods of measuring how one improved in using the service felt like examples of bad data to me. The first, where one got points for playing and showing up is reminiscent of an elementary school field day where everyone got a ribbon – even if they were in 15th place (out of 15 kids.)

The breakdown of cognitive behavior bar chart did not show which game had changed which score and by how much. You had to keep your own excel document to chart after each game which score changed and how – which defeats the purpose. I think instead this chart is just to make one feel as if they are making progress in the areas they specified one wanted to work upon when signing up for the program.

The BPI chart showed change in the total score over time – for the past 4 weeks only. It is possible that the paid version you could see the full history and zoom in and out to see trends. The fact that there was no real explanation as to what this score was (as the total was not the total of the bar charts) or how it was derived did not sit well with me.

Finally, there were no points to evaluate in a separate format performance improvement – it only had the games. This makes me feel as if there is a huge bias, in addition to all the hand waving and “ignore the man behind the curtain” that was going on. I was feeling more energized and productive while using the program, but in the two weeks since stopping I still feel the same so I believe it was due to other factors which I began at the same time (like studying for the W@W T3 test and refreshing my French skills.)

It’s pretty clear that I’ve stopped using Lumosity as I feel it’s just another time waster that is trying to milk one for money. I have better ways to spend my time and money, with better ROI. I do appreciate the refresher and skills the T3: Quantitative Methods module on identifying false representation of data to help me feel better about making the decision to stop using Lumosity. The first thing learned in T3 is – use data to make sound decisions. 😉

Morale of the story – use your brain and look closely. Data and representing data can be manipulated – beware of the snake oil!

Know your quirks

Credit: BYU Active Learning Techniques

I am currently studying for the first test in the series of tests to obtain the Certified Compensation Professional (CCP) certification. I decided to start at the beginning – T1 aka Total Rewards.

Compensation is a passion of mine. Money was always a debate growing up – who had it or didn’t, what to do with it, did we have enough, should we get more for what we paid, learning how to manage it… Two things I learned early on about myself are that I don’t think I will ever have enough income to feel secure and do what I want to do as well as I am a life long learner. These two go nicely hand in hand with continuing my education through these certifications which in turn increase my income and prepare me for advanced roles where there is even more to learn and earn.

There is the added bonus that many certifications count as experience towards recertifying other certifications already obtained. 😉

My husband is currently taking some courses to complete his associates. He’s been driving me crazy because his needs for studying and methods of studying are so different than my own. I can – and actually need – the tv on to act as something to tune out and further focus on my studies, whereas for him it is too distracting. I need repetition through reading and writing to ingrain the concepts, methods, etc into my memory. He seems to pick it up on the first read through and doesn’t even take notes.

We both have been successful. The last time I went to a university I had a GPA of 3.86/4.0.; I have passed the FPC, CPP, and PHR with more than enough wiggle room. He last test he scored 93/100.

So my take away for you is: know your quirks. Know what drives you. Know what sort of environment and method you need to succeed at your task.

These are translatable skills that can easily be applied outside the classroom and testing center. Until you know yourself, you will float and flounder. Take the time to learn and to succeed. You can achieve anything when you put your mind to it. 😉