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Diverse experience can enhance the career path to being a successful CFO

Myles Corson is joined by Dave O’Hara, corporate vice president and chief financial officer for Commercial Finance at Microsoft.

In this episode of the Better Finance podcast, Myles Corson is joined by Dave O’Hara, corporate vice president and chief financial officer for Commercial Finance at Microsoft.

Dave shares how his unconventional career path, going from public policy and economic development to a friend’s software company, eventually led to being CFO of a major division in Microsoft. He attributes his career success to never staying too comfortable and embracing change, never backing down from a challenge, and finding the right mentor who will help you think differently and grow your career.

In addition, Dave discusses how Microsoft has challenged traditional roles by leveraging automation and digitization, making it replicable across multiple finance processes. This innovation has freed up time for the finance team to connect with customers directly and contribute to Microsoft’s goal to create exceptional customer experiences.

The changing role of the CFO has placed it at the heart of business, with an increasingly important role in strategy execution. While much of this evolution was already under way, and many CFOs already perform a broader strategic role for their organizations — the changes in perceptions, expectations and strategy execution are now being highlighted.

Microsoft has been at the forefront, taking a lead in AI and machine learning to support modern finance. Machine learning helped Microsoft finance resources reduce time on administering planning and forecasting, freeing time to spend with customers, reinforcing their brand.

The more leaders ask questions, the more they can influence the market and its players. Instead of working in silos, this allows CFOs and business leaders to collaborate and chalk out alternatives as a team — to work as a ‘One organization, One goal’ purpose. Being a customer-centric organization, Microsoft is driven by cross-functional teaming, collaboration, communication and one-company strategy driven by customer feedback.

Key Takeaways

  1. Finance is often the shared reference point and connective bond pulling together all business units. Transparent communication and collaboration among C-suite and cross-functional leaders is an important component of growth strategy.
  2. Machine learning and AI helped Microsoft’s finance resources develop predictive forecasting models and free time to spend with customers.
  3. For aspiring CFOs, don’t be afraid to take chances. Work with a mentor who’s ready to help you on your career journey, ask questions and challenge you to get outside your traditional finance role.


Season 3, Episode 10


30m 34s