Women In Leadership Series: Mindy Johnson, CFO, Apple Bus Company

This post is part of a series. To read the introduction, click here.

What has your career path looked like? I started as an auditor for Deloitte where I received rigorous training, was exposed to a range of industries, and received supervisory responsibilities from a very early point in my career. After a few years I realized I wanted to be a force of influence inside companies and tried both accounting and financial analysis roles. I quickly found my passion for understanding what drives a company’s profitability and working with other partners in the organization to produce positive financial outcomes. Over the course of 20+ years on the private side of finance, I’ve held a large variety of roles across different industries, have worked for both public and private companies, and have experience in both multi-billion and mid-market companies. I started my adventure in financial planning and analysis at Sprint, where I was able to hold progressive finance roles that developed my analytical, communication and leadership skills. I’ve spent the past 10+ years in mid-market, private-equity-backed organizations, which has provided me the opportunity for more breadth of ownership and influence across the company and experience in the boardroom. At Adknowledge, my FP&A background provided an easy transition into my first senior finance executive role with responsibility for all finance functions. I’m now in my second CFO role and am responsible for both finance and HR functions at Apple Bus Company.

Who or what influenced the path you chose? First, I must recognize my husband Jeff’s incredible support throughout my career. I’ve consistently worked long hours to excel in challenging roles and he’s provided nothing but patience and support and has managed more than his fair share of kid and household duties while balancing his own career as well. I credit Doug Drew, my director over sales and distribution finance at Sprint, for first pushing me out of my comfort zone of management reporting and planning and into my first hardcore decision support role: supporting the wireless retail operations organization. This was the first time I felt like I was “in the business” and not just reporting on it from the sidelines. I loved partnering with operations and combining our knowledge and experience to create value for the company. Since then I’ve continuously sought out roles that have helped further my ability to be an effective business partner and create enterprise value.

Have you had any particularly helpful mentors?  I’ve had several impactful mentors throughout my career. Most started as a boss or a senior executive I worked under who noticed my potential and who helped spur my development before I even realized I was ready. They did this by offering opportunities for additional responsibility and by encouraging me to go after new roles that would shape my development. They were great teachers who helped me find ways to soar with my strengths but who also understood my gaps and what made me uncomfortable (which is where they often pushed me). Many of these relationships have lasted well beyond our tenure at the same company. I still value their perspectives as I continue to grow as a finance professional.

What advice would you offer to young women considering a career in finance? Finance is a big space of possibilities! Take advantage of classes, clubs, internships and mentors that can help you find your initial springboard within the field of finance. Use this to explore what you like and to learn what you don’t really like. Ambitiously pursue roles throughout your career that enable you to build your knowledge of finance and business fundamentals, produce increasingly highly valued accomplishments, and establish an identity of trust and value as a business partner. This will create networks and open up endless career possibilities to consider, both inside and outside of finance.

Have you encountered any barriers that are particular to women? As I grew into executive and then senior executive finance roles, I increasingly experienced being either the only female or one of few females with a “seat at the table” at key internal and external meetings, including board meetings. In the years leading up to these opportunities, I received great leadership coaching from powerful executive women mentors who prepared me for these exact situations. How women naturally communicate and carry themselves is different than men, so it’s important for aspiring women leaders to seek leadership coaching from both women and men. While I was still a little surprised when I regularly found myself as the only woman in a group of 10 or 20 executives, what was most unsettling to me in the beginning was  just my own lack of experience compared to the seasoned leaders that surrounded me. I have learned that speaking confidently and forging relationships with others at the table are key to being comfortable in these situations. I love these opportunities to learn and contribute!

Up Next: Jen Gulvik, Chief Brand Executive on March 29