FPAC Profile: Welcome to the Dark Side
Jessica Martin started her career as a staff accountant, but before long, the director of FP&A convinced her to join “the dark side.”
“That’s what my manager at the time called it,” she said. Being a junior financial analyst was her first taste of finance, and she liked it. “It was more than just journal entries. I was taking what accounting had done and trying
to provide meaningful reports and data to various people within the business.”
An ever-changing role
Prior to Jessica joining the Right Networks team, the company didn’t have a robust FP&A function or dedicated resource for it. In her ever-changing role as manager of FP&A, she and her team spend a large portion of their day trying to figure out what FP&A looks like for Right Networks.
The core things Jessica does from day to day include the monthly forecast/budgets and managing the company’s budgeting and forecasting tool. “To expand on this a little, we complete a monthly forecast at the close of revenue and EBITDA of the previous month in order to provide the business leaders with a look at where we are heading,” she said. This is newer deliverable for the company, one they are growing into it and figuring out what exactly makes sense to provide.
In 2021, they kicked off a venture to move the company away from Excel and into a budgeting and forecasting tool. Jessica has taken charge of building out the software to the point where they can cut the Excel cord. Part of this is a daily review of their connection for actuals to ensure everything is pulling in correctly from their GL system.
Systems skills are her light saber
While there are many skills Jessica has gained over her career that are helping her today, she said the number one skill that is helping her now — and will likely continue to do so in the future — is systems skills. “This includes more than understanding complicated Excel models or putting together snazzy PowerPoint decks,” she said. “It’s understanding other tools and learning to adapt to those as the tools and software improve.”
Outside of tech skills, having good communication skills and the ability to explain various finance topics, such as how models are built and how she got to the final number, are critical to her role.
Our environment is changing
“We live and work in interesting times. The environment around us is constantly changing, and we need to be able to adapt — quickly,” said Jessica. Sometimes, even at a moment’s notice. Jessica said it’s critical to be able to adapt to change and reflect it in a forecast that shows the potential impact.
Part of Jessica's role is the ability to quickly spin up forecast scenarios and analyze the what-ifs. Prior to her taking the reins, the company didn’t have a monthly forecast; they simply had the annual plan and mid-year reforecast. Today there is an up-to-date forecast that isn’t more than a few weeks old at any given time.
How does she keep up with the changes? “I take copious notes as things arise,” she said. Once a forecast version is finished, Jessica is already taking notes on what changes might be needed in the next iteration. Additionally, knowing which drivers within the forecast may need to be adjusted based on the feedback and information that has been received is critically important.
Constant learning is essential
Jessica believes that constant learning is essential to maintain her skills and expand her knowledge. “I won’t claim to know everything or be an expert on each aspect of finance and FP&A, but I do have a thirst to constantly improve and expand,” she said. Studying for and completing the FPAC was a way for her to refresh herself on some of the topics touched on during her MBA studies.
At the time at which Jessica went for the FPAC, she was at point in her career where she wanted to take it to the next level. Her role at the time was senior financial analyst, and she was working toward a promotion to manager of FP&A. The FPAC credential set her apart and solidified her expertise in the field.
Would Jessica recommend the FPAC to others? “Yes. I’ve already seen the benefits of having this credential. I think it does set me apart from others and has led to people having more confidence in my skills now that I am certified.”
Adding new skills is important, as well as ever evolving with the profession. We asked Jessica what skills she has on her radar to add in the next couple of years, and she said she will be looking to expand her tech skills and presentation skills – both creating the PowerPoint and presenting it effectively.
When asked what Jessica would like to do in the future in her career, she said simply, “I would like to pass my knowledge on to others, as my mentors have passed it on to me.”