Recent studies have shown a correlation between high performing teams and diversity. This has pushed companies to focus on diversity and inclusion throughout the entire organization. Some companies are treating this as a box checking exercise, but for the companies that are really looking to drive change, they are focusing on topics such as unconscious bias, and how our desire for sameness can impact the process.
As a part of my series about strong female finance leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rebecca Morrison. As VP of Finance and Operations at Lola.com, Rebecca Morrison oversees financial reporting and analysis, forecasting, and budget management. Previously, she was VP, Global Finance and Operations at Midaxo, a leader in M&A software, where she oversaw all back-office operations including finance, operations, HR, and admin. Rebecca spent four years at HubSpot holding various roles with the Sales Strategy and Operations team, as well as the Finance organization. Prior to her time at HubSpot, Rebecca spent nine years in various finance and operations roles at EMC and RSA, the Security Division of EMC, including a three year stint in Singapore. She has a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in finance from Bentley University.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Banking/Finance field?
I always enjoyed math in school, so I took an accounting course during my junior year of high school. I really enjoyed it, so much that I decided to only apply to business colleges. While it took some time to settle on a major, I knew I would end up in a corporate finance role. Sorry, this isn’t too exciting…I think I always knew. 😊
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
Early in my career, I had an opportunity to work in Singapore. My significant other (now husband) was being relocated, so I worked with my employer (EMC/RSA) to find a role in Singapore. It wasn’t easy, and took a long time, but fortunately, I was able to find an opportunity that aligned to the role I was in at the time.
I learned so much during my three years there — from how to work with people from various countries throughout Asia, to what it’s like to work for a multi-national company outside of headquarters. The most significant take away dealt with working non-U.S. hours. From being expected to take calls/meetings at all times of the day, to rushing home to take an evening call only to have it cancelled five minutes after it was supposed to start, to joining a meeting only to not be able to really participate due to side conversations or technical issues. This experience made me empathetic to the experience of non-U.S. based employees and remote workers. This was over five years ago, and a lot has been done to improve the remote experience but some of the behaviors still exist, so we should all strive to do better here.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am responsible for our office move of 110+ employees. Key responsibilities include managing the overall move budget, but also overseeing the project timeline and logistical aspects of the move. Fortunately, I am surrounded by a strong team — our CTO (who owns the design), our office manager (who is helping with all things logistics), and our head of devops (who is making sure our infrastructure is all set up).
There is a fair bit of stress involved, outside of the normal budget/timeline concerns. But the appearance and functionality of this office space will dramatically impact current and future employees for the next two years. It’s both exciting and terrifying at the same time.
And yes, you read that right…just two years. We are growing so fast, so by the time we settle into this new space, we will already need to be on the lookout for our next location!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
There is so much…
Mission: I think our mission is pretty inspiring. Our mission is to re-define business travel, not only for business travelers, but also for travel managers and finance. As the VP of Finance at a small company, using Lola.com is a no-brainer as it provides real-time visibility into travel spend, while also providing easy ways to control spend. This is why I implemented Lola.com at my company, prior to joining.
Product: Our platform is incredibly intuitive and makes it easy to book, manage, and report on corporate travel. Think the simplicity of consumer travel, but for business.
Our People: One of my favorite aspects of coming to Lola every day is the people. Not only are they “wicked loving” but they inspire me to work harder every day. And they are pretty fun to grab a drink with too 🙂
Story — it was my first week at Lola.com, and I was fighting off a cold. It was Friday, and I decided to leave early to rest. That Monday, I came in and three different people (in different teams than mine) asked me if I was feeling better. They barely knew me and remembered to ask.
Customer Core: One of our values at Lola.com is we put customers at the core of everything we do. I love that these aren’t just words painted on a wall and truly reflect how we operate every day. There are countless examples of this, from every interaction our Services team has with customers to how we handle lead conflict in sales, with always considering the customer perspective.
One aspect of Lola.com that I really love and resonate with is our focus on “Agile Operations.” This isn’t really about Lola as much as it is about the larger picture that it fits into: back office tools and processes that can help companies grow faster and more efficiently. Streamlining business travel management like Lola.com is just one example of a new wave of tools that helps automate, accelerate or simplify traditional operations tasks like payroll, office management, bookkeeping and others, so that companies can focus their energies on the most important initiatives.
Wall Street and Finance used to be an “all white boys club”. This has changed a lot recently. In your opinion, what caused this change?
Recent studies have shown a correlation between high performing teams and diversity. This has pushed companies to focus on diversity and inclusion throughout the entire organization.
Some companies are treating this as a box checking exercise, but for the companies that are really looking to drive change, they are focusing on topics such as unconscious bias, and how our desire for sameness can impact the process.
Of course, despite the progress, we still have a lot more work to do to achieve parity. According to this report in CNBC, less than 17 percent of senior positions in investment banks are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a) individuals b) companies and/or c) society to support this movement going forward?
- Continue to push for more diversity throughout the entire organization. Make sure all levels of an organization are held to similar standards — by department, by role, etc.
- Make sure this is not just a box checking exercise. One of my favorite quotes on this topic is “Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.” How true — what good are you really doing if your leadership team is 50% female, but they don’t have a seat at the proverbial table.
- Provide critical benefits such as flexible work arrangements and paid parental leave.
You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non intuitive things one should do to become more financially literate, what would you say? Can you please give a story or example for each.
If I think about the major lessons I want to teach my five year old son regarding finance, it would be how to budget, how to save, and how to invest. And I would tell him to read as much as he possibly can about these topics. However, reading can only help so much, practical application is when I find it really syncs.
Here are a couple of non-intuitive things that I would suggest:
Read quarterly reports and 10K’s of public companies. To keep this interesting, focus on companies that inspire you. Also, read the WSJ.
Set and manage a household budget. I did this when I first graduated college, and it became pretty eye opening that I couldn’t afford rent, loans, and groceries on my salary. I ended up getting a second job at a video store to help supplement my income, so I didn’t incur massive amounts of debt after college.
Get involved, whether that’s in a condo association, or volunteer for an administrative role in a charity or club at college. Getting exposure to how a business operates, gives you real life experience that will be incredibly valuable when you enter the workforce.
Network across different industries and experience levels. Find a professor or teacher that inspires you. Leverage your parents’ or your friends parents’ networks. Talk to people who have done it before and learn from their experience.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of my parents. They taught me life lessons such as the importance of a good work ethic and saving for retirement; as well as household chores not being gender specific.
Story: Halfway through college, I started to get nervous that my gender was going to limit my ability to succeed in business, specifically my ability to be a CFO. I was talking to my dad about this, and he suggested I take golf lessons (since business deals were often made on the golf course). I took lessons that summer. I’ve never run into a situation in which I needed to leverage those skills, but I also never had to worry that I wouldn’t be able to participate if the opportunity presented itself.
This is just one example of how my parents supported me during my formative years. Still to this day, I occasionally reach out to chat through new challenges that I am faced with at work and in my career. And they are always there to listen and provide sound advice.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“If it scares you, it’s probably worth doing.”
Here are a couple examples of how I’ve applied this quote in both my personal and professional life.
- Professional — risking my career trajectory and network to relocate to Singapore…it all worked out for the best, but the role I was taking and how that would impact my career path was all very uncertain. And moving from HubSpot, a well-oiled machine, to a 50-person Finnish startup to run Finance and Operations.
- Personal — Bungy jumping; skydiving; up routing my life to move across the world for a guy I had only been dating for six months; studying abroad in Australia
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I am really passionate about equal pay for women and proud that Lola is a sponsor for the Boston Women’s Workforce Council. As a “compact signer” Lola as publicly committed to shrinking the wage gap.
Thank you for all of these great insights!
About The Author:
Tyler Gallagher is the CEO and Founder of Regal Assets, a “Bitcoin IRA” company. Regal Assets is an international alternative assets firm with offices in the United States, Canada, London and Dubai focused on helping private and institutional wealth procure alternative assets for their investment portfolios. Regal Assets is an Inc. 500 company and has been featured in many publications such as Forbes, Bloomberg, Market Watch and Reuters. With offices in multiple countries, Regal Assets is uniquely positioned as an international leader in the alternative assets industry and was awarded the first ever crypto-commodities license by the DMCC in late 2017. Regal Assets is currently the only firm in the world that holds a license to legally buy and sell cryptos within the Middle East and works closely with the DMCC to help evolve and grow the understanding and application of blockchain technology. In addition to his role with Regal Assets, Tyler is a regular contributor to Forbes, Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global and Authority Magazine. Tyler has also been featured in many news publications and has been a guest expert on “The News with Ed Shultz”. Tyler is a proud member of the Forbes Finance Council a private invite only-group of hand-selected industry leaders. Feel free to reach out to Tyler on Linkedin HERE .