Treat your work colleagues like in-laws and not immediate family. In other words, don’t get too personal and don’t feel you can offer advice on how to fix issues in other departments (in the same way you wouldn’t make suggestions to your mother-in-law on how to improve her lasagna).
Helen Kane is a pre-eminent derivative and hedge accounting expert in the application of ASC 815 and 830. Ms. Kane founded Hedge Trackers LLC in 2000 as a Hedge Accounting consulting and outsourcing firm providing practical solutions to Fortune 100 to 1000 companies. Prior to founding the company, she led the Deloitte & Touche Silicon Valley risk management practice for seven years. Ms. Kane’s focus areas include monitoring FASB and IASB pronouncements, overseeing auditor and SEC responses and consulting with clients contemplating hedge accounting applications.
Thank you for joining us Helen! What brought you to this specific career path?
Mycareer has taken a few turns. Coming out of college, I expected to find a job in international banking, specifically Latin American banking. But Latin America was imploding financially at that time, so I ended up at multinational companies working in treasury, finance and accounting roles.
My next career turn happened was when my family grew. I chose to work part-time and devote the rest of my time to my three daughters. I took my technical experience with corporate hedge programs to a consulting role with Deloitte & Touche. While a Senior Manager at Deloitte & Touche in the Capital Markets Group, I had the vision for a new offering to outsource compliant hedge accounting, designation documentation and reporting services for corporations hedging foreign currency, interest rates and commodity risk. I ran the idea by Deloitte, but they chose not to pursue it.
So, my next career move was a sharp turn! My husband agreed to put his career on hold and stay home with our daughters while I set off on the notoriously risky adventure of starting a business: Hedge Trackers, LLC. I pursued the opportunity in part to be an example to my daughters that women can and should take risks with their careers.
Share a story about the funniest mistake you made when first starting? What lesson did you learn from it?
When I started Hedge Trackers I felt incredibly responsibility for the financial stability of anyone I was going to hire. From that risk aversion came an idea. Not all jobs at Hedge Trackers needed to be full time. I reached out to former colleagues who were at home raising their children. These were highly talented, professional women with tremendous skills, but they did not want to commit to the more than full-time position at an audit firm. I offered an unusual part-time, flexible schedule: work the first week of the month, then focus on your families the rest of the month. It worked — and it benefits the company and the employees. Some of those women are still with the company and have worked a variety of part-time schedules, bringing tremendous value in exchange for a work schedule that suits them.
As the company has grown, we have continued to offer part-time opportunities across the company: engineering, HR, finance, as well as consulting and management roles.
What do you think makes your company stand out?
Hedge Trackers is a 20-year-old, woman-owned business that has leveraged talent unavailable to most corporations because they don’t think about it or work at making it happen. When I was at Deloitte, I was introduced to the “Work/Life Dial” concept, respecting employees’ needs to dial up or dial down the work part of the lives. At Hedge Trackers, seasoned treasury professionals and highly skilled accountants clear their schedules to spend the first week of the month preparing hedge accounting journal entries and disclosures, answering audit queries, and providing client support. The rest of the month, they are back to juggling play dates, soccer practice, spending time with older parents or just enjoying semi-retirement.
Balancing work with personal life is a rarity in Silicon Valley, which is where Hedge Trackers is located. Our culture of flexible work options has resulted in high retention and loyalty. We have had other companies and competitors reach out to us to learn about our employment model and hope the model catches the attention of bigger companies.
Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in STEM? What changes do you think are necessary?
Wetruly need more women in STEM jobs, so we have to make math, science, and technology more interesting to young girls and hold on to them as they move up the academic ranks. STEM courses and classes need to design to capture the interests and imaginations of these girls. It would help to have more women role models in schools and in the industry sharing a passion for STEM with school children.
What are the biggest challenges faced by women in STEM or Tech that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Balancing work and family is a big challenge for women, so creating more flexible work options is one solution. Recognizing that many women own the key child-rearing, parent care and home maintenance responsibilities, flexible and part-time work could keep many women engaged in the workforce if they didn’t feel they needed to choose between a job and their family. Honestly, those are two full-time jobs when done right, so having the opportunity to pull back but not out of the workforce can be a game-changer.
What are your 5 Leadership Lessons from your experience as a woman in STEM or Tech?
- Valuing the needs of your employees can help attract and retain amazing talent.
- Go uphill and look down to get a broader perspective. I was always one to be in the trenches with my employees to lead by example. That’s probably a leftover habit of mine since I started the business. Now, I have been leaving the day-to-day work to my great team and look more holistically at the company and its future.
- Each team member deserves appreciation and recognition for a job well done, even engineers and accountants!
- A great product isn’t enough. You must support the product with sales and marketing. It took 15 years for Hedge Trackers to implement a marketing strategy, and that lag put us behind the competition. I now truly see the value of investing in marketing.
- Treat your work colleagues like in-laws and not immediate family. In other words, don’t get too personal and don’t feel you can offer advice on how to fix issues in other departments (in the same way you wouldn’t make suggestions to your mother-in-law on how to improve her lasagna).
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team thrive?
Attract and retain talent by offering challenging work and the opportunity to reduce professional responsibilities (and salaries) to meet their obligations outside the office. This unique model has worked for Hedge Trackers. We are in our 20th year of operation, which is a true achievement when you consider that only 13% of women-owned businesses make it to their 20th year. The company has been profitable since inception, with no venture capital and no outside investment. More than 70 percent of Hedge Trackers leadership positions are held by women, versus 26.5% in leadership positions at the S&P 500.
What advice would you give other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
Respect is always earned. It is not handed to you. Earn it by showing it.
Is there a person you are grateful to for helping you get where you are?
During my time at Deloitte, I was in a mentorship program. When I told my mentor about my vision for Hedge Trackers and was in discussions with my husband about staying home with our daughters, my mentor provided great insight. He said, “If you would die, do you trust your husband to raise your kids? If you answer yes, then he can take on this new role with your daughters and you can start your business.” That advice helped me make the leap to start Hedge Trackers. I am also extremely grateful to my husband, who put aside a tech career and has taken great care of our daughters.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Iam a staunch supporter of knowledge sharing. First, I share my business model wherever I can so that more women can bring their skills to the marketplace and balance their family and personal time. I believe our unique model has allowed our highly skilled professionals to be more present for their children and allowed for more time caring for aging parents.
In our community, we sponsor a local high school’s Women of Impact event and teach interview skills at the school. Hedge Trackers supports a local children’s after-school program in our community on an ongoing basis and tries to respond to local and international disasters with support from the company and together with our employees.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to people, what would that be?
That movement would be the Hedge Trackers business model that offers employees stimulating professional opportunities in smaller chunks than full-time.
What is your favorite life lesson quote?
The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Who would you like to have lunch with and why?
Oprah Winfrey. She personifies the American success story. She built her empire with grit and a good heart. She advances causes for women and people of all backgrounds. She encourages all of us to be better people and uses her star power to lift others. That is a woman we all need to take lessons from.