Companies can move us closer to achieving parity by supporting family-friendly policies and benefits. Many of the women and men that help companies in the U.S. prosper and succeed are raising children and/or caring for elderly parents or other loved ones. These women and men need benefits, such as maternity and paternity leave, and managers that recognize that a little flexibility for family time is paramount to keeping these employees in the workforce.
As a part of my series about strong female finance leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kelly Steckelberg,Chief Financial Officer of Zoom. Kelly brings to Zoom extensive leadership and finance experience. Most recently, she was CEO of Zoosk, where she previously held positions of CFO and COO. Prior to Zoosk, Kelly was the Sr. Director of Consumer Segment Finance of Cisco. Kelly has also held various roles in finance at Cisco Webex, Epiphany, PeopleSoft, and KPMG.
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 was fortunate to attend the University of Texas (UT), Austin, which, I’m proud to say, has one of the nation’s best accounting programs. I was accepted into its PPA program which earns you a bachelor’s and master’s degree. After graduating from UT, I spent several years at KPMG, where I had the opportunity to gain great exposure to a wide variety of companies and industries. I learned how different organizations were run, particularly from a financial perspective — for example how conservative or aggressive they were and how decisions were made. Early in my career, I set a goal of eventually becoming CFO of a public company, and KPMG helped me build important skills towards that. After I left KPMG, I gravitated toward tech and spent more than a decade in various financial roles with tech companies, including PeopleSoft, Epiphany, Webex, and Cisco (which acquired Webex). Before joining Zoom, I was the CEO of Zoosk, and prior to that served as Zoosk’s CFO. I’ve been CFO at Zoom for almost two years now, and I’ve had many great opportunities here, including being able to fulfill my goal of taking a company public!
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far?
Without a doubt the most interesting thing that’s occurred in my career thus far is being part of the team to take Zoom public. During this process we had the opportunity to highlight the power of video communications by being the first company to conduct the majority of its roadshow via Zoom! While I visited bankers in person, Eric S. Yuan, Zoom’s CEO and founder, joined the majority of our meetings using Zoom. The approach was not only unique (at least thus far, I’m sure it won’t be long before others follow suit), it also highlighted our mission of making video communications frictionless, and underscored why video is the future of communications. Using Zoom on our roadshow also gave us an opportunity to showcase some of the platform’s features, like virtual backgrounds, which lets users choose any background they’d like for their meeting. Eric often started our meetings using a backdrop that made it appear as though he was at the beach! It was a fun way to start the meeting and provided a laugh. Eric would then demonstrate how to change the background to depict his office, or any other setting.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Generally speaking, it’s been tremendously exciting to see different groups of people — from the investment community to the press and so on — learn about Zoom for the first time, and become really enthusiastic about the platform, the company, and our culture. Most recently, we conducted our inaugural earnings call as a public company, so that was really exciting. We conducted the entire earnings call and presentation live via a Zoom Video Webinar, which despite Zoom having many large public companies as customers, has never been done by any other company to our knowledge. We had hundreds of investors, press, financial analysts, and other stakeholders joining via Zoom. We presented prepared remarks and content, and did live Q&A all using Zoom. Following the call, we received great feedback from participants that using Zoom made it the call more engaging and we have had inquiries from other companies who now want to use Zoom as well!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
There are many things that make Zoom stand out as a company, but chief among them are our rate of growth, especially at scale, combined with our profitability and positive cash flow. The fact is that Zoom’s fundamentals are very solid for a company its age and size, and that a profitable company going public is something of a rarity in the tech industry.
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?
I think the change has been driven in large part by increased awareness of the issue and an acknowledgement of the value women and people of diverse backgrounds and origins bring to an organization. It has also given organizations an impetus to ensure the diversity of the workforce more closely mirrors that of society and its customer base. Zoom is among the companies leading the charge to drive this change by making it a priority to hire people that represent the diversity of our users. In fact, women have a large presence on our leadership team — approximately half of our senior leadership and 75% of our executive officers are women.
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?
First and foremost, individuals and companies can continue to support parity by advocating for hiring women and by mentoring women. Additionally, companies can move us closer to achieving parity by supporting family-friendly policies and benefits. Many of the women and men that help companies in the U.S. prosper and succeed are raising children and/or caring for elderly parents or other loved ones. These women and men need benefits, such as maternity and paternity leave, and managers that recognize that a little flexibility for family time is paramount to keeping these employees in the workforce. Companies can also adopt technologies and tools like Zoom, that make it easier for employees to work remotely and still feel connected when they need to be near home. Finally, diversity needs to be demonstrated and celebrated in the workplace. At Zoom, we sponsor a women’s network, an organization that focuses on creating opportunities for women in networking, career development, and community involvement.
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. –
1) Everyone should be saving and investing regularly — even $5 or $10 a month — in a 401K or other retirement vehicle, and then not touch it again until they are retired!
2) I believe that all adults should understand the role debt plays — both the upside and the risks — in their financial health. At some point in nearly everyone’s adult life they will need to prove their creditworthiness in order to finance a major purchase, like a home. I would tell my adult children, “don’t be afraid of a little well-managed debt in service of building credit.” I’d advise them to open a credit card or two, use it regularly, but pay it off each month in full, on time and without fail. Of course, the same advice applies to any other loans, such as a car loan or student loan.
3) Parents can help their children gain exposure to investing by practicing with a “faux” portfolio. Choose a handful of stocks, or a mutual fund, then track how it performs if you were to invest a set amount of money each month over a year or more. Make it a family event to review your portfolios together monthly.
4) I love Peter Lynch’s theory of invest in what you know. Look for products or services that you love and research their manufacturer or provider to see if it is a company that you want to invest in.
5) If you have a skill or business idea you’d like to pursue, start in a low-risk way, such as launching an Etsy site to sell goods, or becoming an independent contractor to provide a service. Online payments, loans, websites and so on make it easier than ever before to trial-balloon a business idea. You learn the fastest by jumping in!
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 have had so many great bosses and mentors along the way who helped me and influenced my leadership style and approach. One person who stands out is Mike Everett, the former CFO of Webex. Mike took a chance on hiring me because I didn’t have a SaaS background at the time, but he trusted I could learn the market. His trust in me completely changed my career trajectory, ultimately bringing me here to Zoom.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My mom is amazing and had several “life lesson quotes” when I was growing up. I think they all boiled down to the idea that you are capable of achieving anything you want, you just have to put your mind to it and work at it without excuses — but also don’t take yourself too seriously! She raised three strong, independent women who have all gone on to do very different things with their lives, so I guess it worked!
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂 I’d want to inspire a movement that ensures every child gets an education or skills training. I believe education is the greatest way to empower someone and the benefits extend far beyond the individual to ultimately benefit society as a whole. Ideally, learning should be a lifelong undertaking. In fact, at Zoom, lifelong learning is one of our core themes and a pillar in our philanthropic giving. We invest in our employees’ and their family’s learning by paying for any books anyone in the family would like to purchase. We also give to organizations focused on bettering educational opportunities, such as Teach for America and Strikes for Kids.
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.