A day in the life of a first finance hire

A day in the life of a first finance hire

It’s 7:45 a.m. on a Thursday, and you walk into the office with a giant travel mug of coffee in your hand. It’s almost the end of the week, but you still have a million things on your to-do list, and there is always a new fire to put out when you walk in.

You make it to the desk, open your email inbox, and are immediately confronted with 12 new emails. They all hit your inbox in the past hour since you last checked your phone. Wonderful. At the top is an email from the CEO, who just forwarded you a benchmarking study from your VCs with a request to figure out where your company is in these areas.

“Can you get this to me by EOD?” the email concludes. Immediately you know the answer is no. Hell no. Benchmarks are usually bogus anyway, and everyone measures them differently. It’ll take days just to figure out how this VC firm calculates its benchmarks, and then you’ll still need to put your metrics through.

Another email, this one sent by the head of sales directly to the CEO, with you CC’d. They have updates on revenue and claim that pacing is way ahead of plan. But their numbers are completely different from what you just pulled yesterday. Shit. You need to figure that out before the board presentation next week.

You’re still stuck on emails, trying to get through as much as possible before your first meeting at 9 a.m. Don’t get caught in a phishing email. Don’t get caught in a phishing email. Don’t get caught in a phishing email. Damn it, you just got another one that says it’s from the CEO. Forward it to your CTO and move on.

You’ve cleared enough emails to feel okay about moving on for now. First thing: key metrics. The CEO asked you to pull together yet another summary of key metrics to track every week. Sounds easy enough, right? Until you hopelessly stare at the overwhelming volume of data to sift through. You’ve finally aligned on which metrics to track, so now you’re figuring out how to pull them. You go through your data warehouse to check if everything is instrumented correctly. Everything seems okay so far, nothing too out of the ordinary — but wait, what’s that? You just found out a single metric requires you to pull data from 10 different sources, and one of them never updates correctly. Turns out that engineering didn’t implement that event correctly, and it looks like you haven’t been tracking it accurately for the past few weeks.

Great. Peachy. Delightful. You ping the engineering team to ask them to fix it — you hope there’s a way to backfill the data correctly — before a PM reminds you about that 9 a.m. meeting.

You head into the meeting, and the PM jumps straight into three-month retention figures for something they just shipped. But that can’t be possible. These numbers don’t pass the sniff test at all. You have to say something. Time to bring the party to a screeching halt.

“That can’t be right,” you interject. “Did you account for that billing bug from a few months ago?”

The PM pauses. “I’m not sure,” they answer.

“Let’s sync up after this and see if we can figure out what’s going on,” you say. Everyone else in the meeting looks disappointed — there’s no point in going on with the rest of the presentation after you just shot it down in the first five minutes. You leave the meeting feeling a lot like the bad guy and contemplating why you gave up on becoming an astronaut when you were 10. You spend the next hour figuring out the numbers with the PM.

You’re finally headed back to your desk, thinking of how to deal with those new hire requests you got the other day — you’ve been pushing back on the three additional product hires for weeks now, but the head of product won’t budge — when someone from the HR team stops you.

“Hey, we have a candidate that the marketing team wants to hire, but they don’t get how stock options work,” they say. “Can you get on a quick call with them to explain?”

“Uh, sure,” you reply without thinking. “When?”

“This afternoon?” they respond. “The team really wants to close on this candidate by tomorrow.” You smile weakly and agree before moving on. You know it’ll take more than a few minutes to sell someone on the value of equity, and you’re not sure how much time this “quick call” will actually take.

You check your email again and see an update from the head of product. The CEO just approved the additional headcount in their 1:1 earlier. Shit. You’ve been trying to remind the leadership team that you can’t burn more than you planned and you need to instill a culture of tradeoffs. Looks like you’ll need to regroup with the CEO, sooner rather than later.

On that note, you still need to figure out how to pay higher salaries and give more equity. The company can’t hire great people if you’re not competing with the market, and people are already leaving. Maybe if more people understood how stock options worked...

You (finally) eat lunch — at your desk while writing some new SQL queries for that key metrics spreadsheet — when an email from SVB pops up in your notifications. It’s their tenth email in two weeks asking to come by. You know eventually you’ll end up in a meeting with them for 45 minutes, talking about nothing.

You’re drafting your reply when the CEO Slacks you and asks you to come to the conference room to say hello to an investor. You abandon your meal and head over, even though you’ve barely made a dent in your to-do list.

“Hey, remember that analysis you did a few months ago?” the CEO asks. “The one breaking down churn reasons? Can you recreate it?” Everyone looks at you expectantly.

“Yeah, no problem,” you say, smiling for the investors while screaming internally. Shit. How did you do that analysis?

Back at your desk, where your lunch looks sad and unappetizing, you shotgun a cold brew and hope the caffeine kicks in fast. You put your head down and focus on a pricing analysis. The CEO wants to drop the price for the starter bundle because, naturally, that’ll make demand explode. You’ve built model after model to predict every possible scenario. And the worst-case scenario? A 25% slash in today’s ARR. Awesome. You need to explain to the CEO how this won’t just impact ARR but your cash flow as well. And everyone is pushing for more hires, promotions, and bonuses to keep people happy. You wonder why everyone seems to mistake you for The Giving Tree.

After a not-so-blissful hour of deep work, you check your email again, only to find a bill that says the company has committed a $50,000 annual subscription to Asana. What the fuck? You ping all the team leads, asking them what’s going on, and find out one of them likes Asana best for their team. But the product team already uses Monday.com, and the head of marketing has been asking you to pay for ClickUp.

When you first started, the CEO had issued everyone on the team a corporate card, and it’s obviously not a good idea. But the CEO insists it’s part of the company culture to empower everyone to do their jobs, no matter how much you explain that not everyone needs unrestricted access to company funds. You’ve been telling yourself you’ll get to that someday, and it looks like that day is today.

You’re about to head to the CEO’s office to see if they’re free when your calendar notifies you about that stock options call with the marketing candidate. You get on the call; sure enough, it’s closer to 30 minutes than 10. They seemed convinced, so you hope it worked — the marketing team really needs to hire another person, and you really need to not hear more about that.

You finally make it to the CEO, who is miraculously still available, and you’re about to bring up the corporate card issue when they ask for an update on the mission and vision for the finance team.

Oh shit, that’s right. You’re supposed to create that. The offsite was a month ago. It seems more and more unlikely that you’ll get to shut down those corporate cards today. You instantly regret not getting another coffee earlier.

“Also, what’s our timeline to IPO?” they add. “Should we move to RSUs?” It’s almost 5 p.m., and you’re not sure how much the CEO wants to get into that. Is it even a priority right now?

“Let me get back to you on that,” is all you can say. That doesn’t seem like the right answer, but it’s all you got.

You head back to your desk and add a few more things to your seemingly endless to-do list. You get on a call with a colleague, another first finance hire, and commiserate. It looks like everyone else is in the same situation, making it all up as they go. No one has it figured out.

“Are you guys charging sales tax?” they ask. “Or VAT?”

What? Is that something you need to do? How do you know if you need to do that? Shit.

It’s the end of the day, and you haven’t even looked at those benchmarks the CEO asked you about this morning. Was that really only this morning? Well, sounds like a problem for future you.

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