Special report: What it takes to become a CFO of a top-performing tech company

Ledge Team
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May 7, 2024
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What’s the path to becoming a CFO? And how do you become a great CFO?

That’s a tricky question to answer, especially given that no other position in the C-suite has changed so much in recent years as that of the Chief Financial Officer.

Especially in tech, the CFO role has needed to adapt to a rapidly shifting macroeconomic environment. After years of easy capital capped off by a “pandemic bubble,” the tech sector experienced a dramatic turn in 2021. 

Inflation, higher interest rates, and fears of a recession immediately hit tech companies’ profits and share prices. The growth-at-all-costs mindset transformed into one of streamlining efficiency. 

While the economy has rebounded, it’s still an uncompromising market where businesses are expected to achieve and maintain sustainable, cash-positive growth.

In this challenging new reality, there is a crop of stellar tech companies, led by savvy and seasoned leaders, that have managed to succeed. 

We took a closer look at the CFOs of the 100 best-performing medium to large publicly traded tech companies of 2023 and asked:

What’s their background? What was their path to becoming CFO? Is there anything that we can learn from them? Here’s what we found about the financial leaders that have played a major role in propelling their businesses toward success.

Key highlights about the CFOs of the 100 top-performing tech companies

  • 30% are first-time CFOs
  • They had an average of 27 years of experience before attaining their current role
  • Nearly 50% have a background as controller or accountant
  • 22% have a CPA
  • They had an average of 18 years of experience before attaining their first-ever CFO role
  • 71% were externally hired into their current role
  • 21% have investment banking experience
  • 27% are women, compared to 19% in all Fortune and S&P 500 companies
  • 66% have an MBA, compared to 54% in all Fortune and S&P 500 companies
  • Of those with MBAs, 37% earned it from an M7 school
  • 36% of all the CFOs come from 4 major financial institutions: 13% worked at PwC, 10% worked at EY, 8% worked at Morgan Stanley, 5% worked at JP Morgan

<div class="res-quote"> <div class="res-quote__qt">“</div> <p class="res-quote__text">The best experience you can have, I believe, is being an operator internally at a startup. But you want to be really early. So you can see how the systems and processes are created and you get the experience of managing cash (when it really matters), raising money, and having other teams constantly dependent on you regarding budget, paying vendors, designing the product in terms of how/when customers pay, and so much more. Bottom line: be one of the earliest finance people at a startup is in my experience the best experience to become a CFO.”</p> <div class="res-quote__auth"><img src="https://assets-global.website-files.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/6638f3a64470395b49a4244a_Jason%20Hershman.jpg" loading="lazy" alt="" class="res-quote__photo"> <div class="res-quote__name">– Jason Hershman startup CFO and founder of Point FP&A</div> <div class="res-quote__sep">|</div> <div class="res-quote__soc-icons"> <a href="https://twitter.com/JasonHershman" soc-id="Twitter" class="social-share w-inline-block"><img src="https://global-uploads.webflow.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/651dbb8c708d32af7f85b698_icon-social-grey__tw.svg" loading="lazy" alt="Twitter" class="social-share__icon"></a> <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/jasonahershman/" soc-id="LinkedIn" class="social-share w-inline-block"><img src="https://global-uploads.webflow.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/651dbb8cc488f6ae971a244c_icon-social-grey__li.svg" loading="lazy" alt="LinkedIn" class="social-share__icon"></a> <a href="https://www.pointfpa.com" soc-id="Website" class="social-share w-inline-block"><img src="https://global-uploads.webflow.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/651dbb8dc7f2b43d3fd4e6e3_icon-social-grey__web.svg" loading="lazy" alt="Website" class="social-share__icon"></a> </div> </div> </div> 

The best-performing CFOs’ first steps as CFOs

Ambitious finance professionals often wonder: how long does it take to become CFO for the first time? Are there any shortcuts to the financial C-suite? What experience or qualifications can increase your likelihood or ease the path?

Here’s what we found based on the CFOs we analyzed:

  • CFOs in the list were on average 39 years old when they attained their first-ever CFO role, at which point they had 18 years of experience
  • 63% were hired externally into their first-ever CFO role
  • Internally-promoted CFOs spent an average of 5 years at their company before attaining their CFO roles
  • Controller is the second most popular breakthrough role to becoming CFO after VP Finance 
  • Being a controller accelerated the path to CFO by 2 years
  • Having accounting experience increased the probability of internal promotion by 20% compared to external promotion

<div class="res-quote-green"><div class="res-quote-green__title">Our take</div><p class="res-quote-green__text"> It should come as no surprise that becoming a CFO takes time and experience. <br/><br/> The individuals on our list became CFOs for the first time mid-way through their careers with nearly twenty years of experience under their belt. <br/><br/> While there are no easy or clear shortcuts, our analysis shows that having a background as an accountant or controller did accelerate the path amongst the professionals on our list. Those with experience as a controller became CFO on average two years earlier than those without – that’s 11% faster. <br/><br/>In addition, having accounting experience gave the CFOs on our list a leg up in terms of being internally promoted.</p></div>

<div class="res-quote"> <div class="res-quote__qt">“</div> <p class="res-quote__text"> In the end, more important than the specific role is that each experience has a steep learning curve and takes you out of your comfort zone - because then that zone starts to grow. If you notice that you don’t learn as much anymore and the job starts to become easy - immediately change the role or the company and try to do something different than what you have done so far. ”</p> <div class="res-quote__auth"><img src="https://assets-global.website-files.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/6638f3a57d425fb45e3a81f9_Christian%20Wattig.jpeg" loading="lazy" alt="" class="res-quote__photo"> <div class="res-quote__name">– Christian Wattig, creator of the popular newsletter FP&A Prep</div> <div class="res-quote__sep">|</div> <div class="res-quote__soc-icons"> <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/christian-wattig/" soc-id="LinkedIn" class="social-share w-inline-block"><img src="https://global-uploads.webflow.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/651dbb8cc488f6ae971a244c_icon-social-grey__li.svg" loading="lazy" alt="LinkedIn" class="social-share__icon"></a> <a href="https://www.fpaprep.com/newsletter" soc-id="Website" class="social-share w-inline-block"><img src="https://global-uploads.webflow.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/651dbb8dc7f2b43d3fd4e6e3_icon-social-grey__web.svg" loading="lazy" alt="Website" class="social-share__icon"></a> <a href="https://www.fpaprep.com" soc-id="Website" class="social-share w-inline-block"><img src="https://global-uploads.webflow.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/651dbb8dc7f2b43d3fd4e6e3_icon-social-grey__web.svg" loading="lazy" alt="Website" class="social-share__icon"></a> </div> </div> </div>

The path to becoming CFO at a top-performing public company

It’s one thing to become a CFO; it’s another thing to become a CFO of a top-performing publicly traded tech company. We took a closer look at the CFOs on the list to see what insights we could glean.

Here’s what we found based on the CFOs we analyzed:

  • CFOs in the list are on average 59 years old and had 27 years of experience before attaining their current role
  • 70% of these CFOs have held a CFO title before and 30% are first-time CFOs
  • 71% of these CFOs were externally hired into their current role

<div class="res-quote-green"><div class="res-quote-green__title">Our take</div><p class="res-quote-green__text"> The CFOs we analyzed are in the later stages of their career, with dozens of years of experience. This means, unsurprisingly, that the CFOs at the helm of the best-performing publicly traded tech companies are seasoned leaders, and there’s simply no substitute for experience. <br/><br/> What is possibly surprising is that having prior experience as a CFO is not a prerequisite. Nearly one in three of the executives on this list are first-timers, having transitioned from various finance leadership roles ranging from accounting to investor relations. <br/><br/>Finally, this data shows that lateral career moves and cross-company experience matter. Most of these CFOs were hired externally into their current role, meaning they have a breadth of diverse experience, have seen how different companies operate, and usually have professional experience across multiple industries and scenarios.</p></div>

<div class="res-quote"> <div class="res-quote__qt">“</div> <p class="res-quote__text">I firmly believe every CFO should do a tour of duty in operations elsewhere in the org. Not only does it help you better understand what a company sells, and the hurdles you jump over when building and selling something, but more importantly it forces you to develop empathy for people in other roles. Selling stuff is hard. Developing a product that didn't exist before is hard. A lot of that can get lost when you just look at historical results on a spreadsheet.”</p> <div class="res-quote__auth"><img src="https://assets-global.website-files.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/6638f3a59d577e1a50354d1a_CJ%20Gustafson.jpg" loading="lazy" alt="" class="res-quote__photo"> <div class="res-quote__name">– CJ Gustafson, CFO at PartsTech and writer of popular finance newsletter Mostly Metrics</div> <div class="res-quote__sep">|</div> <div class="res-quote__soc-icons"> <a href="https://twitter.com/cjgustafson222" soc-id="Twitter" class="social-share w-inline-block"><img src="https://global-uploads.webflow.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/651dbb8c708d32af7f85b698_icon-social-grey__tw.svg" loading="lazy" alt="Twitter" class="social-share__icon"></a> <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/cj-gustafson-13140948/" soc-id="LinkedIn" class="social-share w-inline-block"><img src="https://global-uploads.webflow.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/651dbb8cc488f6ae971a244c_icon-social-grey__li.svg" loading="lazy" alt="LinkedIn" class="social-share__icon"></a> <a href="https://www.mostlymetrics.com/" soc-id="Website" class="social-share w-inline-block"><img src="https://global-uploads.webflow.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/651dbb8dc7f2b43d3fd4e6e3_icon-social-grey__web.svg" loading="lazy" alt="Website" class="social-share__icon"></a> </div> </div> </div>

Professional backgrounds of top-performing CFOs

Accounting or FP&A? Management consulting or investment banking? These are just some of the dichotomies often debated when considering the best path to becoming a CFO.

Here’s what we found among the CFOs we analyzed:

  • Nearly 50% have a background as controller or accountant 
  • 22% worked in an FP&A role
  • 22% have a CPA
  • 27% of included CFOs have public accounting experience
  • 21% of included CFOs had investment banking experience
  • 9% of the CFOs had management consulting experience
  • 36% of all the CFOs come from 4 major financial institutions: 13% worked at PwC, 10% worked at EY, 8% worked at Morgan Stanley, 5% worked at JP Morgan 

<div class="res-quote-green"><div class="res-quote-green__title">Our take</div><p class="res-quote-green__text">These CFOs come from a wide variety of financial backgrounds. Investment banking is nearly as common as public accounting, just as many of the CFOs have experience in FP&A as those who have a CPA, and having experience as a controller or accountant – once considered an absolute prerequisite for the CFO role – is evenly split 50-50.  <br/><br/> Bottom line? There’s no single professional path to becoming a CFO of a top-performing company.</p></div>

<div class="res-quote"> <div class="res-quote__qt">“</div> <p class="res-quote__text">Everyone should have the finance skills. It's the secondary skills that separate you. Focus on which of those gives you energy and become great at that. I challenge young accountants to focus on seeking out career opportunities that interest them and then work on their communication skills. Specifically, how do you communicate financial data to non-financial people within and outside an organization? There is no one path to the CFO seat, but more and more untraditional paths are finding their way into that seat. Don't be afraid to explore and take the ‘long road.‘”</p> <div class="res-quote__auth"><img src="https://assets-global.website-files.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/6638f3a5728a552f01b72844_Kurtis%20Hanni.jpeg" loading="lazy" alt="" class="res-quote__photo"> <div class="res-quote__name">– Kurtis Hanni, CFO at Cowan Group Engineering and writer of the popular finance newsletter Frameworks & Finance</div> <div class="res-quote__sep">|</div> <div class="res-quote__soc-icons"> <a href="https://twitter.com/KurtisHanni" soc-id="Twitter" class="social-share w-inline-block"><img src="https://global-uploads.webflow.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/651dbb8c708d32af7f85b698_icon-social-grey__tw.svg" loading="lazy" alt="Twitter" class="social-share__icon"></a> <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/kurtishanni/" soc-id="LinkedIn" class="social-share w-inline-block"><img src="https://global-uploads.webflow.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/651dbb8cc488f6ae971a244c_icon-social-grey__li.svg" loading="lazy" alt="LinkedIn" class="social-share__icon"></a> <a href="https://www.kurtishanni.com" soc-id="Website" class="social-share w-inline-block"><img src="https://global-uploads.webflow.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/651dbb8dc7f2b43d3fd4e6e3_icon-social-grey__web.svg" loading="lazy" alt="Website" class="social-share__icon"></a> </div> </div> </div>

Educational background & gender

Finally, we analyzed the undergraduate and graduate backgrounds of the CFOs at these top-performing public tech companies as well as noted their gender.

Here’s what we found based on the CFOs we analyzed:

  • 27% are women, compared to 19% in all Fortune and S&P 500 companies
  • 40% attended a top 25 US News & World Report school for their undergraduate degree
  • 52% attended a public university for their undergraduate degree
  • 11% attended an Ivy League university for their undergraduate degree and amongst them, over half attended the University of Pennsylvania
  • 66% of included CFOs had an MBA and of those, 37% earned it from an M7 school

<div class="res-quote-green"><div class="res-quote-green__title">Our take</div><p class="res-quote-green__text">In a world where non-formal education is becoming more important than ever for finance leaders, it appears that earning an MBA from a top program still matters and makes a difference for those reaching the highest ranks of top-performing public companies. <br/><br/>And while the CFO remains a largely male-dominated role, more than 1 in 4 of the CFOs in this group are women – that’s 42% more than in all Fortune and S&P 500 companies, where less than 1 in 5 are women.</p></div>

<div class="res-quote"> <div class="res-quote__qt">“</div> <p class="res-quote__text">If you are starting out in finance, you must be detail-oriented. Attention to detail is both art and science. You pick up the science early on and the art as you gain experience. Whether an analyst or CFO, details always matter. Technical skills are important early on but then you must transition to the communication phase. Distilling numbers into financial performance and then into a financial story that all in the organization can understand.”</p> <div class="res-quote__auth"><img src="https://assets-global.website-files.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/6638f3a64470395b49a423a2_Ben%20Murray.jpg" loading="lazy" alt="" class="res-quote__photo"> <div class="res-quote__name">– Ben Murray, former CFO and founder of The SaaS CFO and the SaaS academy</div> <div class="res-quote__sep">|</div> <div class="res-quote__soc-icons"> <a href="https://twitter.com/BR_Murray" soc-id="Twitter" class="social-share w-inline-block"><img src="https://global-uploads.webflow.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/651dbb8c708d32af7f85b698_icon-social-grey__tw.svg" loading="lazy" alt="Twitter" class="social-share__icon"></a> <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/benrmurray/" soc-id="LinkedIn" class="social-share w-inline-block"><img src="https://global-uploads.webflow.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/651dbb8cc488f6ae971a244c_icon-social-grey__li.svg" loading="lazy" alt="LinkedIn" class="social-share__icon"></a> <a href="https://www.thesaascfo.com/" soc-id="Website" class="social-share w-inline-block"><img src="https://global-uploads.webflow.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/651dbb8dc7f2b43d3fd4e6e3_icon-social-grey__web.svg" loading="lazy" alt="Website" class="social-share__icon"></a> </div> </div> </div>

There’s no singular path to becoming a great CFO, but they all have something in common

The path to CFO excellence in the tech world seems to be less about ticking specific boxes and more about embracing a multifaceted approach to leadership. 

The leaders we analyzed have a mosaic of experiences, roles, and educational paths that brought them to where they are today, and if there’s one commonality, it’s that you need a background spanning different positions and sectors and a diverse skill set to succeed in today’s financial market.

The best financial leaders are the ones who have both intimate knowledge of how balance sheets come together and the ability to see the bigger picture and be a high-level, strategic thinker.

It’s not easy to achieve this balance, and now more than ever, CFOs need to leverage the right technology so that they can have clean books and crystal-clear visibility into their financial data and make strategic, informed decisions with agility and ease.

Today’s market demands a CFO who's not just all-weather but thrives in the storm, and that means being adaptable, diverse in experience, strategic in thinking, and savvy in leveraging the CFO tech stack.

Additional insights from experienced CFOs and finance leaders

<div class="res-quote"> <div class="res-quote__qt">“</div> <p class="res-quote__text">Being smart and getting the right experience is critical, but don’t underestimate the importance of your network. Build a network of finance leaders and get a couple of CFO “mentors” that you meet with once a quarter or so. They will not only provide great advice a long the way but when you are ready to find a CFO job they can be amazing resources.”</p> <div class="res-quote__auth"><img src="https://assets-global.website-files.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/6638f3a591f892fbefe79afa_onlycfo.jpg" loading="lazy" alt="" class="res-quote__photo"> <div class="res-quote__name"> — OnlyCFO, creator of the popular newsletter OnlyCFO’s Software World</div> <div class="res-quote__sep">|</div> <div class="res-quote__soc-icons"> <a href="https://twitter.com/OnlyCFO" soc-id="Twitter" class="social-share w-inline-block"><img src="https://global-uploads.webflow.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/651dbb8c708d32af7f85b698_icon-social-grey__tw.svg" loading="lazy" alt="Twitter" class="social-share__icon"></a> <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/company/onlycfo/" soc-id="LinkedIn" class="social-share w-inline-block"><img src="https://global-uploads.webflow.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/651dbb8cc488f6ae971a244c_icon-social-grey__li.svg" loading="lazy" alt="LinkedIn" class="social-share__icon"></a> <a href="https://www.onlycfo.io" soc-id="Website" class="social-share w-inline-block"><img src="https://global-uploads.webflow.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/651dbb8dc7f2b43d3fd4e6e3_icon-social-grey__web.svg" loading="lazy" alt="Website" class="social-share__icon"></a> </div> </div> </div>

<div class="res-quote"> <div class="res-quote__qt">“</div> <p class="res-quote__text">The path to CFO is becoming more achievable for women in finance, as evidenced by the latest Ledge data. With each woman breaking through the proverbial 'glass ceiling' to attain a CFO position, it paves the way for more to follow suit in what has historically been a male-dominated sector. Traditional Fortune 500 companies looking to bolster their ranks of female CFO talent should take cues from the tech sector's hiring, inclusion and promotional practices.”</p> <div class="res-quote__auth"><img src="https://assets-global.website-files.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/6638f3a51f483c46fcedeb54_Beatrice%20Pang.jpeg" loading="lazy" alt="" class="res-quote__photo"> <div class="res-quote__name">– Beatrice Pang, founder of Descartes Learning Club and former CFO of Trusted Health</div> <div class="res-quote__sep">|</div> <div class="res-quote__soc-icons"> <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/beatricepang/" soc-id="LinkedIn" class="social-share w-inline-block"><img src="https://global-uploads.webflow.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/651dbb8cc488f6ae971a244c_icon-social-grey__li.svg" loading="lazy" alt="LinkedIn" class="social-share__icon"></a> <a href="https://www.descarteslearningclub.com/" soc-id="Website" class="social-share w-inline-block"><img src="https://global-uploads.webflow.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/651dbb8dc7f2b43d3fd4e6e3_icon-social-grey__web.svg" loading="lazy" alt="Website" class="social-share__icon"></a> </div> </div> </div>

<div class="res-quote"> <div class="res-quote__qt">“</div> <p class="res-quote__text">Want to be a CFO some day? Here are 3 things that helped me get there: <br /><br /> 1. Meet people: Avoid like the plague being stuck behind a computer all day with no people interaction. Talk to people in other departments like Sales, Marketing, Product, and Operations. They’ll teach you how your business works. Great CFOs know their business inside and out. <br /><br /> 2. Dive into every financial transaction: Work for a small business? Write or review every check. Work for a large company? Drive into all P&L and balance sheet transactions. You’ll learn how people spend money, again learning your business cold. <br /><br /> 3. Set goals for yourself: Your career is a marathon. Have an idea where you want to go. Identify things you want to learn. Understand what you like and don’t like. Formulate your strategy to compete in your marathon race. And set goals for yourself along the way. Celebrate when you achieve them. Like learning a new thing, landing a job, or meeting someone new. And don’t be afraid to revisit and revamp those goals over time. Things change. <br /><br /> And one more thing: People learn most and put more energy into things they genuinely enjoy. Keep that in mind as you navigate your career marathon. ”</p> <div class="res-quote__auth"><img src="https://assets-global.website-files.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/6638f3a5d5a6510f1392e17e_Drew%20Murphy.jpg" loading="lazy" alt="" class="res-quote__photo"> <div class="res-quote__name">– Drew Murphy, former CFO of DSA Detection, co-founder of the popular newsletter FP&HEY, co-host of the FP&A career podcast Rise Above The Numbers</div> <div class="res-quote__sep">|</div> <div class="res-quote__soc-icons"> <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/drewwilliammurphy/" soc-id="LinkedIn" class="social-share w-inline-block"><img src="https://global-uploads.webflow.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/651dbb8cc488f6ae971a244c_icon-social-grey__li.svg" loading="lazy" alt="LinkedIn" class="social-share__icon"></a> <a href="https://www.fpandhey.com/" soc-id="Website" class="social-share w-inline-block"><img src="https://global-uploads.webflow.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/651dbb8dc7f2b43d3fd4e6e3_icon-social-grey__web.svg" loading="lazy" alt="Website" class="social-share__icon"></a> </div> </div> </div>

<div class="res-quote"> <div class="res-quote__qt">“</div> <p class="res-quote__text">My advice for aspiring great CFOs is twofold: first, cultivate a deep understanding of both the financial fundamentals and the technological innovations driving your industry. Second, prioritize transparent communication and ethical leadership. These qualities are indispensable in building resilience and trust in today's complex economic environment.”</p> <div class="res-quote__auth"><img src="https://assets-global.website-files.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/6638f3a50d2b1a06bfeecce8_Anna%20King.jpeg" loading="lazy" alt="" class="res-quote__photo"> <div class="res-quote__name">– Anna King, CFO of Mesh Payments</div> <div class="res-quote__sep">|</div> <div class="res-quote__soc-icons"> <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/annamariaking/" soc-id="LinkedIn" class="social-share w-inline-block"><img src="https://global-uploads.webflow.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/651dbb8cc488f6ae971a244c_icon-social-grey__li.svg" loading="lazy" alt="LinkedIn" class="social-share__icon"></a> <a href="https://meshpayments.com" soc-id="Website" class="social-share w-inline-block"><img src="https://global-uploads.webflow.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/651dbb8dc7f2b43d3fd4e6e3_icon-social-grey__web.svg" loading="lazy" alt="Website" class="social-share__icon"></a> </div> </div> </div>

<div class="res-quote"> <div class="res-quote__qt">“</div> <p class="res-quote__text">Focus on getting the best experience possible versus chasing dollars. Specifically, try to find great finance leaders and find a way to get a job working under them. The sooner you understand the true impact a world-class finance team can have on a business, the better. If you have never experienced this, you will never truly understand where you need to drive the finance team later in your career. When you get the job, volunteer for as many projects as possible. Build relationships with every department and with people throughout the organization. Later in your career, providing advice on marketing, sales, or operations will have more meaning if you have personal experience you can relate to. Ultimately, you will be making much more impactful decisions and recommendations.”</p> <div class="res-quote__auth"><img src="https://assets-global.website-files.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/6638f3a5b2eec3afb9cc9b31_Steven%20Taylor.jpeg" loading="lazy" alt="" class="res-quote__photo"> <div class="res-quote__name">– Steven Taylor, CFO of Private Hospital and Aged Care Facility</div> <div class="res-quote__sep">|</div> <div class="res-quote__soc-icons"> <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/stvntaylor/" soc-id="LinkedIn" class="social-share w-inline-block"><img src="https://global-uploads.webflow.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/651dbb8cc488f6ae971a244c_icon-social-grey__li.svg" loading="lazy" alt="LinkedIn" class="social-share__icon"></a> </div> </div> </div>

<div class="res-quote"> <div class="res-quote__qt">“</div> <p class="res-quote__text">It's been interesting to see a trend back towards CFOs from a controlling background over the last couple of years. Boards tend to 'flee for safety' in tougher times. But fundamentally, there are more paths than ever to CFO, which is a good thing. For my first ever job, I was an entertainer at a children's play center, where I had to dress in a dinosaur costume. So if I can make it to the CFO chair, anyone can.”</p> <div class="res-quote__auth"><img src="https://assets-global.website-files.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/6638f3a54b6343936ec4e070_SecretCFO_.jpeg" loading="lazy" alt="" class="res-quote__photo"> <div class="res-quote__name">– Secret CFO, creator of the popular newsletter CFO Secrets</div> <div class="res-quote__sep">|</div> <div class="res-quote__soc-icons"> <a href="https://twitter.com/SecretCFO" soc-id="Twitter" class="social-share w-inline-block"><img src="https://global-uploads.webflow.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/651dbb8c708d32af7f85b698_icon-social-grey__tw.svg" loading="lazy" alt="Twitter" class="social-share__icon"></a> <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/company/secret-cfo/" soc-id="LinkedIn" class="social-share w-inline-block"><img src="https://global-uploads.webflow.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/651dbb8cc488f6ae971a244c_icon-social-grey__li.svg" loading="lazy" alt="LinkedIn" class="social-share__icon"></a> <a href="https://www.cfosecrets.io" soc-id="Website" class="social-share w-inline-block"><img src="https://global-uploads.webflow.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/651dbb8dc7f2b43d3fd4e6e3_icon-social-grey__web.svg" loading="lazy" alt="Website" class="social-share__icon"></a> </div> </div> </div>

<div class="res-quote"> <div class="res-quote__qt">“</div> <p class="res-quote__text">I believe a combination of strategic vision, deep technical expertise, and leadership skills are critical for anyone aspiring to become a CFO. Specifically, an in-depth understanding of financial modeling, fundraising, and SaaS dynamics, coupled with a proven ability to translate complex financial data into actionable business strategies, has been fundamental to my success. These skills have enabled me to drive significant improvements in cost-efficiency and revenue growth for SaaS companies, which is a sector known for its rapid pace and unique financial challenges.”</p> <div class="res-quote__auth"><img src="https://assets-global.website-files.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/6638f3a64470395b49a424cc_Aleksandar.jpeg" loading="lazy" alt="" class="res-quote__photo"> <div class="res-quote__name">– Aleksandar Stojanovic Fractional CFO for B2B SaaS startups</div> <div class="res-quote__sep">|</div> <div class="res-quote__soc-icons"> <a href="https://twitter.com/alexstojanovi" soc-id="Twitter" class="social-share w-inline-block"><img src="https://global-uploads.webflow.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/651dbb8c708d32af7f85b698_icon-social-grey__tw.svg" loading="lazy" alt="Twitter" class="social-share__icon"></a> <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/aleksandar-stojanovic-msc/" soc-id="LinkedIn" class="social-share w-inline-block"><img src="https://global-uploads.webflow.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/651dbb8cc488f6ae971a244c_icon-social-grey__li.svg" loading="lazy" alt="LinkedIn" class="social-share__icon"></a> <a href="https://thestartupfinance.com" soc-id="Website" class="social-share w-inline-block"><img src="https://global-uploads.webflow.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/651dbb8dc7f2b43d3fd4e6e3_icon-social-grey__web.svg" loading="lazy" alt="Website" class="social-share__icon"></a> </div> </div> </div>

<div class="res-quote"> <div class="res-quote__qt">“</div> <p class="res-quote__text">Here's what I would say to aspiring CFOs: <br /><br /> 1. Be a sponge, not a silo: Master your accounting, finance and FP&A skills, but also actively learn your business. <br /><br /> 2. Sharpen your communication: Numbers are powerful, but explaining them clearly is key. Master your storytelling, presentation and communication skills. <br /><br /> 3. Never stop learning: Finance is constantly evolving so stay curious, seek professional development, and don't be scared of failure. <br /><br /> CFO shouldn't be the only goal, also aim for well-rounded finance & business expertise.”</p> <div class="res-quote__auth"><img src="https://assets-global.website-files.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/6638f3a5090a1ae2026cba0d_Chris%20Ortega.jpeg" loading="lazy" alt="" class="res-quote__photo"> <div class="res-quote__name">– Chris Ortega, Fracitonal CFO and Founder of Fresh FP&A</div> <div class="res-quote__sep">|</div> <div class="res-quote__soc-icons"> <a href="https://twitter.com/ceo_freshfpa" soc-id="Twitter" class="social-share w-inline-block"><img src="https://global-uploads.webflow.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/651dbb8c708d32af7f85b698_icon-social-grey__tw.svg" loading="lazy" alt="Twitter" class="social-share__icon"></a> <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/freshcfo/" soc-id="LinkedIn" class="social-share w-inline-block"><img src="https://global-uploads.webflow.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/651dbb8cc488f6ae971a244c_icon-social-grey__li.svg" loading="lazy" alt="LinkedIn" class="social-share__icon"></a> <a href="https://freshfpa.com" soc-id="Website" class="social-share w-inline-block"><img src="https://global-uploads.webflow.com/63aadf1c20f6a6eb95024394/651dbb8dc7f2b43d3fd4e6e3_icon-social-grey__web.svg" loading="lazy" alt="Website" class="social-share__icon"></a> </div> </div> </div>

Methodology

We compiled a comprehensive list of medium to large (market cap $2 billion - $200 billion) publicly traded tech companies and analyzed their revenue growth, EBITDA growth, and market performance in 2023. These are the 100 top-performing companies:

  1. DocuSign
  2. SMA Solar
  3. Array Technologies
  4. Getty Images
  5. Squarespace
  6. Marathon Digital
  7. Vertiv
  8. Palo Alto Networks
  9. Affirm
  10. Super Micro Computer
  11. Applovin
  12. Trade Desk
  13. Global Business Travel Group
  14. Duolingo
  15. Samsara
  16. First Solar
  17. Five9
  18. Paymentus 
  19. Block
  20. Ionq
  21. CrowdStrike
  22. MicroStrategy
  23. Zscaler
  24. monday.com
  25. Ceridian HCM
  26. Shopify
  27. Workday
  28. Nutanix
  29. Celestica
  30. Itron
  31. ServiceNow
  32. MongoDB
  33. Cloudflare
  34. Xero
  35. Fastly
  36. Palantir
  37. AppFolio
  38. Rapid7
  39. Grab
  40. Altair Engineering
  41. HubSpot
  42. WiseTech Global
  43. Wix
  44. Paycor
  45. Shift4 Payments
  46. Guidewire
  47. C3.ai
  48. UiPath
  49. SentinelOne
  50. LiveRamp
  51. DigitalOcean
  52. Manhattan Associates
  53. FICO
  54. Constellation Software
  55. Braze
  56. Vertex
  57. Spotify
  58. Twilio
  59. Clear Secure
  60. InterDigital
  61. Robinhood
  62. Open Text
  63. Remitly
  64. DoubleVerify
  65. Unity Software
  66. Intapp
  67. Asana
  68. ePlus
  69. Upwork
  70. Dynatrace
  71. Varonis
  72. Aixtron
  73. Qualys
  74. Take-Two Interactive Software
  75. EngageSmart
  76. Rexel
  77. GitLab
  78. Freshworks
  79. CyberArk
  80. Procore Technologies
  81. Paylocity
  82. Alkami Technology
  83. Smartsheet
  84. Splunk
  85. Parsons Corporation
  86. AvidXchange
  87. Intuit
  88. Fortinet
  89. Lightspeed Commerce
  90. Flywire
  91. Allegro Microsystems
  92. AspenTech
  93. Entegris
  94. Gen Digital
  95. Hubbell
  96. Informatica
  97. Rambus
  98. Synopys
  99. Yelp
  100. Okta


We then examined the backgrounds of the CFOs of these companies, including professional background, experience, education, and demographics using publicly available sources.

In this article:
Ledge

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