Head of international operations and technology finance at Vocalink, and Generation CFO LIVE speaker, Ranu Sharma, shares the importance of authenticity in her career.
Ranu Sharma was always heading for a career in numbers. But, there was a disconnect between the traditional view of finance roles as a more introverted profession and the position Ranu imagined herself in.
“Obviously, because I was good with numbers, I took the route of accountancy. However, I think a lot of people associate accountancy with introverted people,” says Ranu. She loves human interaction, learning from people, and having discussions and debates: “That’s what helps you grow and increase your knowledge. So I was like: how can I be an accountant and still hold on to authenticity and be myself as a people person in a finance role?”
The answer, she found, was in becoming a finance business partner. This involved business partnering within the organisation, helping them drive fiscal decisions while educating them on their finances.
“That, for me, was perfect,” says Ranu. “I knew I had the finance background and the knowledge, but I also had a personality that fit. Whether it’s sitting in a boardroom making jokes and having banter or getting them onside – that’s how I work.”
Learn more about business partnering, here.
However, it wasn’t until Ranu took a sidestep in her career that she truly understood how good a fit it was.
“Two years after that first role [with recruitment firm Manpower], they were restructuring, and I moved to British Gas. I took a role for the sake of it. I needed a job. I was getting married, I needed the money, but it was the most boring role. It was called debt reporting analyst.”
After six months, she moved internally to a more commercial role.
“It’s fascinating when you go on a journey, and you do something you don’t like. It just confirms it in your mind that what you’re doing is what you do like,” says Ranu. “I made a declaration to myself after that: I wasn’t going to make a mistake like that again. I’d rather take my time.”
Ranu then moved between industries, including an airline and a hotel chain, before moving to technology firm Vocalink two years ago, but all within the same finance business partner-type roles.
Her current role involves managing the budgeting and forecasting cycles and presenting back results to senior vice president and executive vice president levels, using that blend of personality and accounting knowledge.
Ranu believes that there needs to be more of this blend within the modern finance function and a smaller gap between business and finance. This is possible thanks to technology, which has streamlined those traditional accounting tasks.
See Ranu’s presentation at Generation CFO Live: Watch replay!
“The potential for tech is huge,” says Ranu. “The help of having advanced technology in finance will allow those corporate accountants to have more room to do more value add. By doing that, businesses will help bring their numbers to life, understand performance better, and drive better decisions.
“If you look at finance and what it once was – it was bookkeeping, ledgers and balances. Nobody in the corporate business does that now. That stuff gets outsourced, or there are systems that do it for you. Technology is so savvy, and it’s going to continue to evolve and get even savvier. So much so that more and more accountants are no longer accountants.
Ultimately, you have to understand that you have to be a people person in a corporate world, says Ranu. You’ve got to be commercially savvy as well as financially savvy.
Ranu says one challenge of her role is how male-dominated the finance world is. “I feel like women are really underrepresented today. And actually, I’m a woman of colour and I’m a mother, so it’s like getting hit over the head three times,” says Ranu.
This is part of the reason that she volunteers as a mentor at charity The Girls’ Network. “I want to be a role model for young girls to help them grow confidently and know that opportunities are there, you just have to go out and get them,” says Ranu.
She considers it her responsibility to share her life experiences with young people to help them wade through social media’s noise, which can often be a negative influence. She wants to help them to be authentic in their lives.
“It’s important for people like us to come forward and say look, from our life experiences this is what we think you guys need to focus on, or these are the things that are important; about being yourself, about negotiation, life is about compromise,” says Ranu. “I feel like my purpose is to help others. I just want to know that I’ve made a difference to someone else’s life. That, for me, is how I deem myself to be successful.”
Opinions expressed are Ranu’s own.