Corporate Financial Reporting and Systems Administrator

John Hackett

Tell us about your work---what do you do? My department is Corporate Finance & Financial Reporting in an international Fortune 50 company. I serve as administrator for consolidation and reporting systems, specifically Hyperion applications . Some applications are on a local network and others are web based. We bring together financial data from approximately 600 locations from about 50 countries to produce consolidated financial reports for use by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the US Government, the company executives and board of directors , and the shareowners of the corporation. I am also the system administrator for our departmental file and application servers, and I provide support and training in many desktop applications. What skills are needed? Strong understanding of computers and systems , Windows NT, Windows 95, Microsoft Office, Hyperion applications and many others. Strong analytical and troubleshooting skills are necessary to solve problems when they occur. Also, a background in accounting is necessary since the primary software supported is financial in nature. The ability to relate well with many different personalities (strong interpersonal skills) is necessary to provide appropriate support to a large population of users, as well as the ability to speak to a group to lead training classes. Patience is an absolute must. Strong communication skills are needed to convey information that users without system backgrounds can understand. Also, the ability to communicate with many levels of management. It can be intimidating having a meeting with the controller of a $30 billion company! What was your major? Accounting with a minor in French How did you get started in your career? I began as an accountant with a small manufacturing company, performing typical accounting functions as well as network administration for a very small network of users. I earned my Certified Public Accountant ( CPA ) certificate and moved to a position in public accounting to gain the experience required for licensure as a CPA. I decided I really didn't like accounting and was very fortunate to have had a knack for systems. I switched from accounting to my current information technology role. While I use and rely on my accounting skills and background, it is no longer the focus of my work. My background in systems was critical to gaining my current job -- I had never even heard of the systems I was to be administrator for. I was hired based on my ability to learn new systems exceptionally quickly. What experience do you need in this job? An accounting or finance background is essential in order to understand the needs of the users of the systems. A strong ability with and understanding of systems -- how they work, underlying logic, etc. -- is needed. Programming experience can be very helpful in this area. Describe your "typical" workday: One of the reasons I enjoy my job is that my work changes from day to day. There are certain tasks and responsibilities I have that are ongoing, such as monthly system maintenance, but I am frequently working on various projects -- designing and creating web sites, teaching classes, working with users to improve their processes through technology, etc. What is the hardest aspect of your job? The work is challenging, but the hardest, or at least most frustrating, aspect is probably the red tape and politics involved in a large corporate setting. Another challenge is working with difficult people -- those who are never satisfied regardless of what I do. One other tough part is that we have a short deadline to complete our monthly financials -- by the morning of the fifth workday of each month. That generally means the fourth workday is spent pulling an all-nighter at work. I have worked quite a few 22 hour days. What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? My job is to make everyone's work easier, including my own. When I am successful, everyone is happier. I also enjoy the opportunity to learn new skills. For example, before my current position, I had never created a web site before. I have a great deal of independence in my position. What are your suggestions for someone considering this field? Gain as much understanding of systems as you can on as many different systems as you can. Take a programming course or two. Take a course in logic or philosophy. Earning a CPA certificate is beneficial but not necessarily required. Be a nice person.