It’s no secret that it takes a lot of different roles and teams to build a hypergrowth company.
We’ve all heard the motivational stories about the sales team securing early deals to keep the lights on, or marketing influencing pipeline by launching a clever guerilla campaign, all while engineering builds something new every day trying to find that perfect product-market fit.
These are the scrappy startup tales that inspire – but who else is in the background making sure the business booms?
I’m talking about the unsung hero – the finance team. Everyone knows the finance team as the group that signs paychecks and approves (or denies…) expenses, but without a dynamic finance team at a startup, there would be no business to grow and no paycheck to sign.
Our finance team at Drift is made up of accountants and analysts, which sounds pretty typical, but they’ll be the first ones to tell you that their day-to-day is anything but typical. Here’s what they had to say about what finance is like at a startup and four reasons why it’s something anyone considering a career change in finance should consider.
1. You Get to Experience Everything Finance Has to Offer
The biggest draw of doing finance at a startup is the wide breadth of experiences it offers everyone on the team. Daily projects range from your standard debits and credits to aiding in an international expansion, or raising funds as the company expands.
“There is always something on the horizon,” said Mark Bokuniewicz, Drift’s Accounting Manager. “No two days are ever the same. You get so much exposure to multiple different facets of both finance and accounting – which is very different from a traditional corporate accounting or finance job where you could be on a team of 25-30 people and working on the same project every day.”
The finance team at Drift is responsible for building processes and workflows that will help the business continue to thrive and grow. This requires the team to be agile and ready to shift priorities at a moment’s notice.
“A role at a startup is especially perfect for someone who is just starting out in their finance career because it allows them to get a sense for both finance and accounting,” Mark said. “It also provides exposure to so many interesting financial experiences that they might not get elsewhere. It can give them a really good idea of what they enjoy and want to focus on down the road in their career.”
Another plus – finance is traditionally thought of as a “back office” job, but not at a startup. For example, our finance team at Drift is employee-facing and constantly interacting with other teams to understand business needs and support all of our different departments, especially as we continue to scale and expand.
2. You Work with a Small, Scrappy Team
Another major advantage to working at a startup versus a larger financial institution is the size of the team.
“Because of the nature of working on a smaller team, I regularly interact with senior leadership, which is something that I did not experience working in the public sector,” said Abbi Ross, Drift’s Senior Accountant. “I talk to our controller multiple times a day (instead of once a month), which is an incredible opportunity because it’s helping me to grow in my role and learn more as a result of that exposure.”
This small team size also allows you to see the finance process from start to finish.
“Every time you start a project you get to see it through all the way to end is a great way to learn more about the financial process. Plus, it’s also a very satisfying feeling,” said Abbi.
3. You Own Your Career Trajectory
At Drift, one of our Leadership Principles is to practice extreme ownership. We take extreme ownership over our goals, our results, and where we take our career.
“At a big firm, your career trajectory is outlined for you from day one. It’s easy to envision where you’ll be in 10 years because it’s the same path for everyone” said Katie Zarinsky, Drift’s Senior Revenue Accountant. “At Drift and in the startup environment in general, you have a lot more say in your career progression. A smaller company gives you the flexibility to take ownership of your career and provides a lot more options in terms of choosing which direction you go in.”
4. You Make a Meaningful Impact
Here’s the thing. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of any job and forget that the work you are doing actually has a tangible impact on the business. But when you’re working at a startup, particularly in finance, you’re able to see the effects of your work almost immediately, which is a powerful motivator.
“In a startup environment, you have the ability to be more strategic and have a much more meaningful impact,” said Greg Swarthout, Drift’s Senior Financial Analyst. “In big organizations, you tend to get in routinized behaviors where you’re doing the same thing over and over. Here at Drift, we’re tackling a lot of different things at any moment, and you need to think about the downstream impact and how it impacts the organization. By tackling projects of this magnitude, you naturally have a more meaningful impact and can see that impact that you have.”
Does this environment sound like one you would thrive in? Our finance team is expanding 💰
“Our applicants typically have a background in big four accounting or strategic finance roles,” said Christina Capracotta, Drift’s Controller, “but the candidates that are the best fits are the ones who are curious, can handle changing priorities, and want to forge their own path.”