Kendall O'Brien

Group Finance, VP

Location: New Brunswick, NJ

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After working part-time for more than a year, I transitioned into a great full-time job as a Global Finance Director for a large business segment. My children were healthy, happy, and attended the on-site day care center at my company. My husband and I balanced his work with my frequent travel overseas. I had great relationships with people at work.  Life was good. Nothing needed to change, but then something big did.

Sooner than anticipated, the CFO announced he was leaving for a different role. I was not prepared for this news. My plans assumed that I would have one to two more years in my current role before earning a place on the slate for the CFO’s job. Throughout my career, I sought out development opportunities wherever I could make valuable contributions to the business. In fact, I had recently declined a promotion to Vice President that I felt would limit my long-term future. Although I gained some previous positions through lateral moves, half of them were created because I saw the intersection of a critical business need and a personal growth opportunity.

The CFO role was different—a very talented leader was in the role and the promotion would be a significant leap forward. I managed my career through different business environments (consumer, medical and corporate) and cycles (from entrepreneurial start-ups to companies in transition), but was I ready to become the CFO now?

As I questioned taking a risk that could complicate my life, my head cautioned me to wait and allow things to fall into place as they had in the past. My heart was racing, urging me to go for it because I was prepared to take on the challenges of the job. “If not now, then when?” I asked a colleague who suggested that, while I was qualified, there were more experienced people who should be considered. She also added that maybe I could move into a smaller CFO role and work my way up to the CFO job. I felt completely deflated.

Then, the business leader who was supported by the CFO agreed with my plan to pursue the job. Whew! Determined to prove that I was the best candidate for the job, I contacted the Finance leader and insisted that my candidacy be seriously considered. We were both travelling, so a phone call was my only option. Confidence surged from my voice, while the rest of my body trembled with fear.  This was it – I had to take a stand for myself – point, counterpoint in a friendly (but terrifying) debate.

In the end, I earned the CFO role. I demonstrated a confidence in my capabilities that I never expressed. No one said that I did not deserve the role, but the announcement of my new appointment created a bit of a stir. Since then, I have been approached for, and accepted, another promotion. This experience taught me to not be afraid to go after what I want. The worst that could happen is to be told "no.” The best that could happen is to achieve what I want, without regret, and accelerate my impact.