November 07, 2011, 12:49 PM — Name: Dan Rosenthal
Time with company: 6 years
Education: Bachelor of Science, electrical engineering; Bachelor of Science, business, Carnegie-Mellon University; MBA, Wharton
Company headquarters: Plano, Texas
Number of countries: Four
Number of employees total: 235
Number the CFO oversees: 17
About the company: Fonality offers cloud-based, open source VoIP, Unified Communications and contact center solutions for small and midsized businesses. Founded in 2004, Fonality has delivered more than 2 billion phone calls across the cloud while enabling more than 1 million users of open-standards based communications software. The company website is http://www.fonality.com.
1. Where did you start in finance and what experiences led you to the job you have today?
I started my career as an engineer, doing product management for a line of custom semiconductors in Silicon Valley. It was quickly obvious that I wasn't nearly a good enough engineer to make it far, but I had an aptitude for looking at the business holistically -- from technology, product, sales, manufacturing, etcetera. So, I went back and got an MBA, did management consulting for tech businesses for a number of years, and then wound up as a venture capital investor evaluating, investing in and managing small technology businesses. After a few years, I thought I'd "put my money where my mouth is" and join a company instead of just investing in them -- that landed me at Fonality when we were just seven people. We all sort of had to pick jobs, and since I happened to be the one with the MBA, I got to be CFO! It was a bit of a learn-on-the-job situation.
2. Who was an influential boss for you and what lessons did they teach you about management and leadership?
First bosses are always very influential and mine was no exception. I worked for a young middle manager at National Semiconductor and he taught me a bunch of things -- especially about how to navigate organizations and work with people who don't work for you, to bring them "into the fold" and get them to do things for you that might not directly be their job. This was important as a product manager, since we didn't directly drive development, sales or manufacturing -- and it's important as a CFO for similar reasons. People don't naturally like sticking to a budget, or thinking though margin implications of design decisions or negotiating investment terms, and it's often my job to help them understand the bigger corporate picture and to participate in the process even if it's not directly their "job."
My first boss also taught me a lot about the importance of work/life balance and getting that right has been something I continue to work on.
3. What are the biggest challenges facing CFOs today?