New at the top: A fork in the road leads to a career building businesses

I reached my fork in the road in law school.

Was I going to be a full-fledged attorney on the partner track at one of the big law firms or embark on a career in business?

I had taken a class on venture capital and the law taught by one of the members of the Cooley Godward team. That’s where I got a full introduction to the business side.

I was also working part time in the financial department at a company. After my first year of law school, they offered me a full-time senior accountant and controller position.

I was torn.

To make the decision, I dug deep and reviewed what my goals in life were.

I knew that it took about seven years to be a partner at one of the bigger, local firms. But I realized I wanted to have an immediate impact on smaller companies.

I decided to take the full-time position while I attended law school part time.

So I officially entered the business track, and I’ve had the bug ever since.

In that first position, I mastered internal accounting from payables to receivables, customer contacts, vendor relationships, internal reporting and helping the management team make decisions based on accounting information.

I eventually wound up at a company called CareFusion after they had been in business for about four years. Within the year and a half I was there, we grew the employee base from 30 to 80 and ended up merging the company.

I was a stabilizing force within the organization, laying in the building blocks for the corporate growth, helping staff meet and achieve their goals and keeping the employee base focused on their own jobs and excitement over the products they were building.

Eventually I was lucky enough to get introduced to the guys at NetWitness in their early days when they had 25 employees and very low revenues.

I was able to help manage the operations and grow the organization to 125 employees. We eventually sold it to EMC and RSA in 2011, which was one of the more substantial exits in the local area as far as the early-stage market.

When I look back, I notice that I’ve always been attracted to innovation, whether it was CareFusion, which created a bar code application for hospitals or NetWitness, which was changing the security space from the network side.

It’s also what attracted me to Invincea, a company that is protecting national interests and enterprise companies.

I saw that it was an innovative company with a true working product and a great managing team.

Now I’m focused on growth for the company.

A big part of my first six months of being here is laying those building blocks so we can achieve significant growth. A lot of times you hear companies talk about growing pains. I believe it is my goal to avoid those pains.

— Interview with Vanessa Small

Dana Duffy

Position: Chief financial officer of Invincea, an Internet threat detection, network breach prevention, and pre-breach forensic intelligence company based in Fairfax.

Career highlights: Chief financial officer, NetWitness; controller and corporate counsel, CareFusion; controller and corporate counsel, Qmobile; controller, GlobalLogic.

Age: 39

Education: BS, business administration, University of New Hampshire; JD, George Mason University School of Law.

Personal: Lives in Reston.

Vanessa Small covers philanthropy and nonprofits for Capital Business. She also spotlights newly appointed executives in the New at the Top column, which chronicles their journeys to the top. Small was raised in Orange County, Ca. and graduated from Howard University.
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