My dad played college basketball and had a very short stint in the NBA, so I grew up being a sports nut. When I went to college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.
I went in as a business major. I always had more of an affinity for math than writing and English. I noticed the accounting majors seemed to be getting jobs quicker when they left school so I gravitated toward becoming an accountant.
I worked for a Big Eight accounting firm at a time when there was a lot of merger activity. I really enjoyed learning about how businesses worked.
I got a call from a recruiter that a cellular communications company was just starting. A cable company had invested in some cellular licenses in some real garden spots. They needed someone to come in and be the controller to set up all the accounting and financial processes around those things.
That’s when I entered telecommunications, eventually working at AT&T, XO Communications and Nextel Communications.
It was something new and exciting. I saw that I could be a part of building something where you knew you were making an impact.
The businesses in those days were growing so quickly, and you would get a lot of responsibility very quickly if you were able to step up to it. Every team I was on would grow or double in very short periods of time. I never experienced that before in my career.
I went from being an accountant with a public accounting firm to being on the front lines of driving a business to make progress.
That was pretty exhilarating.
I eventually arrived at Deltek, where the pace was much the same. We did three acquisitions in nine months. In 15 to 18 months, we transformed the business. As a public company, we had to explain to the analyst community and people externally what we expected would happen as a result of the acquisitions. Actually delivering on those results was rewarding.
A lot of twists and turns led me here. But the skill that crossed the industry boundaries was the ability to be a finance person who could partner with the people on the business side. That served me well. If you can do that as a finance person, it allows you to add value rather than being in the background.
— Interview with Vanessa Small