New at the Top
Position: Executive vice president and chief financial officer, SRA International.
Education: BS and MS, accounting, University of Virginia.
Personal: Lives in Vienna with his wife, Stacey. The couple has three children.
How did you get to where you are?
My father was a concrete contractor, and when I went to college, I intended to become a contractor as well. As an accounting major, I was heavily influenced by one of my Theta Chi fraternity brothers to get a job at an accounting firm known as Arthur Andersen.
Many of the senior partners at Arthur Andersen took time to advise me. One mentor really challenged me to envision the final product before focusing on the details, and to work through the task by thinking backward from the final product, step by step.
Another mentor assigned me to various companies such as SRA and exposed me to successful executives at those companies. The senior partners at Andersen are interested in developing the organization and its future leaders.
I was able to progress through mentoring and because I was interested in being effective and efficient. By the time I left the firm, I was an audit partner and practice director primarily responsible for audits of financial statements, quality assurance and risk-management responsibilities for the mid-Atlantic region.
Later, I switched over to another accounting firm, KPMG, as an audit partner, prior to moving to Colt Defense as chief financial officer. There, the decisions I made had a more profound impact on the business and its employees. It was imperative that I be a good listener, take responsibility as a leader and spend time with those who depended on my leadership. In accounting, honesty and ethical behavior are critical.
Perhaps it was those skills that propelled me into my next position as chief financial officer of the Mills Corp. The company was under investigation by its board of directors and the Securities and Exchange Commission. I was recruited to fix and remediate the issue. We filed accounting restatements, and eventually Simon Properties acquired Mills. The whole process required long hours and lots of coordination. It was the same with my move to chief financial officer of Sunrise Senior Living. The company was being inspected by the SEC. There's a lot of pressure to get things fixed and internal controls corrected.
SRA asked me to interview due to my experience as a finance chief, in government contracting and with the company itself. The accounting industry and government contracting are doing well. SRA has very strong cash flow and very low leverage financially.
-- Charity Brown
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