I was 61 / 2 years into my accounting career and driving home one Friday afternoon when I got a phone call. It was a buddy of mine seeing if I was interested in a new opportunity. I had no idea that this was about to be the opportunity of a lifetime.
My career up until that point was thriving. I started at PricewaterhouseCoopers in the Baltimore office, focusing on a hodgepodge of different areas including capital markets and financial services.
I really cared about my work. It was more than just a job to me. I would stay up late at night if I knew something was unresolved. I would show up at work at 6 a.m. if I knew there was a critical issue involving a client.
I got the hard work ethic from my father. He was from Athens, Greece, and came to the United States on the Marshall Plan. He opened up his own practice as a cardiovascular surgeon and retired at 75 years old. He made a lot of sacrifices to provide for our family.
My time at PricewaterhouseCoopers began to accelerate when I took on some larger clients with complex accounting matters. I had to consult with other practice leaders and share the solutions or approaches. Once I started forging these relationships, it started opening doors.
I was eventually selected to enter a program at the national office for higher performers. I went into our Securities and Exchange Commission services practice, and we looked at every SEC filing for every financial institution that was in the PwC portfolio. That was my first step to understanding the high-level material.
It was a two-year program, but one year into it, I was driving home and got that call.
At the time, I had no idea which company it was, but once I got down here, they said Dan Snyder was looking for a vice president of finance for the Washington Redskins.
I just about fell out of my seat. I was a diehard fan.
I was young at the time, but I felt pretty confident in my skill set. So I went to work for the Washington Redskins, and within three months, I got the title of chief financial officer.
I rebuilt my team there and hired a large group of guys and gals from PwC and other hardworking people I knew. We closed some big sponsorship deals. We stimulated a whole new line of business bringing college football games, concerts and special events to FedEx Field, generating some favorable economics.
Then, earlier this year, my father-in-law and I were out golfing on a Sunday. I got paired up with the chief executive of Guest Services.
We started talking about non-work-related stuff. Then he asked me what I did. I told him I was the chief financial officer of the Redskins. He said: “That’s funny. I was the chief financial officer of the Redskins.” He had worked under Jack Kent Cooke. I asked if I could have one of his Super Bowl rings. He respectfully declined.
We continued the conversations over some lunches and more golf matches.
When he invited me to his team, I saw this was the opportunity to take the next step in my career. The company has morals and values that really resonated with my career and my life. After all, they are one and the same.
—Interview with Vanessa Small
Position: Chief financial officer and vice president of Guest Services, a hospitality management company based in Fairfax
Career highlights: Chief financial officer, Washington Redskins; Securities and Exchange Commission Group, PricewaterhouseCoopers
Education: BS, accounting, Pennsylvania State University; certified public accountant
Personal: Lives in Potomac Falls with wife Heather and three daughters, Alexis, Kendall and Vanessa