Cary J. Claiborne

Position: Chief financial officer, Sucampo Pharmaceuticals, an international pharmaceutical company based in Bethesda.

Career highlights: President and chief executive, New Generation Biofuels; chief financial officer, Osiris Therapeutics; vice president of financial planning and analysis, The Home Depot; vice president of financial planning and analysis, MCI; president and chief executive of new enterprise wholesale services, General Electric.

Age: 51

Education: BA, business administration, Rutgers University; MBA, finance, Villanova University.

Personal: Lives in Ellicott City with wife Beverly and children Cary Jr., Talia and Cameron.

Cary Claiborne, CFO, Sucampo (Philip Taciak)

I always knew I wanted a career in finance. When I was 8 years old, I wrote a weekly newspaper column called Kid’s Stuff in a South Jersey newspaper. It became very popular. I made $5 each week. But more than the writing, I would think about what to do with the money I earned.

After college, what attracted me to General Electric was its financial management program, where you worked in all aspects of finance in six-month rotations during a 2 1 / 2-year period. I got my start there in the international division in New York City and ended up in the aerospace business.

As defense budgets started getting cut, growth was slowing, so I moved to GE Capital, which was its big financial services business. I ran a financial planning and analysis unit there, which covered $200 billion in assets in 30 different business units.

I started developing a reputation for being a problem solver. Even at companies as successful as GE, there are lots of problems. And when those problems arise, companies tend to seek out those who have built a track record for solving problems.

I would take the tougher assignments. You can’t demonstrate that you’re a great pilot if the plane is on autopilot. There were a number of businesses in GE that I had the opportunity to see but were on auto­pilot — doing well, cranking out earnings, growing 10 percent each year, but not really challenging to me.

I eventually went into a chief financial position in a start-up venture at GE that would utilize its purchasing power to offer better prices for small businesses.

It was great to have start-up experience and work for a huge company at the same time. It gave me a passion for building a business from the ground up.

At GE, I moved quite a bit. I was looking for something stable. MCI presented an opportunity in Washington. It was an officer position in an industry that I started to like from working in telecommunications at GE.

It was a tough decision, but after 15 years at GE, I transitioned to MCI to build financial analysis and planning, where I was pretty involved in helping MCI get the best price for the deal in merging with WorldCom.

After a stint at The Home Depot, I moved back to this area for Constellation Energy, where I spent three years helping turn around the company in terms of communications with Wall Street. This was right after Enron’s issues, and people didn’t really understand or believe in what diversified energy companies were doing at the time. That experience prepared me to be a chief financial officer of a stand-alone company — and that’s what I was looking for. So I transitioned to that position at Osiris Therapeutics, where I helped the company grow.

As you get older, you start looking back on your legacy of what you did to help. That’s what I like about Sucampo. It has a really unique opportunity with a compelling business model to bring products to people with unmet medical needs. That impacts many peoples’ lives and makes a difference.

— Interview with Vanessa Small