10 Questions for Gehry Technologies CFO Michael Lin
Name: Michael Lin
Time with company: 4 months
Education: Bachelor of Arts in business administration Hofstra University; MBA Babson College
Company headquarters: Los Angeles
Countries of operation: U.S. China, Hong Kong, Korea, France, UAE, Mexico, Qatar, Brazil
Number of employees total: About 135
Number of employees the CFO oversees: 6
CFO's areas of responsibility: finance, legal, operations and administration, HR
About the company: Gehry Technologies provides design and project management technology and consulting services to building industry professionals globally.
1. Where did you start in finance and what experiences led you to the job you have today?
I started as an equity research analyst for Fidelity Investments in Boston. I moved on to be an analyst at Fidelity's venture capital arm, Fidelity Ventures. This was in the late '90s and as the Internet gained momentum, I decided to join some friends at a startup to help raise capital and build out their finance organization. We ultimately raised $160 million in venture and strategic funding and grew the organization to over 300 employees.
In 2003 I joined another startup, Fast Search & Transfer, and continued down the finance path to become a VP of finance and a board member. We sold Fast in 2008 to Microsoft and I joined another startup as CFO.
So it has been a straightforward, logical career progression that entailed working in startup situations and growing them to be larger companies.
2. Who was an influential boss for you and what lessons did they teach you about management and leadership?
I've been lucky to have great mentorship during my career. One in particular taught me to build great teams, long-term relationships and trust. Making sure that along the way you do what you say you're going to do and to be known as a person who can deliver and get things done. That's something I've always taken with me.
It's important to remember that reputations are critical and they're also very fragile -- maintain a great reputation and it will pay huge dividends for you. That's one takeaway that seems very basic, but sometimes you have to be reminded of that and it's not necessarily easy to do.
3. What are the biggest challenges facing CFOs today?
I tend to think about the scope of what I do as the office of the CFO. It continues to grow and there are a lot of areas that it touches within the organization, and keeping up with it all is quite challenging. It goes beyond accounting and finance -- there's regulatory issues, compliance, technology and many other issues you have to stay abreast of. The landscape continues to shift and staying up to date with it takes a lot of time.
4. What is a good day at work like for you?
A good day is when I enable my customers, the people I service at work, to have good information so that we can make great strategic decisions. A good day for me is being able to provide that for my customers and also being able to look back on decisions we've made and seeing that we've been successful at that. I want to make sure that we're making more good decisions than bad decisions based on the information I provide.
5. How would you characterize your management style?
I try to hire and retain the best people possible. I give individuals a lot of runway to do what they need to do and I provide guidance and mentorship and also help to get rid of obstacles for them to enable them to get their jobs done. I'm definitely not a micromanager and tend to build trusting relationships with the people who work for me and I allow them to have a lot of flexibility in what they do.
On the flip side, I expect a lot of them. But I want to make sure they're able to do their jobs on a day-to-day basis.
6. What strengths and qualities do you look for in job candidates?
I like to look for things like raw talent. It doesn't necessarily have to be in the specific discipline in which we're hiring. I look for people who are just good at doing things. That tends to translate into success. I try to gauge that they have a good work ethic, that they're driven, creative thinkers.
Ultimately, I try to see if I think they will be a good fit. I think fit is important above all else. I want to make sure they're a good fit within the corporation, within the culture. They don't have to agree with me about things, but it's important that we find people who are good at those things [I've mentioned].
7. What are some of your favorite interview questions or techniques to elicit information to determine whether a candidate will be successful at your company? What sort of answers send up red flags for you and make you think a job candidate wouldn't be a good fit?
One technique I like to use is to throw a curveball at candidates by trying to throw them off a little bit. That could be done in a lot of different ways. I could show up late. I could try to challenge them to find their breaking point on things. I just try to do things a little differently to see how they react. Business is like that, you have challenging circumstances and seeing how people react to that can tell you a lot.
What I don't like is when someone gives very canned answers that I would call like apple pie, just fluffy, feel-good answers. That's a sign that a person wouldn't fit well in my organization. Those are the ones that you know they're just reading off a script and you don't want people like that on your team.
8. What is it about your current job, at this particular company, that sets it apart from other chief finance positions?
I wouldn't say the job is typical, but I think we encounter a lot of the same issues. But I'm dealing with a hyper-growth situation in a technology company and just being able to keep up with that growth is challenging. It's about scaling the organization, putting in the right processes, having governance and having technology that supports the organization.
That's what I have to deal with and the problems I need to solve on a daily basis.
9. What do you do to unwind from a hectic day?
It's pretty simple. I have three young kids at home. They are my therapy, going home to my kids. Just in terms of the simple things they do helps put things into perspective for me.
10. If you weren't doing this job, what would you be doing?
Baseball is a passion of mine and I love business. It would be great to do something that involves the business side of baseball.