#022: The Key Ingredients For Storytelling With The Numbers

with Geetanjali Tandon

Our Guest Mentor:

Geetanjali Tandon has 15+ years of experience in corporate finance specifically in Financial Planning and Analysis and currently is Global IT Finance Lead at Monsanto an agrochemical & agricultural biotechnology corporation, which involves the strategic planning & analysis, decision support & financial management of a $0.5bn+ IT budget.

Although not an engineer or scientist Geetanjali loves working with numbers, in particular how they tell a story and what the story is behind them. In fact you can find many of her thoughts on the subject at her blog space “Big Data and FP&A” which is about how big data is changing the world of financial planning and analytics.

Originally from India, Geetanjali is now based out of St. Louis, Missouri in the U.S. and holds two Masters degrees, the first in Agricultural Economics as well as an MBA from Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business where she graduated as valedictorian.

Key Quotes From the Episode:

 “IT [Information Technology] is a very interesting area because today every company has an IT function which is moving from a back office to a front office area so important for businesses today .” [05:18]

“When you’re moving to a new function . . . take the time to listen, listen when you’re in meetings, listen when you are with people that are experts and find experts, ask them the questions of who are the experts in the organisation and go and talk to them about their function..” [05:29]

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Asking questions is important it doesn’t matter where you are in the journey of becoming a functional business partner.” [05:54]

“No question is stupid you really need to ask the questions.” [06:53]

“We can’t keep coming up with different metrics every time we meet the same people, we have to get them used to the same metrics.” [12:00]

“Go talk to them, get their draft feedback on it [your analysis and really see what questions they are asking to see if you are getting the story across, what’s missing?” [22:31]

“Finance is at the crux of becoming your analytics champions for the company. We’ve awyas worked with data, finance people have dealt with data throughout whether we call it as accountants or as FP&A professionals but we are the ones who work with numbers and we’re the ones who’ve found trends in numbers and really be able to present a holistic picture.” [23:10]

“We can become the translators between the business and data scientists because we can help translate the needs of the business to data statisticians and data scientists.” [24:02]

“Take a moment and step back, sometimes we are so in love with what we do, especially some of us who love numbers, we just want to go ahead and dive into the analytics, and go and present this thing . . . take a step back, look at the bigger picture and understand what are you really trying to do before you delve into things . . .it helps you narrow down and focus what you really need to do and helps you understand whether do I really need to do this at the level I’m doing or can I do it very quickly by proving it out before I request the 20 years’ worth of data.” [26:49]

“You don’t need to look at failure as something we should forget, you need to look at failures as how can I make success out of these failures . . . in our lives there are enough times where hey there’s a mistake in or analysis, we’ve all seen how Excel breaks down and the links don’t work or you go into a presentation and hey, you know what, you just didn’t get the message across or the audience was looking for something else or you did not look at a certain thing that came up, so how do I learn from those failures and come back up and do a better job next time.” [29:51]

“Maybe because in Finance we pride ourselves on being so accurate and detailed and getting things right it’s hard for us to perhaps accept sometimes when we’re wrong but the fact of the matter is that some of our best lessons, if we choose to accept them as lessons come from failing at things and developing creative solutions.” [31:00]

“Even if you think about opportunities in operations to improve, looking at their bottlenecks, bottlenecks come out because of failures and if you help improve those bottlenecks then you can help improve the business’ results and people will thank you for it and you can make an impact, but we can also choose to do the same in our own careers. Acknowledge perhaps when we’ve not hit the levels we want or we’re struggling that’s a time to ask different questions or reflect on what we can learn from it.” [31:26]

 (Other resources and how to connect with Geetanjali below).

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Key Points From the Episode:

  • The key ingredients to make an impact with storytelling.
  • The 3 things we can do to be better translators of business needs.
  • Outlines why it’s really important to take the time to understand where your audience is and some useful questions they are thinking about.
  • One simple technique to do before doing before finally presenting your analysis.
  • Shares 3 small steps to avoid getting surprised by digital disruption.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

[03:38] – Geetanjali’s tips on how to better understand

  • how best to apply her finance skills to translate what it means for the financials; and
  • how to be the most valuable business partner.

[05:18] – Why IT is interesting to be involved with today.

[05:29] – The steps to take when you move to a new area/function to get up to speed quickly.

[05:54] – Why it’s important to ask questions.

[07:27] – How your career stage influences the length to time to understand a function.

[08:53] – The biggest challenge her IT business partners are facing.

[09:08] – How IT industry expenditure & buying patterns have changed and what it means for the whole business.

[11:24] – Outlines why it’s really important to take the time to understand where your audience is and some useful questions they are thinking about.

[12:38] – Uses of example of explaining impact of cloud computing on departments’ expenses.

[15:04] – The key ingredients to make an impact with storytelling.

[19:56] – Shares different audience expectations (R&D vs. Finance) for IT expense.

[21:58] – One simple technique to do before doing before finally presenting your analysis.

[23:06] – What’s exciting Geetanjali most about the future of finance & accounting.

[24:00] – The opportunity for Finance if we want it.

[24:26] – The 3 things we can do to be better translators of business needs:

  • Understand analytics
  • Partner with compliance experts
  • Work with data scientists

[26:43] – The best bit of advice she’s ever received.

[27:18] – Why you should always be ready to do back of the envelop calculations.

[29:12] – The movie she would recommend accountants & finance professionals

[29:51] – Explores the idea of successful failure

[30:28] – Bottlenecks as opportunities to make an impact at work and in our careers.

[32:22] – The one thing she’d change about finance & accounting to avoid being disrupted

[34:03] – 3 Small steps to avoid getting surprised by digital disruption.

Resources Mentioned:

  • Apollo 13 (Docudrama 1995) directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise, and Ed Harris

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