Office Hours: I’m the ‘smart frugal’ CFO of Front, a Sequoia-backed tech startup dedicated to making work happier. I’m Jenny Decker. AMA!Featured

Hi Elphas!

I’m Jenny Decker and I am the Chief Financial Officer at Front.

Front is on a mission to help companies enable better relationships at scale. We combine the simplicity of email with the intelligence of a CRM, so you can make your customers feel like one in a million. We have raised $138.3 million in funding from respected firms like Sequoia Capital, as well as independent investors including top executives of Atlassian, Okta, Qualtrics, and Zoom. We are serving 7,000+ companies around the globe through our communication hub, including Shopify, CultureAmp, and more!

I started my career as an analyst at an investment bank and later an investor at two different funds. I was confident that working inside a company would make me a better investor. That led me to Atlassian where I spent a total of six years! Right before joining Front, I was the Head of Corporate, R&D, S&M, G&A Finance and Strategy at Atlassian. Now, I am a customer-obsessed CFO and I am determined to keep our customers’ best interests top of mind and help our organization grow in the right way. I also love working inside a company and am here to stay.

I lived in NYC and Boston in the early days of my career and loved exploring the wildly different East Coast, but now I am in San Francisco and I am here to stay.

Ask me about: fundraising, investing, diversity in the C-suite, finance leadership, startup life vs. large corporations, being a working mom, my career journey, or anything else!

Thanks so much for joining us @jennydecker!Elphas – please ask @jennydecker your questions before Friday, April 1st. @jennydecker may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
^ Hello Elphas - Just a quick update: @jennydecker will be answering your questions on Monday, April 11th - so you have an extra week to get your questions in! 🌺
Hello @jennydecker and thank you for your time! I'd love to hear your advice on the best strategies for crossing into a different line of work within an organization/field. I have been on the Sales and Occupancy side of Healthcare for several years but find myself drawn to projects more relevant to Operations, Customer Success and Implementation, and Project Management. From your perspective what's the best way to navigate this desire to fully pivot into a different area where one could bring similar skillsets but without much direct experience?
Hi Ashley!A few thoughts here:1) When you're invited on to a rocket ship, jump on! There are many things you can optimize for when taking a job -- for me, one of them is the quality of the company and how fast they are growing. Once you have proven yourself in your current role and gained the trust of those around you, opportunities at rapid growth companies will generally present themselves (though you also need to put in the leg work and seek them out), even if you don't have direct experience. Based on my success in finance, I was offered a role in product management, data analytics, strategy, etc. even though my passion lied in finance. One of my other favorite success stories is the receptionist at Atlassian grew her career into becoming a very success product marketer. It's absolutely doable but I suggest trying it at a company that already trusts you!2) Don't be shy about taking a junior role and climbing the ranks quickly based on your experience in another field. Remember that careers are very long and "setting yourself back" a few years, a few titles, or pay will typically pay for itself over the years.3) Finally, career story arcs are written in hindsight. While my story sounds very linear and pre-meditated, I can assure you it wasn't. I had my own uncertainties when I pivoted. Trust that you'll be able to write a story arc that makes sense at the end (provided of course that it's not littered with a lot of short stints in too many disparate areas).
Hi @jennydecker, thank you so much for doing this office hour! I use Front on a daily basis and absolute love it! Being a woman working in Finance in the start-up world, could you share your experience in obtaining mentoring and guidance and what you found was the most helpful in helping you achieve your goals and get you where you are today? I would also love to hear how you balance work and personal life being a working mom.
Hi Prissily,Thank YOU for being a customer! We couldn’t be here without you.If you can find a mentor who is both a woman and an expert in your field, you have a winning combination. For me, I did not try to find it in one person. In fact, many of the best mentors I’ve had in my career have been men. For background, I worked under four very talented CFOs. One is my mentor — I meet with him on the first Tuesday of every month, and more frequently if needed.I also have two peer groups I turn to for advice. One is a peer group of highly ambitious women in finance and tech (two fields I have worked in). They help give me perspective outside in, especially if I need a check on gender-related items. The other is a peer group of start-up finance professionals that provide advice relative to my companies’ stage of growth in this moment in time.In short, it’s quality over quantity, but it’s also important to have different audiences where I can ask different questions. These mentors/networks took time to develop; it’s okay if you don’t have all of them at once. You do not need to go LinkedIn surfing to find these mentors but you also have to expend some effort in cultivating these relationships.As for balancing work & personal life, I have asked this of my female peers. One commonality that we are all extremely fortunate to have is a supportive partner. If there’s one thing that you can do, it’s having a partner who will lean out when you’re leaning in, whether that’s within a day, a month, or a year. This does not mean a partner who is a stay-at-home; it just means someone who understands and will prioritize your time when you need it (and vice versa).
Hi Jenny, thanks for doing this AMA! In your finance career, what skills/experiences that you have gained have had the biggest impact?
Hi Megan,You do need to first learn what I call the technical skillsets for your role. For me, that included learning how to read financial statements, building robust financial models, understanding SaaS metrics (definitions, what’s good vs. great, etc.), how to structure teams and organizations at different size/scale, etc. Building a solid foundation with pattern recognition here is critical to success.Then there’s the qualitative, which you gain via experience. For example, learning how to work cross-functionally inside a company, collaborating and obtaining buy-in, but not letting consensus-building block you from getting things done. Or how to build, manage and inspire a team.Specifically, in terms of experiences, I acquired my technical skillset as an investor and then rose through the ranks in FP&A. I also used my role to become “very dangerous” in adjacent areas such as accounting, tax, investor relation,, legal, etc. so that I could broaden my scope later in my career. I acquired the qualitative via the teams and partnerships I had and the companies I joined. I gravitated to roles where I worked on a team with cross-functional partners in Engineering, Product, Design, Marketing, Sales, etc. I also gravitated to companies that were in rapid growth so I could accelerate my learning of what systems, teams, and processes you need to put in place as you grow or as you go from being a private startup to a public company.
What does it mean to you to be a customer obsessed CFO?
First and foremost, I define 'customer' as internal and external. As an investor, I used to rank in order of importance: investors, external customers, employees. Since working inside a company, I have shifted to: employees, external customers, then investors. Happy employees will lead to happy external customers which will lead to happy investors. This does not mean that I operate without believing in the company or product we are selling or being financially efficient. I also believe in hearing from your external customers whenever you can. Whether that’s talking to customers or reading feedback from your customers on issues that are big or small — billing questions, sales pitches, customer advisory board — it will help with everything I do, including how I position the company to investors and how I allocate resources within a company. It’s also important to make it as frictionless as possible for customers to expand usage of our product and will obsess about this. To me, it means that I am obsessed with the employee experience and the external customer experience.
Hi @jennydecker I am looking to transition from working for larger corporations to startup organizations. What advice would you give for this transition? What skills / attributes are key in making that transition? Thank you for taking the time to share your experience!
Thanks for your question, Stephanie! In almost every role I have hired, the ideal candidate for us is someone with both large company and small company experience. We want employees with large company experience because they can see around corners and have seen scale. We want employees with small company experience because we know you can operate effectively without a lot of infrastructure, resources, or processes.If you have only worked at a larger corporation, emphasize the former (that you know what comes next) and ensure you can point to projects or aspects in your life where you operated when the data was messy, teams weren’t resourced, where you needed to be extremely scrappy and roll up your sleeves, be a player-coach, etc.Remember: careers are long. I would suggest transitioning to a larger, well-respected company before going smaller if you aren’t already at one? For those in tech, it’s the Salesforce, Microsoft, Meta, etc. of the world.As for where you go next, I suggest going to a smaller company but make sure it’s not so small that you can’t leverage your strengths.
Thank you so much for the feedback!
Hi Jenny! Do you have any 'smart frugal' tips for early-stage founders who are bootstrapping their startups? Thanks!
Hi Tessa! Thanks for your question. Here are some of my tips:- Don’t let the minutia bog you down. At some point, you have to let go of the small things and look at the big things in order for your business to grow. For example, don’t negotiate every contract even though there is a possibility of extracting more money; time is your most precious resource.- Don’t be penny-wise, pound-foolish. Yes, it’s fine to invest in a foosball table for your team but be mindful of these smaller transactions that can affect larger amounts of money. Always create a budget or forecast of your business needs so you can accurately monitor and manage your investments. - Guidelines vs policies. Policies are important for creating consistency and growth, but they should not stifle your team's culture. Know the difference between your non-negotiables (policies) and areas that can be left to your employees' best judgment (guidelines). - Lead by example. Get your hands dirty, acknowledge the wins (and failures!), and listen to your team. Leadership only succeeds when it shows others how to extend and push for greatness — your team should look to you and think “if she can do it, so can I.”
Thanks for taking your time out to respond Jenny, this is super helpful!