This week’s Rising Star is CFO at architecture firm A2SO4- Indystar.com / Business Section
When most teens were out spending every dime from their latest paycheck, Felicia Brown was sticking to a budget. The 39-year-old began keeping a budget in high school — not only to save money, but also to keep track of what she was spending.
“I have always known that I wanted my career to be in the financial field,” she said.
She previously worked for Girl Scouts of Indiana, Simon Property Group and, most recently, for WellPoint as a financial analyst. Brown loved her job at WellPoint but realized she wanted to oversee all aspects of a company’s financial status.
She became the controller at architectural firm A2SO4 and recently was named chief financial officer there when company owners realized her duties fit more appropriately with that job title.
Instead of a personal budget (which she still has), Brown now keeps track of A2SO4′s finances.
“I have always been in love with budgeting money, saving money and looking to make a better financial future,” she said.
How did you manage to stand out in a crowd and advance quickly in your career?
Throughout my career, I’ve always had great mentors. Through those mentors, I was able to adapt and learn quickly, which led me to take on more challenges and responsibilities.
What was your first job or entrepreneurial experience? How did it impact your future?
I worked while I was in high school, and my first job was as a waitress at Pizza Hut. I wasn’t making much and was always wondering where all the money went after I got paid. I developed a budget for myself and allocated so much for gas, food, shopping and savings. I decided that if I wrote things down and stuck to my plan or budget, then I would always know where my paycheck went, and this would help me plan for things down the road. I think this is one of the things that started me in the financial field. Budgeting and projecting for the future, then from there my interest in finance became more profound as something I wanted to continue in.
What’s the toughest mistake you ever made, and what did you learn from it?
The biggest mistake I ever made is working for a company that doesn’t value their employees but wanted you to sacrifice everything for the sake of the company. I know how that feels, and as a member of the executive staff of A2SO4, we value all of our employees.
How important is it to have a mentor? Did anyone in particular help you advance in your career?
My mentor is Pat Kern. She was the CFO of Girl Scouts of Indiana. Before I came to work at A2SO4, I talked to Pat to get her thoughts. She encouraged me to decide if this was something that I wanted and how it would affect my family. I noticed that being the CFO of Girl Scouts, Pat came to work early and worked really late. I knew there would be some sacrifices that I was going to have to make. I think it’s so important to have a mentor, especially someone who is in your field and has already been down the road that you are trying to go. You can bounce ideas off each other and get advice.
What advice would you give to young people trying to get started in the accounting/finance industry?
Anyone who wants to start a career in the financial field should know that this industry is extremely competitive and there will be sacrifices that you will have to make. You have to be confident, accountable, efficient and always a team player for the company that you work for. I would encourage the people who are getting started to never give up, be aggressive in what you are trying to accomplish and go after it.