Amy Vetter - Global VP of Education and Head of Accounting, Xero

Balance, flexibility and success: A CGMA perspective

Amy Vetter, CPA, CITP, CGMA, is global vice president for education and learning and head of accounting for Xero, a cloud-based accounting software provider. She oversees employees across the globe and travels extensively, meeting with customers and speaking at conferences. She is married and has two school-age children. She also owns a yoga studio where she teaches in her spare time. Wait—she has spare time? Read how Amy does it in the Q&A below.

Why is balance important?
I’m a type A person—very driven in my profession and passionate about what I do. I discovered yoga while I was pregnant with my second child. I wasn’t able to do fast-paced exercises like running and boot camp. So I went to a beginner yoga class. There, I discovered the benefits of having not just my body but my life more balanced—not working weekends and evenings and balancing better between work, family, and personal life (the things I need to feel whole). Helping others through yoga is part of that. As a result, I’m more effective at my work and everything else.

How do you effectively manage so many different things?
Cloud technology gives me the flexibility to run my yoga studio while serving as global vice president for Xero. I taught the staff at the studio to utilize applications that allow me to see the studio’s finance and operating performance in real time. I can go online and check cash flow and class registrations when I’ve got free moments or in the evening—even if I’m in another country. The applications also allow me to collaborate with the staff at any time.

What’s your key to success?
Take risks. This is the most exciting time ever in the accounting profession. Don’t look at the way things have been done in the past and say, “Oh, I don't know….” It’s the time to take risks, and try new things, and really set yourself apart.

Why is risk taking more appropriate now than in the past?
Our greatest challenge used to be getting the data needed to manage a business. Compiling and reporting on historic data was technically challenging but not very risky. Now, technology allows us to access the data in real time, and management needs an adviser—a CGMA—who can interpret that data and connect it to strategy. This is why both business analysis and communication skills are so vital for today’s management accountants. We read the technical data and translate it into language—actionable steps to improve results—that others can use. It’s riskier because we’re making assumptions about the future. But our advice is grounded in high levels of professional knowledge across all aspects of the business and we need to be confident in that.

What advice can you offer on leadership?
If you want to move into leadership positions, you need to set clear, actionable goals and a path forward to achieve those goals. Find an experienced mentor who can coach you and help you develop the skills you need. Seek honest feedback from colleagues. At Xero we do a 360° survey that includes feedback from not just managers, but coworkers and direct reports as well. It’s completely anonymous and gives you the perspective you need to understand what you’re doing well and what you need to adjust.

How do you implement difficult changes?
The most important thing is to listen and not to go straight to the answer—even when you think you know what it’s going to be. This will allow you to understand each person’s perspective, pain points, and what they are trying to achieve. You’ll discover things you didn’t know, ultimately making you a more informed decision-maker and more effective communicator.