Making CFO was a goal that Susan Robertson had from the moment she started working in industry because she saw it as the most interesting job in finance. Her long career at The BOC Group (she was there for 18 years) helped her to develop the skillset of a CFO and she benefitted from collaborating with experts in different areas of finance and business. This background in working for a large company has helped enormously in her current role, she says. “The experience of seeing and doing so many different things has been vital for me.”
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During her time at The BOC Group, Susan spent five years in Japan setting up a joint venture and serving as its Vice President and CFO. “You learn so much from the experience,” she says. “Japan has such a different way of doing business. When you go into an environment where people do things in a different way, it challenges your thinking.”
Susan’s role at Oxford Catalysts is very broad, which is one of the things she likes about it. Besides overseeing finance, she is also Company Secretary and has responsibility for HR and the general management of the company’s catalyst laboratory in Oxford. “A lot of the issues are about people. How do we get the right people in the right place at the right time doing the right things? I spend more time with people than on numbers.”
Inevitably, juggling a wide range of responsibilities brings pressures with it, particularly relating to time management. Besides the workload that comes with finance, general management can present unexpected issues that need to be resolved. “One of the immediate challenges is being able to step back and look at things from a high level,” says Susan.
When she’s confronted with a business issue, Susan is a great believer in jotting down all her thoughts on the subject on one piece of paper. “With a problem, being able to summarise the key things that are important is very useful. Otherwise you can get bogged down.” She advises go-getting finance professionals to “take all the opportunities that you can”. She adds: “If you’re ambitious and want to move on, yes, look at what you do next. But also do a good job now.”