Josh Starr

This article was written by Josh Starr, a Senior FP&A Consultant at DataRails.

I began my career as an Industrial Engineer. However, relatively quickly I realized that I wanted to pivot to a career in Finance, with the end goal of one day becoming a CFO. But after having successfully made the transition to Finance, the opportunity to work at DataRails came up. 

Initially, I was both intrigued and skeptical of the FP&A Customer Success role at DataRails. At the time I had a very clear career trajectory, one that I knew could lead me to one day becoming CFO. So on the one hand, I liked the trajectory I was on. But on the other hand, I had never before come across a position where my skills were such a perfect match for the role. 

Even during the height of the pandemic, I had 3 serious possibilities career-wise: DataRails, and two Director level finance positions. I decided to consult with a leading career consultant, Rachel, who advised me to take the offer at DataRails. She felt my unique skill set would be extraordinarily valuable at DataRails. I listened, and I’m glad I did.

Here is why Rachel was right. 

The Customer Success position at DataRails requires 3 main skills: 

  1. Finance expertise– DataRails is an FP&A tool and the FP&A CSM serves as an FP&A consultant for customers. You get to work with a handful of different individuals from the c-suite of leading organizations and assist them in implementing the DataRails solution for their particular needs and use case. 
  2. Data excellence- Along with expertise in Excel, the FP&A CSM requires a strong understanding of databases and analytics. 
  3. People skills- The FP&A CSM works directly with the customer, so people skills are essential! In addition, there is a softer side of sales where you are constantly showing the value of DataRails to the customer.

Throughout my career in Engineering and Finance I felt I was leveraging my hard skills, but not my personality. By nature, I’m a people person. But in my Finance and Engineering roles, people skills were far less significant.  Maximizing my skills with personality makes working at DataRails my most enjoyable professional experience by far. The ability to make good use of both my hard and soft skills that I’ve acquired over the years is really what makes the role enjoyable for me. I feel that I’m able to fully bring forward my best attributes and leverage them not only to make the most of my time at work, but also to maximize the interactions with and the experiences of my customers. 

I’ve just portrayed how DataRails is a good match for me, and I’m a good match for DataRails. In short, we are a good match. However, there are three additional areas that make working at DataRails so rewarding for me professionally:

  1. Typically working in FP&A, your circle of influence is only within your company. Working with DataRails as a “consultant” enables my impact to be much greater than that. I truly feel that I’m personally impacting many companies. My customers consult with me on many different subjects, and they take my perspective into consideration. This really makes me feel that my sphere of influence is substantial, and extends well beyond the walls of my own organization. 
  2. DataRails is revolutionizing the way finance teams do FPnA. Consequently, we are part of a movement to modernize the way companies manage their finances. Using the DataRails platform is revolutionizing the FP&A industry, and the company is only growing from day to day. I truly feel that I’m a part of something incredible by being a part of the team at DataRails. 
  3. My knowledge of Finance and FP&A has expanded exponentially. Working in finance at two different companies, I was able to master everything I was exposed to. But, my exposure was limited to two companies. I won’t say how many companies I work with now, but I’m exposed to best practices from many different areas. This enables me to act as a much better consultant. I learn from my colleagues and especially from the customers themselves. By acquiring new knowledge and skills, I not only better the customer experience, but I also better myself and my skills and capabilities. 

The boring factor

Within my network of FP&A analysts and professionals, there is a strong sentiment that FP&A can be boring. Not because the subject matter is boring, but because there is so much effort to get to the point of analysis. Setting up consolidated reports, variance analysis, and price volume mix analysis takes so much time. The exciting part is only when everything is set up and you can compare and analyze. Using DataRails, the process becomes seamless and the analysis becomes dynamic. Once the initial setup is conducted, producing financial reports with DataRails becomes a one-click process. 

I personally find the FP&A work to be so much more fun than in the past. FP&A doesn’t have to be boring- using DataRails makes everything seamless and enjoyable. DataRails really gives FP&A work an update by streamlining the parts that take up the most time but also have the least added value. Thanks to DataRails, more time can be spent on the parts that matter most, which include analyzing the data, discovering trends, and pinpointing anomalies. 

Putting it all together

I’m finding work at DataRails to be rewarding both professionally and personally. I feel that both my knowledge and skills are increasing, and I genuinely believe that we are making a global change to a field that today still heavily relies on old practices. What about my career aspiration of becoming a CFO, you may ask? Well, I’m actually acting as a consultant for over 10 CFOs at the moment, so I’d say I’m doing pretty well 🙂 

About DataRails

DataRails is an FP&A solution that allows for the connection and centralization of all organizational financial data from various systems (ERP, GL, CRM) alongside Excel spreadsheets and operational data. It also allows for the creation of automated reports (P&Lcash-flowbudgets, etc.), as well as a thorough analysis of consolidated data for the creation of business and financial insights.