Nadine Pichelot, Senior Vice President of Finance at Anaplan

Nadine Pichelot has spent 25 years working in Finance and Operations leadership positions, always partnering with the business in large international organisations.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background, and your current role?

I have over 35 years of experience in finance and operational roles. I spent most of my career in large, international technology organisations, progressively advancing to positions such as Vice President, Senior Vice President, and eventually Chief Financial Officer (CFO). During my time at T-Systems, I was the CFO of the entire French division. For the last 8 years, I’ve been a part of the global finance organisation at Anaplan – we provide customers around the world with a platform for connected planning and intelligent forecasting. I am currently the SVP of Finance for the global organisation. Last year I also took on the role of interim CFO as we conducted a search for new leadership. Having my name put forward for the interim CFO role felt like a testament to my leadership skills and the organisation’s trust in me.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I love this question. I never strictly planned my career – it has always been about following my intuition. When I first embarked on this journey, the circumstances were vastly different. I did not have platforms like LinkedIn for making connections, nor could I Google every opportunity to find a wealth of information to guide my decisions. It felt like I was on my own, and it was entirely up to me to make the right choices. While I did attend business school, it didn’t necessarily equip us with the skills to manage our careers! So, I always strove to do what felt right and considered to be a driving force for my career, one step at a time. This approach often involved taking risks and occasionally choosing options that may not have appeared sensible, but for me, it was important that I continuously learn and maintain control. It is this ethos that has helped me get to where I am today.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Throughout my career, I’ve always found myself most challenged when I had the sensation of not fitting in. I’m not daunted by professional hardships if I feel I am in the right place. But there have been instances when the culture of a company didn’t align with my own values. I’m accustomed to having my workload and skills pushed to the limit, but when my ethics, beliefs, and values are put into question, that is when I find it hard to keep going. In such circumstances, I noticed my well-being and health suffered, and even my family could sense that something was amiss.

These experiences led me to realise the importance of prioritising organisational culture when exploring new opportunities. The culture must not only resonate with your work style but also with who you are as an individual. Again, for me, it all comes down to intuition: when it comes to culture, if it doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My greatest source of pride is that I have not compromised my values to get to where I am today. I’ve always prioritised opportunities that felt personally right, which has allowed me to build a legacy that I can reflect upon without guilt or regret.

Throughout my career, I’ve built strong connections, created and sustained cultures that value people and collaboration, and invested in my own brand as a female leader in finance and technology. And it has paid off. For instance, last year, when Anaplan, my current organisation, was looking for an interim CFO, my name was put forward. I had the opportunity to step in and lead the finance function of a global company, which is an accomplishment I’m very proud of.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in your achieving success?

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a very intuitive person. I have a strong innate sense of what is right and wrong, and this intuition has guided me throughout my career, leading to some of the best decisions in my life.

This might surprise you as I’m a finance professional, but I’m also a natural risk-taker. I do not shy away from challenges or ventures outside of my comfort zone; in fact, these are the situations that motivate me. This inclination for risk-taking has proven to be immensely valuable throughout my career.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Never lose sight of a customer-centric approach. Even if your role is not client-facing, it is crucial to focus on delivering value to the customer – that’s the ultimate aim of your position, and you should always keep that long-term goal in mind.

Be a great business partner. Aim to build relationships with other leaders across your organisation. Honour the commitments you make, put your hand up whenever possible, and always maintain open communication.

Finally, invest in your personal brand. Focus on who you want to be as a leader, provide the support you would need from a mentor, and stand by your colleagues in the same way you would want them to stand by you. Position yourself in a way that aligns with how you want others to perceive you.

What barriers for women working in tech are still to be overcome?

Women face unique challenges when trying to break into tech, especially in finance roles. Firstly, there is a strong belief/myth that these roles often involve a significant number of complex calculations, requiring strong mathematical skills to succeed. Unfortunately, the way young women are socialised often discourages them from pursuing maths and sciences in education. I would also add that maths and sciences are not always taught effectively across Europe and worldwide, which often impacts young women more than men.

This perspective might seem a bit far-reaching, but I genuinely believe the roots of these challenges start at a young age, and we should be addressing them at their source. We need to implement better systems to educate young women and empower them to envision themselves as leaders, experts, and professionals across traditionally “masculine” domains. Until then, these obstacles will persist for women in finance roles in the tech sector.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

Implementing specific policies is crucial to support women in the workplace. Women struggle disproportionately with imposter syndrome and a feeling of inferiority compared to their male counterparts, who tend to be promoted faster and more often. Women in the workforce were also disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Moreover, childcare continues to be a significant barrier for women striving to progress in their careers.

Organisations must focus on policies that empower women and provide the additional support they need to succeed in circumstances where male colleagues are often favoured. From pay equity and childcare support to paid nurseries, extended maternity and paternity leave, there are many ways companies can enhance their recognition and support of women in the workplace.

In an ideal world, how would you improve gender diversity in tech?

For me, improvement begins with better representation, particularly in education. Female leaders who have achieved success in the workforce can serve as role models for young women in education. Women in finance and technology roles should visit schools to talk about their professional lives and share the motivations behind their careers. This can help the younger generation conceptualise their experiences better and envision themselves in leadership roles, inspiring them to pursue top-tier roles in their future careers.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

There is a broad range of networking events targeted at women today. I would strongly encourage participation in these events as they provide excellent opportunities for networking and learning from other women in the industry. It’s crucial to learn to ask for help: this isn’t a sign of weakness.

I’m also a strong advocate of mentorship. Finding a mentor, perhaps someone outside your company but within your industry, can be extremely beneficial. Such a person can give you honest feedback and advice, and potentially open the door to new opportunities.

In terms of books, I recommend Strategy of the Dolphin: Scoring a Win in a Chaotic World – it taught me to dive in, even when it feels risky.