Ep. 140: Dana Pascarella - Staff Development Strategies

Dana Pascarella, VP of Finance at WESCO International, joins Count Me In to talk about staff development. WESCO International, Inc., a publicly traded FORTUNE 500® company headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is a leading provider of electrical business-to-business distribution, logistics services and supply chain solutions. Dana is a finance executive with extensive accounting, finance and treasury experience, and has expertise in various areas including mergers and acquisitions, debt financings, tax reorganizations, business growth strategy and technology upgrades. For the past year and a half she has been involved in the due diligence, financing and integration of a transformative acquisition, and now the development and execution of strategic initiatives. In this episode, she explains key areas to focus on in developing finance staff, methods and types of trainings for upskilling, and how to create a timeline and map out a plan for successful staff development. Download and listen now!

Welcome back to count me in,

IMA's podcast about all things affecting
the accounting and finance world.

I'm your host, Adam Larson.

And this is episode 140 of our
series and today's conversation.

You will hear from Dana Pascarella,
VP of finance at Wesco International.

As she talks about staff development.

Dana is a finance executive with extensive
accounting experience at a global

publicly held fortune 500 organization.

She is particularly skilled in mergers
and acquisitions, debt, financings,

business growth strategies and
technology upgrades, among other areas,

but she is especially passionate about
developing our finance staff to ensure

organizational success.

Let's head over to the conversation
and hear more about it now.

So Dana, from a finance perspective
to kick things off here,

what are some of the key areas you focus
on when it comes to staff development?

Yeah,

so ultimately I'm focused on providing my

staff, you know,

a foundation that will allow them to
deliver solutions in the future. So,

obviously that's,

teaching them the skills to become
an expert in their area. Right.

I want them to become an expert.
I need them to have the basics,

the fundamentals, the technical skills,
but also I think it's so important,

especially with the
younger staff that they

really start to understand
and learn those softer skills.

So organization, adoptability,
communication, you know,

those soft skills are so
important and can truly take

years to learn and you want them
to be able to really be able to

draw upon that,

that total foundation so that the
technical skill plus the soft skill will

really provide them something,

to draw upon as they move
forward in their career.

Yeah. You know,

it's interesting at IMA obviously we
focus on management accounting, you know,

accounting and finance
and the technical skills,

the emerging skills are
obviously highly important,

but we also really try to make sure
that the foundation, you know, the,

the leadership skills and the ethics,
all of that is equally emphasized,

I would say,

and a lot of the things that we do and
now granted it's for members as opposed

to staff, but I think the
focus is really there. And,

it's all about developing
that pipeline. Right.

And I think that's kind of what you were
touching on. So from your experience,

from again finance and staff, when
it comes to developing your staff,

what kind of methods or types
of trainings have you attempted,

implemented? You know,

what kind of training has been the
most effective for you and your staff?

Yeah,

so definitely every year always
focus on goal setting with a

couple of stretch goals, right? I
want to, I want to challenge them,

pull them out of their
comfort zone a little bit. But

you know, something as simple
as regular communication,

having one-on-ones and being
clear and providing constructive

criticism to really help them, you know,

improve if you're not providing
constant and regular feedback,

I don't think individuals know where
to begin or what to improve on.

So I really think that
communication is super important,

cross training, getting folks into,

maybe areas that aren't
their area of expertise, but,

allowing that cross training
to really build out their,

their expertise,

involving folks in a new project or a
responsibility for a short period of time,

if something comes along
again, that's part of,

kind of pulling them out
of their comfort zone,

but also seeing how they do with
these new projects and give them that

role, you know, obviously guide them,

but let them be the decision-maker
to an extent, obviously, you know,

the leader I'd have to provide guidance,

but let them participate to understand
the different perspectives and see how

they would answer the questions.

And let them feel kind
of part of that process.

I also think anytime you can provide
a staff an offsite experience,

I think that, especially in finance right,

we're just the behind the
scenes books and numbers.

So when you can give an employee an
opportunity to kind of better understand

the business, the operational
side of what's going on, you know,

be it visit a branch, an office,

accompany an internal audit to a site
visit, visit a customer, a vendor.

I think that really helps,

especially some of the newer staff
really put the full picture together.

So not only understanding the numbers,

but also understanding the why, the how,

and how the businesses is running.

I just think it helps to put that full
picture together and is just so much more

valuable as they move
forward in their career.

Yeah, I totally agree.

And a lot of great practices there from
my own personal experiences, I can say,

you know, a lot of what you've
shared that I've been through,

it certainly works,

and it really helps with that stickiness
and makes everything kind of make

sense, big picture, like you were saying,

but I do want to kind of just follow
up on what we're talking about here.

You've mentioned a few different skills,

but when it comes specifically to finance,

what are some of the skills you see
that are most important? You know,

when it comes to staff development,

we talk a lot about upskilling or
reskilling. Where is the focus today?

I mean, clearly you have to have that
mathematical analytical skill set,

right. I think, you know,

today also having pretty
strong IT skills are

pretty important and that's all part
of kind of that technical skill.

But I also think
persuasiveness, decisiveness,

interpersonal communication
skills are, it's all part of,

of finance, right? It's more than just
that technical skill. It's how do you,

how do you deliver that
technical answer? How do you,

how do you provide that
with confidence? Right.

It's one thing just to give a number,

but if you provide it with confidence
and decisiveness, then your audience is,

they have comfort in you and what
you're delivering. So it's, again,

it goes back to, you know, not
only those technical skills, but,

but having strong, soft skills.

That's great. And, again,

I can really see how everything
you're sharing comes together.

I can relate personally to some of
my experiences. So, like I said,

a lot of great ideas, perspective here.

I'm curious when it comes to
thinking about these ideas

and trying to put a plan together, how
do you go about mapping out these needs?

How do you go about picking these
different practices to implement?

Is it an individual basis? Is
it by department? You know,

how do you go about planning
your staff development?

Yeah,

so I think it is important to kind
of first understand the individual's

career aspiration, their
personality. You know,

you want to make sure you're stretching
and challenging the right person and the

person that you're giving them challenges
that fit their personality. Right,

so you want to align project and work
with those desires because if there's a

mismatch, it won't be effective. Right.

But it is about understanding
that person, their career goals,

their personality, and
providing challenges and,

and stretch goals to kind of push them
outside of their comfort zone and see how

they perform. You know, some
people they're just, you
know, you're steady Eddie,

but, but some people have a desire to
continue to move up in their career.

And so you would align projects and
responsibilities accordingly. So for me,

it's always been understanding that
individual person and their desires and

their personalities, and then
aligning the working accordingly.

So I will wrap this conversation
up in just a minute, but, you know,

I want to tie everything together first,
before we get to our last question.

Obviously

so much has changed in the last year
and a half that the whole, you know,

global business environment.
But as far as, you know,

your experience in finance
over multiple years,

how have you seen the
skills, the training methods,

the different staff development
plans change over time?

Yeah, well, I think,

I think last year was an interesting
example of some of that change, right?

We had a,

we saw a macro economic environment
that could quickly became unstable.

There was a tremendous amount
of uncertainty globally.

Companies' goals and plans
changed pretty quickly.

We in finance had to be flexible
in our, in our approach.

I think the basic skills
were still important,

but we quickly saw an emphasis placed
on IT skills and the reliance on

technology to stay connected
and be successful in our
day to day challenges. So,

I mean, to some extent we
have to change our approach.

We had to figure out how to use
our apply kind of those historical

methods, but in a virtual environment.

So I really think the skills
are kind of always the

fundamental skills necessary for finance,

but I think last year was a great example
of how we kind of had to change our

approach to teach those skills and to
stay connected in a day to day virtual

environment.

This will be my last
question, I promise. But,

as far as the different
skills that you've mentioned,

the different methods that
you've, again, implemented,

plans you've put in place for individuals,
what are some of the benefits?

What can somebody expect to,

what kind of rewards can they reap
from effective staff development?

And what does that really do?
Not just for the individual,

but for the organization as well.

Well, I think when an employee
feels supported, valued,

cared for, they feel that the company's
investing in them. I think, you know,

in return, you get, you
get employee engagement,

you get an employee that's
willing to work for a company and

help to drive results. You get that
loyalty, the reduction in turnover,

and all of that increased
employee engagement,

I believe leads to improved performance.

So also from a company's perspective,

you have a trained up
employee, if you will,

that can easily be slotted within
different roles in the company.

So it creates not only opportunity
for employees looking to

kind of grow, advance in their career,
but it also provides an organization,

the ability to be able to look within to

hire before going external. So,
you know, it's beneficial for both,

both the employee and the
organization and it overall it's,

it improves morale. It just creates
a strong, healthy environment.

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