Jonathan Rockett, CFO at Ding, looks back on his career progression from his early days at PwC to his current role in a fast-growing company.
What does your role as CFO at Ding entail?
Finance is one area of the business that has full visibility from left to right across Ding’s different business lines, and also top to bottom in terms of operational infrastructure to support those business lines.
In general, the CFO role can be quite broad and can look entirely different in different company contexts. My role is varied, but the core aspects involve reporting to the board on current and projected performance or KPIs; tax and treasury projects associated with geographic expansion; financial planning in terms of the short-term and long-term requirements of the company; and strategic decisions on the next phase of the company’s growth, as we are at a pivotal stage in our scale-up.
Finance touches all teams and projects in Ding. We are embedded in the commercial and operational running of business lines, where the global pricing function manages the pricing negotiations for new deals and amends pricing based on FX trends associated with the various currencies we deal in.
To what do you attribute your career success?
Attitude and a variety of experiences. I have always been driven and committed to succeeding in this industry, which has played a decisive role in getting me to where I am today.
In terms of experience, I had the privilege of working in a variety of roles in several companies. The different skills I gained along the way have been instrumental in laying the foundations for my current position.
At PwC Assurance, I refined my accuracy and attention to detail in working through technical accounting standards. In PwC Transaction Services, I gained exposure to project delivery under extremely tight deadlines and upskilled in the application of a commercial lens of analysis in the presentation of numbers. This ability to leverage data to deduce and communicate the real KPIs and value drivers across various industries has been invaluable, and I continue to build on this expertise to this day. At Paddy Power, I learned the importance of process and system automation to enhance team output in cross-functional departments.
These experiences shaped the way I work and gave me the skills I needed to succeed in this industry. Ding went through an intense M&A period with three acquisitions, for instance, and my experience in transaction services was central to the successful completion of each deal from a finance perspective.
Describe your career planning process.
People advise you to look at your career in stages of three to five years. Whether by design or accident, I followed that process relatively closely.
University was phase one, and my ambitions were to complete my bachelor’s degree in business and economics at Trinity College Dublin, followed by a master’s degree in accountancy from UCD Smurfit Business School. I then wanted to work in a Big Four accountancy firm and gain my ACA qualification. During my first year in PwC, I also decided to pursue my tax exams. That decision has been particularly beneficial in my current role in a global operation as it has allowed me to understand potential tax implications.
The second phase began after I completed my three-year training contract. I knew that assurance wasn’t my long-term target, so I applied for – and secured – a Transaction Services position in PwC. It was more commercial in nature, and built on the skills I developed during the previous four years.
After interacting with company leaders on due diligence projects and getting a grasp on the business drivers of their growth and success, it didn’t take me long to realise that I wanted to work in industry long-term. The most important consideration for me was the company and the strategic direction it was moving in, and this marked the beginning of phase three. Paddy Power was in high-growth mode and offered me the perfect opportunity to deploy the competencies I had developed at PwC. It also exposed me to a more multifunctional team and operational environment. The ability to work cross-functionally is a critical competency that becomes increasingly important as you progress through your career.
Most recently, phase four began when I was contacted about a role in Ding. I was immediately interested as the market opportunity was – and remains – huge. The role of Head of Finance, which I was first appointed to, was expansive, encompassing full profit and loss visibility as well as tax, treasury and financial operations teams. It allowed me to play a material role in the company story, and being a part of a fast-growing company in scale-up mode was very attractive to me.
What do you look for when hiring or promoting talent?
One of the key characteristics I look for when hiring is the desire and drive to improve and make a change. At Ding, our evolution and growth means that there are plenty of opportunities to grow and expand within roles if you have the ambition to do so.
I always look to assess if new employees can evolve and take on new responsibilities as the company grows and expands. The phrase “surround yourself with good people” is underrated and is something that resonated with me in recent years. It underscores a team and a company’s ability to be successful.
What is the best career advice you ever received?
The best piece of advice I received is ‘never take a job, or stay in a job, you no longer learn from’. This has led me to ensure that every new job, new year and new quarter presents a challenge that allows for my continual development and improvement.
If you were to change one thing about your career choices, what would it be?
While I look back with fond memories of the different stages of my career, you only truly learn from the mistakes you make. So embrace the mistakes, learn from them, and continually aim to improve.
Overall, there is nothing I would change about the career path I chose. I feel incredibly lucky that, in every role and company I have worked in, I have continued to expand my skillset and learn from individuals operating at the top of their fields. All of these have brought me to Ding, which is an exciting place to be.
This article was taken from the Career Guide 2020. To download a copy of the full Career Guide 2020 click here.