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A CFO’s Past Shapes His Present

Mark Peek tells how his prior jobs shaped what he does today as finance chief at enterprise software maker Workday.

Other than supporting the sales process, what do you spend your time on?
At this early stage of the company, much of what I’m doing is around our internal HR. I’m doing a lot of recruiting and interviewing in the areas that report to me: finance, IT and legal. I’m also participating in the hiring of country-level leaders and key positions in HR and other parts of the business to help us grow and scale.

We’ve hired 1,000 people in the last year. How do you create good decision support so as to not stifle growth but also to hire in a controlled way so that we maintain quality and an organized approach to how we invest our dollars?

About a third of my time is spent around traditional finance activities. We are going through our first Sarbanes-Oxley compliance this year, for instance. We’re approaching it in a way to make it something other than a pure compliance exercise. If we identify a key control and it doesn’t somehow help the business absent SOX compliance, we have to challenge whether it’s really a key control or do it differently.

And even though we’re a young company, I spend a chunk of time looking at how to modify business processes so that we can continue to act like an innovative startup. It’s pretty easy when you first go public to layer on excessive and bureaucratic policies, procedures and processes.

Before Amazon you spent 20 years in public accounting, mostly at Deloitte. What did you learn that’s still important in your work today?
I was working for Touche Ross in Seattle at the time of its merger with Deloitte, which had this little startup client called Microsoft. I spent almost a decade working on Microsoft as an audit partner and later doing all sorts of M&A work and an ERP implementation for them. I got to experience most of the 1990s from Microsoft’s campus when it was really growing quickly.

It shaped me, partly because I fell in love with software, but I also had to adjust our services to handle a company that was growing so explosively. We were providing services for Microsoft in over 100 countries; prior to that I didn’t even realize there were 100 countries in the world where software would be sold, let alone where auditors would be doing things. So I got a very global perspective from my years at Deloitte.

After 20 years, why did you leave Deloitte?
I really didn’t want to, because I was happy there. But as part of auditor rotation it was time for me to move away from Microsoft, and I was told I’d end up in either Michigan or New Jersey, but I wouldn’t know for a few months — and my fourth child was on the way at the time. I got a call from Amazon, which was based in Seattle and was looking for a chief accounting officer. I met with the people there and it seemed interesting and compelling.

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