Nicollette Daly, CFO, Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona
Nicollette Daly earned her BSBA in Accounting in 2008. She graduated with a master’s degree in accounting in 2010. Daly currently serves as the chief financial officer at Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona and has recently won the Class Leadership Award from Greater Tucson Leadership. Her achievements and continued success are a credit to her desire to learn, lead, and inspire those around her. Daly encompasses all of the qualities that Eller strives to instill within its students. Take a look at Daly’s responses to our eight questions for insight into the mind of such a success.
What were you involved in during school that you found to be the most beneficial toward your career path?
I participated in the assistant dean’s summer internship. That became the most critical experience in my career path because I got to know Pam Perry. She got to know my level of ability and assisted me in getting a student board membership with a local nonprofit. This experience led me to meet the person who hired me at the Community Food Bank.
Everyone I know now and everything I do now stems from that. Getting to know professors and administrators at the Eller College is one of the most important things [a student] can do. A lot of what you get out of a college, especially Eller, is the connections that you make.
What has your career path looked like?
My career path is not typical. I graduated with a master’s degree in 2010 and became a Chief Financial Officer in 2013. I started at the University of Arizona in my thirties. During my first round of college, I majored in journalism. I then decided to get an associate’s degree in business in San Francisco. I came to UA with business experience but not accounting knowledge.
I went back to school at UA, which enabled me to have 10 years of experience going into school. I am a firm believer that it works best this way. I was focused and I knew what I wanted to do – I had a direction. I was able to apply real-life scenarios to the case competitions and projects in Eller.
How did you achieve CFO at Community Bank of Southern Arizona?
My relationships, education, and experience. I started as an auditor for the Food Bank with a local accounting firm, R&A. I switched firms and so did the Food Bank, so I remained the auditor for the Food Bank. When it came time for the Food Bank to find a new CFO, I was considered because of my connections and the fact that I was already within the company.
What are your most significant responsibilities?
I oversee a staff of seven. The Food Bank has about 125 employees. I communicate with almost every single one of those employees on a very regular basis. There is not a single thing that happens in the building that does not come back to finance.
I get the joy of working with every employee at some point. I prepare financials every month, attend multiple meetings on a regular basis to ensure smooth operations, I oversee the 401K, and I work with a group of trustees.
What does a typical day look like?
Speaking to clients or providing a report to the entire board or government centers. There is a huge, diverse group of people I communicate with. When it comes to accounting, much of what I do is verbal and written communication. It is a lot of responsibility and it is very important to correctly interpret the numbers. It is not something that can be necessarily taught.
What can be taught? Having an analytical mind and being able to communicate. I am constantly working on my communication. You can never get too good at communicating.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I get to go to a lot of great meetings and network with professionals around town, Greater Tucson Leadership for example. Working at a nonprofit, all of my work supports a really fantastic service within our community. I enjoy getting to hear about the impact made on people’s lives.
You recently won the Class Leadership Award from Greater Tucson Leadership. In your opinion, what makes a good leader?
There are so many things that make a good leader. The really important thing is that you are recognized by the people you want to lead as knowledgeable. Also, you are recognized as someone who will listen, who will consider others, and who will make some level of consensus of decision-making. A really good leader will recognize that they are not always right.
Include others and respect others. Keep a super open mind. From my own experience, sometimes an idea sounds risky but if you spend the time considering ideas and listen – they actually can be done.
You have to be humble and let go of your pride – even though it is hard. Ask yourself, are you doing it because it needs to be done or to satisfy your own pride? When you think of a leader, you think of the person in the front, but really, they are the person in the middle or even the back.
What advice do you have for a student who eventually wants to be in your position, or students in general?
My advice would be to be open to learning forever and to be willing to admit when you are wrong. Even more than that, be willing to volunteer that you are wrong rather than waiting for someone to point it out. As soon as you realize you might have made a bad decision, own it and admit to it and be open to learning from it and allow others to help you learn from it. This is what makes people want to respect you.
The difference that makes you stand out is that people want to work with you. Be the kind of person that others are not afraid of and that people believe in and feel comfortable following. Sometimes you have to be strong but sometimes you have to be vulnerable. You must be relatable.