CFO Snapshot: Marathon Oil’s Janet Clark

The finance chief says a firm grasp of industry dynamics is critical for success as a CFO.
Kate O'SullivanJuly 23, 2012

Name: Janet Clark
Title: CFO
Company: Marathon Oil

What is your best piece of advice for aspiring CFOs?
It’s critical for aspiring CFOs to have a deep, fundamental understanding of their business and industry. This entails thinking broadly, studying industry peers and what drives success at other companies, following the overall marketplace, and gaining an appreciation for the concerns of investors and key stakeholders. It’s not enough to have a strong banking or accounting background. CFOs today must be well-rounded business leaders with a firm grasp of the landscape in which their company competes.

What do you like best about your role as CFO?
I enjoy most the breadth and scope of responsibilities of this role. The overarching objective that’s always at the front of my mind is how to fundamentally increase shareholder value while upholding Marathon Oil’s core values. It’s rewarding to have the opportunity — the challenge — to make a visible difference in a business. Leading a team, drawing upon the expertise of many individuals, and striving to make a positive impact in a company and in people’s careers: those are all very rewarding aspects of my job.

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What is the most challenging part of your job?
There’s always more to be done than time allows. We all face instances when certain things can’t be accomplished and it becomes necessary to redirect efforts. It’s important as a CFO to be resilient, to change and adapt, and, importantly, to be proactive in finding ways of renewing and refreshing yourself.

What do you consider to be a critical skill for success in the CFO role?
Broadly, it’s important to have a lot of passion and energy for this job. Value creation requires proactive engagement. You have to move beyond a narrowly focused discipline and drive shareholder value. It’s not about being conversant about every financial-reporting rule or understanding every nuance regarding foreign-exchange hedging. Each company faces unique challenges and obstacles. Rather than trying to fit a CFO ideal, I believe it’s far more critical to determine what your company needs to succeed and how you can contribute to that success as CFO. That requires intellectual curiosity, strategic thinking, and oftentimes you have to challenge conventional wisdom. Along these lines, you don’t have to do everything alone. Invest in your team, and trust the technical experts within your organization to do their jobs.