CFO Snapshot: Steel Dynamics’s Theresa Wagler

The finance chief at a steel manufacturing company tries to find balance with a CFO workload.
Kate O'SullivanJuly 24, 2012

Name: Theresa Wagler
Title: CFO
Company: Steel Dynamics

What has been your most important career decision?
I’ve been incredibly blessed. I had come out of public accounting and did a short stint at a financial institution — not anything I was enjoying — and I was on my way to Chicago to work for an international consulting firm. But I was waylaid by a mentor who suggested I look at this start-up company that was doing very well, but needed someone who could set up reporting, with direct exposure to the CEO.

I thought that would be a great experience. Then I just really enjoyed the people I worked with [and stayed]. The philosophy here is to develop people internally as much as possible.

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I joined as corporate accountant, then I was corporate controller, and, for a while, chief accounting officer. The responsibilities have changed, and broadened to include different areas. Things have only been added.

The CFO I reported to early on was an incredible mentor. I really walked in lockstep with him through everything, even early on. It created a comfort not only for me, but for those around me, that I had been exposed to these different experiences.

What is the most difficult part of the job?
Early in my career, it was not unusual to work 70 or 80 hours a week, sometimes throughout the night if there was a project. Even now, it’s most Saturdays. If you have a dedication to a job, you want to make sure [you get it right]. Balance is something I’m trying to achieve. I’m an avid rock climber, so I try to make sure at the beginning of the year I schedule several trips, and make sure everyone is aware of them. I also have to be physically active, so I make time during the week to work out.

Who or what is your best source of advice?
I was born into an incredibly hard-working family with a very strong Christian faith. My parents have been a great source of support. My dad owns several companies and still gets up at 6 a.m.

How do you feel about the pipeline of women at your company?
We have some incredibly young and talented women at our company and we are trying to develop them. If you look at the graduation rates, I would hope that there’s a future for not only female CFOs, but female CEOs as well.

What’s your best piece of advice for an aspiring CFO?
The best advice for anyone in a CFO role or a finance-driven role: we need to be the solution. It’s so easy to say we can’t do this because there’s a legal reason or financial matter; then you become compliance. You have to come up with not just solutions, but ideas.