Throughout her finance career, Diana Saadeh-Jajeh’s innate curiosity has enhanced her ability to lead accounting teams while equipping her to become a high-level strategic thinker.
Saadeh-Jajeh is now the CFO and executive vice president of GameStop, a global consumer electronics retailer, with more than 4,500 locations and over $6 billion in annual revenue. Saadeh-Jajeh’s accounting career has progressed through positions with increasing responsibility that has exposed her to everything from activism to IPOs.
At GameStop, Saadeh-Jajeh oversees approximately 150 people in real estate, accounting, treasury, tax, financial planning and analysis, corporate strategy, internal audit and controls, and accounting shared services functions.
CFO and executive vice president, GameStop
- First CFO position: 2021
- Notable previous companies:
- JUUL Labs
- e.l.f. Cosmetics
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
SANDRA BECKWITH: Much of your career has involved increasingly responsible accounting positions, including chief accounting officer (CAO) at GameStop. What made it possible for you to transition from accounting to the CFO position there?
DIANA SAADEH-JAJEH: In all my positions, I would look outside the accounting bubble to learn about the business and how each function interacts with and depends on the others. That helped me grow and become skilled at identifying and addressing operational challenges and root causes not only in finance but in other areas of the business.
Also, because as GameStop’s CAO I was responsible for functions beyond accounting and SEC reporting that included treasury, tax, shared services, financial systems, internal audit, internal controls, and strategic sourcing, I was involved with nearly every financial process and decision.
In addition, I can communicate financial information in a way that makes it easier for non-accountants to understand.
How does your background affect how you do the job, and how might it differ from someone who came to the CFO role with a different background?
SAADEH-JAJEH: CFOs are often known to be operating from an ivory tower. That’s not the case for me. My accounting background makes me hands-on and process-driven.
So, with new initiatives, I look past the numbers to focus on execution. Who, how, and when will we be able to execute this? What will we have to de-prioritize, what resources do we need, how do we guarantee success?
CFOs are often known to be operating from an ivory tower. That’s not the case for me. My accounting background makes me hands-on and process-driven.
I believe I get things done because I look at any decision from the perspective of our customers and other stakeholders, while also examining the implications for our employees, processes, and, of course, the financials.
Was becoming CFO always a goal in your career? If so, did it change the positions you accepted or how you approached previous roles?
SAADEH-JAJEH: Yes, it was.
Every role I assumed had to prepare me for the CFO path by adding new skill sets. I knew it was important to understand any employer’s business outside the accounting and finance functions, too.
So I spent time talking to people in other departments about their work — touring warehouses, stores, and data centers; sitting in on meetings outside my area of responsibility; and continuing my education with programs that included a university’s communications certificate program.
How do you determine who you hire in finance?
SAADEH-JAJEH: Whether for finance or any other function, I evaluate if the candidate has the potential to expand responsibilities and one day advance to a bigger role.
I favor those who are looking for challenges over comfort and who prefer a changing and dynamic environment over a stagnant, never-changing one.
I also look for good interpersonal and communication skills and a mindset that demonstrates maturity, adaptability, and resilience.
I know you enjoy developing the next generation of leaders. How does your current position help you do that?
SAADEH-JAJEH: My role allows me to see employees’ potential beyond their current scope by including them in cross-functional projects and exposing them to new and unfamiliar situations.
I have two pieces of advice: Learn something new every day, and get very involved with the business.
I also “skip levels” and talk to staff who don’t report to me to ensure leaders are solid people managers who know how to empower their people, develop succession plans, and build effective teams by identifying problems and addressing them quickly before the environment becomes toxic. I push these leaders to have autonomy but accountability by being very clear on objectives and the expected results.
What part of the CFO’s job is more challenging for you?
SAADEH-JAJEH: Predicting the macroeconomic conditions.
You can never take good news for granted, and must always be prepared for the worst. That can be exhausting, but as CFOs, we must always anticipate what’s around the corner.
What part comes most easily?
SAADEH-JAJEH: It’s analytics, forecasting accurately to align with actual accounting timing, influencing, creating processes and systems, and flexing down into the details when needed or rising above the forest when necessary.
What advice would you offer people with experience similar to yours who hope to become CFOs?
SAADEH-JAJEH: I have two pieces of advice: Learn something new every day, and get very involved with the business.