Welcome to The 6 a.m. CFO, where finance chiefs share how they jump-start their days and engage with the tasks that are in front of them.
Today, Dotmatics’ CFO Rebeca Sanchez Sarmiento shares how she leads by example and with empathy, her morning coffee ritual, and how she is continuously in “learning mode.”
- Dotmatics is a leader in R&D scientific software connecting science, data, and decision-making. Its enterprise R&D solutions help scientists accelerate innovation and be more efficient.
- Founded: 2017
- Size: 800 employees and contractors
- Annual revenue: Over $200M
Weekday wake-up time and the first thing I like to do: I try to keep a 6 a.m., coffee, workout routine. Once up, I usually try to catch up on the local news for a few minutes.
I have a trainer that I work with twice a week and if I am lucky, I squeeze in some yoga on the alternative days.
Morning beverage choice? I avoid caffeine throughout the day, but morning coffee is essential. But for me, that coffee is less about the caffeine boost and more about the ritual.
I love grinding the beans, brewing the pot, and affording myself a few minutes of peace before diving into work. There’s a calming effect in the routine that anchors my day and mind in the right place.
Workday start time: The blessing of a fully remote role is the lack of a commute. But the curse, especially for a globally distributed company like Dotmatics, is the need to be accessible almost 24/7.
What that means is that there is a lot of variability in my start time. I try to start my day no later than 8 a.m., but more often than not, I am on calls with the East Coast or European colleagues earlier than that.
How I usually spend the first hour of my day: It’s usually spent reviewing and approving bills and POs, cleaning out my inbox, or having my first round of one-on-ones.
The time I send out my first email: Early in my career, I was an equity research analyst and my job required me to stay on top of overnight news. As a result, I’ve developed the terrible habit of checking my phone the minute I wake up; which also means I’m usually answering them the moment my eyes open.
It's not a pattern I recommend, especially since a “bad” email first thing in the morning is the equivalent of waking up on the wrong side of the bed. It just doesn’t set the right tone.
Best advice for writing an effective email: For sensitive emails, draft it, let it marinade, and then come back to it later to see if the tone and approach are right.
And in some cases, my best advice for writing an email is to NOT write an email, but pick up the phone.
First dashboard I review: We’ve recently implemented a reporting, planning, and forecasting tool that’s integrated into our ERP. Having financials in real-time in a format that is suited for FP&A (as opposed to accounting) is a game changer!
How I structure my morning meetings: To avoid jumping from topic to topic, which I’ve found to be mentally taxing, I try to schedule each weekday around a theme: one day it’s accounting, another FP&A, a third is tax and treasury, a fourth GTM finance and enterprise data, etc.
Then, in keeping with the theme, I try to schedule my weekly one-on-ones with each respective direct report for said area early in the morning while I am fresh.
Mid-morning snack of choice: I’ve recently adopted intermittent fasting, which means lunch is usually my first meal of the day. It also means I’m the one really craving those mid-morning snacks even if I don’t grab one.
Favorite leadership lesson: I’ve been fortunate to have some very dedicated, hardworking employees over the course of my career. I suspect that success is partially attributable to the fact that 1) I try to lead by example, from a place of empathy and 2) I hold myself to the same (if not higher) standards as I place on my team.
If they are in the trenches, they know I am right there with them.
Something important to know about me that you wouldn’t know from my business bio: Growing up, I was a competitive gymnast and springboard diver — two individual sports that are highly subjective and demand discipline, perfection, and control.
In hindsight, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I’ve carried these high standards over into my work life too. I also think they are traits that make me particularly well-suited for my role as CFO.
What was the last job you did at your company that fell outside your traditional scope of work?: As a modern-day CFO working in software, there is no such thing as a traditional scope of work. Yes, I have some predictable, and arguably traditional, responsibilities but generally speaking, no day is exactly the same — and frankly, that’s what makes my job exciting.
Can you share one way in which you have learned to manage work-induced stress: I wish I had some sage advice on how to cope with stress. It is a practice that I struggle with and view as a constant “work in progress.”
I’m actively trying to be more intentional about finding time for yoga and meditation and recently incorporated acupuncture into my routine. A massage here and there is always a treat.
Favorite app on my phone that is not related to business: There are a few. I love Evernote and LinkedIn, though arguably they are business-related.
For exercise and mindfulness, I rely heavily on Peloton and Headspace.
And most recently, Dotmatics kicked off a virtual walkathon using MoveSpring. It has been such a great employee-led initiative to get our teams from across the globe connecting on a central tool with teams comprised of people you aren’t working with each day. The social posting part of the app lets everyone share personal pictures while they are out and about getting exercise. We’ve had more ‘walking meetings’ by teams across the business in the past month than maybe the past year. So great!
When do you take time for learning/reading: Since my mornings and early afternoons tend to be stacked with calls and meetings, I block my late afternoons to focus on independent work. It’s my standing window of time to dig into spreadsheets, catch up on reading, or research more complex matters that require uninterrupted attention.
Dotmatics is highly acquisitive, so a good part of my focus is project managing ongoing business integration and transformation. Ultimately, good systems and processes deliver good data, which in turn help drive better decision-making.
M&A also has the knock-on effect of keeping me on my toes. I’m continuously in “learning mode.” Whether it is understanding a new business or revenue stream or adapting to a new level of operational complexity, there is always something new to learn or unpack.