Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable: How to Succeed in a High Growth Finance Environment

An interview with Erin Robbins, Director of Finance at Fluent Beverages for International Women’s Month.March is #InternationalWomxnsMonth, and individuals and organizations around the world are celebrating women’s achievements by speaking up about gender bias and inequality. Here at Clarity Recruitment, we’re committed to amplifying the cause and highlighting female leaders in finance and accounting who have gone above and beyond in Canada’s high growth companies and in venture capital.

Head of Recruitment & Talent at Clarity Recruitment, Annum Shah, spoke with Erin Robbins, Director of Finance at Fluent Beverages, a high-growth joint venture between Labatt Breweries and High Park Company. Erin discusses her fast progression within the finance industry, how she communicated her passion to the leaders she worked with and provided advice for women looking to break into a high-growth company. 


Annum Shah – What advice do you have for young women who want to work in finance?

Erin Robbins – There are many different areas in finance, it’s fascinating to see how many different directions you can go: audit & controls, reporting, financial planning & analysis (FP&A), to valuations and more. Having the benefit of starting in audit, I was able to see a snippet of the many different areas within finance and determine which areas I was more interested in and passionate about.

When you are just starting out, it’s beneficial to get broader experiences in your field and lean into what you’re passionate about. Finding something that gets you excited goes a long way, because people can see that fire and it can help you progress in your career. This was beneficial for me, as a senior manager role came up in the costing department and the director was able to see how passionate I was about that area. 

This helped me step into a more senior role and I continued my progression from there.

Annum Shah – How did you communicate to the people around you and your leaders about your passions, and what advice would you give about how quickly you progressed?

Erin Robbins – When you find an area in your career that excites you, communicate that to your manager and seek out mentors that specialize in that area. You can then start to learn more about that particular field and build meaningful relationships. 

For me, it all comes back to my passion, as it shines through in my work. Work doesn’t feel mundane because I’m excited to take it on and learn. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone who’s in a role that is very different from yours: it’s an opportunity to learn and build meaningful relationships. 

For example, I moved from my cost accounting role to FP&A, and it was a big move. This was something that was originally in my five-year plan but it ended up happening in a year because of the connections I had made.

Finding something that gets you excited goes a long way, because people can see that fire and it can help you progress in your career.

Annum Shah – You’re currently working in a high-growth joint venture between Labatt Breweries and High Park Company, how is it different than working in a larger and more established company?

Erin Robbins – People who work in finance thrive on routine: you either have a month-end, a quarter-end, or a year-end routine. When you’re in a startup, there’s no baseline and no routine. As a leader, you need to set that routine and establish the relevant metrics, which in a startup is ever-changing. As the needs of the business change, which is constant, the metrics that the management team needs to see are also changing. It’s really important to stay connected with upper management so that you have a good understanding of what they need to drive the strategy forward, with the ability to adjust to the ever-changing business needs.

Annum Shah – How do you manage in such a fast-changing type of environment?

Erin Robbins – I stay close with the CFO so we’re always on the same page. I always make sure I have a pulse on our data, so I can provide the leadership team with the necessary information to make informed decisions.

Annum Shah – What advice do you have for women who are looking to get into a high-growth company or industry? 

Erin Robbins – You have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable: everything is constantly changing. As I mentioned before, people who work in finance love routine, and even if you think you’re good at rolling with the punches, it’s a different style when you’re in a startup compared to a larger corporation. You have to get used to dealing with changes and make sure that you’re ready to give up your routine (when needed) and deal with any challenges that may come up.

Annum Shah – Being in a small finance department, you wear more than just the finance hat, what else are you involved in?

Erin Robbins – When I first joined, the focus was mainly FP&A and helping to drive our long-term strategy. However, I realized that some of our fundamental accounting processes had some gaps and I worked on improving them. In a high-growth environment, every activity that you do has the same goals as everyone else, which is moving the business forward. You need to be able to step back and do whatever is necessary to make sure that at the end of the day, the business is succeeding.

Annum Shah – What do you think was the most challenging part about switching to a high-growth company, and how did you overcome that challenge?

Erin Robbins – For me initially, I missed leading and managing my own team. Joining a startup, I’m experiencing what it’s like to work in a cross-functional team that brings together marketing, research and development, packaging and procurement. It’s really interesting because instead of having a group of finance people trying to solve a finance problem, we have a very diverse team of people with different mindsets who are working together to solve a business problem.

In a high-growth environment, every activity that you do has the same goals as everyone else, which is moving the business forward.

Annum Shah – Have you had female mentors throughout your career in finance and how do you connect with them?

Erin Robbins – Throughout my career, I sought out a strong female that I respected and picked their brain over coffee, bought them lunch and tried to learn more about their journey and experiences in order to shape my own. Finance is male-dominated so understanding how other successful women have made their way in this field has really helped me succeed. I still mentor former employees, as I like keeping those connections and helping people navigate forward.Erin Robbins is the Director of Finance at Fluent Beverages. An expert in financial planning & analysis, accounting and controls with vast experience, Erin has gained a decade worth of insight in finance. She has extensive experience working at large CPG’s and within the entertainment/technology sector previously as the director of Finance at IMAX. She is a CPA, CA and holds a B.Com from Queens University. About the AuthorCheck out more of our popular articles on Career AdvicePopular Articles

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