With her insatiable quest for knowledge and steely determination, Mary Gilbert, Treasury Manager for The Duracell Company, is an inspiration to all. In part one of this exclusive interview, she tells Treasury Today about her long journey from one side of town to the other.
The Midwestern metropolis of Chicago is a key international hub for finance, commerce, industry, technology, telecommunications and transportation. It is also a divided city and for those on the wrong side of the tracks, something special is needed to make an impact.
For Mary Gilbert, it has been a long journey to arrive at her current position as Treasury Manager of The Duracell Company. However, she has always possessed that “something special” needed to make things happen.
For Mary, learning is a lifelong quest. She is an alumnus of Northern Illinois University, and the Keller Graduate School of Management of DeVry University. Her formal education is just a part of what makes her successful.
Tell us about your early career and move into treasury.
I was not initially driven towards treasury. In college, my learning was focused in the areas of financial auditing and accounting, and my degree of studies reflected this interest. When I graduated in 2007, I moved into commercial banking. After a while, it was clear that my skills and interests would be better served elsewhere, and so I went back to University. Heading for grad school meant having to pick a clear pathway. The banking experience steered me towards the needs of corporate America and a Masters in Forensic Accounting and Financial Management.
The job that followed in 2011 – Treasury Analyst at multinational network infrastructure provider, CommScope – was a natural progression for me. Even if by that point I had not yet decided to make treasury my home, it was a foot in the door so that I could at least make an informed choice once on the inside.
Within CommScope, my line manager, the FX Risk Manager, Blair McCaleb, became my mentor. She had started as a Treasury Analyst and has since worked up to Director of Treasury. During the five years I was with the company, I watched her become a true leader in the organisation. With Blair as my manager, and the Treasury Director at the time also a woman, I had the pleasure of seeing women being valued and recognised in the workplace.
As a Treasury Analyst, I was handling international and domestic cash management. When Blair announced she was pregnant, the company knew of my ambition and wanted me to learn the FX balance sheet hedging programme she had established. With less than eight months to pick it up, I was a little nervous. But under Blair’s tutelage, I figured out what was involved and was up to speed in less than six months.
When Blair went on maternity leave, I took on the position for the duration. In doing so, I found something I was passionate about. I know not everyone in treasury has the same interest with FX but it was something that absolutely intrigued me. I loved diving into the intricacies of currency movements and their impact on the business. Although I also enjoyed and discovered that I was good at accounting, auditing and uncovering financial anomalies and I even wondered if I should go back to school to pursue a Certified Public Accountants certificate, it just wasn’t where my passion lay. From that moment on, I knew the treasury world was where I wanted to be.
You seize opportunities as they arise; do you set yourself targets for achievement?
I have always set personal goals for my life and my career. One of the things that I desired was to reach management level within six years of starting my career. I had to be honest and question if I was going to reach that goal within the CommScope organisation.
Some say my goals are ambitious but I try my best to meet the goals that I have set and my philosophy has always been to keep learning everything I can to achieve them. At CommScope I had the opportunity, through colleagues, to learn as much about treasury and areas of the business that I did not know and I seized every one as a means of reaching my goal.