After starting her career in academia, Anita Prasad, General Manager, Treasury Capital Management at Microsoft has gone on to become a leader in treasury at one of the largest and most innovative technology companies in the world. In this interview, Anita talks about the uniqueness of the treasury function, the treasurer’s role as a risk manager, and the importance of having a good work/life balance.
General Manager, Treasury Capital Management
Anita Prasad is responsible for corporate finance, capital structure, share buybacks and dividend policy, structured investments, global cash and liquidity, treasury operations, and credit services for MS online businesses. Previously Anita was Vice President of Treasury and Tax at LSI Logic Corporation. She was an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and holds a Bachelors and Masters in Economics, an MBA in MIS, and a PhD in Finance and International Business.
Do you feel that women respond to the needs of treasury in the same way that men do – or do they bring something different?
Each person, man or woman, is unique and building a high-performance team relies on these individual experiences and attributes. I have been in the corporate world now for over 20 years, and the environments where cross-functional projects have succeeded have been the situations where we have had diversity of experience and an inclusive culture. A great team is like a jigsaw puzzle – each person needs to be unique and yet fit in well.
Is balancing professional and family life becoming easier?
I believe that work and life do, and should, bleed into each other. Work is an important part of our lives and defines who we are. Technology, in my experience, is the great enabler; with your smartphones, tablets, laptops all in sync with our data in the cloud you now have the flexibility to work from wherever you might be – we are not chained to our desks anymore. Having a passion for what you do at work, makes this much easier because you are no longer balancing but enjoying two intertwined aspects of your life.
How much opportunity is there for career progression within your role?
Microsoft is consistently in the top few of the ‘best companies to work for’ surveys. The company truly believes its employees are its greatest asset, and invests a lot in development, training, and the retention of the talent we bring into the company.
In terms of future growth there are tremendous opportunities within treasury and within Microsoft as a whole, because we truly believe in moving people from finance into roles in other parts of the business, so they can take the expertise and knowledge they have developed in the treasury and apply it elsewhere. I am fortunate to work for a leader, George Zinn, CVP and treasurer, who lives this company’s values each day and encourages people on his team to take on challenging responsibilities and grow their impact.
Will we one day have true equality in the workplace?
Acknowledging gender gaps is important but we must be mindful because if we look through this filter at every situation, we are likely to end up like the proverbial hammer that only sees nails! Sure, there is still a shortage of women in senior ranks of the corporate world, but we are moving in the right direction. When I look around, I see several women in senior leadership positions, within treasury and finance – such as Amy Hood, our EVP and CFO – but also across other corporations. I know that I am still inspired when I see these strong and successful women in senior roles.
I think the role of mentors is critical, so I challenge everyone of us to give back and be that role model and mentor to at least one young woman early in her career.
How can treasurers make their voice heard?
We have a unique capability in treasury and finance to make sense of a lot of issues and risks around the globe. Being proactive, understanding and predicting these risks, and connecting the dots are crucial responsibilities, but we also need to communicate this to key stakeholders in a language they can understand. Converting complexity to simple concepts is key to becoming a trusted partner.