Women in Treasury

Women in Treasury: Angela Cooper, Flying Food Group

Published: Mar 2020

This much I know

Authenticity and hard work are what Angela Cooper, Treasurer at Flying Food Group thinks are key to a successful career.

Angela Cooper

Flying Food Group logo

Angela Cooper is a treasurer not only of finances, but of people. She is Treasurer at Flying Food Group, headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, where she has worked for the past 15 years, and was the first African-American woman to hold a senior corporate officer position in the company. She is a key decision maker in the senior leadership team and oversees all aspects of the company treasury and finance functions – including management of financial planning and strategy.

Angela has three Bachelor’s degrees: one in Mathematics, one in Accountancy, and one in Computer Engineering, as well as a Master’s degree in Accountancy.

She is an entrepreneur financial executive, passionate about helping people develop their full potential. She is also a very active member in a non-profit organisation on both a local and state level, pioneering two annual scholarships in memory of the past president and her mother, with annual donations exceeding US$10,000 annually.

Tell us about your career path. Why treasury?

I started out in computer engineering, but got involved in accounting as well. I was going to school and at the same time, I had to work because I needed a source of income as a young mother. I got a position at Ernst & Young in their property tax division, where I stayed for about a year before moving to their income tax division. That gave me a start into the finance profession.

From there I moved over to the Flying Food Group in 2005 as an entry-level Treasury Clerk and worked my way up to Treasurer, which took me about ten years.

Why treasury? I like numbers and I’m really good at it. I like the front-end, too. I started out, when I was a Treasury Clerk, in the accounting group. It involved balancing, general and administrative expense allocation transactions, a lot of the back-end. I prefer the front-end because of the interaction with people and physically seeing that I make a difference.

As a corporate treasurer, what is the biggest challenge that you’re currently facing?

I would say cyber-fraud and change management. As we get larger, there are more and more attempts to try and infiltrate our organisation.

Our business has also grown exponentially. Getting the culture to be able to accept that change and get onboard is a challenge, because change always encounters some type of resistance. If you don’t get the right individuals onboard, it takes longer to fully integrate change.

What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve been given in your career so far?

Do it afraid. Our biggest challenge is ‘what if I fail? What if I don’t?’ You’re going to fail. Understand that when you fail, you just have to keep trying and do your best. Come with your best game, come with the best you.

Looking back, is there anything that you wish you’d done differently?

As far as my career path is concerned, I wouldn’t change the experiences I’ve had. I learned from all of them and they helped develop me into the person I am today. I started out in admin – that helped me become organised, gave me the ability to find the tools to get the answers and made me think critically.

Otherwise, I wish I knew some of the things I know now, sooner. I feel like I would be in an even better place now.

What is your motto in life?

Be you, not them. Be you, be yourself.

I prefer the front-end because of the interaction with people and physically seeing that I make a difference.

Helping others

For Angela, encouraging others has always come naturally. “As a little girl, I was an all-in-one fashionista and hair stylist,” she explains. “I would spend lots of time with my friends, customising their natural look, making hair colours in unique ways, and selecting styles that complemented their personalities.”

As an adult, Angela has taken these skills and honed them, developing several staff members from entry-level positions to middle-management department heads. “I am really passionate about making a sustainable difference in people’s lives in a creative way to reflect their inner beauty and bring out their natural gifts and talent,” she adds.

Alongside developing individuals, Angela spends much of her time helping communities – and actively encourages aspiring treasurers to do the same. “If you have very little experience, I would suggest volunteering. I’m part of a non-profit, I was the treasurer for a while, I was the secretary for a while. Whatever skills they needed, I volunteered when I was free, and always free of charge,” she explains.

Up until recently, Angela served on Flying Food Group’s employee relief programme committee. The programme assists employees in need – for example, if someone needs to travel due to family bereavement. “We have this fund that helps them get the transportation, get over there, deal with the expenses. And it’s totally funded by the employees and the company.” She adds that she only stepped down from the committee due to time constraints.

Those time constraints haven’t stopped her ambition, though. Angela has two next major objectives – both focused on helping those in need. For one, she wants to start her own credit union. “I would like to educate women and other businesses in managing money and understanding how money really works,” she explains.

Secondly, Angela and her team are working towards a company goal to provide fully funded medical coverage to all employees (coverage is currently partially funded). “I think my credit union will probably come sooner, but I hope not. I hope the medical coverage comes first,” she says.

Education is imperative

Key to Angela’s initiatives has been her ability to grow with her company. “I started with Flying Food Group when the company was a start-up, and I feel like because I did, I had so many unique experiences. If you’re focusing on trying to get in a big organisation that’s well-established, a lot of times those processes and procedures are also already established,” she explains. However, she notes that to go down the start-up path, having a mentor is a necessity. “Some things you are just not going to know, and that mentor will help you get those skills and those abilities.”

Mentors can be key to a treasurer’s education, and with three bachelor’s degrees and one master’s degree, education is certainly important to Angela. This includes any and all types of learning, from professional qualifications – Angela is a certified treasury professional (CTP) – to personal lessons, such as how to keep a good work-life balance.

A mentor can help with this, too. “Your mentor doesn’t necessarily have to be in treasury,” she explains. “But they do need those skills to be able to lead. You want to make sure that your leader has developed you to be a leader and you want to pass that on to others to become leaders too.” Passing on that skill isn’t just a good thing to do, it also helps improve the individual’s people skills.

With people skills comes the ability to accept people for who they are, focus on their strengths and realise that not everyone thinks the same way as yourself. “That’s one of the things I do when I meet individuals. I try to find that strength that they have, and focus on and develop that,” she notes.

To find a mentor, Angela recommends joining networks of like-minded professionals. For example, she is a member of the Association of Financial Professionals (AFP) and attends the Women of Power Summit. “Once you’re surrounded by like-minded people, the collaboration will expand,” she says.

For women, this collaboration is imperative. Angela has found the main challenge is not only getting a seat at the table, but staying at the table and having a compelling voice. “You definitely need patience,” she says. Not all work environments work in such a way that you can simply say ‘I’m trying to better women’, and so she notes that it sometimes requires a significant amount of strategy to ensure that any policy reaches the company’s goal, as well as the goal to better women.

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