CFOs

Coworking with Cynthia Chu of Audible

Audible is a veteran of the audio space.
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· 5 min read

Coworking is a weekly segment where we talk to CFOs and others in the finance space about their experiences, their companies, and the larger economy. Let us know if you are—or you know—a CFO we should interview.

Cynthia Chu is chief financial officer and head of marketing at audio streaming platform Audible.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Whether it’s podcasting, audio books, short form audio…the audio space seems like it’s having this moment where there’s a lot of innovation happening. How do you see Audible fitting into this ecosystem?

I would say that it’s actually never been more exciting. Being the category leader, we very much have the right ingredients from an audio storytelling production standpoint, to our relationship with our creators, to the tens of millions of customers we serve on a daily basis worldwide. We are here to provide the right audio storytelling and that immersive experience to our customers that are very different from an experience standpoint, compared to a streaming video or streaming music experience.

We believe that by focusing on generating long-term value for our customers is going to bring in the downstream economic output for our company. So that’s really what I think is exciting. That’s why even after seven years, I am still here and I am very excited to be continuing this journey, and actually being one of the driving forces in how we think through the next three to five to 10 years. And then obviously, as technology evolves, all that is going to come into play, and I think we’ve seen that technology evolutions really do drive category advancement, and I’m excited to see what comes next in the audio space.

Your role has expanded; you’re not just CFO, but CFO and growth officer. What’s your perspective on that role, how those responsibilities enhance your role as CFO?

I think it’s a natural extension. In this day and age, the marketing world is highly analytical. I think it’s a natural progression for me to take over that side and really think through, how do we grow the business on that end? And I think as a CFO, one part…even without the official marketing or growth side, one of the key objectives is, how do we strategically find ways to grow? That is part and parcel, I think, as a functional leader in the CFO role. I do think that there’s a lot of synergy in those two sides of the house, and quite frankly, I see the CFO role has to be connecting to all the different functional and business leaders and to really be working alongside my CEO in “how do we grow the business.”

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We’re seeing more women and more people of color in the CFO role. What are your thoughts on that, and how has that affected your role and how you approach your career?

I think just in the broader macro sense. I don’t think that there’s any doubt, or at least I hope that there’s no doubt, that making sure that having diverse opinions and voices and representation in any sort of work setting, be it in the finance team or marketing team or any sort of setting, corporate or non-corporate, I think having a diversity of thoughts and backgrounds and experiences is going to be making the product and making the business better.

Within Audible, I’m actually the executive sponsor for the Black employees’ network. And making sure that we are continuing to have that cohort of our employees and their voices being heard and being represented at the leadership level, and we put together actually very concrete goal-setting, in terms of how do we actually make sure that the pipeline and the opportunity are equal and that we have the right representation at all levels.

Outside Audible, I’m actually a mentor of an organization called Women in America, and the objective and the mission of that organization is to create opportunity from a mentoring standpoint as well as having a community so that younger, up-and-coming, talented women have a space to be able to see how the earlier generation works; and also, for me as a mentor, it is a way for me to pay it forward. And so I do view that as very much my responsibility.

What’s a piece of advice that you might have for someone who wants to be a CFO one day?

I often tell my mentees or people that seek my advice, my two cents is “Let’s not focus on what your next role is, and what is that next big job?” I would focus on the current, making sure that you are doing the best job that you can in your current role, and raising the bar and constantly raising your hand for extra projects that may or may not be in your so-called job description.

If someone looked at your LinkedIn page, what’s something that’s not on there that people might be surprised to know?

I’m actually an immigrant myself. I grew up in Hong Kong, came to the US for university, and I stayed. And one of the things that people don’t know about me is that I love water sports. So I’m actually a certified windsurfing person, and I haven’t really been practicing, but that is something that I hope that I can eventually get back into.—KL

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