Role of the CFO

Outside the Grind: VP, controller and Muay Thai fighter

Giulia Migliaccio of mParticle balances accounting and martial arts.
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Giulia Migliaccio

· 4 min read

It is probably fair to say that accountants and finance professionals do not have a reputation for being physical fighters. After all, there’s a big difference between wrestling with dynamic arrays in Excel and actually punching someone in the face.

But Giulia Migliaccio, VP and controller at customer data platform mParticle, gets to do both. The mother of three started Muay Thai boxing—an intense form of martial arts that combines kicking, punching, and grappling—in her 40s. She’s fought in three US Muay Thai Association bouts and has a record of 2-1 with another fight planned later this year.

CFO Brew talked to Migliaccio about the stress-relieving power of punching and kicking, the relationship between accounting and martial arts, and what her coworkers think when she shows up with a black eye.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

How did you start doing Muay Thai?

It’s been about eight years. I joined a local gym in New York, and I was doing spin and yoga, nothing crazy. They had this Muay Thai program and my husband was like, “You should try that.” I said, “You’re out of your mind; they’re punching and kicking each other. I don’t want to do that.” He said, “Just try it.” And from the first time I tried it, I didn’t look back.

There’s something so cathartic about getting frustrations out in a way that you’re not going to get in trouble for. There’s nothing better than punching and kicking something to get that out of your system.

What does your progression look like? How do you go from that first class to, “Oh, I am into this?”

For the first year, I was doing beginner classes and in those classes, you’re not really sparring with anybody. You’re hitting a bag or somebody’s holding pads for you. There’s no real concern about getting hurt or hurting someone else.

About a year into it, one of my instructors said, “I’m going to have a women’s-only sparring camp where you’ll learn how to spar with other people.” I never thought I would spar, but I thought, “Why not?” and so I started doing that.

With sparring, you’re fighting another person. There’s so much more involved than just punching and kicking. You’re thinking, “What’s the next move going to be? How am I going to defend this move coming at me? How do I counteract it?”

I ended up working with another instructor at the gym, who said, “Why don’t we start training for a real fight?” I was kind of old already. My first fight was in a master’s [division], I was over 40 already. But I was like, “Fine, why not?” It’s going to be somebody else that has the same type of experiences I do and is around the same age as me.

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I had my first fight at a US Muay Thai Association tournament. I won that fight. I got a belt, and it was probably one of the most exciting experiences to lift up a belt and say, “I earned this.”

I’ve had three fights in total since. I have a record of 2-1. My current coach is trying to convince me to do it again. I will, at some point, when I’m not crazy with a million other things.

How does your finance team react when you show up and say, “I got punched in the face last night?”

My finance team thinks that I'm nuts. My CEO actually knows a lot about Muay Thai, so he always gets excited. The people that sit around me will see my transformation from a six-week camp where I can lose anywhere between 20 and 30 pounds. They’ll see this crazy transformation from my regular workout time to when I’m in a fight camp and, and they’re like, “We don’t know how you can do it. It’s insane.”

But then, of course, as soon as the fight is over, they want videos, they want to know all about it. They think I’m nuts, but I guess they also think it levels me out so I’m not so crazy at work.

Luckily, I’ve only had one or two black eyes in my career, and so it hasn’t been bad. I do remember the second time I had a black eye; I was in sunglasses at the office.

Is there a relationship between the mental energy your accounting and finance work takes and your fighting?

I think so. With fighting, there’s so much thought involved. You’re thinking about how and what can come at me and how can I either deflect that or turn it around.

I feel the same way in accounting. There’s a lot of digging and understanding what’s going on and trying to think about what’s the next thing that you’ll have to deal with. Whether it’s an audit, or a severance action or getting the revenue automated, or changing the contracts to have this type of revenue, there’s always: “What’s the next thing that’s going to come at me?”

Fighting definitely helps me to think about what the next step will be before it happens.—DA

News built for finance pros

CFO Brew helps finance pros navigate their roles with insights into risk management, compliance, and strategy through our newsletter, virtual events, and digital guides.