Coworking Sonalee Parekh

CFO of RingCentral
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· 3 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.

Sonalee Parekh is CFO at RingCentral, a meeting and call platform. Before joining RingCentral, Parekh was a divisional CFO at Hewlett Packard Enterprise after working on Wall Street and in London on the banking side.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

How was the transition from being a divisional to the chief financial officer at a public company? Was there a learning curve?

People often ask me, “What surprised you?” What I will say is, I’m the most senior I’ve ever been in my career and yet, I feel like my calendar is the most managed. It’s like everything was scheduled, and never worked in that kind of way. And it was an adjustment for sure. Just literally, every moment of your day is scheduled.

I joke to my assistant that I need to schedule some bathroom breaks. And, you know, it’s because the purview is so wide. And there are so many areas where you’re required to be there as the CFO, as opposed to as a divisional CFO.

For example, [on] a quarterly business review, I would do my section and go for board meetings. At Hewlett Packard Enterprise, I would do my section and go; now if there’s a board meeting, your calendar is busy for three days. If there’s a QBR, your calendar is busy for four days, and it’s amazing how quickly your calendar fills up. That was a huge, huge adjustment for me.

What sort of mindset do you need to think of as a CFO—short-term, long-term, both? How do you develop that mindset?

As CFO, I’m always thinking long term—what’s going to drive long term value for our stakeholders. But of course, as a CFO, you’re also needing to think about the quarter and landing the plane, and ensuring that the investments that we make today will get us to where we need to go.

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But all the things that we did to get us here today are not going to get us to where we need to go, so that’s kind of the change in mindset that's required.

So of course, when we guide, we guide quarterly, and we also guide to Wall Street on an annual basis. But internally, we have plans that go out three years. And then we have stretch plans that go out five years.

In this current macro environment, I also have scenario analysis built in—its feeling and everything I’m reading seems like it’s going to be a softer landing than what people were initially worried about. But I certainly make sure that we plan for several scenarios, and I make sure that we have levers to pull in the event of a much worse macro or a sudden, sharp, negative macro.

There’s lots of talk of a recession, being a prior banker, do you think about recessions differently as a CFO versus on Wall Street?

It’s definitely different concerns. I was a managing director on Wall Street. So I did have human employees that I was responsible for. But, I would say, I feel a heavy responsibility to ensure that this company makes the right decisions through this cycle.

What’s something we couldn’t tell from your LinkedIn?

I often do in almost any conversation—including business conversations—say, “I’m a mother first.” My kids are absolutely central to everything I do. And not only that, they’re huge supporters and mommy cheerleaders. They have been since I started my career and without their support, I couldn’t be where I am today.—KT

News built for finance pros

The latest news and insights corporate finance professionals need to know to keep up with their constantly evolving industry.