Ep. 17: Ginger White - Career Development and Leadership

September 23, 2019 | 14 Minutes

Ginger White, CMA, CSCA, BB, MBB, MBA, MSSF, visited IMA's headquarters in Montvale, NJ and sat down with Mitch Roshong and Adam Larson of Count Me In to talk about her professional journey in accounting and finance. Following a 22-year career at Cummins Inc., Ginger now serves as the Chief Operating Officer at the American Accounting Association (AAA). She currently plays a key role as a member of AAA's senior administrative staff, managing the internal operations of the organization, and reporting directly to AAA's executive director. Ginger was Chair of IMA’s Global Board of Directors for the 2018-2019 fiscal year and also serves as chair of IMA's Governance Committee and as a member of the Nominating Committee. She has great experience and expertise in career development and career advancement and talks about giving back as a leader after being given so many opportunities. Listen to find out what Ginger thinks the most important skills are for career advancement and why she believes being a part of an association is so valuable to career development.

American Accounting Association: https://aaahq.org/


Music: (00:00)

Adam Larson: (00:05) Hey everyone. Welcome back to "Count Me In", IMA's podcast about all things affecting the accounting and finance world. This is Adam Larson and I'm joined by my cohost, Mitch Roshong. As you know, the purpose of "Count Me In" is to bring you the latest perspectives and learnings on everything management accountants need to know. We strive to consistently share valuable insights from industry experts and those who are shaping our profession, and today's episode is no exception. We were delighted to have the opportunity to sit down with one of the great leaders in our industry, ginger white. Ginger joined us in our office here in Montvale, New Jersey and talked about what it takes to be a valued leader of the finance team. Ginger is the global chair emeritus of IMA's global board of directors and has a wealth of knowledge and expertise that we were lucky she was willing to share with us. Mitch, what else can you tell us about Ginger and your conversation with her for this episode?

Mitch Roshong: (00:56) Ginger is an executive level financial management professional with over 20 years of experience. She spent 22 years at Cummins, an American Fortune 500 company that designs, manufactures, and distributes engines, filtration and power generation products. There, she spanned roles from cost analyst through corporate purchasing finance director acquiring and developing valuable skills along the way. She is a CMA, CSCA, Six Sigma black belt and now serves as the chief operating officer for the American Accounting Association. In our conversation, we talked a lot about Ginger's tenure at Cummins, the skills she noticed to be most valuable and some of the best wins as a finance professional. This is a great episode for those interested in learning what it takes to create your own successful long lasting career. So let's go to the conversation.

Music: (01:47)

Mitch Roshong: (01:53) Take us back to when you first started in finance and business. Was it originally your intention to work at the same company for the majority of your career?

Ginger White: (02:01) Actually, no, it was not. So when I actually joined Cummins in 97 I had been teaching Accounting I at a small college called Ivy Tech in Indiana and I was teaching Accounting I and absolutely loved it and they were changing the accreditation standards that required a master's degree or work experience equivalent. And I didn't have either. So I heard Cummins would pay for your master's degree. So my whole purpose to go there was to get my master's degree and quit and teach full time. So I spent 21 and a half years there before I left recently to go be the chief operating officer at the American accounting association.

Mitch Roshong: (02:37) So was it always your longterm goal to achieve some kind of C-suite position or did you think you'd be teaching your whole career?

Ginger White: (02:44) Early on? After I'd been teaching Accounting I, I really did think I would be teaching my entire career. However, when I got to Cummins and started really learning about cost accounting was introduced to IMA, my path changed. And I think it's really important to always flexible to what life might bring you. And I would have never guessed that I would be C-suite at some point and I'm really enjoying it and my new role.

Mitch Roshong: (03:10) And as far as the progression that you did have through Cummins, how did you develop and acquire the skills needed to kind of progress through all these different positions? What were some of the skills that really proved to be most valuable in supporting your recent role that you, the most recent role you held there?

Ginger White: (03:27) Actually always being willing to learn and pushing yourself above and beyond what you ever think you can. So I had initially started getting my MBA immediately as I joined Cummins. And so I finished that in 2002 and then later I ended up getting my Master of Science in Strategic Finance in 2006 and I had always had on my individual development plan, my CMA. And it wasn't until 2014 that I actually achieved that, which was very valuable because I had taken a role as a Six Sigma master black belt, which was in the quality function. And the skills I gained there actually is very relevant to today because we're really moving into a world of data analytics. And when I did my master black belt role, that's pretty much what we did. So then when I really wanted to move back into my corporate purchasing finance role at Cummins, I felt that I needed my CMA. So that was very valuable in 2014 when I achieved that. And then in June of '15 is when I moved back into the finance role in a corporate purchasing finance.

Mitch Roshong: (04:28) How about the other side of things? What were some of the daily challenges of directing large growth plans and executing different strategic initiatives for Cummins?

Ginger White: (04:37) That probably came mostly in the corporate purchasing finance role. There, when I joined the team, we had implemented, prior to me joining something called the strategic finance solution for payables. And when I got there, there were lots of issues that systems processes were failing daily, suppliers were not getting paid as we promised and so forth. So I went to work immediately to fix that. And when I left, the individuals were getting paid within five days. So we still were able to extend our payment terms, which actually helped Cummins with their cashflow, but our, our suppliers were getting paid within on average five days. So I felt really proud of that because it actually helps some of our suppliers become debt free and it was a win, win, win.

Mitch Roshong: (05:24) And what do you attribute some of that success to? How were you able to overcome those challenges?

Ginger White: (05:28) I really do attribute a lot of that to Six Sigma, my problem solving skills and then just getting everybody together and working collaboratively. It's, it's a skill I've naturally somehow come about. And I think Six Sigma helped me do that because a lot of times people will just try to solve things from their perspective. And it's so much more powerful when you get cross functional teams together to really talk and understand deeply what each issue might be in a given area. So that's what we did. We really looked at it solution, we looked at the payables process, we looked at all kinds of things to really determine what the real root cause was. We fixed those, we put controls in place to ensure the failures just stopped ongoing. And then we, we had good suppliers that we partnered with and they held us accountable too, which was really powerful. So it, it was it was a great experience to, to really do that. And I have lots of those, those kinds of areas where we've solved big issues over time.

Mitch Roshong: (06:24) Well that was kind of my next question. I was going to ask if you had any particular success in addition to this, maybe looking back that you were particularly proud of as an accomplishment that's still sticks out?

Ginger White: (06:34) So one of the other big areas that I'm extremely proud of leads back to when I was a six Sigma black belt and the 2005, 2006 time frame, I led a project that was a finance recruiting project for Pat Ward, who was at the time the engine business worldwide controller. And shortly thereafter became our CFO. What I did is I created this recruiting process for finance. And actually we started recruiting at the IMA student leadership conference. So these students come and they're just wanting an opportunity. And the schools they attend most times are very small and they don't get big corporation attention. And so given those kids the opportunity to have a corporate experience through an internship and ultimately full time opportunities that they would've never gotten, makes me very proud.

Mitch Roshong: (07:25) Another perfect segue for me because my next question was kind of about the, the two different accounting associations that you're working with. So what kind of leadership do you think you bring to IMA and then your, your a C-suite position coming from, you know, a corporate environment?

Ginger White: (07:41) For me, I, I see lots of collaboration opportunities between the two organizations and I've seen that both at Cummins. We partnered with some of our suppliers to do joint negotiations for lower costs. I see that opportunity possibly, and then just the whole handoff of the profession. So the professors start initially creating the future of the profession and those students may not even know where they're going at that point. And they began to start to plant those seeds of love for our accounting and finance. They may go into public accounting, they may go into corporate management accounting type roles. And I think it's up to all of us to just make sure the profession is stronger in the future and they pivot to more data analytics. So I think both are really focusing in those areas. And I see lots of collaboration opportunities for both organizations. And I think both the leaders of both organizations is really, they have the same passion as to make the future better for, for all of those that, that tend to decide to go into that profession, whether it to be, you know, a doctor to teach accounting or you know, to be a management accountant, a CFO, controller, or whatever the case might be. So I think it's important that we really look at that holistically instead of siloed.

Mitch Roshong: (09:04) So that's a good benefit for the association in the organizations. How about on the other side of it were a students, young professionals. What is the value of being a part of an association in furthering your career?

Ginger White: (09:18) I just can't say enough good things because I'm a product of IMA for sure. And had I not had the experiences that I've had with IMA, I don't believe I would have ever had the opportunity to be the COO of of the American Accounting Association. Networking is critical. You need to have people who actually tell you the truth about a situation instead of sugarcoat maybe how you're behaving or whatever the case might be, or just emulating other leaders that you watch as you grow. So I've had the opportunity to watch many chairs lead IMA over time. And so I feel like my year as chair was better because of them and watching their behaviors either good or bad and learn from that and try not to do the bad things and only, you know, work on the good things. So just doing that and learning in a political environment because that was probably one of my weaknesses quite honestly, because I am very truthful and you know, I just want to get the job done and do it really well. And I've learned over time, politics matters and still learning on that every day. Right? How do you ensure that everybody is aware of things? And what order do you inform them of that? Right? You start first the CEO and then so forth. Right? Who needs to know next and how do you empower people, excuse me by that. So I think it's, it's really been extremely beneficial to, to serve in the various roles like as chapter leader all the way up through the president of the chapter and then at the council level. And was I always super confident at that time? Absolutely not. Right. But it was a very nurturing environment. The people around me, the leaders really wanted me to succeed and brought me in when I knew nothing. And I remember Ron Luther asking me to be the student rep at the council level and I had no idea what that meant. And I, I even remember when I was told that I was the incoming president elect, I had no idea. They just kept pushing me into roles. And probably because I would've feared it and so I didn't have a choice. It's like, Oh wow, well they think I can do this. So I think that's been super powerful for me. And then kind of helping others have those opportunities as well has been really rewarding. So getting other new employees at Cummins and pushing them when it may be uncomfortable but then seeing them succeed and, and that's really rewarding. So giving back is just easy after you've been given so much.

Mitch Roshong: (11:55) We've done a really good job looking back at a lot of your accomplishments and talking about things that you've done in your career. But I'm kind of curious, you're clearly a lifelong learner, so what other goals do you have for the future? What plans do you have and what's next?

Ginger White: (12:11) So some of the things that I've thought about now that I'm part of the American Accounting Association, I'm really interested in obtaining my Certified Association Executive certification. I feel like it will just further help that organization grow and develop over time as well. The other thing I really want to do is really support Christian Cuzick, he's our incoming chair of IMA and one of his big initiatives is corporate outreach. So I'm looking really forward to helping make his year phenomenal and even better than mine. And the other thing I'd like to do is really probably teach back in the classroom again from my original passion, all of the learning I've done, how can I give that back to the the world, right? So it's a gift that I've been given and if I can help others be more successful then that makes me happy. So that would be probably my, my big next things to do.

Mitch Roshong: (13:04) Anything else you want to add? Any last remarks?

Ginger White: (13:08) I'd just like to say thanks to IMA and all of our members for giving me the opportunity to be 
chair. Cause again, that was a great development opportunity for me. We had a lot of challenges, but oh my goodness, what an amazing year we've had growing from 111,000 members to almost 140,000 members. It's unprecedented. So kudos to all of the staff and all of the volunteers who made that happen. And I'm just so grateful to be a part of it.

Announcer: (13:36) This has been “Count Me In”, IMA's podcast, providing you with the latest perspectives of thought leaders from the accounting and finance profession. If you like what you heard and you'd like to be counted in for more relevant accounting and finance education, visit IMA's website at www.imanet.org.