Dec 22, 2021
When CFO Tania Secor looks back at the early years of her finance career, she can’t help but revisit her decision to accept a position with the McGraw-Hill Companies.
For a half-dozen years, Secor had been entrenched in the private equity world, advising portfolio companies on different growth strategies and helping to complete the acquisition of a string of middle-market firms. Her new role at McGraw-Hill would not only leverage her M&A experience but also situate her within the corporate finance rank-and-file, where she grew accustomed to the cadence of tasks performed by the finance function.
“I had never done a forecast myself, and I had never been through a rigorous budgeting and planning process at a $10 billion company,” explains Secor, who over the next 8 years would advance into a number of different FP&A roles before being named CFO of the magazine Businessweek, a role that would lead her to become part of a future transaction.
“I came back from maternity leave and was asked to work with the leadership team to sell Businessweek,” recalls Secor, who would remain CFO of the media property after it was acquired by Bloomberg LLP.
“During the transition, we had to rip our GL out of McGraw-Hill and put it into Bloomberg—and this had to have been one of the most challenging times of my career,” comments Secor, who notes that as the deal neared completion, her finance team lost its controller, which injected even more stress into the transition period.
Looking back, Secor says that she wouldn’t want to relive the experience. At the same time, though, she leaves little doubt that ultimately it was the Businessweek transaction that allowed her to plant both feet on the CFO path. –Jack Sweeney
CFOTL: Tell us about R/GA … what type of company is this, what does it do, and what are its offerings today?
Secor: R/GA is a digital innovation agency. We design businesses and brands for a more human future. This means that we engage strategists, technologists, creative people, and producers to develop campaigns, websites, mobile applications—any type of digital experience—for our clients, which include world-leading companies like Google, Samsung, Verizon, Nike, and 200 other firms for which we create these digital innovation experiences. We have 14 offices across the world and about 2,000 employees. We are a division of The Interpublic Group of Companies.
Interpublic Group has a large portfolio of different types of agencies and PR firms. The niche into which we fall is not necessarily media buying and planning—which is “media brands”—and it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with big standard campaigns for some of what you might consider to be traditional clients. Where we come in is in working with brands that are more innovative or want to complement their campaigns with some more innovative solutions. You might see an R/GA-developed TikTok campaign where the influencer on TikTok is actually engaging with you. We may have used volume capture to take an influencer and create a beautiful digital art campaign that turns into a commercial or a website design or a mobile app. Our services and capabilities run the gamut of the more innovative creative types of digital experiences.