Rutherford Cross recently welcomed Barry McGonagle, Chief Financial Officer at Snappy Group, to speak at our latest Next Generation CFO event. Director, Hazel Wynn shares insight into Barry’s career path in this event write-up.
The virtual session began with Barry giving us some insight into how his early life and upbringing shaped a lot of his values and ultimately what drives him. He learned that hard work, resilience, and empathy were key. Barry highlighted he had faced imposter syndrome and a feeling of being ‘found out’ due to having limited resources starting out. He recognises now that his journey is based a lot on the realisation that this was not true and being able to move away from that belief.
Barry highlighted that curiosity drove his early learning; he was always interested in how companies work, which led to him choosing Accountancy as his future career. Naturally good at it, Barry was first in his family to go to university, studying Economics & Accountancy at the University of Edinburgh. This period confirmed for him that hard work and resilience were key, and he gained a first-class honours degree. After completion of his studies, Barry Joined Deloitte which he felt gave him a great grounding to the fundamentals of accountancy and valuable exposure to lots of different businesses. Through a series of experiences during this period, Barry learned to box his fear around imposter syndrome and he stressed the importance of not placing an unreal ceiling on yourself.
Barry reflected it was great to build a lot of core competence at Deloitte, but really he wanted to be in Industry. He got the opportunity to join Skyscanner when it was at scale-up stage and they were a hugely ambitious company. Barry commented that outward looking, this was a step backwards as it was a financial reporting role with no direct reports. He took a calculated risk and this was one of the best decisions he has made, spending the next 7 years at Skyscanner and going on an incredible learning journey. Barry mentioned that in a business that is scaling rapidly, the organisation naturally has more problems to solve than people to solve them, so it provided a huge opportunity to be involved in various challenging exercises resulting in great exposure even in his first year with the business.
During this period, Barry also got involved in Hearts Football Club, at a time when the club was facing some difficulties. This was his home club and something he was particularly passionate about. Barry joined and was the first elected Director to Foundation of Hearts Board. He spent 6 years as part of the Board, and by the time he left, he had successfully helped Hearts to become fan owned. Barry talked about how he is immensely proud of this; through the experience he learnt that following the things you care about and are curious about can complement the decisions you make in your working life, and can make you a better and more well-rounded leader.
In 2016, Skyscanner was purchased by Trip.com, a US listed business. An opportunity then arose for Barry to join another business that Trip had bought in the Netherlands. Due to the Covid-19 lockdown commencing, Barry ended up doing the role fully remotely and also took a step into the COO role for a period of time, navigating the business through a turbulent time. In 2022, Barry decided to join Snappy, knowing his real passion was within the startup world. The product, purpose and mission of the company resonated with him and he felt it was the right fit. He has been there for the last 20 months and is really enjoying the journey.
Finally, Barry shared a couple of frameworks which he has used throughout his career that have been helpful for him and supported with his decision making. The first one is from Ikigai and looks at how to rationalise and think about how you should best be spending your time to achieve the most fulfilment in your life. Barry highlighted he has taken these concepts and used them to help make career and life decisions. Another framework Barry highlighted was more competency based and is around the CFOs’ 5 faces.
The session with Barry was refreshingly honest and transparent with some of the key takeaways being:
- Hard work and resilience are key to what you can achieve, don’t place unnecessary ceilings on yourself
- Following your curiosity and what you are passionate about can go hand in hand with becoming a better leader
- Working in a start-up environment comes with high levels of risk but equally can create huge amounts of opportunity
- Don’t be afraid to fail: lean in and get comfortable with your decision making
- Reassess every day how best your time is spent
- Careers are long, it is a dance not a race and you can afford some missteps along the way, as long as you learn from them
Following Barrys’ presentation, we moved onto the Q&A part of the session. This covered areas such as the top 3 priorities in his role, making the transition from a CFO to a COO role, advice to people considering a move into a Scale-up environment, and how to best tackle imposter syndrome.
If you missed the event, you can watch a recording of Barry’s full presentation and the Q&A via this YouTube link.