Women in Finance Take Note! This VP and Career Pivoter Has Advice for You

Sponsored by Axon

Anna Gerrish and family.

Photo courtesy of Axon.

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Fairygodboss
May 23, 2024 at 6:30AM UTC

When Anna Gerrish was laid off from an external audit position during the Great Recession in 2009, she was heartbroken. It was a job she had loved. “But, in retrospect, I’m so thankful... I probably would have been content to stay there too long,” remarks Gerrish. This layoff began a career journey that ultimately brought Gerrish to a job she truly loves, at Axon.

Within a month of the layoff, Gerrish found a new position working in financial reporting. “Since then, I’ve worked in a variety of financial and SEC Reporting roles at several public companies,” Gerrish tells us.

Her final position before Axon lasted for over seven years. “During which time, I got divorced, remarried, and had a baby,” says Gerrish. “It was a great company, and I enjoyed the work, but, eventually, I got bored and was looking to make a change.”

This is when a recruiter reached out to her about a role at Axon, the global leader of connected public safety technologies. After only one round of interviews, Gerrish knew that Axon was the right fit for her.

As Vice President of SEC and Financial Reporting for Axon, Gerrish can do what she loves in a fast-paced and never-boring environment. “There is a lot of opportunity to contribute and make improvements,” Gerrish tells us. “I like digging in, understanding the pain points in a process and helping to figure out how to make those better. I also get to develop a growing team — something I have long enjoyed.” 

Gerrish is a critical member of Axon’s Finance teams, which work to strengthen investor confidence, all while driving informed business decisions that profitably scale Axon and develop world-class Finance talent.

Read Gerrish's advice for career pivoters and women in finance who wish to take their careers to the next level.

How did you make your career switch, and how did Axon support you in this process? 

Moving to Axon was a challenge — there is always a steep learning curve in a new role; however, I joined at the height of quarter close (typically our busiest time of the quarter) and was responsible for publishing a 10-Q in a matter of weeks.

My manager was a huge source of support, and I was lucky enough to have a fantastic direct report who handled many of the day-to-day items and helped me get fully onboarded. My manager gave me free rein to make improvements from day 1 and was also there to answer questions or point me to the right contacts whenever I needed. During that first quarter, he ran a handful of meetings that I now lead so that I could learn the process with a little less pressure.

After that quarter, we rolled out our eXponential Stock Performance Plan, which really was a trial by fire. This kind of performance stock plan had never been offered to such a broad employee base by any other company, and it was critical for us to get it done in a short window before the end of the year. As part of that project team, we had near-daily calls and meetings, sometimes spending hours together working through questions and issues. We put together public- and employee-facing documents, FAQs, presentations, slack channels, and an enrollment process, all in less than 6 weeks. Tackling a number of complex issues within a very short time span accelerated the relationships within the team and helped us build trust quickly. Being thrown into that project early on exposed me to key internal stakeholders who have provided ongoing guidance and insights during my career growth at Axon.

How have you benefited from the skills/experience you’ve gained in your career pivot?

I feel a lot more confident in my own abilities now. For many years, I had imposter syndrome and was constantly anxious about being out of my depth. I also have more opportunities to use the “softer” skills that are high on my natural strengths list, such as figuring out how individuals with specific backgrounds or skills can best contribute to a team. 

Can you tell us more about how you beat imposter syndrome?

It was a combination of things. Part of it was addressing my own mental health via therapy and medication. The other key piece was mentors, both formal and informal, who recognized my strengths and at times had more confidence in me than I did in myself.

Based on your experience, what are the top 1-5 skills you think other women need to develop to successfully pivot their own careers?

I think being curious and having a desire to constantly learn is the number one skill for taking on just about anything new. The smartest people that I know aren’t afraid to ask questions, even if the answers might be obvious to someone else. Curiosity enables you to ask the “why” questions that help drive both understanding and enable change. 

What is your best piece of advice for other women who are thinking about making a career pivot? 

Think long and hard about what it is that you are looking for. For me, I really just needed a new challenge rather than a complete career overhaul. I’m glad to say that I’ve rarely been bored in this role!

What is your favorite thing about working in Finance?

The number one reason I enjoy working in Finance is because it gives you a view into so much within the company — in reporting, we are often informed of developments earlier than most of the company, and we have a very broad scope, so we learn a little about a lot of different things. I also think that Finance attracts smart, hard-working people in general – and it’s really great to work with people who are similarly motivated. 

Looking back on your entire career, what would you say has been your most valuable career mistake? 

At my last job, I passed on the opportunity to apply for a promotion due to a combination of personal reasons (a very young child) and fear about working on a specific intimidating project. Looking back, I kick myself for not going for it. Trusted colleagues questioned why I didn’t go for it, and that should have been a pretty clear sign that I was capable, even if I didn’t feel ready.

Finally, what are your favorite things about working at Axon? 

First and foremost, I love our mission. It’s tangible and important. I also enjoy the flexibility. Being able to fit in things that are important to me personally and having the freedom to work from home are huge. I value the trust that leadership has in us to perform at a high level, on terms that work for each person. 

  


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