Not Your Typical Chief Financial Officer
March 29th, 2019
Carrie McQueen, holding a trophy in her hands, stands among fellow CFO award winners at the San Diego Business Journal CFO of the Year event.
In Bringing Aira to Scale, CFO of the Year Winner Carrie McQueen Does Not Follow Traditional Approaches
CFOs typically work behind the scenes in the important role they play to ensure current and future growth of their company. When Aira CFO Carrie McQueen last night received the San Diego Business Journal’s prestigious CFO of the Year Award (in the Medium Privately Held Company category), she was particularly recognized by her peers for the collaborative and creative approaches she uses outside of the typical CFO job description to help grow Aira across all sectors.
As Aira pioneers dynamic new technology, services, and business models for an ever-expanding subscriber/customer base, Carrie has brought a strategic, holistic, and fresh approach to bringing Aira’s business to scale, according to her colleagues at Aira. This includes refining pricing and cost models – areas that are evolving with new technology and as Aira enters new markets – and ensuring that all facets of the business, including the voices of Aira’s customers, are considered in most critical decisions.
Named Aira CFO in March 2018, Carrie holds an MBA from San Diego State University, and a Bachelor’s in Political Science from the University of California, San Diego. She has more than 20 years of financial leadership experience among private and public companies, including serving as CFO of Ciphrex Corporation and other firms.
In light of her recent win, we sat down with Carrie to get to know her better.
Congratulations on receiving the CFO of the Year Award. What does this honor mean to you?
I would first like to say that it’s our entire team at Aira that makes the company what it is – a spirit that’s helped make receiving this award possible. This includes our employees, investors, agents, leadership, and especially our customers. Receiving the CFO Award is certainly an honor and I’d like to express special thanks to my four-member finance team that always goes above-and-beyond, and to Aira’s great, collaborative leadership team. It’s hard work, but this job is so much fun!
What have been the key challenges, as well as your approaches, to growing Aira as CFO?
The traditional role of a CFO mostly involves ensuring that the business runs smoothly, and that generally means with no disruptions in the machinery. That can be challenging enough in a fast-growing, highly-dynamic company like Aira that’s creating new technology and new business models.
Other challenges include refining our pricing and cost models for our subscribers/customers and other stakeholders. Our evolution and tech development are critical to our growth and success, so it’s equally important to keep lines of communication open with our customers so that we remain reliable, trustworthy, receptive to new ideas, and maintain the service they fell in love with. Balancing those takes hard work, deep listening, and massive collaboration among our teams and across all sectors of Aira.
With that collaboration, we’ve successfully overhauled our pricing and plans, removed and replaced unprofitable aspects of our business, and maintained transparency and great customer relationships along the way. Meanwhile, we’re creating huge opportunities for Aira, refining those plans, and we’ve closed our latest round of funding to deliver on those goals.
Community involvement through your church, as well as serving as a parent to 10 children, are also very important to you. Giving back is obviously important to you?
Yes! Although I love what I do for work, including building companies and solving the most elusive financial model or raising that big round, it doesn’t compare to investing in people. We now have 10 amazing kids (six of whom were adopted), ages eight to 24. It’s hard work, however, there’s no better, or more rewarding investment for us. My husband and I also share a strong foundation in our faith, and it puts even the biggest challenges in perspective. And, for several years, our family has spent time each summer at Forest Home (a family retreat camp in Forest Falls, CA) getting unplugged and recharged, and where I’ve served on the board.
Going forward, what does the future hold for Aira, and how do you view your role as CFO in helping Aira get there?
Aira has a fantastic future – we have a great product and a service that is life-changing for many of our customers, and it’s opening doors and conversations among corporations worldwide. Of course, as CFO, my job is to help manage growth and systems while we aggressively pursue even newer technology that can power more new markets. Balancing and executing such opportunities will not only be great fun, but carries great responsibility.