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FD Q&A: Will Gardiner, CSR

1. Rise early or work late?

I have always been a morning person… I do my best thinking early in the morning, and it is not unusual for people to receive e-mails from me with a time stamp of 4 or 5 am.

2. Training preferences: on the job or formal?

I greatly benefited from formal training early in my career. I still remember lessons about credit risk that I learned at Citibank in Puerto Rico when I was 22. Later on in my career, on the job training has become more important, as there is less time for formal training. I would encourage people to take risk, and use on the job training to help manage career transitions. I managed my transition into my first CFO job completely with on the job training, and more recently my transition into the semiconductor industry in the same way.

3. What is your management style?

My job as a manager is to create an environment in which my people can thrive. That means ensuring they have clear objectives as well as all the tools they need to do their jobs. That means pushing them when they need to be stretched, and helping them when they need support. I also believe that my job as a manager is to put people in situations where they can be successful – play to people’s strengths and help them with their weaknesses.

4. Does delegation come easy?

It does. One of my first bosses told me that the key to success is making sure that “the ball is never in your court”. So I always look to delegate first, and then make sure that I am getting enough feedback to help if things are not going well. I also work hard to make sure that I delegate accountability as well as responsibility.

5. Who do you rely on most?

My wife. She is my closest confidant – I always look to her for advice.

6. Boardroom or restaurant?

Restaurant. People react differently when they are relaxed and when they are under stress… in my experience, people’s reactions in a relaxed environment are more reliable. So I like to make sure that I have reviewed most important decisions with people in an informal setting well before they make it to the board room.

7. What technology would you never be without?

The exciting things happening in technology today are not individual technologies, but the great ideas people are coming up with to take advantage of the combination of technologies… like putting sensors and Bluetooth Smart into trainers so that you can tell how far and how fast you run and how high you can jump, and then send that information to your friends through the cloud. Or simple stuff, like reading the Economist on my ipad and then e-mailing the articles to colleagues.

8. Are you an FD for life?

No. I am interested in a range of things – from international affairs, to sustainability, to art and ballet. I look forward to exploring some of those areas later in my life.

9. What keeps you awake at night?

My kids!

10. Your critical advice to would-be FDs?

Life is short. Make sure that you enjoy what you are doing, and that you take enough risk. When I started studying Russian in university I never imagined that I would end up as the Finance Director of a semiconductor company in Cambridge. All of the steps fit together…just not in the ways that you would expect!

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