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10 questions for CDW CFO Ann E. Ziegler

By Nancy Weil
October 24, 2011 02:45 PM ET

IDG News Service - -- Name: Ann E. Ziegler

-- Age:53

-- Time with company:3.5 years

-- Education: B.A. with honors, College of William & Mary; J.D., University of Chicago Law School

-- Company headquarters: Vernon Hills, Illinois

-- Revenue: CDW generated sales of $9.2 billion for the trailing 12 months ended June 30, 2011.

-- Number of countries: Two, U.S. and Canada

-- Number of employees total:More than 6,400

-- Number of employees the CFO oversees: 250

-- About the company: CDW provides technology products and services to the business, government and education sectors. The company website is

1.Where did you start in finance and what experiences led you to the job you have today?

I am actually a lawyer by training, so I began my career as a mergers-and-acquisition and corporate finance lawyer at Skadden, Arps.After several years and the birth of my oldest daughter, I took my legal skills in-house to Sara Lee Corporation.At Sara Lee, I was quickly given the opportunity to move into corporate development, running mergers and acquisitions from the business side. I moved up within corporate development, ultimately managing the group and reporting to the chairman and CEO of Sara Lee Corporation.At this point in my career, I determined I had been a deal junkie long enough, and asked to be moved to a CFO role. I accepted a lateral position as group CFO for Sara Lee Bakery Group and ultimately became the CFO of North America, before leaving to join CDW as CFO.

2. Who was an influential boss for you and what lessons did they teach you about management and leadership?

I am fortunate enough to have had several excellent and influential bosses over my career.As I moved into different roles, I learned that different management and leadership styles are effective for different people and that you need to find the ones that work for you. I have learned the importance of communication (particularly in the face of uncertainty), the importance of supporting and stretching young talent, the importance of listening, and the importance of diversity on a team's performance.Of course, hard work is just table stakes.

3.What are the biggest challenges facing CFOs today?

Economic uncertainty and volatility are the biggest challenges. Maintaining an organization's agility and flexibility is increasingly important.CFOs have a critical role in making this happen.

4.What is a good day at work like for you?

Being viewed as a good business partner is key to adding value as a finance function. A good day is one during which a co-worker on the operating side of the business compliments my team on a job well done.

5.How would you characterize your management style?

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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