Director of Finance Learning & Development, Merck Pharmaceuticals
Data Driven Leadership Program
In both her personal and professional lives, Betsy Leahy likes to go new places. Outside of work, it’s all about seeking health and wellness destinations. On the job, it’s about discovering new learning opportunities—but not just for herself.
After holding a range of accounting and finance positions for Merck over the last 18 years, her career path took a different turn over the last five. Now, Betsy oversees the professional development of the entire global finance population of this leading biopharmaceutical company.
Here, Betsy shares why she chose to participate in the Data Driven Leadership Program offered by AICPA, and how it helps her guide Merck employees towards their own career destinations.
The challenge of change
The biggest challenge I deal with now—and what drew me into the program—is the rate of change taking place in the finance profession. The finance organization has a tremendous amount of new technology and tools available to them.
How can we shift them from some of the more traditional ways of looking at and analyzing data to learn more about the story that the data is telling us? And how do we use that data-driven insight to partner with the business to advance towards the results it needs?
Keeping up with change means upskilling the finance organization for a very different future. So, I wanted to arm myself with more information about how to get the right learning programs in place to bridge any potential skill gaps.
Laying the foundation
I was looking for a good foundational course for a broad employee finance base about how to become a data-driven leader—what they need to know about the future of data and new ways of working.
Because I find that finance individuals are really valued for their technical skills, but sometimes they don’t have the “softer skills” they need. For example, agility is going to be critical—the ability to change at a rapid pace. That is a skill they will have to excel at, as it’s a new way of working.
Also, finance is uniquely positioned to understand both the data AND the business. It all intersects. And, we need to be able to relay that to the business.
Those were some of the key takeaways I had from the Data Driven Leadership Program, that softer skills are important and something we need to focus on and that finance definitely has a role in this future space – and with new skills.
Right now, I’m using what I’ve learned to help me build a curriculum for a significant portion of the finance organization. I’ve been evaluating the skills we want to highlight and what programs to put in place to develop those skills.
While I don’t have to worry about these 2,000 people leading a data transformation, I do need them to understand the role that data is going to play going forward.
That’s why I would recommend the program to other companies, to build awareness that the future of finance and accounting isn’t going to be what we’ve done traditionally in the past.
When you’re thinking about the evolution of the profession, there’s a tremendous amount of opportunity for finance professionals. My advice to them would be to stay open to opportunities and not be afraid to go down different paths because, ultimately, that’s what’s going to lead to their development.
For myself, I’m very excited to add the Data Driven Leadership Program to my credentials. It helps me speak to the future of this profession and what my company and other companies need to focus on to upskill their organizations for the future.