Photos of Rydoo's CFO, Aidana, to showcase becoming the new CFO

Working in Finance is like playing classical music. One simple fugue can contain multiple melodies, each telling its own story, interlinking and, at times, seemingly conflicting, but they’re all essential to making the masterpiece. And if one note is off, the sound doesn’t sound quite right, and everyone will face the consequences.

Finding that balance is not always easy, especially when you’re the “new kid on the block,” joining a team at a C-level position at a particular time when the organisation is going through changes that will impact the months— and even years— to come. If you’re lucky enough and play your notes just right, you might find yourself in a room with people who don’t mess up the chords and are willing to work together to create the perfect harmony. I was lucky enough to have found myself in that room.

After working in corporate finance for a while, and especially in more conservative settings, you might suddenly find yourself daydreaming about finding a new challenge, but not just any challenge. I had left the traditional corporate finance world behind for six years and switched to the start-up/scale-up world. And while it definitely suited my personality and career aspirations better, at times, even when you’re in a good place, you get this feeling in your gut telling you that it’s time to embark on a new journey. I didn’t know how and when this would materialise. Until a recruiter approached me on LinkedIn to discuss a position at this Belgium company called Rydoo.

Finding that balance is not always easy, especially when you’re the “new kid on the block,” joining a team that is going through changes that will impact the months— and even years— to come.

The first thing that went through my mind was, “Great, sounds like a nice opportunity”. Second, “Who are these people? Could this be the right fit for me?” I went into full-on research mode and realised that I’ve used similar tools with former employers. I also read about the company’s achievements in the past, the culture it fosters, and its values, and I started to think that it might be the right place for me. But I threaded lightly because, often, what you see might not be exactly what you get.

The process started as most of these things do: slow, taking its due diligence and with weeks of waiting and anticipating. As I kept meeting people and learning more about the company, I kept thinking, “They truly are what they say they are”. At one point, I knew I was ready to jump in headfirst and embrace this challenge. The day I got the final “yes” felt like putting the cherry on top of a cake.

I was ready to work alongside this team. During the process, I met a few people and learned all about their hardworking, creative, and innovative minds, and it felt good to call myself one of them. The challenge I had been waiting for seemed to be on the horizon. Soon enough, on my third day on the job on a chilly November day, I found myself sitting in a room full of people, most of whom I had only briefly met, tackling one of the biggest projects a CFO can tackle: budget planning.

But let’s be honest for a second: budget planning is not the most exciting exercise to begin with, especially when you’re doing it simultaneously with trying to achieve your goals for the year. Add in the fact that you’re a new joiner, still trying to get the hang of everything happening around you and getting to know the people you’ll be working with for the foreseeable future, and you’ve got yourself quite a complex equation. But in moments such as this, you’ve got to walk your talk, so I rolled up my (very real in November, mind you) sleeves and got started right away.

The only way to achieve the best results is for all departments to understand their role in contributing to the company’s broader goals.

I learned from the team that Rydoo had been on a growth path for a while and was gearing up for the next stage. Sustainable growth was the buzzword everyone kept mentioning, as is common in today’s market. Even through the hustle and bustle of wrapping up the year, achieving our year-end goals to finish on a high note and preparing for the next one, I knew it was important to gear up and understand how the company operated as soon as possible. That would be the only way for me to bring value to the table and build the scene for what would come next. Since I started at the year’s end, time was of the essence.

Building a budget for a sustainable journey has its pros and cons. It makes everyone focus on their deliverables and doesn’t leave much room for new ideas and approaches on the main KPIs. And while tackling it is simple, it’s not really an easy task. Priorities must be aligned since resources are limited regarding funds and time, and everyone needs to know their role in this success game. The only way to achieve the best results is for all departments to understand their role in contributing to the company’s broader goals. Just like in music, the orchestra needs to be aligned so that everyone can create a seamless and perfect melody.

But to achieve this, something’s got to give. We’re only humans, and it’s often taboo to talk about how you temporarily need to abandon the idea of achieving the work-life balance we all praise and strive for. Starting a new challenge implies changes, and you get to a point where you must consider if it’s going to be possible to maintain that balance or not. I certainly couldn’t for a while, not with the timeframes I had for all my deliverables. The good news? It’s not forever. I don’t believe it’s possible to maintain this equilibrium throughout your life. Sometimes, the scales will tip one way or the other, and that’s ok. The sooner you accept this and understand how you will gear up for the busy seasons, the easier they will be. Communication is key here, so talk to the people in your life and explain what’s going on and how it will affect your relationships so they can be prepared to support you during those times. You don’t have to navigate this alone.

I only got a chance to briefly get to know the people behind each team before we all got together for the executive team offsite, where the budget would be discussed. Had I been given a choice, I would have preferred to observe the company operations for a bit and get to know the people behind the position, as it allows you to understand better the strengths and potential bottlenecks in achieving targets.

Starting a new challenge implies changes, and you get to a point where you must consider if it’s going to be possible to maintain a healthy work-life balance or not. The good news? It’s not forever.

Having to go directly into the budgeting cycle certainly accelerates the learning curve, but it might also bring in some unexpected challenges. It’s not easy when you immediately have to jump into numbers and have to say “no” more times than you would like to, especially when you didn’t really get the chance to get to know the people you’re saying “no” to. Navigating this budget cycle meant finding the delicate balance between asserting strategic insights and working together by creating a space for open communication and discussion with all my peers from the executive team.

I’m not going to lie: I was a bit apprehensive at first. Being the new joiner and coming in with many ideas and a vision that at times might have contrasted with the previous CFO was not easy. You never really know what to expect when facing such a challenge. I was grateful for the guidance of my predecessor, who provided a lot of great insights and helped make the transition a lot easier and smoother both for me and the company, but when people are accustomed to things being done a certain way, it can sometimes be hard to make them see the potential of your ideas.

My worries soon proved unfounded. The whole team shared a vision and a mutual commitment to the company’s success and the path to achieve it. This served as a unifying force, fostering a spirit of alignment and cooperation among the leadership team, so my peers made it easy for me to execute and deliver the budget within deadlines. If anything, I believe it built a layer of trust between us.

When choosing my next venture, company culture was truly crucial to me. Most companies claim to have the “no ego, no politics, open mindset” values, but not all deliver. For me, the foundation of a good work relationship lies upon three simple things: having common goals, understanding each others’ challenges and always being ready to say, “How can I help?”. Seeing whether people stand true to their values in times of pressure determines what the culture is like, and Rydoo certainly delivered. Personalities may differ, but seeing a group of people work together and align on common values made it easy for me to become part of the team quickly. That was the moment I knew I had made the right choice.

Different managers have different approaches, and it’s not as if you’re turning a light switch on and everyone is just ready to accept the way you do things.

The setting we found ourselves in also helped build the relationships I sought. You’re not often lucky enough to join when the executive team plans an offsite, but it was perfect timing for me. During those days, I understood all the wins and lessons we’d learned in 2023 and what my peers envisioned for 2024. It was also interesting to see where opinions converged and differed and how the team handled these discussions. But if there’s something I took out of these days, it was the feeling of being welcomed by everyone and how they were all open to listening and discussing my points of view and ideas for the company, despite me being very new to the organisation. It’s not something you see every day in a corporate setting.

What you also don’t see is a group of execs getting together for a Spanish cooking class, which was fun — I can now impress everyone with my fancy meatball-making skills — but it also got us to work together and collaborate like we have to on an everyday basis. We’ve also shared plenty of stories amongst ourselves, laughed during dinners, had karaoke impromptu sessions, and, most importantly, I got a chance to spend some 1-1 time with each team member so we can align on our vision and goals. When we left, I felt energised and excited for my journey at Rydoo, and the sentiment hasn’t changed.

As soon as we returned, I dove into work with my team. As with my executive team peers, we also had to go through an adjustment period together. Different managers have different ways of approaching problems, giving feedback and preferences on the execution, and it’s not as if you’re turning a light switch on and everyone is just ready to accept the way you do things. Communication was key, and it led us to a place where we’re settled and geared up to continue improving things within the team and the company.

I’m fortunate to have had the chance to work with the people I’ve worked with, and I see how all their traits are crucial for successfully running the company and creating a great work environment. Everyone is supportive, open to feedback, has an outstanding work ethic and, above all, is enthusiastic about everything the future holds. I can’t wait for everything we’re going to achieve together.

That is not to say my work here is done. I view most things as a work in progress, and this journey has just begun. After closing the budget and wrapping year-end closing, we’re in full-on execution mode because as pretty as the spreadsheet with the forecasting for the year is, it’s worthless if that plan isn’t set into motion. Now, on to delivering results and working together as a team to achieve our yearly goals. What comes next? Only time will tell, but I’m sure excited to have a front-row seat and see how it unfolds.