The Business School Alumni Network sat down with Professional MBA alumnus Jason Mangone about his steep career path, his graduate school days at CU Denver Business School, and his advice for students.
Can you tell us more about your current employer and position?
I have been Chief Financial Officer of Kärcher North America since April 2017. We’re the leading manufacturer of commercial, industrial and consumer cleaning equipment in North America. In North America, Kärcher is producing and distributing products and services under the brands Kärcher, Windsor Kärcher Group, Landa Kärcher Group, Hotsy, Water Maze, Spraymart, Cuda Kärcher Group, and Shark.
As CFO, I drive strategic executive initiatives in three countries encompassing eight manufacturing/office facilities. We employee 1,150 employees with Accounting, FP&A, IT, Legal, and Operations Finance departments reporting to me.
What led you to your current position?
Over the years, I’ve worked in several industries (medical technology, electrical manufacturing, transportation and more), moving my way across the country as various opportunities presented themselves. I purposely accepted almost any promotion or opportunity along the way that afforded me more exposure and responsibility within the variable disciplines within finance. This allowed for a more holistic experience in finance leadership with roles in Strategic Finance, Operations Finance, Commercial Finance as well as Corp Finance. I found that developing this wide range of skills allowed me to secure my first lead finance position back in my home state of Colorado.
“I found that developing this wide range of skills allowed me to secure my first lead finance position back in my home state of Colorado.” – Jason Mangone
What are some professional challenges you are facing right now?
On a personal level, I’ve learned that as I’ve taken on more and more responsibility in a large organization, it is much harder to stay connected with day-to-day operations. It’s vital for me to keep my finger on the pulse, so I’ve had to prioritize my time to stay connected with my people which is harder than it sounds.
On an economic level, as an international organization, the geopolitical realities of today are incredibly difficult to navigate. Everything from tariffs and treaties to economic agreements and alliances is being challenged right now. The international business environment has become very unpredictable and even volatile.
What made you want to pursue an MBA from CU Denver Business School?
After I had finished my undergraduate degree, I was not sure what I was going to do with the rest of my life yet. My friends and I purchased a small pub back in Tacoma, WA that had caught on fire and we completely rebuilt it ourselves. That small dip into business ownership sparked my interest in financial management. I decided to join a small family business and realized that I wanted to be more educated about running the business.
I knew I wanted to learn more about finance and operating a business so I decided to go back to graduate school and get my MBA to build a foundation. I was working full time, so I took classes at night. That was difficult to balance, but I had the advantage of not having a family at the time. It was easier because I could be selfish. It was an invaluable experience, but, thinking back now, it’s such a blur. Three years went by so fast, and now I can’t remember how I did it all!
What was the biggest difference between your undergraduate and graduate studies?
At the Business School, many of us were working full-time while going to school. The curriculum was very focused on group work and we spent many nights and weekends together. The collaborative work environment was a fantastic real-world experience. Graduate school was much more project-oriented, and I really excelled because of that.
What piece of advice has helped you the most professionally?
If you’re offered an opportunity in an area that you might be apprehensive about because of lack of experience, take the risk and get the experience. Holding back will not serve your future. Don’t be uncomfortable learning new stuff. Make yourself valuable by being diverse!
“Don’t be uncomfortable learning new stuff. Make yourself valuable by being diverse!” – Jason Mangone
I think it’s been long enough ago that I can finally share this story. I once had the opportunity for a position to move to the east coast that would involve being a Controller over a cost accounting team. I had never been a cost accountant in my life. I knew the position would be a great career move and knew I could learn the skills to succeed, so I took the chance anyway. I actually brought my CU Denver textbook with me on the plane to brush up before the interview! I got the job and found myself supervising experienced professionals twice my age while having to establish myself as the leader. Later, because of my success there, and a diversified skill set, my CFO at the time tapped me to lead a new strategic finance organization for a 10 billion dollar organization. Taking that chance on a position which was outside of my comfort zone was an absolute career accelerator.
“Taking that chance on a position which was outside of my comfort zone was an absolute career accelerator.” – Jason Mangone