Brent Callinicos took a non-traditional route to Google (GOOG), where he currently serves as vice president and treasurer. After moving to the United States from South Africa, he enrolled as an undergraduate business student at the University of North Carolina. Instead of looking for a job upon graduating, he immediately joined the MBA program at UNC. As part of Bloomberg Businessweek’s ‘How I Got Here’ series, Bloomberg’s Melanie Danko spoke with Callinicos about his shift from college life to consumer products—and his jump into the tech sector, thanks to some savvy networking skills and a multifaceted career path. What follows is the story of Callinicos’s career progression in his own words. (Some quotes have been edited for space and clarity.)
Name: Brent Callinicos, CPA
Current Position: Vice President and Treasurer, Google
Education: MBA, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Kenan-Flagler Business School, Class of 1989
Unusual then, unusual now. I went straight from UNC undergraduate school to grad school. No work experience, just right into an MBA program. While working on my MBA, I also took the CPA.
—Procter & Gamble, assorted finance roles, June 1989-April 1992
I worked at P&G (PG) for three years. It was a great training ground, as they hired hundreds of post-grad and undergrad students. It was a good place for someone with zero experience. I started in the treasury [department] there, interestingly enough. I moved around to some other corporate finance roles within the company as well.
—The Walt Disney Company, senior financial analyst, Walt Disney Records, April 1992-December 1992
I read the book Storming the Magic Kingdom, which was all about how Disney had reinvented itself. It was extremely impressive and it compelled me to send them my résumé. I made the move from P&G because I wanted a position where finance played more of a role in terms of what the company did. I had some exposure to technology while working at Disney (DIS) in their gaming industry and it interested me.
—Microsoft, various finance roles, December 1992-April 2000
—Microsoft, vice president, treasurer, April 2000-April 2004
—Microsoft, vice president, worldwide licensing and pricing, April 2004-February 2006
—Microsoft, chief financial officer, platforms and services division, February 2006-January 2007
While I was at Disney, I had a friend working at a tech start-up called Microsoft (MSFT). My friend really tried to convince me to move to Washington and I found it very intriguing. This was my first experience in tech. When I started [at Microsoft], only 3,000 people worked there. Essentially, I was doing the entire financial side for the company, as it was a startup: [mergers and acquisitions], financial analysis, development, etc. I rejoined the treasury [department] in 1995 with only about five or six people; the company was growing very fast. Ten years later, I was still working in treasury there. I became treasurer in 2000, and by 2004 there were hundreds of people in the treasury [department]. Microsoft then reorganized and I became a regional CFO.
—Google, vice president, treasurer, January 2007-Present
At the end of 2006, Google called. I like running things, I like building things, and it seemed like this was an opportunity to build new things. I remained interested in technology, and their small treasury group sparked my entrepreneurial fire. I was also attracted to the trajectory of the company. In 2007, I joined the treasury [department], made up of about five or six people. Today, the treasury group is over 50 people, and in addition I picked up the accounting and tax departments. I now have that group rolling up to me as well. It’s about 300 to 400 people, in all.
Get the work experience. In hindsight, I know what the school gave me, but the work experience is very relevant in the MBA program. I didn’t have the same context as the rest of the students. However, building the connections with professors and colleagues in grad school was crucial and became very strong and has helped me today. Make those connections. You never know what will come from them.