CFO Interview: Karen Burns, CFO of NVIDIA

Karen Burns, CFO NVIDIA
Karen Burns, Interim CFO NVIDIA

NVIDIA was recently named as one of the top 25 tech companies to work for by BusinessInsider.

We had a chance to ask Karen Burns, interim CFO of NVIDIA’s global finance a few questions about working for one of the top tech companies in the world.

Can you share with us your top 3 challenges in your role as a CFO for one of the most well-known tech companies in the world?

Karen Burns (KB): We are in a very unique and favorable position as the world of computing becomes increasingly visual and mobile.  It requires us to deliver on our current financial performance while investing in our new businesses – such as mobile, super- and cloud- computing – and all our other innovative ideas to continue creating growth in the future and provide premium returns for our shareholders.

Secondly, as we employ world-class suppliers to manufacture all of our products it requires us to manage our supply and demand in order to ensure we have sufficient products in markets we serve.  This has become increasingly more complex as the landscape continues to change, with increasingly complex manufacturing process technologies needed for each new node, and the increasing demand on manufacturing suppliers as more technology companies employ this same strategy.

Lastly, we must help our investors understand the unique dynamics of the markets we serve, our position in these markets and how our continued innovations provide for growth opportunities.

How are you handling these challenges?

KB: Working as an executive management team, we have to continually anticipate such challenges as early as possible, attack them straight on and immediately course correct, as necessary.  We have to be a very nimble, no-ego organization to be able to do this, and I believe this is one of the best traits of our company.

BusinessInsider recently voted  NVIDIA as one of the top 25 tech companies to work for, what aspects of your job have you found rewarding working for NVIDIA as CFO over the past year?

KB: I have the privilege of working alongside the brightest minds in the tech industry.  Our company is incredibly passionate about creating new innovations that delight our customers, make their visual experiences more thrilling and their work much more rewarding.  This passion for excellence starts with our CEO and resonates throughout our entire company, breeding an environment where our employees believe they can make a difference.

If a brand new CFO approached you for advice, what would be the top 3 tips you could offer them?

KB: Listen, watch, and learn from everyone you can….and listen again.

What do you feel are the key factors in being a successful CFO?

KB: Knowing your company well enough to know where you can make a difference.  Ask and learn how you can best support your CEO, your team members and the overall business.  I believe different companies need different things from a CFO, and at different times, determining what that most important role is for that moment in time is the key to success.

One of the themes we’re looking at this year is hiring & retaining top finance talent and developing a top notch finance team. Can you offer any tips and challenges you’ve faced in this area?

KB: Your reputation is known and very important.  Talented individuals want to work for a finance organization that is respected within the company, a valued extension of the business, and where their talents will make a positive and meaningful impact on the company.

About Karen Burns
Karen Burns was named interim chief financial officer of NVIDIA in March 2011. She leads the company’s global finance organization, including financial planning and analysis, financial accounting and reporting, treasury, tax and internal audit.

Previously, Burns was vice president, corporate controller and tax. She also headed the company’s tax department for 10 years. Prior to NVIDIA, she served for nine years in various capacities in the tax and audit practices at KPMG’s Atlanta, London and Silicon Valley offices.

Burns holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting from Florida State University.