First joined Tesla 9 years ago, Wharton undergrad, Harvard MBA.
He’s obviously qualified, what’s with all the ageist comments? 34 years old is a “kid” now? On HN of all places?
Who cares if he’s a “relative unknown” according to WSJ. Is notoriety an important qualification for CFO?
At the end of the day, I'm not personally worried about this and think this guy will likely do just fine, but this is sufficiently unusual that I don't think the WSJ article is odd.
Either way, it's extremely difficult for younger people to be in CxO positions unless they start a company. I'm extremely doubtful that most can't do the job, it's just that they can't get hired.
I'm sure this person will do just as good of a job as any 50+ yo with an extra decade or two of experience. Typically people that require 10+ years of experience to perform a job are worse off than someone that is capable after only 4-5years. Lots of dumb-fuck boomers out there that had to be spoon fed every iota of information before they could perform at a high level.
The latter; I can't imagine exec compensation at Tesla is bad. That said, the CFO role is going to be very tough when they have major financial obligations coming due this year.
And seeing as how the boss is a guy who proselytizes ideas straight out of science fiction comics, I'm guessing he won't be very understanding when the CFO says "I can't just move these numbers around".
Finance is knowledge-based, and a lot of that knowledge can only be learned by actual on-the-job experience. So, years of experience in a knowledge-based field is simply a shortcut/rubric for measuring a person's knowledge of their craft.
Typically, people in knowledge-based fields who think that they're as good at their jobs after 4-5 years as someone who has been practicing 10+ years are full of $$$$ and tend to create more problems for their clients/employers than they solve.
Tesla is continuing to grow at a high rate threw all that so its really hard for me to see this as anything other then narrative.
“To be fair, finance positions typically are the hardest to fill.
With it being a new science, the lack of codified rules/schools, & the propensity for finance people to want to spend time with their families at every waking moment.
Tesla's doing better than usual w/ retention.”
Finance is a 'new science'? Maybe if you're building trading algorithms, but that's not what a CFO does. And the thing about not wanting to work long hours is ridiculous when that's what every CPA is doing during tax, audit and earnings seasons.
A lot of "senior talent" are probably entitled, slow, and pedestrian. A lot of companies like these people because they are good at maintaining a caste system and shaking hands.
I think Tesla, as a disruptor, both needs and hates these employees. They need someone who has "done it before" so they can get out ahead of rookie mistakes. But they also need someone who will work hard, fast, and not get caught up thinking that they know everything.
I have never been bothered by high churn for execs at Tesla. Have any of you ever even met or worked for/with "senior talent?"
I bet Musk would rather be in the room with engineers who hate having reports than people-people.
Musk is precisely the bad kind of senior talent--imperious, oblivious, and completely unwilling to listen to advice from others even when he's been shown to be wrong.
The senior talent that's spent the last 3 years leaving Tesla? They've got documented success at other companies within their respective niches. With Finance, especially, you want someone with experience and knowledge because Finance is quite literally the heart of your company. The CFOs and other CxOs that have left Tesla have done good jobs at other companies, so the fact that so many of them are leaving Tesla, especially within such a short window and without replacement positions lined up, is good evidence that Tesla's books are in bad shape. No CFO of a publicly traded company leaves the job voluntarily if everything's fine.
That's just like, your opinion, man. Steve Jobs was an awful boss to some, but a visionary to others. Same with others throughout history.
>They've got documented success at other companies within their respective niches...The CFOs and other CxOs that have left Tesla have done good jobs at other companies
And the CFO before them was doing a good job too. And the CFO after them will do a good job too. I think manning the helm of a big self-steering monolith is a different game than running a disruptor.
>No CFO of a publicly traded company leaves the job voluntarily if everything's fine.
This is a common trope that never gets called out when it ends up not being true. It only sounds good when a CFO leaves, never when the company they left doesn't go bankrupt or die off because they left.
It's really not different at all. Same rules apply. Only minor differences related to industry-specific practices, most of which effect lower-level (non-CFO) finance functions. Internal corporate finance/compliance is one of those areas where disruption is not a good thing.
You are missing a few words so it's not clear what you're trying to say. Being a CFO of a well-run publicly traded company is a very cushy job, so CFO's rarely leave voluntarily unless it's for an even cushier job or the company has serious financial issues.
Also, CFOs aren't responsible for the company's commercial success, so it's not their fault if a company goes bankrupt--that's on the CEO and COO. CFOs are responsible for tracking the finances of a company and managing cash flow, but they don't make the business decisions of how a company's resources are used. For a poorly run company like Tesla, the CFO's job would generally also entail juggling debt payments and incoming income to make sure their is always sufficient cash flow to keep the lights on.
Tell that to the investors. He has made them a fortune in every enterprise he has ever run. What kind of senior talent would you want? You talk about documented success, but who has more of that than Elon Musk? It's a short list. If you don't like him, just say it, but don't make ridiculous claims.
Not even Paypal, where the technology stack came from Thiel, and the business decisions that led it to becoming the payment gateway for a generation of Internet companies...also came from Thiel. Elon's reign as CEO was a disaster and he was unceromoniously fired.
This is a serious question.
Paypal, Tesla, SolarCity, SpaceX and still other companies in startup modes.
WE NEED MORE BAD TALENT LIKE THIS!
2) Jury's still out on Tesla. All of their misfires can be traced to Musk, including their billion-dollar assembly line that couldn't actually assemble anything.
3) Gwynne Shotwell wants a word with you. SpaceX was nothing until she took over day-to-day and it's quite offensive to think that Musk has anything to do with SpaceX's success. SpaceX, noticeably, is the only one of Musk's current ventures where he isn't in charge of day-to-day operations and it's the only one that isn't a comedy of errors.
4) SolarCity was on the verge of bankruptcy. They were saved from immediate death by the Tesla acquisition. Since then, they've gone from being #1 or #2 in the market to a non-player; SolarCity now does less business than the larger regional solar installation companies. They're business is so bad right now that Panasonic is selling almost all of the output (i.e., solar cells) of the Gigafactory 2 in NY to SolarCity's competitors because SolarCity can't handle even a fraction of the supply.
And the sad thing is that Tesla and SolarCity would be doing so much better if Musk weren't in charge...like SpaceX, where he's not.
My guess: Musk would be more likely to listen to someone who knows the company inside and out and has been with them for years, as opposed to a qualified outsider.
Maybe not, but is that even the job of a CFO?
The CFO works for the CEO, right?
> The CFO typically reports to the chief executive officer (CEO) and the board of directors and may additionally have a seat on the board
The board has to hold itself to account, and that means members of the board have to hold each other to account.
But the bigger issue is that he simply doesn't have the experience that would be expected of a CFO of a publicly traded company, especially one that employs so many non-standard accounting metrics.
Just saying, not a toddler.
But David Knopf is also the exception that proves the rule--before becoming CFO, he spent almost a decade earning experience doing exactly the kinds of things the CFO of a publicly traded company would do. Similarly, with the other examples cited, they all had direct experience doing the things that the CFO of a publicly traded company would do.
But no one knows anything about the new CFO of Tesla. If he had been involved in Tesla's compliance or public-facing finance functions prior to this point, someone outside of the company would have worked with him and vouched with him. The silence speaks volumes.
No, but experience is. Apple's CFO is 55 years old. That's about the age you'd expect the CFO of a huge public company to be.
I would have liked to see someone with external experience that has a frame of reference as to how other companies do things, in a high-pressure, regulated environment; a la Ruth Porat.
Musk is a big personality, with a my way or the highway attitude. Ultimately, I'd feel more comfortable with someone who could unequivocally walk away, and in doing so, would send a huge signal that something doesn't smell right.
In my experience, someone who grew up drinking the coolaide won't have the experience / ability to pull the company back from disaster. Think about all the folks at Uber. It's sad, but you need experienced and ethical leadership, that has an obligation beyond just to the CEO, in Legal / Compliance and Accounting. Especially given the wild ride at Tesla, this is more important now than ever.
Then things fall apart and suddenly everyone wants to know how it wasn’t seen coming. A stream of people unwilling to sign on the dotted line for the audit is worrying. Replacing them with a totally inexperienced person for a $50b market cap company smells like burning sails and timbers to me.
I believe in Tesla and hope to the heavens that they succeed in what they are doing, but if I were a star CFO being headhunted for this job, I would probably see myself looking at the prospect of working brutal hours with an uncertain payout, and a possible reputational vulnerability should things go south. Only true believers need apply.
Given decreasing margin returns to experience, how much more experience does he need?
The guy who turned around LEGO was also in his 30s when he took over, seemed to go fine.
In case you're wondering whether I think everyone in their 30s can take a leading role, I think there's a fair chance assuming the person has been exposed to some management content.
If everyone needed to have direct experience, there'd never be anyone considered qualified.