Getting to Know: Elaine Noonan, SVP, Finance & Operations

Over the last few years I’ve had a chance to work closely with Elaine Noonan on Merkle’s Women in Leadership team and in our partnership with the ANA’s #SeeHer initiative. She is honest and insightful, both great for those new to the workplace and for those with experience.

Meet Elaine Noonan, Merkle's SVP of Finance & Operations  

Why did you want to work in finance?

To be honest, it was not my first choice. My dream was to become an interior designer and attend a NYC fashion institute after high school.  However, despite a partial scholarship and Saturday design classes under my belt, my father made his feelings clear, in that, interior design was a hobby and not a career.  So, I took his advice and adjusted my focus. As a result, I attended Loyola University in Maryland to pursue a degree in Accounting. While enjoying finance and business classes, if you had asked me then if my first job would be as an auditor at a top-tier accounting firm, it would have been a resounding “no”.  However, as an auditor, I especially loved interacting with clients and the vast opportunity to be staffed on different projects in different industries. Although, I didn’t see this as a long-term role, I gained valuable experiences and eventually transitioned into a finance role in the telecommunications industry where I continued to fine tune my technical skills.  

What advice do you have for people that want to get into finance?

Within Finance, there are so many paths to take and, most times, require different levels of technical expertise. So, my advice is to pursue internships and co-ops while in school to help you determine which area(s) of finance are of interest. There are also companies with rotation programs which provide the opportunity to experience different roles within finance for six-to-twelve month periods. When interviewing, ask potential employers if such programs exist in their organizations. But the most important advice I can give is to pursue your passions and capitalize on your strengths. Are you analytical and love data? A role on a corporate FP&A team may be the right fit. Do you love solving problems and helping to drive a positive financial outcome? Does connecting the dots between an organization’s people, processes, and financial systems get you excited? Then you are likely to end up in a role similar to mine where you will be more in a more operationally-focused finance role, such as a finance business partner, and will be the liaison with finance and the rest of the business. Conversely, if investment banking or wealth management is your draw, then aligning to an investment firm would most likely be the preferable path. Regardless of how many paths you take to find your passion within Finance ... dig deeper, build your technical skills and the sky will be the limited as there is so much opportunity in this field.  

What do you see coming that will disrupt the market?

If referring to markets in general, a big disrupter is the availability and the ease of which we can access data. This is usually a good thing, however, in some cases, can be a bad thing.  As we see in society today, whether it be in politics, advertising, social media, etc., the consumer can be overloaded with information; some of it misaligned or unfiltered but that which others believe to be true and potentially act upon. Data is very powerful and the influence it wields can empower or destroy others. As a society, it seems as if we are still defining the rules of engagement for properly vetting data, and, in effect, acknowledging one’s own accountability is imperative before sharing information with others. 

What good books would you recommend? (business and non)

Business:

  1. Tools for Titans by Timothy Ferris
  2. What You Don't Know and Your Boss Won't Tell You: Advice from Senior Female Executives on What You Need to Succeed by Pamela F. Lenehan
  3. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – by Patrick Lencioni. (or any book he has written is always a good read)

Non-business authors:

  1. David Baldacci
  2. James Patterson
  3. Jonathan Kellerman

What do you like to do for fun?

Even though my dream of pursuing interior design was temporarily stalled all those years ago, I really enjoy creating a beautiful home life for my family and friends. I’m an avid gardener who also enjoys raising our labradoodle and bantam hens – by the way, there is nothing like fresh eggs and—yes—chickens really do have personalities! I also spend free time entertaining, baking and cooking, and trying new recipes. Christmas cookies are my absolute favorite! Each season, I bake thousands of cookies to not only enjoy with friends and family in NJ but also ship to loved ones across the country. So not unlike my day job, the things I do for fun revolve around my passion for bringing people together and through planning and execution, ensuring the best possible outcome. 

Christmas cookies made by Elaine Noonan

And P.S.—the chocolate dipped shortbread cookies above are the yummiest!

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