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Belinda was a CFO at 28: Here’s how she did it

Belinda Hogan hit the C-suite at 28. Here's how you can too. Source: Getty/Supplied

Hitting the c-suite - that is, attaining a high executive position starting with the word ‘chief’ - is tough. 

In fact, it’s not often high-flyers are afforded the opportunity to apply for an executive job until they’re over 40. 

But Belinda Hogan, from Wollongong, has already been a chief financial officer twice - the first time at the age of 28. 

Hogan, now 31, was appointed chief financial officer (CFO) of the Illawarra Credit Union, after starting as a cadet accountant nine years prior. 

Then after almost three years in that job, Hogan jumped to branchless bank 86 400 to be a CFO there. 

Here are her three tips for hitting the c-suite early: 

1. Focus on your internal dialogue

While technical competency is key, it’s also key to believe in yourself, Hogan said.

“For me, the biggest thing was focusing on my internal dialogue. What’s the story you are telling yourself every day?” She told Yahoo Finance.

This is especially important for women, Hogan said. 

“Young women in finance are told it’s a male-dominated industry, and not a lot of women to the c-suite. You really get told there’s going to be this big gender pay gap, and there’s quite negative expectations around that.”

To combat that, Hogan started to change the story she told herself.

“I practised every day so that I could broaden my opportunities and not let that negativity get me down, and start focusing on how I can positively influence change,” she said. 

“That’s not easy - it takes a lot of internal reflection and hard work. But it’s something that I felt in control of, too. It’s not about anyone else, it was about me and what I felt everyday.”

2. Get in the room

Before Hogan became CFO, she had worked her way up in different areas of the business, but realised there was only one way she was going to move up: “I had to get in a room.”

Not just any room - Hogan wanted to get in the business meetings with the head honchos at the Credit Union.

“I went and trained myself in how to properly take minutes for a company,” she said.

“I wanted to start taking the minutes in manager meetings and board meetings and committee meetings...It’s not the usual type of thing people would usually put their hand up to do, but it meant it got me in the room a lot earlier than my position would have warranted.”

Through taking minutes, Hogan said she learnt a “phenomenal amount” just from listening and observing the dynamics of the company. 

“Sometimes you can’t find a door, but how do you find a window?” she said.

3. Find the silver lining in everything

If you’re a junior in a profession and finding that some of the tasks you’re asked to do are repetitive or not interesting, Hogan says you should just find the silver lining. 

“I used to spend quite a lot of time looking at our accounts payable, and I would try and find ways to do it more efficiently,” she said. 

“I would think, ‘How can I improve this process to when I pass this along to someone else, it improves how they do it?’.”

“This really shows your managers that, no matter what task they give you, you’ll find a way to make the best version of it.”

And it’s a double-edged sword, Hogan said.

“Personally, it makes it much more interesting and gets you more engaged in the work, while also giving something back.”

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