Which FLDP rotation to take?

Next summer I'll start my 3rd and final FLDP rotation at an A&D company.

Here is the rub: I'm becoming more and more disenchanted with this company and industry. There are many reasons, but the main one is that there is no culture of promoting young talent. Almost all managers are mid thirties or older- hitting manager after only 5-7 years simply doesn't happen. This isn't the place for a rapid career climb.

That said, I'm trying to identify a 3rd rotation that will give me solid yet transferrable experience. My first two rotations were in program finance and FP&A. My ultimate goal is to be a CFO, or to lead a company or business unit. Here are some options:

Manufacturing finance/Plant controllership type role: I'd be on a team of people assisting a Plant Controller. I'm hoping this role would give me a small taste of running a P&L and would be transferrable outside defense.
More FP&A: I could get more FP&A experience in a different business unit. FP&A is highly transferrable, but I might benefit more from having 3 different rotations.
Corp Dev: This would be a hard rotation to land, but getting CD experience and eventually CD pay is attractive. The downside in my mind is that if I want to leave the A&D industry, getting CD experience in this industry might not be as transferrable as I'd like.
Others include IR, more program finance, and proposals.

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Comments (14)

Jan 23, 2018 - 1:22pm

In the program finance role I had responsibility for about $10M worth of contracted programs. I had to compile quarterly "estimates at complete" (more or less a mini earnings call for the contracts), I had to track our expenses each week, and had to keep our forecasts updated. The programs basically ran on autopilot, so my role was just reporting. There weren't any new efficiencies to be gained, no events that might positively or negatively effect our profit rate.

The FP&A role was for a product line with ~$1B of contracts. Forecasting, monthly close, AOP, 5 Year. Basically your run-of-the-mill FP&A job. Definitely liked it more than the programs role.

I feel like there is more I could have learned on the programs side, since my role was not very dynamic.. But I want to be careful though because often times the more dynamic roles are only dynamic because of government complications. Trying to keep my experience attractive to non A&D companies.

Best Response
Jan 23, 2018 - 1:55pm

I completed a similar program out of college. It's unfortunate to hear there's no culture / appetite of promoting young talent, which is contrary to my experience. Some of the more talented colleagues from my class/program have had 2 promotions in 2-3 years after completing the program.

Given that your ultimate goal is to become a CFO, I think it will serve you well to go after roles that are more Accounting in nature. CFOs typically have a CPA, especially in public companies. Are you working towards a CPA? The reason you want to work in an accounting-centric role (financial reporting, tax, AR/AP, etc.) is that you can obtain credits towards your CPA.

If you are not dead set on the CFO track, Corp Dev would be a good rotation to check out. You get to work on important and confidential projects that could have a huge impact for the company or BU. I'm biased b/c I work in CD, but I also did a rotation in CD and it was by far the most interesting for me. However, I should note some folks hated it b/c the work was too "high level" and the work was sometimes too abstract/not structured and they preferred having more process and directions (e.g. pulling together a strategic framework for a specific market from scratch, etc.).

Jan 23, 2018 - 2:26pm

What industry was your FLDP? The company I work for has a great program, but I think it's just defense as a whole that doesn't have young leadership. Which makes sense, tons of our guys come from the military, and the military is our customer.. so it follows that our company would have a similar structure and wouldn't have young directors or VPs. I can get to SFA pretty quickly here, but the next promotion (manager) typically takes another 7 years.

CD is what I've been wanting and targeting for a 3rd role, but as I've become less and less interested in this industry I've been reconsidering CD.. I don't want to be in a role that is heavy with studying the defense industry, studying the defense budget, learning what the government/military is looking for and trying to determine what acquisitions need to be made to follow that plan. Recall that I want to leave the defense industry after my rotational program. If the core experience is still transferrable however, then I might still go for it.

Jan 23, 2018 - 3:27pm

My program was in the Industrials industry and the company had lots of veterans as well.

Whether Corp Dev experience is transferrable between industries, well that's a bit more nuanced to answer. It really depends what you want to do.

If you want to work in Corp Dev or Strategy, the core experience (financial modeling, learning about a market, how to use M&A to gain market share or enter an adjacent market, internal strategy on how to cut cost company wide to improve margins, etc.) is absolutely transferable (i did it), especially at a junior level.

However, if becoming CFO is the ultimate goal, the fastest path would of course be to work in an Accounting / FP&A capacity, where you learn financial reporting, learn how to use financial & business systems, how to close the books, how to forecast / budget, and having a fundamental understanding of the accounting rules affecting your industry, etc.

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Jan 24, 2018 - 8:59am

If you want to work in CD, then take the CD rotation. You need experience with the deal process....and the core skills including modeling, strategy, synergies, operational integration, etc.

Jan 24, 2018 - 1:13pm

I'm in a similar situation also choosing in the coming months on where I want to be for my final rotation but figure I can still chime in. I think that the plant role would be good if you are set on sticking to an industrial industry. I'm at a tech/media company so roles like that wouldn't really be valued as much here. Another FP&A role would be good if you want to switch to a wildly different industry as you would be very experienced in the domain. The technicals skills that you would get in Corp Dev would also be possible to sell even outside of A&D.

I'm surprised that IR isn't more appealing to you since you are interested in moving industries and already have the FP&A experience as it can potentially help round out your profile a bit.

I would also consider location.. Plant experience would be good but personally I would hate living outside of a major city. It would also make it more difficult to interview for other roles when you're finishing the program.

Is treasury an option for you?

Jan 24, 2018 - 1:57pm

I'm still trying to figure out exactly what industry I want to land in- it has to be an industry where I am excited about the strategy and have a decent understanding of what the customers are looking for. Pretty broad criteria, but for me it basically excludes A&D.

My thoughts regarding a plant role is that it would be a taste of owning a P&L. It would most directly transfer to a manufacturing/industrials company, but I'm hoping to also be able to leverage it as general P&L management experience. Maybe that's unrealistic?

I'd be more interested in CD than I am now if I knew I had a good chance of creating that rotation.. Unfortunately, the odds of making a spot on that team are pretty bleak- at this point they only hire MBAs. IR too is appealing- I'm happy to go for that role if I think it's my best step on the path to a manager position at 5-7 years of exp.

Location wise our plants are in/near big cities, so there is no drawback there- with the exception that our southern cities have much more appealing COL (think Dallas, Atlanta, Phoenix) than the northern/coastal cities (think LA, DC, Boston, Seattle)

Jan 25, 2018 - 4:08pm

The only thing that I would question on to your response is that is plant finance really your only opportunity to own a P&L? Wouldn't plant roles really only be managing the Opex and Capex of the plant? (excuse my ignorance on this)

I'm not sure what kind of FP&A experience you're referring to in rotations but if you have a chance to work on the central FP&A team of a BU then that may be the truest chance to own a full P&L where you're consolidating and providing high level analysis for multiple segments and regions. In my experience in this role you get wide exposure to the strategy of the entire business which comes with a lot of interesting ad-hoc projects. FP&A for a product would likely also give you exposure to both sides of the P&L but you're much more in the weeds on that product and less focused on the big picture.

Jan 24, 2018 - 1:45pm

I was in the same situation as you a few years ago and got the hell out for the exact reasons you mentioned. My last role in Pricing and Estimating though wasn't bad and gave me good talking points when I started interviewing externally. I liked that position because:
1- I got to provide value; find efficiencies to lower our bid price giving us a better chance to win the contract (CPFF), or identifying areas we may be able to increase our margins once we won a bid (FFF)
2- Interacted widely across the organization, managed cross functional teams, got exposure to new product development.
3- Got exposed to the commercial aspect of the business- what areas of the market were we going after, why, and leadership's logic. It was away from reporting on what already happened, and more towards building a pipeline of what would happen tomorrow.

When I interviewed externally, I could always reference this role and the skills (not technical, but profession development) built during it were highly transferable.

Jan 24, 2018 - 6:23pm

You helped me out with a post I made back in September, glad I can try and give back. Given that your goal is to be a CFO of some type, I definitely side with either of the first two options, with a slight nod to the controllership one. As another poster said, if you want CFO you need to get familiar with accounting and if you haven't had an accounting-focused rotation yet, now is the time to do so to ensure you are well-rounded coming out of the program.

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