We are thrilled to announce that Carla Cooper has joined Contentful as our new Chief Financial Officer. To celebrate, we sat down to get to know her better, and how her experiences in the investment world and running finance for software companies has led her to bet on Contentful.
Make decisions from an investor’s perspective — and learn from your experiences
We’re so happy that you’ve joined Contentful. Could you introduce yourself and share a bit about your career journey?
I have a long history in the technology space — from multiple different vantage points. I spent nearly 20 years analyzing tech companies for investment firms, and then moved into the tech industry itself. I've driven financial decisions for multiple technology companies that were somewhere along the journey to going public, including guiding software company Responsys through its IPO in 2011 and sale to Oracle, and I led planning and investor relations for MuleSoft before its 2017 IPO and for the four quarters it was public. I joined the MuleSoft executive leadership team when Salesforce acquired it (March 2018) and ultimately became vice president of finance and strategy for Salesforce.
When I moved from a professional services firm to working for a software company, I got to be on the other side, and now I play a role in actually building the business — which I love. I am grateful for my earlier experience in investments, because it gave me the perspective of an investor and the ability to evaluate companies and opportunities. But I really like being inside a company, being part of the team and helping it grow and change.
How does your background in the investment world shape your role as a CFO?
I view all big decisions through the lens of an investor. Even though I’m not managing portfolios anymore, I still use many of the same factors to evaluate my choices. That means I look at everything from a perspective of risk vs. reward. Everything we do brings some level of each.
In finance, in business and even in life, ask yourself, “Do I understand the risk and the reward of making this decision?” In the investment world, the reward is usually a stock going higher, while the risk is the price falling. But many decisions have elements of risk and return.
When you’re inside a company, you can actually do a lot to change the equation of risk vs. reward. You can experiment, and then double down when something works really well. That’s a perfect way to preserve or even amplify the reward while minimizing the risk. If the experiment doesn’t work, you learn and adapt.
What advice do you have for someone early in their career?
Learn all you can. One of Contentful’s company values is “having a growth mindset.” I love that. It speaks to the importance of showing up, listening and asking questions. When you put yourself in a variety of situations — including some that may be more risky — you are going to learn a lot.
There’s a lot of value in having varied experiences. This is particularly true in finance, but it applies to other fields as well. You’re that much more valuable to a potential employer when you’ve seen things from several angles, because you can bring those to the table and help solve problems.
My dad always said, “Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgement.” And your experience, hopefully, nets out to wisdom. Another way I like to put it is “Experience is the best education — but the price is very high!”
It’s also important to choose wisely where you work. When you join a company, you're making a bet on the future of that company; its value will impact your own future value, as it were. The biggest investment you can make is that of your own time, so assess your options carefully. Go where you want to grow, and where you think has the most potential.
Leadership and teamwork in the digital-first era
Why did you decide to go “all in” on Contentful?
Contentful is a high-growth SaaS business on an exciting path. I saw the potential the company had to change an entire market, and the impact I could have here.
The people also showed me that Contentful was the right decision. I noticed how capable the people are and, more than that, how humble and supportive of one another they are.
I also noticed that it’s a very different kind of company.
Even before 2020, Contentful empowered teams to work remotely. With hubs across the globe instead of a single headquarters, people work asynchronously across time zones — but all as one team. I think this is the future of working. Because Contentful has been working this way for a while now, it’s well-positioned for the post-Covid world.
Going to work with people I’ve actually never met in person might have seemed odd to me at one time, but I wasn't nervous at all. This is a testament to not only the fact that “digital-first” has become the new norm for how business gets done, but how smoothly we all work together at Contentful, whether remotely or in person.
What excites you most about the future of Contentful?
So much excites me about the future at Contentful! This year will be a time of growth and change for us — and for digital companies in general. Companies across every industry are moving more of their experiences into the digital world, which means there will be a wealth of opportunities for Contentful to help them meet their customers’ needs and exceed expectations. The potential for growth is really limitless.
Right now, I think we need to to think, act and behave like a public company. I’m glad I can bring my experience to the table as we become more publicly capable.
This stage of the company is exhilarating. Contentful is driving the evolution of digital experiences with a modern approach to solving ubiquitous problems, developed with a strong base of dynamic customers. It just keeps increasing its momentum. This means there are so many opportunities for us as we grow — I’m really excited to be a part of that.