Cynthia Chu says that being the CFO of Audible has let her “grow my responsibilities in unexpected ways.” Since she joined Audible in 2015 her role has expanded to include long-term strategic business planning, financial and accounting operations, business intelligence, data science, strategic initiatives and business development functions. She also serves as the executive sponsor of Audible’s Black Employee Network (BEN), which strives to make Audible a more inclusive environment for employees and customers. A native of Hong Kong, Chu lives in Manhattan with her husband and daughter. Below, she shares her advice on creating a meaningful career, why she loves working at Audible and how Audible is responding to Covid-19.
Did you always want a career in finance?
When I was an undergrad, I thought that I’d be a lawyer and that my path would lead to law school. But I changed course towards business school because I like problem-solving, working with numbers and I love building businesses.
At Audible, I’ve been able to do these things while also growing my responsibilities in unexpected ways. I now lead not only our finance team, but our global insights and data science team as well as the strategic initiative and Business Development and partnership optimization teams. I had to educate myself and get smart about the needs and functions of those teams, which has been a rewarding experience for me.
What do you love about working at Audible?
Beyond my day-to-day responsibilities, what I love about Audible is the company’s commitment to exemplifying what a company can mean beyond the product we make. We support the growth of Newark as an innovation corridor. Newark Venture Partners, a venture capital fund founded by Audible founder and Executive Chairman Don Katz in 2015, has invested in dozens of early-stage companies to create many more “Audibles” that drive jobs and taxable revenue for the city. And we restored a cherished city landmark as Audible’s Innovation Cathedral, a home to 400 of our technologists.
We’re even more committed to Newark now during Covid-19. When Don wanted to figure out how to help the city weather the pandemic, my team worked to secure funding by reallocating resources and identifying opportunities for savings to make a grassroots effort possible. This led to the formation of Newark Working Kitchens (NWK), which enlists local restaurants to deliver nutritious meals to residents in need. Each NWK restaurant, many of which have relaunched operations and rehired staff through the initiative, provides 200 meals per day, five days a week to vulnerable people and the NWK operations have been able to sustain more than 200 jobs.
Having successfully established Audible’s social impact model, we hope it can serve as a blueprint for others in the industry, and society at large.
Having a diverse workforce is central to Audible. How have you seen this commitment to investing in and recruiting the full spectrum of the human experience augment our work and work culture?
We’re committed to diversity in our workforce and we’re committed to cultivating talent and bringing positive change to the community in Newark, New Jersey. This includes hiring local and cultivating a talent pipeline through a paid internship for Newark high school students to come work side-by-side with Audible employees.
I am also the Executive Sponsor of BEN (Black Employee Network) which is an internal Audible group that looks to recruit, retain and empower Black (and bi-racial) employees. Since I am a woman of color and an immigrant myself (I’m from Hong Kong), I have faced many similar issues and challenges our colleagues in this community face in the workplace and society in general. Our main goal is to learn, understand and contribute to making Audible an even more inclusive work environment for all of our employees as well as our customers—and to be the force to help drive progress in this area.
What advice would you give to someone graduating college this year and facing one of our toughest job markets?
For someone embarking on a new career journey, I have two pieces of advice: One, seek out workplaces where you can explore your passions without being put in a box. I’ve found that taking risks and raising my hand to take on new challenges has moved my career forward. Two, find a place to work that supports you and gives you the opportunity to support others, and you’ll have a meaningful and happy career.
How are you balancing working from home with parenting?
Like most parents during this time, trying to find the right balance has been tricky. My 7-year-old daughter is mostly occupied with her schoolwork and remote learning during the day, allowing me to focus on my own work. My husband has also been great with helping to divide and conquer with household responsibilities. We’ve devised a schedule that seems to be working (for now!). But it’s key to take time for yourself. I try to block time during the day to attend to home life and it is ok to be away from work and the computer to take care of your family. In the end, our family is the most important thing!