Helen Kane Named to List of Silicon Valley Business Journal “Women of Influence 2016”

Excerpted from the April 8 issue of the Silicon Valley Business Journal.

One tackles the issue of homeless veterans. Another helps build the next generation of weather satellites, and yet another has ventured to Mount Everest’s base camp — twice.

woi2016-logo300x300-300Our Women of Influence this year ponder how to get more women into leadership roles (and have definitive thoughts about that). They mentor others in their fields.

And like lots of other folks, men and women alike, they’ve juggled jobs with children and strived to find balance, all while making their world and our community a better place.

Our editorial staff chose these women from more than 200 nominations. We look for women who have proven to be leaders with established track records in business and community involvement.

Hedge Trackers

Helen Kane is a recognized expert in the world of derivatives and hedging — helping companies manage the risk of a sudden change in currency or commodity value, for example. She speaks at conferences and on campus.

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 11.06.29 AMBut Kane wasn’t satisfied to simply be one of the best in her field. More than 15 years ago, she left the comfortable corporate world to start an independent consultancy. That firm, Hedge Trackers, today employs 54 people who help companies from Fortune 50 to pre-IPO with complex accounting.

Kane built Hedge trackers in part by helping other women. Early on she hired stay-at-home moms from the Big 4 audit firms to work one week a month. It’s that flexibility, she said, that laid the groundwork for her talented and loyal workforce.

When not managing the firm, Kane has worked with the young women’s group in her church and as a trustee at her daughters’ school.

Residence: Saratoga

Education: B.A., political science, Arizona State University; master’s, international management, Thunderbird School of International Management

Job description: In my current role at Hedge Trackers, I provide leadership to the organization, keep abreast of proposed changes by U.S. and international standard setters and contribute to the growth and development of deeply technical (derivative accounting) staff.

Employees: 54

Where were you born? Eglin Air Force Base

What was your first job? Building trails through the Tucson Mountains with Youth Conservation Corp.

Growing up, you wanted to be: An ambassador

Career path: International internal audit for NCR; FP&A for NCR, Tandem, Measurex; international treasury for Measurex; senior manager in capital markets for Deloitte.

You are a woman who has assumed a top leadership role. What needs to happen to get more women in leadership roles? Be brave! Women need to take more risks, recognizing that if they fail, they’ve learned something from that failure to make them more successful in the future. It also develops resilience — a necessary ingredient for success.

The best advice you’ve ever received: The best advice I’ve received as a business owner, is that I need to work “on” my business rather than “in” the business. This often-repeated advice from Bob Grabill, former CEO of the Chief Executive Network, helped drive me to think differently about the contributions I needed to make to my company. In addition to technical leadership I needed to define how we were going deliver our excellent product to market, how we were going to attract and retain talent competing in Silicon Valley and how we were going to craft a culture of respect and integrity. All easier said than done!

Your best advice for others: When women get into management they start thinking they are now part of the family. You aren’t part of the family; you are an “in-law.” You’re an in-law to your male counterparts in management and you’re an in-law to those you’re managing whether they are male or female. Don’t lose sight of that fact. None of your peers are interested in ideas you have on how they could improve their organizations. It is perceived as meddling, not helping.

Something about you that would surprise others: I started Hedge Trackers more than 15 years ago by hiring stay-at-home moms from Big 4 audit firms to work the first week of each month. Thanks to that, I’ve been able to develop a technically ferocious and loyal workforce that has grown with the company. We continue to offer most positions full and part-time. This is one thing that I take tremendous pride in.

What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning? Mornings are rough. Easier to answer what keeps me up late at night: the illusion that I might get ahead.

What has been your biggest challenge professionally? Leaving the comfort of technical consulting and being responsible for totally unfamiliar business operation areas (marketing, R&D, HR, etc.). As a technical subject matter expert I am very comfortable knowing exactly how things should work in my area of expertise. I have had to learn to trust subject matter experts on my team, without knowing exactly how things should work.

Current civic/community involvement: Until recently I was responsible for the young women’s program for my congregation and participated on the board of trustees for St. Andrews Episcopal School where my three daughters attended K-8. I continue to support the Women of Impact program at Notre Dame High School (where two daughters attended) in downtown San Jose with its mission of developing and mentoring young women to make an impact.

Guilty pleasure: Reading

Your favorite gadget: Fitbit

The number of years you have been in your line of work: 25

If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would it be? Learning new things.

How do you unwind? Reading

How many hours a week do you average at work? 55-60

— By Leslie Griffy, Silicon Valley Business Journal contributor