Lead(H)er Profile - Erica Smith, Vice President, Investor Relations at CyberArk
Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?
I grew up in a small town in North Central Massachusetts. I would describe myself as curious and always busy. I was involved in a lot of activities from yearbook to student government to plays. I enjoyed the outdoors, all sports and was an avid reader.
What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?
I went to the College of the Holy Cross, a liberal arts college, and majored in economics. My first job was at Lehman Brothers as a financial analyst in the high-yield investment banking group. I didn’t have a finance or accounting degree so I have always felt fortunate that I found a position in a finance-role right out of school.
Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?
Early in my career, I could have continued in investment banking at Lehman Brothers in New York City. I made what was viewed at the time as a risky decision. I left Lehman Brothers and moved back to Boston without a job to be closer to family. I was planning to go back to school to get my MBA. As an interim step, I accepted a position at an investor relations / corporate communications agency, Sharon Merrill Associates, where I worked with great people and gained valuable experience and training. A second big decision came, when I was offered a position to run investor relations at a pre-IPO technology company. My business school applications were ready to submit, but instead I joined the technology company. Since that time, I have built my career in investor relations.
What is your current role and responsibilities?
I am responsible for investor relations at CyberArk, a publicly traded cybersecurity company. The role of investor relations enables two-way communication between CyberArk and the financial community to help ensure the strategy is understood and to drive a fair market valuation. I work cross functionally with finance, marketing, legal, sales, R&D and product management to help position CyberArk to the investment community. I often speak to our investors and analysts to discuss our financials as well as our strategy. I also provide feedback from our shareholders to management to ensure there is two-way communication.
Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professional career? Was it always your goal to be in this position?
No, I didn’t even know investor relations was a career. I wanted to be a doctor and started college as a biology / pre-med major, but I didn’t like chemistry.
For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals?
Credibility is one of the most valuable assets in investor relations, making the people you work with critical. For me, it has always been important to work at a company and with a leadership team, who share my commitment to transparency and building trusted relationships.
What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?
To be successful, you need to understand finance and accounting and have strong communication skills. I also think listening is important. Investors analyze every word and nuance of a discussion. Good listeners will recognize if something is misinterpreted and be able to quickly adjust the message.
What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work? What’s most challenging?
Change is constant in investor relations, which is incredibly challenging and equally rewarding.
I love it! CyberArk is a fast-growing company, in a great market. Investor relations is set against the macro and stock market backdrop. And when you think about today, we are living in unprecedented times with the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is your proudest professional accomplishment?
Building an investor relations program at a newly public company.
Are you involved with any professional organizations outside of the company? Volunteer work?
The National Investor Relations Institute has been an important part of my career over the years.
What’s next for you and your career?
There are new developments in investor relations, like ESG (Environmental, Social & Governance) investing. I have been working with a team to help enhance our ESG program.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I love to go out to dinner, hike, spend time with family, walk / play with the dog and travel. I also enjoy a good book.
How do you manage stress?
Getting outdoors –nature grounds me.
How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?
2 to 3 cups of coffee, but I have a hard cut off – no coffee after noon.
What's one of your favorite places in the Boston area?
One is too hard! If forced to pick, Fenway Park. A few bonus places include: The North End, Mount Monadnock area, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the Minuteman Bike Path.
Any book or podcast recommendations?
Podcasts: American Scandal
Books: Bad Blood by John Carreyrou. Fun summer reads by Fredrik Backman including A Man Called Ove, Beartown, The Deal of Lifetime; The Luckiest Man by Jonathan Eig
What advice do you have for recent college graduates?
Persistence and hard work pay off. Sometimes you need to take a few steps backward to move forward, don’t be discouraged. Maintain strong relationships. Seek mentors. Stay positive.