For Nerelys Ortiz, finding her niche in accounting was pretty easy.
Accounting Policy and Compliance Manager
For Nerelys Ortiz, finding her niche in accounting was pretty easy. A native of Seattle, she let her hometown guide her decision from the day she took her first internship in public accounting.
“In Seattle there are a lot of tech clients. I primarily worked in the technology sector during my internship and it was really because of the market that I’m in,” she says.
Nerelys found the tech industry intriguing because of its ever-changing nature, especially the growth in online media and social networking. So after four and a half years at a public accounting firm, she made the transition to one of the world’s largest tech companies—Microsoft—where she spearheads accounting policy and compliance in the Online Services Division.
The division handles the company’s online offerings such as search engine Bing, MSN portals and channels, and email and instant messaging. It earns revenue primarily from online advertising, including search, display, email, and messaging services.
For Nerelys, that means a lot of deals with advertising partners to oversee.
“Not only am I responsible for driving our Sarbanes-Oxley control initiatives within the division, but I’m also responsible for providing technical guidance on new agreements and strategic deals,” she says.
She’s also there to make sure product launches go off without a hitch. “Finance plays a pretty big role within any product launch at Microsoft,” Nerelys says. “We’re making sure that other departments that we’re working with are informed, that they’ve got the right information to be held accountable for their spend. We want any product launch to be successful not only from an end-user perspective, but also within finance.”
One of the things she loves most about the job is its global nature. Microsoft has offices in every region you can think of, and her job is highly collaborative—which means she even gets to use her Spanish from time to time.
“Part of my role is to collaborate with controllers, with controls and compliance managers, with finance business partners from any walk of life, all over the world,” she says. They collaborate on the phone, sometimes at odd hours to accommodate the different time zones.
Nerelys, an aspiring CFO, sees her and her team having a growing role as Microsoft moves forward in the digital era.
“We have a seat at the table just as much as sales does, as much as legal and other finance professionals. I think there’s so much more that we can add for our business partners than just the information in the reports. We need to know the analysis, but also being able to tell the story is really important today.”
8am: Conference call with Microsoft compliance team
The compliance team is here in Redmond and I work with them on internal controls throughout the year. They’re our internal Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) management team, driving all of the processes. I’m responsible for the Microsoft Online Services Division’s controls so I have to put in place the compliance team’s company-wide mandates. We talk so they can make me aware of upcoming deadlines and any internal changes.
9am: Follow up on email/review deliverables for the week
This week, I’m preparing a position paper on a new deal with a business partner. I make sure the deal is sound in terms of the accounting and payment structure.
10am: Accounting policy and compliance team bi-weekly meeting - 2 hours
We’re touching base and making sure we’re doing what needs to be done at this time of the year. So many of us are working on different things in silos, so it’s nice to see what people are doing in my group.
12pm: Lunch with Online Services Division Finance colleague
I try to get together with people in my group from time to time, to see how things are going. There’s a Finance group for each division, supporting each CFO. Our division, Online Services, is everything related to online advertising, mobile advertising, search services (bing.com) and any other type of online product.
1pm: Perform research and prepare for upcoming finance training on IFRS - 2 hours
We’re not implementing IFRS yet, but we have a team staying on top of what’s happening. We’re working on it to make sure we’re prepared for 2011 when the SEC will update us on the implementation plan.
3pm: Conference call with legal team about new contracts
I work with them to look at significant clauses and wording of payments, the structure of the deal, anything that’s financial-related. I help them be more inline with our accounting policies and practices. The contracts could be with anyone who does online advertising, from Facebook to CNBC.
4pm: Follow-up on email
I probably get anywhere from 80-100 emails per day and sometimes more. It’s never ending, really. There’s always something going on and we’re such an online world. I have to block out time for it or I’m on it all the time. And I get emails at all hours because we’re global, and people are working around the clock.
5pm: Conference call with regional controllers
I work with people all over the world—these controllers are out in the field in Asia, Europe, Latin America. A call with Asia is in the evening, while Europe is first thing in the morning. The regional controllers don’t have the accounting expertise that we bring to the table. They’re finance people. We’re the experts for the division around the world, so I have to be available to answer their questions.