Behind the Scenes
Meet the Team: Vanessa Wittman, Chief Financial Officer
January 22, 2020
Over five years since launching, team Glossier is more than 200 people strong (and growing!). Together, and with our community, we’re building the future beauty company from the ground up. We make physical products, of course, but we also build software, manage a global supply chain, design offline experiences, and much more. And we'd like for you to get to know us a little better—what we do, where we come from, and what we're excited about.
Where are you from and what do you do for Glossier?
I grew up in Connecticut. I'm Glossier's Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
How did you get here?
I started out in investment banking in NYC, then went into venture capital in Silicon Valley. While I was working on one of our portfolio companies, the President of that company approached me to be CFO. I took the job in 1996 and realized that I loved being on the operating side. I've been in various operating roles at a variety of companies ever since.
From 1996 until I joined Glossier in early 2019, I held executive roles at eight companies (Metricom, Microsoft, 360networks, Adelphia, Marsh McLennan, Google, Dropbox, Oath) in six different industries, and moved my family seven times. My teams across these companies navigated two bankruptcies and the great financial crisis of 2008. We've lived in both coasts more than once (and in France for 18 months), two of my three kids say they are Californians.
Some people choose to focus their careers on a particular sector or stage of company. I've been luck that I've worked at different size and stage companies, and in different situations: public, private and turnaround. Learning is always most extraordinary when navigating a rough period (like a financial crisis) or a transition (like a merger). And moves are best made to find (or sometimes stay with!) great leaders.
I first met Emily in 2017 via Katrina Lake, the CEO and founder of Stitchfix and now one of Glossier's board members. I helped Emily with scoping some of the senior roles she was thinking of hiring, including a finance leader. The conviction of her vision was so strong, but what really blew me away was that everything she predicted Glossier would accomplish in 2019 actually happened. And when I saw that, I couldn't help but agree to join Glossier in April of last year.
Glossier's message to customers really appealed to me, especially as the mother of a 12-year-old girl. What more can we want for ourselves, our kids, and our friends than to celebrate our own situation? I learned about the beauty industry while on Ulta's board (2014 – 2019), but Glossier's message — so universal and empowering, yet unique — really won me over. In addition, very few companies have this level of connection with their customers. It's both a huge accomplishment and a weighty obligation. We absolutely can't screw it up.
And although Glossier is the smallest company I've very worked for, what really excites me is that it could one of the biggest. The opportunity is that big.
What does a CFO do?
I am an excellent backseat driver [laughs]. The role is different at every company. A CFO usually has financial planning and analysis, account, M&A, investor relations, tax, treasury, real estate and IT. But in other companies, I've had everything from people, to customer service, to legal, to tech teams and sales. At Glossier, I oversee all the classic financial functions as well as operational elements such as legal, supply chain operations, logistics, and IT. Core functions that drive revenue or spending are my usual territory.
Advice for young women who want to build a career in finance?
Take the hard project, ask the hard questions, trust your instincts. Women like to be 150% ready before we raise our hands for a new project. Raise your hand early and often — even if it's before you think you're ready. And then — importantly — also ask for help!
That combination — raising your hand and being unafraid to ask for help — is really powerful. If you can trust yourself to be both bold and vulnerable, you will have an unstoppable career.
You can also find our Meet The Team series (and much more) on Instagram. Follow along.