Our blue and yellow hearts are healing after the Golden State Warriors lost the NBA finals in Game 7 to the Cavaliers. But we are loyal to our Bay Area team, and already excited to meet the 2017 crew led by our golden boy, Steph Curry. In the meantime, here is an important member of the Warriors organization you need to meet right now! Jennifer Cabalquinto is the team’s top woman executive and their Chief Financial Officer, and one of only four women CFO’s in the NBA. I was honored to step inside the team’s downtown Oakland headquarters and spend time with this inspirational leader. Jennifer has built a tremendous career, dedicates her time as a board member for the local Boys and Girls Clubs, and best of all, is a fierce supporter and lover of Oakland. Read on to learn more about this amazing woman.
24 East: You have a very busy job! You’re in charge of the finances of an NBA team, you’re a busy mother, and it’s not a typical 9 to 5 schedule, especially with games. How do you find balance?
Jennifer Cabalquinto: I consider some days where I’m a mom more than I am a working person, and there are some days where I have to compromise and do less mom stuff and more working stuff. I think all in all, it balances itself out, but there’s no one day of balance. I think if we try to do that, we drive ourselves crazy.
24E: It is a hard standard.
JC: It really is. I think knowing full well it is never going to be balanced has helped me approach it. As long as you look for staying true to what’s going to make you happy on any given day, I think it all works out.
24E: What is a typical day like for you, or is all over the place?
JC: It is all over the place, but I tend to get up about 5:30a. I like having about a half hour just to myself, where I’m going to drink my coffee and scan the news. My son is an early riser, so I don’t know if he just hears me but we’re sort of in sync. He usually gets up around the same time, within about a half hour.
24E: Do you go to most games?
JC: Yeah. I think I’ve missed two games this season.
24E: That’s a long day.
JC: Yeah, it is. I really believe you must be passionate about what you do in order to be really good at it. I love basketball. I love the team. I love everything. I’ll read anything there is about it. My husband thinks this job is great because we’re home. It’s NBA game time. It’s SportsCenter. Every trade about basketball I’m going to know about it because I think it’s really important to know the business you’re in. Because this is so male dominated, I think it’s really important that as a woman in this business, I’m as passionate about it as the guys are. There isn’t anything the next morning that they’re going to be talking about that I don’t know. There’s no water cooler talk that I missed.
You can’t fake that. They’ll know if you’re faking it, but I think I’ve been this way about every business that I’ve been involved in. If you’re not passionate about the business, you can’t manage the business.
24E: What advice would you give to someone wanting to have a career like yours?
JC: I always say to study hard. There are some real foundational skills. It is really important to be a good accountant, to be a good finance person. I think accounting is the language of business, so being able to pick up a financial statement and knowing what it means and being able to judge the health of a company based on understanding that is really an important skill set to have. It’s being curious about everything else. Understanding business isn’t just the finance stuff.
Everyone laughs because I get involved in everything here. That is the nature of how I like to do finance. Everything translates to a number. Everything. I just think it’s really important to know the business that you’re in and the environment in which the business takes place. It makes you a better business person. The more intellectually curious you are, the better business person you become. Being able to translate things in layman’s language so that not everyone understands finance, not everyone understands accounting, but to be able to distill business to a language that other people can understand makes you that much more influential.
24E: The same thinking as: if someone can’t explain it to their grandmother, then they don’t really know what they’re talking about. Do not ever feel insecure about not knowing something if it can’t be broken down concisely.
JC: That’s exactly right. It’s really, really important to be able to distill things.
24E: What would be your dream alternate career?
JC: I always wanted to run The Food Network. I was in television before sports and I always wanted to run a network. I think ideally it would be The Food Network because I love food.
24E: What you love about working in Oakland?
JC: This is my third year here. I tell people I feel like I’ve moved home even though I’ve never lived here before. I grew up in Brooklyn, New York. It reminds me of Brooklyn, and it’s been a long time since I’ve been in Brooklyn. There’s a greenness to it. It’s urban. It’s walkable. There’s an amazing food scene. There’s amazing diversity. There are people that are just so proud of it…there’s Oakland pride.
24E: So true. People love it here. We are very loyal.
JC: Yes. I am so protective, it’s so funny. I feel like I really have moved home. I couldn’t be happier.
Photos by Jen Kay