Forward Progress, Meet Our New CFO!

A conversation with the CFO of Life Ambulance Network, Mrs. Shira Winner

Hi Shira,  it’s  great  to  meet  you.  Can  you  tell  us  a  bit  about  your  background?

Sure! I  grew  up  here  in  Chicago,  where  I  went  to  school  in  Skokie  and  Rogers  Park. I went on to receive my  bachelors  in  Business  from  the  Teachers  Institute  as  well  as  a Bachelors  in  Accounting  from  Northeastern  University.  Most recently, I served  as  Assistant Controller at  IDT  (Integrated  DNA Technologies,  Inc.). 

Was it always  your  intention  to  go  into  finance/accounting?

No, as a child  I  was  focused  on  my  creative  skills.  I would say I was much more introverted  then and instead wanted  to  be  an  artist or go into marketing.


Nice!  That  seems  like  a  world  away  from  where  you  are  today,  was  that  by  design? 

(Laugh)  Yes  and  no.  I  like  to  say  my  creative  side  has  resulted  in  exquisitely  designed spreadsheets. Also,  much  like  art  is  a  form  of  communication  and  expression,  I  most  enjoy  the connections  and  human  relationships  in  my  role. Though I  have  to  say  that  my  first  introduction  to  finance  was  most  certainly  not  by  design. When  I  was  in  college,  we  had  a  neighbor  who  worked  at  the  IDT  which  was  at  the  time  a small  growing  company.  He  asked  my  older  sister  to  intern  there  in  accounting  and eventually  she  got  hired.    When  she  left  IDT  to  pursue  her  passion  of  teaching,  as  a  favor (and  in  conflict  with  my  belief  that  I  never  wanted  an  office  job)  I  agreed  to  fill  in  for  her  while I  was  still  in  school. That “favor”  lasted  19  years.

Oh  wow! Was there  something  about  the  company  or  job  that  managed  to  sway  your opinion  on  office  jobs  and  accounting?

Absolutely! I  came  to  realize  that  finances  and  reporting  are  a  form  of  storytelling  in  the  most detailed  and  thorough  fashion.  I was once representing accounting  at  a  career  fair  at  my  daughters’  high  school and  I shared  this  point  with  the  students – that accounting is  the  story  telling  and numerical  representation  of  the  health  of  a  company. Much  like  how  doctors  and  nurses look  at  charts  and  numbers  all  day,  it  is  those  numbers  that  give  them  the  understanding  and vision  for  the  health  and  future  of  their  patient.

As it related to working at IDT specifically, my  biggest  influence  was  the  people.  Starting  with  the  CEO  who  ran  the  company in order  to be  able  to  give  charity and support our community,  together with the  rest  of  the  team who  found  inspiration and  drive  in  that  mission  as  well, we were an unstoppable team and I loved working with all of them.

19  years  at  a  company  is  a  long  time,  what  made  you  decide  to  depart  IDT  for  Life Ambulance  Network  (LAN)? 

During  my  time  at  IDT  the  company  flourished  and  my  role  grew  extensively.  I  was  fortunate to  build  my  dream  team  with  whom  I  got  to  work with. As  we  took  on  large  funding  and eventually  the  acquisition  by  Danaher  Corporation in 2018,  I  gained  invaluable experience  in  leadership,  software implementations,  reporting  (especially  for  a  public  company  like Danaher)  and  best  practices  for  the  long-term  health  of  a  company. Over  the  last  couple  of  years  since  the  onset  of  the  pandemic,  I  had  been working  remotely  and  really  felt  that  the  part  of  the  job  I  loved  most,  which  is  personal interaction  was  lacking.  Although  I  wasn’t  actively  looking  for  a  new  job,  when  a  mutual  friend suggested  I  look into the position of CFO at  Life Ambulance  Network,  I  was  open  to  it…  and  the  rest  is history!

I  love  that  LAN  is  committed  to  being  the  first  EMS  company  that  is truly employee  driven  and  focused. 

What  was  it  about  LAN  that  made  you  go  from  “open  to  it”  to  CFO?

 It  was  a  combination  of  wanting  a  better  work-life  balance  as  well  as  the  challenge  of building  a  new  finance  department  from  the  ground  up. There’s a certain energy  and  opportunity  that  comes  with being  at  a younger company that is in a high-growth state like LAN. Additionally, I always knew that growth only happens when a person is outside of his/her comfort zone. And I felt like it was time to step out of mine – and grow!

I do have to tell you that it was actually quite funny.  My interviews with  Life  Ambulance  Network  were  the  first  ever  interviews  I’d gone  on  in  my  career!  I  arrived  at  IDT  as  a  “favor”  as  I  mentioned  earlier, and while I had interviewed dozens of employees over the years, I myself was never in the hot seat before. 

Wow,  that’s  amazing!  Very  few  people  can  say  that… What  goals  excite  you  most  for  your  future  at  LAN? 

I’m  really  excited  to  visit  all  the  LAN  locations  and  get  to  know  everyone  better.  With regard  to  goals,  I  love  that  LAN  is  committed  to  being  the  first  EMS  company  that  is truly employee  driven  and  focused.  Our  employees  are  our  driving  force and the  most  valued  part over everything we do. As  such,  we  believe  in  the  importance  of  investing  in  them. At  the  end  of  the  day,  we  all  want  to  feel  fulfilled  and  have  meaning  in  our  lives.  The  culture at  LAN  is  one  of  growth  and  development  and  we  know  there  is  always  room  for  more growth  both  as  a  company  as  well  as  on  an  individual  level.  In  partnering  with  different  departments,  I  aim  to  ensure  that  our  people,  systems  and processes  are  being  optimized to  provide  the  information, awareness  and  confidence needed  to  make  informed  decisions  at  every  level. Budgets are NOT a penny pinching exercise at all. Instead, they are a tool to help us understand and manage our expenses which will  allow  us  to  effectively and securely grow  our  investment in our business and in our employees.  

What  are  you  working  on  right  now  at  Life Ambulance  Network? 

I’m  excited  to  be  building  my  team. As I stated before, it’s  the  people  that  matter  most.  Time  and  again  while  at IDT,  whether  it  was  preparing  for  a  merger  or  implementing a new  software with an impossibly tight deadline,  the  work  could  be exhausting,  demanding  and  at  times  even  felt beyond  reach. However, with  the  right people  who  believed  and  trusted  in  each  other,  we  became  a  force  that exceeded expectations time and time again. I look forward to doing the same thing here with LAN!

Can  you  tell  us  a  bit  about  yourself,  who  you  are  beyond  LAN? 

Absolutely!  My  husband,  Geoff,  and  I  met  17  years  ago  when  a  shared  teacher  we  had  in  college  set us  up.  Thank G-d, we  have  4  children  and  I  love  to  paint,  draw  and  cook  in  my  free  time.  I also volunteer  with  Clean  Speech  Illinois,  a  community-wide  education  and  awareness  campaign  that aims  to  unite  us  in  the  practice  of  mindful  speech,  building  a  more  positive,  respectful,  and peaceful  world.

Wow,  this  has  been  really  great.  I’m  curious  as  we’ve  sat  here  now  reviewing  your career,  is  there  anything  that  comes  to  mind  that  you  are  most  grateful  for?

 I’ll  never  be  able  to  fully  express  the  gratitude  I  have  to  G-d  for  this  journey  I’ve  merited  to be  on.  I’ve  been  incredibly  fortunate  to  be  trusted  by,  to  work  with  and  be  mentored  by  the most  amazing  people.  I’m  grateful  to  be  able  to  give  back,  to  give  charity,  support  my  family and  make  a  positive  impact  in  the  world. I’m looking forward to continuing that wonderful journey with the incredible team here at Life Ambulance Network!

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