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!