From Southern California, she manages a virtual team all over the world that takes care of QIAGEN’s financial reporting obligations
All that Susan Stefanelli needs to do to get some motivation is to look out the window. From the second floor of an office building in Valencia, north of Los Angeles, the auditor has a vista of the Six Flags Magic Mountain theme park’s roller- coasters. “Half-jokingly, I tell myself and my team: Hold on, we’re about to take off again,” she says with a laugh, turning to the next stack of financial documents that QIAGEN’s subsidiaries from more than 35 sites around the globe deliver to the Senior Director of SEC Reporting.
Susan is responsible for the entire company’s financial reporting – from quarterly reports to official submissions to supervisory authorities in Europe and the USA, especially to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). For the past 18 years, she has observed QIAGEN’s global growth. “I can still remember how our revenues broke the 100-million-dollar mark. Today, this figure has exceeded 1.4 billion. It has been an exciting journey, but my enthusiasm and passion for this job are still just as strong as on the first day,” she explains.
"As a truly global team, we can work around the clock by passing the ball from continent to continent.”Susan Stefanelli, Senior Director of SEC Reporting
Being responsible for global reporting involves unusual working hours. Usually, Susan gets on the phone even before sunrise. Her first conference with colleagues from QIAGEN’s U.S. headquarters in Germantown near Washington, D.C. or from Hilden, Germany, starts at 5:30 a.m. Pacific Time.
There is a good reason for starting early: The East Coast is three hours ahead, and Europe is nine hours ahead. “We can get started immediately and determine the agenda for the rest of the day,” explains Susan, who heads a virtual team of two employees in Los Angeles and Maryland plus a freelancer in Florida. “As a truly global team, we can work around the clock by passing the ball from continent to continent.”
When the afternoon sun shines over the West Coast, Susan can finish her routine of phone calls and emails and turn to her actual work of figures and spreadsheets. After the end of normal working hours on the East Coast, she takes a break in order to care for her two sons aged 12 and 16. “As I am part of a virtual team, I can effectively reconcile my work and private life, accommodating the requirements of both sides,” she says.
Susan also works from her home office two or three days a week. Avoiding the L.A. traffic means she has one more hour for her work. “The home office is especially valuable during the critical phase prior to the quarterly reports,” says Susan. Modern technologies such as collaboration tools in the cloud and screensharing make the collaboration easier than ever. “It’s almost like being in the same room with your team, but with fewer distractions. Thanks to the technology, we can keep the team as lean as possible, but nevertheless deliver top quality.”
Does she ever feel lonely because of being one of the last early employees to remain at QIAGEN’s original US location in California after the company established a new head office in Maryland’s biotech corridor? “No,” she answers. “We’re in contact every day, and I get the opportunity to meet my colleagues in Maryland and Germany a few times a year. This is important in order to be successful as a virtual team. Nothing is more motivating than staying in touch. I operate around the globe but it doesn’t really matter where I work from,” she says. “I remember someone saying that, actually, I could also work from the moon.”