Executive Interviews

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Sophie Bergisch - Global Finance Director at MassiveMusic

  • March 25, 2022
 

Sophie Bergisch is the Global Finance Director at MassiveMusic in Amsterdam. She has been involved in financial management for almost six years, having previously specialised in accounting and account management.

What do you see as the biggest challenge for your business and your own role over the next 12 months?

After my first month at MassiveMusic, everything changed. I was hired as the right hand of the CFO, but, due to some unexpected events, I was put on the spot to take over those specific tasks. Not long after, I received a call from top management informing me there was a party (Songtradr Inc.) interested in acquiring us. So, from January until June 2020, I worked full time on the acquisition process and due diligence, together with a team of third-party experts.

The difficult part was that I couldn’t tell anything to any of my colleagues, due to confidentiality. I was very busy, but nobody really understood why. If you add that I started this job in a COVID lockdown period, well, that made it extra challenging. The silver lining in all this is that it allowed me to gain the role of Global Finance Director, so I’m very happy with that.

From my point of view, the biggest challenge for our business is to keep doing all the daily operational work like before, but also navigate through a big organisational change with our new mother company. As for my role specifically, the biggest challenge is to build a solid foundation for our global Finance team to service the team within MassiveMusic, as well as Songtradr and the other entities, as we are aiming to be global market leaders in the industry. The Finance department is playing quite a crucial role in bringing our talented people together and finding structured ways to share that knowledge.

What does MassiveMusic do to raise awareness around mental health and wellbeing?

The first thing that I can think of is Music x Mind, an initiative from our London office that focuses on the scientific effect that music has on the mind – there’s a lot of research that has proven how music can reduce stress and anxiety.

Internally, we have deep listening sessions with Wavepaths, a company that’s really into music as psychedelic therapy. Our colleagues can join via Zoom; you roll out a yoga mat and, for an hour-and-a-half, you get a music-infused guided meditation.

Also, this year we are eager to train our team leaders to signal whenever people are feeling overwhelmed, looking out for signals to prevent burnouts.

How can companies reduce the bias in the hiring process - how do you keep things open?

For me, the most important element is to make sure that the way you set up your hiring process is flexible enough so you can adapt it to a person’s need for their strengths to come out. If you have an interview with somebody, you should prepare in advance (e.g. who this person is going to talk to, what the topics are). It’s not only the skillset, but also the company fit that matters a lot.

The hiring process is a two-way street, so it’s also important that you show what you have to offer. People should feel safe to talk about whatever they feel like, including what they’re nervous about, not only what their strengths or weaknesses are.

Our HR Director inspired me with this little story. She said that, when they asked what her favourite song was during her job interview, she put on the song, and everyone listened to the song first – such a great icebreaker and a nice way to set the tone.

I am a very straightforward, business-minded person, so I thoroughly prepare, or I would not feel in control. I still remember when, after my own interview process at MassiveMusic, they told me they thought I would be no fun. I guess I was way too serious during the interviews! But that was good feedback to me and indeed, when I look back, I did not show much of my personality. I mostly focused on being very professional – this is also a note to self and a reminder to dive into people's personalities a little deeper when I interview them.

Where does Diversity & Inclusion sit, with HR, Finance, the leadership team? Who is meant to take ownership of that?

For me, if a company decides to focus on diversity, they need to make sure there is an owner of that topic, just like a design agency has a product owner. This way, that person will keep on pushing it internally, making it a priority.

At MassiveMusic, the one thing that connects everyone is our love and passion for music. Don’t get me wrong: you don’t have to be in a band to be hired, but a deep passion for music is expected. For our company culture, it doesn’t matter what your background is, as long as you’re as passionate about music as the rest of your colleagues. I think Massive did a great job to make sure that people are intrinsically aligned with the services that we provide for the biggest brands.

What would you say is the most rewarding part of your role?

The administrative and analysis part, in combination with the managing part. I love to think of clever ways to improve our business in terms of processes and profitability.

An interesting analysis would be our teams versus specific revenue – for example, is our team happy? Are people working together efficiently? And, if they are not, are there opportunity costs? What are the costs of people not working well together? How can we fix that?

Those are things not a lot of people think about, because they are difficult to measure. Doing that makes me feel like I’m adding value to the company in terms of making sure people can work more efficiently together, but also in terms of profitability and really helping the company grow.

What advice would you give to someone who is starting their career in Finance?

To thoroughly assess what your current skillset looks like right now. What are you good at? What do you want to learn? What do you like? What don’t you like?

Asking others for feedback is also important. I remember I was at a point in my career where I felt a bit stuck and I wanted to find a different job, but I didn’t know where to look and I wasn’t sure what it was supposed to be like. I knew it was Finance, but there are a lot of different directions I could possibly take. I started asking different recruiters if they were up for a coffee so I could ask them questions about the status of the work field for financials, and what opportunities there were at that moment. On top of expanding my network, it also gave me insightful information, quite a good view on what different salaries look like and where there’s a shortage of certain roles in certain fields.

Another tip would be to be active on LinkedIn, mostly to keep an eye on what the field and market look like, and to read finance-related articles.

Are there particular blogs, books or websites that you go to for your information? Do you read particular newspapers? Where do you get your information from?

I look up a lot on YouTube, that’s a great source of information: no matter how difficult the subject is, there’s someone who made a video about it.

To keep me up to date, I also read the newsletter of the NBA, the Dutch Accountants Association. I have to say, I’m not really a newspaper reader; I love podcasts though. There’s a Dutch one about investing at a young age called Jong Beleggen. Next to that, I have a subscription to Follow the Money, a Dutch platform whose investigative journalism into corporate businesses is very interesting. I can highly recommend reading their articles!

What are your tips on achieving work-life balance? What would you advise?

As a manager, I think it’s important to realise people might follow your lead when it comes to work ethics, especially when managing a younger team. Be a role model to what you think is healthy. I sometimes work in the evenings, but I would never message anyone. Weekends are a work-free zone for me. On Fridays I’m off but, as an end responsible person, I also understand I might have to do a little something sometimes, except for meetings. I don’t plan any of them during my time off.

I’m very strict with my personal time and very clear about my boundaries: I think it’s important to be vocal about it with your colleagues. This might sound unconventional, but to me a job is just a job and I feel very strongly about that when I think of my private life. Nothing is ever more important than what I have to do or what I want to do with my personal life. I think this is also the healthiest attitude to have towards your employer if you want to create a sustainable relationship.

From your own experience, what have you learnt and what would you share for people wanting to be in your position now?

It’s very important to determine what your core values are as a person, but also as a person to work for, and really stick to that – don’t deviate from who you truly are. Stay grounded with what works for you. Also, identify the people you can learn from as well as a role model within your company. Get specific on what you want to learn. Ask yourself: is this a place where I can learn that? Is there another place where I could learn faster? You can always reach your goals with other people, but you have to make an effort to reach out to those people. 

When I worked with a start-up, I already knew I wanted to do a master’s degree in Accountancy and Control. They wouldn’t finance it for me, and I couldn’t afford it at the time, so that was for me part of the reason I decided to switch to an Accountancy firm, because I knew that education is part of the benefits. So here I am, currently working on my master thesis.

Who is the most inspiring person in business for you and why?

I thought about this for a long time. I don’t think I have role models in business, but one person I find so badass is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She’s a very young politician in the States – and I love people who defy odds. She worked really hard at three jobs, after that she went door to door in The Bronx, where she’s from, to personally collect votes from people. And they voted for her!

To me that shows a lot of personality and perseverance; she shows the traditional system that compassion and kindness actually bring you further than only work experience or a lot of economical experience or being a business owner. Personality is such an important and underrated element of the bigger picture, and I think that’s very admirable.

Thank you to Sophie for speaking to Georgia Wright, Associate Director for Finance & Accountancy recruitment in the Netherlands. 

Views and opinions contained within our Executive Interviews are those of the interviewee and not views shared by EMEA Recruitment.