For more than thirty years, Cecilia Camarillo has seen the good, the bad, and the very ugly of accounting systems in need of modernization and process improvement in the Texas oil and gas industry. She has experienced pre-computer, thirteen-column accounting paper books, financial restatements, and the process of taking a private company public. Camarillo’s penchant for seeking the next application or system that might aid each organization has enabled growth that makes her a progressive financial leader, never stuck in one place or resistant to change.
It’s a fair leap for a college graduate who says she had absolutely no idea what she was going to do with her degree.
Flourishing in a Crisis
Camarillo, now senior vice president of accounting at Austin-headquartered Parsley Energy, moved to Midland, Texas, straight out of college with a husband she married at seventeen. They had no intention of staying long. “We were a young couple in early days survival mode,” Camarillo remembers. “My husband had his license to do hair, and the next thing I knew, he’d opened a salon. Our roots just sort of shot down.”
There was one business to get involved with in Midland: oil and gas. It was there that Camarillo earned her stripes as a staff tax accountant in public accounting. After leaving public accounting and landing at Key Energy Services, Camarillo had the opportunity to witness exactly what she didn’t ever want to go through from a position of leadership. The company had delayed its SEC filing to account for write-downs of $78 million of assets, which had triggered a restatement.
“I was on the fringe of this because I was on the tax side, but it was an absolute nightmare,” Camarillo remembers. “For the most part, I was able to watch from the sidelines as the company went through this ordeal.” Most of the C-suite was cleared, and it’s likely Camarillo’s strict attention to detail was only emboldened. “It was a big eye opener as to what happens if you don’t focus on the rules and how ugly it can get, and that was about the time I left.”
After five years of accruing valuable experience as director of tax at Concho Resources, Camarillo came to Parsley in August 2013. By November, Camarillo was in the depths of helping prepare the company to go public.
It was time to fundamentally reorganize key portions of the accounting system. “You couldn’t efficiently get data out of the accounting system,” Camarillo says. “Reporting wasn’t automated, so analysis was manually labor intensive every time data was updated.” The situation was further complicated because master data between systems was not in sync. The production volume system for tracking well production didn’t align with the accounting system that was used to record the revenue from those same wells.
Not Far from the Tree
Cecilia Camarillo’s continual commitment to innovation and curiosity has especially deep roots. Camarillo’s father, who lives with Camarillo and her family, only has a third-grade education but he set quite a precedent.
“He taught himself English and auto mechanics via correspondence courses,” Camarillo says. “He also taught himself guitar and accordion, and when our child began taking piano lessons, he signed up too and learned to read music at eighty years of age. He is a lifelong learner and motivates me to be one as well.”
For a company looking to go public, it just wasn’t going to work. “With a private company, there are typically fewer deadlines,” Camarillo says. “But going public, you now have recurring monthly efficient processes you have to adhere to in order to meet filing deadlines.” By January, the company was dumping down its entire accounting system into a data warehouse aided by Artis Consulting’s business intelligence cube.
Concurrently, Camarillo also capitalized on the moment to implement a new authorization for expenditures (AFE) application that could also be networked to the cube, where engineers could access and set up budgets.
Parsley has matured as an organization from those early days and the expansive growth has led to the creation of a full-fledged IT organization with forty-plus professionals, and it’s a continuing partnership Camarillo relies on for implementing new financial solutions for the growing business.
Those are merely the exploits of a financial expert, but Camarillo puts it best. “I don’t always stay in my lane,” she confesses. After Camarillo and two other senior female executives became increasingly concerned with a data governance effort that seemed to be going nowhere, they saw a challenge and opportunity and agreed to take it head-on.
The three women took on the project, eventually joined by the VP of IT. The foursome assembled a DG project team and first set their sights on production volume reporting. Eventually, they oversaw the implementation of an enterprise-wide master data management system that automatically syncs master data on a real time basis between nine systems across the well lifecycle. “I’d say this is our biggest achievement as far as data governance goes,” Camarillo says.
The VP says that leading a team of people often decades younger than her has been more of a blessing than a curse. “My whole team is young, but they really care about their work and they’re not jaded yet,” Camarillo says, laughing. “Humor is a big part of the work experience for us. Hard work is easier when you can share a laugh, and I’m so thankful to be exposed to that youthful energy on a regular basis. I push them, too, of course.
“I don’t think anyone coasts to success,” she says. “It takes hard work.”