Karen Walker joined PagerDuty at a unique time for the company. “I came in right as the company was going public, and I was given the opportunity to play a big role in leading our preparation for our very first few earnings calls,” Walker explains. “I think that the early days, supporting investor relations and being present with the CFO and CEO, were really great experiences and an excellent way to learn about the business.”
Walker is senior vice president of finance and is responsible for finance and accounting. She believes her role with Pandora and collective experiences thus far have set her up to be successful in her most recent role at PagerDuty, a SaaS (Software as a Service) leader in digital operations management.
The significance of PagerDuty lies in its ability to allow distributed teams to work in real-time to respond, resolve, and prevent incidents, such as outages. A single digital disruption can impact organizational revenue by $200,000 to $500,000 in a matter of seconds. However, PagerDuty leverages machine learning to orchestrate teams on complex issues, across multiple business units and geographies, converting a deluge of data into insightful action so that organizations can minimize impact to brand and revenue.
“At Pandora I was involved in supporting investor relations,” she explains, “and I think that it was a great launchpad and set of experiences that have allowed me to take on a broader leadership role at PagerDuty.”
In addition to Pandora, Walker has worked in several dynamic and high-growth organizations like Uber—experiences to which she attributes her strength in building scalable processes from the ground up and adopting a customer mind-set. “I have been very fortunate to have had experience building teams from scratch and also maturing finance organizations to help them reach their full potential,” she says. “PagerDuty is no exception. We have a great finance team and are continuing to build on our early momentum.”
“On all levels, we have to make sure that we reduce friction and create a seamless experience for our customers in all ways that we interact with them.”
This is where one of PagerDuty’s core values comes in handy: championing the customer. “Finance may not always be on the front line of customer interactions but it’s imperative for finance organizations to have the customer experience in mind with everything they do. We have to make sure that we reduce friction and create a seamless experience for our customers in all ways that we interact with them,” Walker says.
In addition to this customer mind-set, Walker is focused on scaling and maturing operations. This pursuit is important because of the company’s growth trajectory and because of the large opportunity in this new and emerging category.
PagerDuty has several tailwinds including the rapid adoption of cloud-based infrastructure and the growing number of companies embarking on digital transformation. With these trends come increasing complexity coupled with consumer expectations for a perfect experience every time, she says.
“So, what PagerDuty does is help companies protect their brand and revenue by mobilizing teams to take the right action at the right time,” Walker explains. “It’s exciting and a unique and compelling opportunity to be with PagerDuty right now.”
And the fact that PagerDuty is led by a female CEO, Jenn Tejada, is also compelling and inspiring for Walker.
Working for a female-led company “is certainly rare,” Walker concedes. “It’s particularly rare in the enterprise software space. It’s very inspiring to me. PagerDuty is dedicated to diversity and inclusion, and I think people really enjoy that because when they come to work, they are seeing and working with people that they relate to.”
“When you have representation and the right balance, everybody feels empowered.”
Walker believes that representation is vital to the growth of not only the individual but also the organization. “In the absence of representation, it is more difficult to find leaders you can relate to and that you want to emulate. As a woman in finance, it’s amazing to be part of a female-led company and to feel represented and empowered to be yourself,” Walker says. “Jenn Tejada is fired up, and it is hard not to be motivated when you’re with her. She’s an inspiring leader. When you have representation and the right balance, everybody feels empowered.”
As an aspiring CFO herself, Walker has a few words of advice for women looking to grow within the finance function:
Take the time to invest in yourself. “Plot your strategy; think about where you want to be and if what you are doing today is moving you toward your goal.”
Leverage your network. “It needs to become part of a normal routine, and you never know when you might be able to help someone within your network. I think it’s a great way, particularly for women, to pay it forward, to help each other.”
Be an advocate for yourself. “Lean into the things you are looking for. Ask for what you want, demonstrate your value, and take risks.”