After running her family’s heavy-machine manufacturing business in India for seven years, Pauline Francis sold her business and moved to the U.S. to pursue a career in finance and accounting. Throughout her career, she’s also had an interest in social impact and is now a board member and advisor to several nonprofits.
A partner at B2B CFO in Orange County, CA, we asked Pauline to tell us about how she’s furthering her interest in social impact at Wharton San Francisco.
Life Before Wharton
Growing up, my mom taught me accounting and my dad taught me how to run a business. When I was 18, my father died and I decided to keep the company running. I ran it for seven years until I found the right buyer; I wanted to make sure the company would be in good hands with the new owner. I recently visited India and found that some of the workers that my dad had hired still work there, decades later. Because of their continued employment at the company, their children have been well educated and some are now engineers! So I’m really happy and deeply satisfied with how things worked out.
After selling the business, I worked in fashion design for a while, but knew I ultimately wanted to pursue a career in accounting and finance. After moving to the U.S., I worked with a semi-conductor company where I was swiftly promoted to management roles with ever-increasing responsibility. This trend continued when I later joined a staffing company where I was promoted to vice president of finance and accounting. That was an extremely gratifying role because we helped tens of thousands of people find jobs, all over the country. This made me realize that where I worked mattered to me.
I went on to work at the Girl Scouts of America and as a financial consultant before joining my current firm, B2B CFO. As a partner in my firm, I help small and mid-size business owners optimize and run their companies successfully.
In 2013, my son was awarded a full-ride academic scholarship at U.C. Berkeley. That was a pivotal moment in my life because I realized just how blessed and fortunate I am. I began to think more about finding ways to give back.
This became an important driving force in my life. I decided to start doing more work in the nonprofit space and joined the Girl Scouts Council of Orange County.
Coming to Wharton
Although I had earned my Bachelors’ of Commerce degree in India, I wanted to pursue my formal business education in the U.S. as well. I had often considered going back to school; however, between a demanding career, raising my son, and caring for my ailing mother, I simply didn’t have the bandwidth. But after my son left for college, things fell into place — the timing was perfect. I wanted to do more in the nonprofit space and knew I could make a more significant impact with an MBA. I chose Wharton because it had always been my dream school. I still remember my father talking about Wharton when I was a little girl back in India!
Exploring Social Impact
Wharton has expanded my vision about social impact opportunities. Within a few months of starting school, my Wharton connections helped me become involved with three different nonprofit organizations whose missions are deeply meaningful to me.
I’m on the board of directors of Women Helping Women/Men2Work (WHW), on the organizational growth and sustainability committee at Habitat for Humanity of Orange County, and on the leadership team of The Peace Exchange, which directly provides employment to high-risk women in the Congo. My classes constantly enable me to contribute solid ideas and add real value to these organizations.
I also joined the Social Impact Club at Wharton San Francisco and became a key member of the organizing committee, responsible for the budget and finances for the Wharton San Francisco Social Impact Conference. This is a self-funded, student-run annual conference, which focused this year on the topic of scaling impact. We organized speakers and panelists to address trends and controversies, how the social impact community is working collaboratively to build momentum, and what lies ahead in social impact.
Our keynote speakers were Stephanie Cohn Rupp, managing director of impact investing at Threshold Group, and John Gargani, president of Gargani + Company. We also ran a pitch session for entrepreneurs, focusing on social impact ideas. We had 120 participants plus panelists and speakers.
The conference was incredible, providing a vibrant networking platform for our attendees who were keenly interested in contributing more towards the social impact space. I’m already looking forward to helping the students organize this next year.
I’ve gotten so much more out of Wharton than I ever imagined. It’s the best gift I’ve ever given myself!
Posted: July 18, 2016