As more people outside of the Anaplan ecosystem hear about the power of our platform, they're asking, "How can I get involved?" We recently spoke to two such individuals who took an interest in Anaplan and paved their own way toward becoming a model builder.
Meet David McCarthy and Garie Walsh. Both individuals come from very different backgrounds but have one driving similarity: a passion for learning new technology mixed with a genuine curiosity about the Anaplan platform.
Tell us about your career journey and the role planning has played along the way.
David: "I spent over 25 years developing, consulting, and selling software and technology solutions to the consumer-packaged-goods (CPG) and retail industries. I’ve worked for a number of different-sized companies, from startups to big companies like IBM. Along the way, I’ve been involved in a number of different domains that are relevant to planning functions. For example, in CPG, there’s trade promotion management or trade promotion planning. I spent a lot of years building out those kinds of solutions, supply chain planning, demand planning, etc."
Garie: "I didn’t go to university. I came straight into the world of work as a trainee finance officer back in 1991. I worked with manual cash books, learning how debits and credits worked. I took on various bookkeeping roles—that was my training ground. I always managed to choose organizations that would embrace technology. I helped retail businesses acquire new businesses, set up new channels, new markets, and new geographical areas to work in. We did that through acquisition and organic growth, so I was building planning models that could cope with new acquisition scores and organic growth scores. That really has been the backbone to my success in finance—understanding technology as the enabler to efficiency, effectiveness, and insight. That took me to ultimately working for PricewaterhouseCoopers, where I was hired to regrow their finance consulting practice."
How did you hear about Anaplan, and how did you decide to pursue it as part of your career journey?
David: "I left IBM last year to work for a small startup, and things just weren’t exactly working out. So, towards the end of the year, I decided to pursue other opportunities, and a really good friend of mine had landed a job at Anaplan. He was talking up Anaplan, so I started looking more at what they were doing. I got really excited about it because it seemed like a number of the challenges and gaps that I had seen over the years—especially in CPG and retail—were now being solved with this concept of Connected Planning. I was really intrigued by the concept. My friend connected me with some folks at Anaplan and I had my interview out at the corporate office toward the end of January or early February.
"At that very time, COVID came along and put the brakes on just about everything, so I decided to see what was available from a training perspective. The breadth and depth of the training and education materials are amazing. Then, I joined the Anaplan Community and participated in the Ask Me Anything session with Anaplan CEO Frank Calderoni. I asked him a question and he answered—it was really pretty cool. Finally, I saw Fran Murphy, Sr. Director of Community, talking about Talent Builder on Anaplan Live!, and thought: I’m not working and sequestered at home, so I’ll do this learning. I thought it can’t hurt to learn more about Anaplan, and maybe eventually I’ll get to work at Anaplan or work for a business partner.
"I started on the model-building journey and did the level-one model builder training. Then I worked on level two, which is a lot more challenging. Then recently I completed all the training needed to become an Anaplan Certified Model Builder. That’s how I got involved. I just jumped into the deep end of the pool. There are so many resources out there that it made it pretty easy for someone like myself to get help and to get educated. I have not found anything even close to what I consider the two pieces to the puzzle: it’s the training itself—that rich content, and the Community and ecosystem. When you bring those two things together, it is such a differentiator. I have not seen anything quite like it. Anaplan punches above their weight when it comes to a lot of capabilities."
There are so many resources out there that it made it pretty easy for someone like myself to get help and to get educated.
Garie: "About a year after joining PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), I met Michael Gould (the founder of Anaplan). He helped us build some OpEx, CapEx position models. Anaplan wasn’t enterprise-wide as a model at that time. That was my first experience with Anaplan. After PwC, I’ve been independent for the last four years. I’ve used all of that career experience in finance, plus the six years in consulting, to put together a service offering that covers financial planning and analysis. I’m more of an advisor than I am a financial accountant.
"I saw Anaplan as an analytics tool first. We weren’t really planning traditional forecast scenarios and budgets and things like that, so the technical finance planning wasn’t being done in the tool. But over a period of time, I could see how it was evolving from analytics to a tool that helps make decisions for the future.
"So far I’ve passed Level 1 Anaplan Model Building. Then I’ve launched out into LinkedIn, sharing my own materials on how to do finance transformation. Where I’m at with Anaplan is, when I get a job opportunity to advise somebody that has pain points in planning, I can talk to the product with hands-on experience. I can reference the Community and reference the advantages of Anaplan. Our finance community in the U.K. tends to think that unless you know the application, you can’t really help them with the solution, so sometimes there’s nothing more important for our client than to be able to show that I’ve rolled my sleeves up. The training itself was absolutely on point. The mixture of jumping into a presentation and testing of knowledge, and then building a model as you go through—there’s nothing like actually rolling your sleeves up and playing a bit."
What advice would you have for others considering this path and how to best move forward?
David: "I think I’d give three pieces of advice. The first is, just do it. Don’t be worried about your technical background. Just start. There are so many tools and so many resources available to help you get started on the journey. Just get started and go at your own pace. The second: don’t get discouraged. I find that sometimes I’ll bump into a little bit of a wall. The trick is just to walk away and take a break and then come back to it. Finally, stay involved. It is a community, and the ecosystem is only as strong as people’s willingness to contribute. I was actually able to help answer a question someone had on the forum early in my journey, so there’s no reason why everyone can’t give back. We need to help each other out."
Just start. There are so many tools and so many resources available to help you get started on the journey. Just get started and go at your own pace.
Garie: "For those that have a genuine interest in pressing Alt/F11 in Excel, you’re basically creating the code of what Anaplan actually does. Why spend all your time creating something that’s already there in terms of the language of the program? Learn Anaplan and become a champion. Be an Anaplanner, in other words.
"Finance needs to be relevant, and the way to do that is to leverage these trainings to become a trusted business advisor in order to have a seat at the table with your finance team. Understand your business drivers, and understand the data and the tools that you can use to be that trusted advisor."