Former Netflix CFO shares experience in business school speaker series

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Former Netflix chief financial officer, David Wells, sits down as part of McCombs School of Business VIP Distinguished Speaker series. Wells emphasized the importance of networking, technological skills and people management for job opportunities.

Photo Credit: Eddie Gaspar

After spending eight years as Netflix’s chief financial officer, David Wells gave insight on what companies such as Netflix look for in potential employees as part of the McCombs School of Business’ VIP Distinguished Speaker series Wednesday. 

Wells spent much of the lecture giving advice on the qualities he wants to see when hiring. Wells said students should use their personal networks and contact people in companies of interest to get an idea of the company’s environment.

“It really is a fit exercise,” Wells said. “I would want somebody who’s going to come in and thrive in that environment. They’re going to kill it at this one thing, and then they’re going to reach out and go for the next thing and the next thing.”

 

While Wells acknowledged the importance of core technological skills such as math and coding for Silicon Valley jobs, he also stressed emotional intelligence and being aware of one’s limitations.

“There’s a lot of gifted engineers, a lot of gifted mathematicians and a lot of gifted scientists in Silicon Valley,” Wells said. “And the reason the rest of us still have a job is because some of them can’t manage people or shouldn’t be managing people.”

Marketing sophomore Natalia Novegil said Wells emphasized the importance of taking risks.

“Even when you’re older, you should always constantly be taking risks and be open to opportunity,” Novegil said.

Biology junior Samiksha Ray said she appreciated how Wells touched on how high-level management jobs can cause people to lose sight of why they pursued that career.

“People in higher-up jobs are so burnt out,” Ray said. “They’ve lost their motivation and passion for (their job). That’s something everyone should have and maintain. You wake up every day, and you’re smiling from outside and within.”

Wells stepped down from his CFO position in January, ending 14 years of employment with Netflix. He said he believes it was a good decision for both himself and the company. Though he does not know where he will go next in his career, Wells said he wants to apply his skills in a way that makes the world better.

“I want to find a day job that’s a little more pro-social,” Wells said. “It’s a giant question mark. You’re coming along with me on this journey.”