Sarah Friar, CFO of Square, Honored as 2014 Financial Woman of the Year

October 2014

“Every year this event gets even better!" was overheard at our table as everyone stood to applaud Sarah Friar at the conclusion of her honest, amusing, and inspiring remarks at the 2014 Financial Woman of the Year Luncheon on October 2nd at the Westin St Francis hotel in San Francisco.

Over 750 attendees attended the 19th annual event and were both captivated by Sarah's remarks and impressed by the ambitions of this year’s eleven scholarship recipients.

As Sarah highlighted in her speech, as an ambitious young woman from troubled Northern Ireland, she herself was the recipient of a life-changing scholarship to Oxford. She applauded the important work FWSF does to provide scholarships to deserving young women, help them launch successful financial careers and enable its members to thrive as they progress from job to job. In fact, thanks to our sponsors and individual donors this has been yet another record year for our scholarship fund with over $320,000 raised.

Honoree Sarah Friar and FWSF President Anne Chambers

Honoring our 2014 Financial Woman of the Year, Sarah Friar CFO of Square on October 2, 2014
Honoree Sarah Friar and FWSF President Anne Chambers

Since July 2012, Friar has served as the CFO of Square, which offers merchants of all sizes intuitive, yet sophisticated technology to run their business. Prior to joining Square, Friar served as Senior Vice President, Finance & Strategy at Her career began in roles at Arthur Andersen and McKinsey & Company followed by 11 years at Goldman Sachs.

Sarah is both extremely accomplished in her own career and enormously committed to a future with more women in financial and technical fields. Her efforts to inspire young women to pursue their education and dreams are in line with the goals of the FWSF. She is an outstanding role model for our scholarship recipients and the entire FWSF community.

Reflecting on her personal history and career progress, she admitted that ”everyone wants the path, but there is no path, little do they know what a pinball machine it is.” To help each of us — and particularly the 2014 Scholarship Recipients — make our way through our personal career pinball machines, Sarah shared four tenants that she lives and leads by (she "used to have three, but now that she’s at Square…”):

1. Get a daily adrenaline rush.  
Easy to say and yet so many of us spend most of our professional lives trying to get in control of our subject matter, effectively removing the adrenaline. But if I’ve learned anything so far it’s that it’s taking those big risks is what makes it living.

Sarah went on to share her adventurous summer internship working in Ghana's Ashanti Goldfields: I learned what working on a mine was like. I saw science practically deployed. I was fascinated by how microbial systems could be used to extract gold from sulphide ore. I was part of a huge plant of people, all using the techniques I’d only practiced in a small lab on a gigantic scale – it was mind-blowing!

2. Do what you love.
Yes, it sounds trite, so how do you practically do that? Take a step back and think holistically about what you are passionate about. It’s not about listing jobs, but rather listing attributes and then figuring out if the job has the attributes. 

For me I try to make a list every year of things that inspire me:

  • Analytics – I’ve never met a number I didn’t like.
  • People management – yes I’m one of those crazy people that actually likes the difficult people problems
  • Technology – I love taking things to pieces, starting with my mum’s vacuum cleaner.
  • Mission-driven
  • Travel

3. Pay it Forward
I grew up in a tiny village called Sion Mills, in N. Ireland at the height of the troubles. Our local town had the dubious honor of being the most bombed town in Europe per size. Sad to say that bombs and shooting were somewhat par for the course from my earliest memories.

So imagine me sitting in our school career room one day and seeing an advert in a career magazine for the Arthur Andersen Scholarship Program. Little did I know that this would open the door to so much. A love of business, a love of travel, an ability to pay for my education at Oxford and a chance to expand my horizons. When I first saw it I thought – they’ll never accept me. In fact a little known story – I got in such a fluster ahead of my interview that I managed to show up on the wrong day. See the pinball machine in action…..I don’t recommend it as a way to make yourself differentiated.

So you see today is the rebalancing of karma. And now you all have to pay it forward when your time comes! Because we all see your potential.

4. Create a Board of Directors, and use them mindfully.
This I stole wholeheartedly from an amazing Goldman woman. I’ve taken some creative license but the punch-line is be very mindful of cultivating great mentors – in the same way you would be thoughtful about creating a Board for your start-up. And stretch. When I was first starting in banking Mary Meeker was the doyenne of Wall Street – on the cover of Fortune, Forbes the WSJ (in fact she still is in all those places!)….I never thought I’d get to call her a mentor and friend. When I was deciding what to do next after Goldman I stalked Marc Benioff for some guidance. I ended up working for him for a year and a half. Today I get to work with Jack Dorsey and see one of the greatest game-changers in tech in action, and he gives honest feedback too!

Look for folks who will give you brutal honesty, but can deliver it in such a way that you look forward to doing what they are advising. You know they have your back.

So scholars – there’s a lot that lies in front of you. Your stories are inspirational. When I heard your intros a few months back I thought of the great Warren Buffet. When asked how he’d been so successful he said: “because I only had to compete with half the population. Well times are changing – Mr Buffet has some new competition on the scene and we’ve got your back.

We are thrilled to have Sarah as part of our FWSF community and will take her advice to heart. Watch our video featuring Sarah here:

The Financial Woman of the Year Luncheon generates much-needed funds for the FWSF Scholarship Program, a program that has contributed to the future of women in finance by awarding over $2 million to more than 200 Bay Area women who show promise as future financial leaders. Watch our video featuring this year’s scholarship recipients here: (insert)

If you have not already contributed, please visit our scholarship page to learn more about the program and make a donation, if you are so inclined.

We look forward to seeing you at the Financial Woman of the Year Luncheon next fall!


Honoring our 2014 Financial Woman of the Year, Sarah Friar CFO of Square on October 2, 2014
L > R Olivia Barbee, Wells Fargo, FWSF event co-chair
Mary Meeker, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers introduced Sarah
Sarah Friar, CFO Square, honoree
Anne Chambers, Chambers & McAlpine, FWSF board president
Darcy Illg, Conetech, FWSF event co-chair

View more images of the event on facebook!

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