Job spotlight on Dorenda Weaver, executive vice president and chief accounting officer at TSYS

This Christmas, Dorenda Weaver has plenty for which to be thankful.

One daughter is a an excellent high school athlete receiving honors for her sports feats. Her other daughter relocated this year to Columbus with her husband and a very young grandson.

For Weaver, 49, there's also the fact that she has been able to maintain a highly successful corporate career doing what she truly enjoys and in the community she grew up in and still loves dearly.

But it's a job that she had no idea would lead to what it has become when she started at TSYS in 1985, crunching numbers in the accounting department.

The Phenix City native has had a front-row seat during the company's growth from a small bank card processor to a global corporation handling electronic payments and other services for a variety of banks, retailers, merchants and other entities.

Weaver, amid a major reorganization of company management in 2004, was promoted from group executive to chief accounting officer. She also now holds the title of executive vice president.

The Ledger-Enquirer talked with her recently about her duties, the changes she has experienced and her own athletic accomplishments. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How did you come to TSYS in the first place?

When I was in college, I was introduced to TSYS through my softball coach, who just knew someone here. I interviewed and I came to work straight out of school.

So it was softball that got you inducted into Columbus State University's Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003?

I held the NCAA record my freshman year for homeruns. I hate to say this, but it was a different era. So when you try to compare what I played to what my daughter plays today, they're totally different sports. I played shortstop. (Her daughter, Sydney, this year was Bi-City Softball Player of the Year from Brookstone).

Was there ever any thought of pursuing a career away from Columbus?

I had plenty of opportunities outside of Columbus, but I really wanted to stay here. I was raised in Phenix City and went to school at CSU -- Columbus College back in those days. At the time, TSYS (then known as Total System Services) was much smaller. Most people weren't aware of TSYS back in 1985. We were just a part of the bank for a long time.

I'm just very family focused and all of my family's here in town. It was special to me to be able to have a career and family and stay in this community. I think that's important.

Did you ever think you would stay this long at TSYS?

I had no idea coming in. With my background in college, I worked as a payroll programmer for three and half years while I was in college. I did not want to be a programmer. That's why I majored in accounting.

So you really like working with numbers?

I enjoy numbers a lot. If you think about it, all of your major decisions around an organization come back to the financials at some point. So, I feel like this allows me to be a part of major decisions and different paths that are taken within TSYS. Again, it all kind of circles back to the numbers.

How large is your staff?

We have a staff of about 90 here in the Columbus office. But we have accountants all around the world. I'm responsible for accounting and finance worldwide. We have offices in Japan, China, Malaysia, Cyprus, Russia, (the United Kingdom), Dubai, they're scattered all over. And then, of course, in the United States ... and in Brazil and Mexico. I'm thinking it's about 235 (finance staffers overall).

That means a fair amount of travel for you?

It does. I try to visit our major offices on a routine basis. I don't get out to all of them every year or even every other year. Some of them are very small, but our team members there are very welcoming and appreciative of the time that I spend with them. Even here in the States, we have finance teams in Tempe, Ariz., and in Omaha, Neb., and in San Rafael, Calif.

So for you it's more about leadership instead of crunching hard numbers?

I monitor that. But we have teams of people who are responsible for doing the number crunching. And, of course, so much is done by computer nowadays. The accounting profession has transitioned so much from someone who's actually working directly with the numbers.

You picture an accountant sitting in front of a 10-key pad and punching away with a long roll of tape, right? But, today, everything's done by computers.

What that allows us to do as accountants is add value to the decision making, and to ensure that our numbers are accurate, that we have controls in process to ensure the security of all of our assets.

It really does allow us to spend more time on the business instead of directly in the numbers. So, we're partners with business areas throughout the organization, whether it's day-to-day activities and determining what our financial results are, or working with tax authorities around the world, or working (merger and acquisition) projects.

Is it hard handling the finances of a company with a stock market value topping $4 billion?

It's a great job. I have an incredible team of people that I work with.

When I started in finance, we had three team members, and TSYS at that time only had about 250 team members altogether. So I've been fortunate to live through and experience and be a part of the phenomenal growth and change that our company has been through. (TSYS today has more than 8,200 employees, about 4,300 of those in Columbus).

What's the most striking aspect of that, the sheer growth?

It's the magnitude of the change and the things that we think about today that almost 28 years ago -- when I joined TSYS -- we didn't have to deal with, such as currency issues, different cultures and having team members around the world.

Are chief accounting officer duties the same from company to company?

For a public company, your chief accounting officer is a very formal position. But my responsibilities are much broader than that. Typically, your chief accounting officer is responsible for general accounting and technical accounting and (U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission) reporting, and the audits that you undergo. But, in addition to that, I also have responsibility for taxes worldwide, and I'm able to participate in what I see as more of the business decisioning through (merger and acquisition) activity. I also serve on various boards of TSYS, such as TSYS de Mexico.

Does your job become more hectic when there's a flurry of contract signings?

Oh, yeah. It's absolutely driven by the major events of our company, such as when we're acquiring a business or bringing on a new large customer. It just makes it more exciting ... We're involved from pre-contract, when we're in discussions with a client as far as determining what prices we can offer them and contractually what terms we can offer. We're on the front end of that all of the way through delivery to sending them their monthly invoice.

Is this a busy time for you and your staff with the company's annual budget?

We're still putting the finishing touches on the budget. But, as you well know, as a public company, our quarter end and particularly year end, are our busiest times from a pure accounting standpoint.

That's just because we're determining what our earnings are and releasing earnings. It's just a very busy time.

There must be plenty of meetings for you?

That's a big part of my day. That means I've got to have a great team that's taking care of all the day-to-day activities so that we, as finance, can be a part of the major activities in our business.

Technology, such as smartphones and tablets, have to be a major change from the old days?

Absolutely. The main reason I changed my major in college, I knew I did not want to carry a pager for the rest of my life. So, now, what do I have? I've got this BlackBerry. Technology makes it easier to do business. But it also makes it harder to step away from your business. So, again, it's about balancing the work and family. It really requires a lot of discipline, which I'm still working on. (laughs)

What's the most challenging aspect of your job?

The most challenging thing for me day to day is trying to find that balance between family and work. I'm very family oriented, and I've got a high school senior who plays every sport imaginable. That's how I enjoy my time away from work. We're also blessed that our older daughter and husband and grandson moved to Columbus this past summer.

The fact that TSYS is such a family friendly company to work for has got to be one of the main reasons that I, number one, came to work here, but, two, that I've stayed here all of these years. It's extremely important ... That work-family balance is critical for maintaining long work relationships with a company. We have a lot of people in TSYS who've been with the company a lot of years.

What's the next step up in your career?

My position reports to the chief financial officer, Jim Lipham, and Jim and I make a great team. We've worked together for almost my entire career here. For over 25 years, I've reported directly to Jim.

So you someday would like to be chief financial officer?


You seem to be a good example indicating the proverbial glass ceiling women historically faced years ago is behind us?

I do believe so. I think women have as great of an opportunity as any male that we're working with side by side. You don't hear a lot about that anymore, and that's a good thing.

What's the most rewarding aspect of your job?

Seeing other people grow and succeed in their jobs and be successful here at TSYS. I've been here 27 and half years, and I've had people who worked for me 25 years. I can't say it enough. I have an incredible group of people I'm very fortunate to work with.