J’Maine Chubb, CPA, CGMA

CFO of the Houston Airport System


‘Forecasting is a way to cope with uncertainty …’

Achieving goals: My dad was an accountant, and my older brother was an accountant, so I chose to do the same. As I finalized my MBA and began pursuit of my CPA license, I was working full time in various accounting roles for the state of Michigan. I set a goal of becoming a CFO and took the steps I needed to achieve my objectives. What I learned along the way was to gain an understanding of technical accounting and strive to achieve accomplishments in roles that were not directly accounting-related. I would advise others to start by taking internships, then to create a game plan and take deliberate steps toward achieving their goals.

Modeling to reinforce proposals: I enjoy financial modeling because there are so many inputs that go into airport plans. If an airport wants to consider a $2 billion terminal project, you must determine what the revenue sources may be. You must look at interest rates and the cost of issuing debt, along with many other factors, and pull all this information together and make a recommendation to your CEO and the senior team as to what should be done. Forecasting is a way to cope with uncertainty. You don't know exactly what's going to happen, but you work to get a certain level of comfort or confidence around what you're proposing.

Knowing when to say no: I'm always balancing my responsibility for bringing in the resources that allow my organization to achieve its goals. But the biggest challenge is striking that balance between saying "yes" and saying "no." You may say, "Yes, I can accommodate this project" 10 or 11 times, and the 12th time, it might be time to say "no." The challenge is understanding when the conversation needs to shift and you need to start having a different conversation with a CEO as their finance business partner to make them really understand why the answer needs to be no.

Weathering the pandemic: We've done very well. We've benefited from the fact that prior to the pandemic, we set out to maintain a certain level of cash on hand, and we were in a healthy liquidity state. During the pandemic, we made some adjustments to decrease our expenses, and we were fortunate that the federal government stepped in and supported airlines and airports. Our airport system received $458 million that helped us maintain operations. We didn't utilize any of our cash to fund capital projects, and that helped us keep a high level of cash. It seems this pandemic doesn't want to let up fully, but I'm confident that we're going to weather the storm.

Mapping a rewarding career: One of the best rewards of my job is being a role model to individuals that may want to pursue the CPA license. The finance and accounting field provides opportunities to work in many different types of organizations. I could not have reached this level in my career without being a CPA.

Favorite music: I like all kinds of music, but I’m from Detroit, and a fun fact is that my uncles — my mom’s brothers — were Levi Stubbs, the lead singer of the Four Tops, and his brother, Joe Stubbs, who was famous before him.

Favorite football team: The Detroit Lions, even though they have a history of losing. I still stick with my home team.

Favorite food: Italian food. However, since being in Texas, I’ve started liking Mexican food quite a bit.

— As told to Teri Saylor, a freelance writer based in North Carolina. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Courtney Vien at Courtney.Vien@aicpa-cima.com.

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