Vice President, Finance and People
Deborah Dang arrived at OpenSesame with deep tech industry accounting experience and a passion for developing lifelong learning opportunities. After leading accounting for several major public technology companies, Deborah was ready to grow something fundamentally powerful in the world of education. Heading finance at OpenSesame allowed her to combine her tech industry knowledge with the background she had also gained in founding and opening a public Chinese Charter School from the ground up. “I was excited to join a company that promoted learning,” Deborah said. “We genuinely believe in giving people the opportunity to learn and grow through programs like our Leadership Skills Development Program.”
Briefly describe your role.
I lead both the finance and people teams. This includes the finance and accounting and the people team, which includes recruiting, training, HR, and benefits.
How did you get into your field?
I had a hard time deciding which area to specialize in when I was in business school. I loved HR and marketing, but accounting came easily to me. After I graduated from undergrad, I tried many different business areas, helping me realize accounting was right for me. Throughout my career, I’ve always worked in public technology companies. OpenSesame is the first private technology company I’ve worked for. I had planned to stay in public tech, but those companies move in quarterly cycles, and I missed building and working on something new. OpenSesame allowed me to do that. Also, I have always believed in the importance of lifelong learning. I was part of a group that founded the Hope Chinese Charter School, a public charter school providing Mandarin Chinese immersion education to elementary and middle school students. So when the OpenSesame opportunity came up, I was excited to join a company that promoted learning.
What OpenSesame ERGs are you a part of?
Asian, Pacific Islander, and the Women’s ERG
What has been the best part of working in your role?
The People: I love seeing great people join OpenSesame and then grow, learn, and get promoted or move into other areas of this company.
How has OpenSesame changed since you’ve joined?
When I joined, we had 40 employees. The finance team was just two of us, we didn’t have a people team, and many of our processes were very manual. In just five short years, we’ve doubled the finance team, created a people team, upgraded our payroll system and ERP, and added many other integrations. We’ve put together very robust recruiting processes and introduced the OpenSesame qualified training program, and we’re now at over 150 employees.
How has your OpenSesame team maintained a sense of community through the pandemic era?
I love our Friday full team meetings and the fun event once a month. It gives me a chance to see other people outside of my teams. I’m also enjoying participating in virtual coffees and the ERGs. I do miss the in-person interactions — the hallway conversations and the Friday full team lunches. I felt more in touch when we were onsite, but I am now active in Slack’s various social channels. It’s so nice to see pictures of everyone’s kids and dogs and to talk about non-work things. We even have a Peloton slack channel with monthly team challenges.
What is the Best ProDev you’ve taken?
I have to take 40 hours of CPE a year for my CPA license, so, unfortunately, most of my pro dev is accounting/finance-oriented. I went to a great conference in Orlando before COVID, which featured a good mix of leadership sessions and “future of accounting” sessions. And in the evening, discounted tickets to theme parks.
If you feel comfortable, give a glimpse of life outside of work; where do you get your energy, or what do you enjoy?
I have two almost teenagers, so I’m doing whatever I can to keep them engaged and off their screens. We like to stay active — everyone in our family either walks or runs every day. Recently, I’ve gotten swept up in the Peloton craze and have been known to use much-needed sleep time to plan out my workouts for the next day. We ski in the winter and kayak, SUP, mountain bike, and hike in the summer. We also love playing board games. SkipBo has turned into a very competitive game of parents vs. kids. My kids go all out when they win — screaming and victory dancing.
What makes working with OpenSesame rewarding?
OpenSesame’s emphasis on learning and growth. We genuinely believe in giving people opportunities to learn and grow through programs like our Leadership Skills Development Program.
What enneagram type are you? And what part speaks most strongly to you?
I’m a 1W2. I get a sense of comfort from making sure the t’s are crossed, the i’s are dotted, and the numbers tie.
What advice would you give to new OS hires?
Learn what other departments do and how it relates to what you do. Look for opportunities to meet up with people through either the formal virtual coffee program or by just asking someone for coffee/lunch. Attend a leadership lunch/happy hour where you can meet various members of the leadership team.
What makes a team member successful at OpenSesame?
Caring equals success. Those who genuinely care about doing their job well, about the team around them, about their customers, about their own growth, and are continually improving each day — are the ones who see success.
What is your favorite course in the OS catalog?The Gold Deck presentation, which is an internal OpenSesame course. It felt like I was sitting in on a sales call. It was so valuable to see how we sell the product.
Do you have a motto or personal mantra?
There’s a Japanese phrase: Fall down seven times, get up eight. It’s a phrase about resilience. For me, whenever I’ve faced difficulties, the important thing is to get back up again. I particularly love that the phrase talks about falling down seven times and getting up eight, not seven. That extra digit represents to me not only getting back up again but taking a step forward.