Gigi San Juan | Sr. Accounting Manager | Alameda, CA
Q. What is your role at Penumbra?
I have been working with the awesome Finance team for the past 11 years and, among other things, we ensure compliance with applicable accounting standards and maintenance of appropriate controls. When I started at Penumbra, we were only a team of 7 accountants out of about 300 total employees.
My focus right now is on the Operation side of accounting which includes Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Travel & Expense Reimbursement, and Fixed Asset. My role is to make sure that our finance operations can scale with the growth of the company. My team and I collaborate and work directly or indirectly with cross functional departments like IT, Purchasing, Customer Service, Sales team, Production Engineers and Technicians, Marketing, Clinical, Legal, and HR. We try to find processes that we can adopt or improve to give us better efficiency in our operations.
Q. What aspects of your job do you enjoy most?
I enjoy working closely with my team as well as collaborating with cross-functional teams. I do really appreciate my team’s dedication and hard work in their day-to-day functions. I feel guilty for getting excited about every problem or issue that we encounter because I want to know what’s causing it and how we can solve it. It’s like a treasure hunt, finding gold in every challenge. These are the things that drive me to go to work every single day with a smile on my face. At the end of the day, it’s not what you’re working on, but who you’re working with. I agree with Steve Jobs who said, “Incredible things in the business world are never made by a single person, but by a team.”
Q. Describe an adventure that you’ll never forget.
We had an opportunity to travel to Japan for vacation. My daughter was 4 years old and still drank milk at that time. We landed in the late afternoon and immediately tried to find a place to buy milk. Eventually, we found ourselves in a HUGE underground market. There were lots of small restaurants, food on glass displays, and stores selling all kinds of merchandise. We didn’t speak Japanese and Google Translate wasn’t a thing back then. Using simple words, we asked where to buy baby’s milk. No one we asked understood. We tried to do our own version of sign language by pointing to our baby and demonstrating drinking a baby bottle with milk. The people were very helpful and tried to find someone to help us. We got directed from one person to another to another, and, finally, one lady said go to a medicine store. It was hilarious so we gave up. Luckily, on the way back to our hotel, we stumbled into a Starbucks with a crew that spoke English. Whew!
Q. What is your personal philosophy?
Listening is the best tool in effective communication. We grow, learn, appreciate, and understand things by listening. Every message being conveyed to us by the speaker requires different listening responses. We must keep an open mind and read between the lines to understand the situation. We might not have all the answers, but sometimes a response is not needed. Being present and showing respect during the conversation plays a huge part in this kind of communication. We don’t want to miss the opportunity when others are reaching out or trying to communicate with us.
Q. Before working at Penumbra, what was the most unusual or interesting job you’ve ever had?
I worked at a chocolate manufacturing company as an accountant. Our manufacturing and office were in the same building. The air inside was filled with the aromas of roasting and ground cocoa bean. Our R&D team sniffed and tasted different cocoa beans all day. I felt like I was in heaven when all these processes were happening. I learned that there are different variations of scent, such as vinegar or cabbage, that emanate from cocoa beans. They have to find the right balance. Unfortunately, the smell sticks to your clothes and your whole body. I never imagined I’d smell so awful after work. Though that hasn’t stopped me from eating chocolates to this day.
Q. What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I am a slow driver, which means I drive within the posted speed limit. I only started driving when I joined Penumbra and I never drive outside of Alameda. I am used to drivers passing me by every time I’m on the road. I have only driven once out on the freeway, and I stayed behind a truck with a shipping container because I knew nobody would try to overtake me. Please do not ask me for directions as I will not know how to answer. Even though I drive slowly, I like to watch Formula 1 car racing. The F1 schedule is in sync with my calendar, so I never miss watching a race, even if it means waking up early on the weekend. I drive slowly and I enjoy watching others drive faster than I would ever dare.