A Gradual Rise to the Top: Advice from Alum Michael Fung

Alumnus Michael Fung speaks to Business ScholarsOn Friday, September 18, UIC Business Scholars had the privilege of meeting with UIC Business alumnus Michael Fung, BS ’73, who spent a morning with the scholars discussing his experiences across over 25 years of accounting work, including CFO roles at Bass Pro Shops and Wal-Mart, among many other positions. Fung wasn’t there to lecture students on the finer points of retail accounting, but rather to tease out their ideas of what a successful career looks like in the real world. 

Fung’s career was shaped significantly not by the big upward leaps, but the lateral moves that broadened his experience. Early on, a move from public accounting at Deloitte to internal auditing at Beatrice Foods put him in a position from which he gradually rose to the top of a company. Fung engaged students in thinking about what kinds of short-term moves translate into long-term success. These moves aren’t always the obvious quick ascents to the next rung on the ladder. 

His own career was propelled beyond Beatrice via recruitment by Bass Pro Shops, who at the time was one of Beatrice’s candidates for acquisition. From Bass Pro Shops, a series of recruitments eventually led to the position of CFO of Wal-Mart’s global procurement, and it was at this point that Fung made another unobvious move, back into internal auditing. 

Fung impressed on the scholars that success isn’t linear - a good career has plenty of ups and downs, but it should trend upward over time. A key constant is the imperative to grow one’s experience, and the move to internal auditing at Wal-Mart did precisely that, giving Fung insight into the vast array of value drivers in the organization, business practices in everything from logistics to human resources to shelf displays. Four years after taking the internal audit position, Fung emerged a much stronger CFO. 

What other advice did Fung have for UIC Business scholars? Make sure you value your relationships in the workplace and with business partners. These relationships should always add value to a business.