By Ann Miller Baker - March 19, 2019
When Moffitt Cancer Center was recently named – for the tenth time – as one of the 2019 Top 10 Nonprofit Companies for Executive Women by the National Association for Female Executives, the official Moffitt reaction came from someone who’s witnessed firsthand how the cancer center develops female leadership from within.
“It is critical that we continue to support and enrich a culture that acknowledges successful women,” said Yvette Tremonti, CPA, MBA, Moffitt’s chief financial and administrative officer. “With nearly three-fourths of our workforce comprised of women, we are thrilled to celebrate our achievements.”
You could call Tremonti a home-grown example of those achievements. She was born and raised in Temple Terrace, earning her undergraduate degree in accounting from the University of South Florida (USF). In 2018, the Tampa Bay Business Journal named her CFO of the Year.
Tremonti can’t recall ever knowing as a child what she wanted to be when she grew up. She just knew she wanted to work. “I came from a family that lived paycheck-to-paycheck,” Tremonti explains, “so I began working as soon as I could: mowing lawns, running the register at Kash n’ Karry. I didn’t want to live just making ends meet, so I’ve always worked. That’s been my motivation as long as I can remember, and it’s something I’ve tried to pass on to my kids.”
It wasn’t until Tremonti was in an entry-level accounting class at USF that the career lightbulb went off in her brain. “It was a weed-out class of 200+ students – and I LOVED it. These were problems I could solve. For me, it was fun. And I knew this is what I wanted to do.
“It’s crucial to figure out your passion and what you are good at. They are not always one and the same.”
After college, Tremonti spent nine years working for Ernst & Young, traveling to recruit promising college students to the firm and handling a variety of health care accounts. While at Ernst &Young, she met her husband – also in the health care sector – which meant she would have to find a position elsewhere. That was in 1996. A friend recommended Moffitt, and she says, “I’ve been here ever since.”
While accounting skills are what allowed her to land the jobs she’s held, Tremonti says she’s always loved the “people side” of business. “People skills are necessary to be a leader.”
Tremonti’s path to leadership at Moffitt was unconventional, and for that she’s grateful to her first Moffitt boss and the cancer center’s first executive director, Nick Porter. He sensed Tremonti’s people skills, encouraging her to take a leadership position in Moffitt’s Human Resources department that she held for five years before transitioning back to finance. “Nick was my mentor and sponsor, allowing me to advance my career in a non-traditional way,” she says.
Growing her career in the male-dominated field of finance meant that Tremonti had to adapt. “My peer group is and always has been male,” she says. But that didn’t mean she hid her expectations. “I never thought I should be treated differently, but always made my expectations clear. For instance, in regards to compensation I would say, ‘I don’t know what my peers make. But I expect to be compensated equally.’”
Through the years, Tremonti has mentored many Moffitt women, advocated that qualified female candidates be sought out for open leadership roles and encouraged policies that address work/life balance. A mother of four including one son with special needs, she says these balance issues are real. “As working women, we have different responsibilities from male counterparts. Female leaders have to manage more complex schedules.” It’s not that male counterparts don’t understand, she adds, but that all team members need to talk, share what works and support each other. And she adds that Moffitt is fortunate that its CEO, Dr. Alan List, advocates for work/life balance measures.
“You won’t get change unless leaders not only say the right things, but also live it.”