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3M’s CFO Nick Gangestad ‘86 Shares Sound Advice for Augsburg Business and Accounting Students

Nick Gangestad talking to students and facultyEarly in his career, 3M’s CFO Nick Gangestad ‘86 created an excel spreadsheet to map out his professional development and possible future jobs. As a planner and an accountant, Gangestad jokes that excel seemed like the only application to use.

Augsburg’s Business Administration Department recently welcomed Gangestad to campus to share with students his advice as they begin their careers. The room was eager to hear about Gangestad’s vocational journey and the steps he found most valuable during his impressive career at 3M. Gangestad encouraged the students to have goals and a plan in mind and to share those goals with their future supervisors. He said there were a number of times in his career when sharing his future hopes opened doors to new and fruitful experiences.

Among the key takeaways from Gangestad’s talk were to establish a personal brand. Gangestad said there were more than 1000 accountants working at 3M back when he was just starting out at the company. He worked to establish a brand that was true to him but also differentiated him.

“I had a brand around being a teacher,” Gangestad said, “and that I could explain concepts to people that most other people couldn’t and I could do it in a way that people could understand.”

Gangestad talks to students and facultyHe told students that it’s important to try to be the first to do something and to think about what you want to be known for. He also encouraged them to take risks. Gangestad has enjoyed the times in his career when he has worked abroad and found value in the challenges and opportunities that made him uncomfortable allowing him to grow as a person.

Gangestad also mentioned the ways in which he has chosen to get involved and give back to his community which includes serving on the Board of Regents at Augsburg.

“The Business Administration Department is very grateful that a man as busy as Nick Gangestad would take so much time to share his extremely impressive vocational journey with our students,” Professor of Economics Jeanne Boeh said after the talk. “Our students left with so many good ideas and strategies for their career moving forward in addition to the important meta message of giving back to the community.”

About Nick Gangestad (from 3M’s Corporate Officer’s page)

Nick Gangestad, 3M’s chief financial officer, grew up on a farm in Iowa intending to pursue a traditional accounting practice. That’s certainly the path he started down, earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting followed by an MBA. But when he was in college, Nick participated in a corporate student program at 3M that started him down a different path. That was almost three decades ago.

“Three aspects of 3M changed my mind,” Nick recalls. “This place operates like a family. I saw opportunities to do it all while working for one company. And I liked how 3M developed people.”

Now, he’s such a big believer in the company that he has a framed copy of the McKnight Principles hanging on his wall at 3M headquarters. William L. McKnight was a longtime 3M CEO whose management philosophy – of allowing room for the kind of experimentation that leads to breakthrough innovations – has shaped the company.

Innovation is clearly appealing to Nick, who was the first student in his high school to buy a computer. He was almost certainly the first student to start his own business, when he began programming videogames and selling them to his classmates. But he also hasn’t wandered too far afield from his first love of accounting.

Nick began at 3M in 1987 as a systems analyst in the company’s finance office. He became a plant accountant a few years later, followed by financial analyst and financial manager roles in various divisions in the U.S., Latin America, and the Asia Pacific regions. In 2003, Nick was named vice president of Finance and Information Technology for 3M Canada. In 2007, Nick returned to Minnesota to direct corporate accounting for the company, followed in 2011 by a new role as corporate controller and chief accounting officer. In 2014, he was named 3M’s chief financial officer.

Outside of work, Nick and his family enjoy sailing, supporting the arts, home renovation, traveling and hosting travelers and – of course – cheering on the Minnesota Twins.