Quantitative Communication: An Interview with Jenny Herbert Creek

Members of Step One’s Board of Trustees contribute invaluable expertise and skill to the running of our school; Jenny Herbert Creek, parent of Charlotte (Room 1) and Miles (Room 3), is our Board co-chair this year as well as a CFO and financial educator who contributes her expertise to Step One’s Finance Committee.

One of our Board members said of Herbert Creek: “she completely changed my attitude to spreadsheets; I didn’t know they could be beautiful.”

Learn more in our full interview.

Hi Jenny! Thank you for taking the time out of your very busy schedule to talk with me! Can you describe your history with Step One?

Along with Nick Jackson, I’m co-chair of the school’s Board. Prior to that I chaired the Finance Committee for a year. Before that I served on the Finance Committee and worked on Step One’s Gala.

What’s the role of the Finance Committee?

The Finance Committee is a working committee of the Board, providing leadership in the area of Financial Sustainability, including annual budgeting and oversight and financial advising for the capital campaign. In other words, FiCom (the Finance Committee) offers the Board an “analyst team” to interpret raw financial data. We crunch the numbers with a eye toward trends and our long-term goals, then create reports that summarize data and make recommendations to the Board. This way all Board members can participate in important financial decisions, regardless of their quantitative background.

What is your role as a leader on both the Board and the Finance Committee? 

I love numbers and Excel. I do a lot of the heavy quantitative lifting and analysis because I enjoy it so much: I’m a spreadsheet nerd! FiCom is focused on the financial health of the school, and the Board takes the financial recommendations and analysis and considers it in the broader context of the school’s values, history, and mission.  It’s important to have both the targeted analysis and the big-picture vision, and so I love co-chairing the Board with Nick Jackson because he has a long history with the Board and brings a perspective that never departs from Step One’s values. We also want to have the fiscal discipline to make Step One’s vision sustainable for the long term. That’s where I see my role.

Step One’s Board is unique; Sue has brought together many different constituencies in the community including parents, teachers, administration, and alumni. Everyone has the opportunity to have their voice heard. Our decisions are never based solely on finances, but we have good financial information to bring to bear on our decisions to ensure the ongoing financial stability of the school.

What background do you bring to your volunteer service?

Professionally I’m the CFO of an educational services company. I also teach financial modeling to MBA students at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. I’m passionate about helping people communicate financial information more effectively, especially those who don’t think of themselves as “quants”. It means so much when a student tells me that what I taught them helped them get a dream internship, or convince an investor of a project’s worth.

Why do you give your time to Step One as a volunteer?

I believe in Step One and its mission. Step One is a model for early childhood education, an area which often gets overlooked in philanthropy. I knew Step One was the place for us when my mother-in-law, a professor of Early Childhood Education at Mills, gave the program her enthusiastic endorsement. Over the years, it’s given both of our children so much; that’s why I invest in Step One in many ways.