Christian Cuzick likes mystery novels. He enjoys unraveling the why and how behind something, and that's one of the reasons he excels as a high-level finance professional. Currently, he's the vice president of finance of Johnson & Johnson Vision, a subsidiary of one of the world's largest, most respected companies. He began his career not as an accounting or even finance person but as a marketing professional, something that's given him a broad understanding of how business works. "I didn't find finance; finance found me," he explains--and it's a good thing that it did. Christian will bring his broad business knowledge and deeply inquisitive perspective to his role as IMA Chair for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.
Christian was born in Lake Tahoe, Calif., the oldest of three boys. His mother worked as a nurse, and his father was in construction. When Christian was 10 years old, his family moved from Carson City, Nev., to Santa Cruz, Calif., near San Francisco, where he attended high school. He was a left-brain kid, excelling at math and chemistry, and he was fascinated by business, thanks to an uncle who owned a food additive company in Long Beach. When it came time to apply for college, Christian decided to remain in California to pursue a degree in international business at San Diego State University.
Christian loved his international business courses, and he also grew interested in studying German, mainly because of his family lineage. He wanted to learn more, but his options were limited. "I didn't think there were too many opportunities to improve my German-speaking skills as a student in San Diego," he recalls. In 1994, his junior year, Christian applied for a yearlong opportunity at the University of Heidelberg, a rigorous program that required him to pass both written and spoken language tests before he was admitted. Fascination with Germany was high at the time because the Berlin Wall had fallen only three years earlier. "Many people were focused on what was happening in East Germany, so it was an incredible time to be there," he says.
The experience helped Christian become fluent in German; it also motivated him to use his experience to work abroad. After earning his B.A. degree in international business, Christian accepted his first professional position in the rotational program in the marketing department of BASF, the world's largest chemical producer, headquartered in Ludwigshafen, Germany. The position required Christian to relocate from California to New Jersey. He spent three years at BASF's Budd Lake, N.J., location before taking a six-month assignment at corporate headquarters in Germany.
When he finished his experience abroad with BASF, Christian moved back to Northern California and took a job in the marketing department in the semiconductor division of Sony Electronics, where he spent five years. This was during the dot-com boom, and opportunities were abundant for those with excellent skills and ambition. It was while he was at Sony that Christian decided he wanted to pursue his MBA...