John Way said he's always been "kind of a numbers person," which led him to his current career and role as chief financial officer of Proto Labs Inc.
Way graduated from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., with a bachelor's degree in accounting. Following graduation, he had a difficult choice deciding between the tax vs. audit route, so he worked at a local firm where he could do both.
"That really helped just accelerate my knowledge and thought process behind it because I got to start with kind of the beginning of the audit and work my way down the balance sheet, from cash all the way through equity and then prepare the financial statements and do the tax returns," Way said. "I got to see the full picture pretty quickly right out of college; I think it was a big benefit for me."
He joined PricewaterhouseCoopers for about six years. Way, 46, said his time at PwC was "a very good learning experience just because I got to see so many different businesses and how they operated and what worked well and areas for improvement, and I got to compare kind of the business processes of so many entities and companies that really helped me understand and build how I thought things should be done based on that experience."
Way then moved to UnitedHealth Group for 10 years, then "a short stint with a couple private equity-owned firms" before landing at Proto Labs.
"While I was working at Pricewaterhouse, I was working with technology companies, so medical device and some software," he said. "Proto Labs has kind of a unique balance of both the manufacturing as well as the software component of it, so the great thing about finance is that it's pretty transferable from industry to industry. … Proto Labs is such a unique business model with very strong financial performance but then with a ton of growth opportunity as well. It was just a very appealing opportunity."