Dominic J. Caruso, vice president for finance and chief financial officer of Johnson & Johnson admits that his journey to success was part serendipity, part planned. That also could describe his journey to the George H. Cook campus to talk to undergraduate students in the “Business Finance II” course offered through the Department of Agriculture, Food and Resource Economics.
Course lecturer Paul Westbrook wanted to offer his students, mostly juniors and seniors, practical information beyond the textbook. Taking advantage of Rutgers’ proximity to New Brunswick neighbor Johnson & Johnson (J&J) world headquarters, Westbrook thought the best way to arrange a speaker from J&J would be to approach the top level and see who would be assigned to speak. Caruso offered to come himself, much to the delight of Westbrook and his students, who spent a class preparing and honing questions for him.
Caruso shared his ascent to the upper management of an international company like J&J. While in high school Caruso asked his friend’s uncle, whom he admired for having the finer things, what he did for a living. Caruso wasn’t familiar with finance but followed the uncle’s lead and enrolled in an accounting course in high school. It was his high school teacher that taught him the life blood of the business and inspired him to continue in the field. Caruso planned carefully which college he’d attend to study accounting, selecting Drexel University for its cooperative education program.
During his tenure as the Chief Financial Officer for biotech company Centocor, Inc., it was merged with J&J. In his current role as Vice President of Finance at J&J, Caruso’s job requires interacting with all constituents that make up the financial affairs of the company: board of directors, investors and 5,000 personnel in J&J’s financing divisions around the world.
Caruso fielded questions from students ranging from innovation in pharmaceuticals and surgical devices to impacts of international currency fluctuations on business.
When asked what he thought was J&J’s biggest innovation in the past 10 years, Caruso picked the use of stents to treat coronary disease in tandem with drug treatment to keep arteries open, reducing the need for invasive surgery.
Caruso’s response that most captivated this class of future business managers was to the question about makes a person in an entry-level position a stand out. To Caruso, someone who is a solutions-oriented person, having good interpersonal skills, and being unsatisfied with the status quo sets can set him- or herself apart.