Rogerio Rezende’s journey to become CFO at Dixon Ticonderoga Co. has been an arduous one. It began for the now 31-year-old when he was 18 and managed finances for his family’s small construction supply and lumber mill in a rural Brazilian town. His wanderlust took him to Florida in 2000, where he juggled jobs as a cab driver, dishwasher and waiter to pay for his education.

While earning a bachelor’s degree from Rollins College and an M.B.A. from Stetson University, Rezende, at 27, helped nurture a small, troubled video production company back to health, he says, by reinventing operations, improving efficiency, renegotiating terms with vendors–and even forgoing his paycheck. The makeover was a success. After that, Rezende managed the first full corporate audit at Bailey Industries as it prepared to be acquired by a public company, he says.

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