What if I told you that a poster changed my life? As a college freshman in my first semester at Ashland University, I saw a poster that seemed interesting enough, announcing a “Holiday Party,” with cookie decorating and fun games, hosted by the IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) student chapter on campus. I’d never heard of IMA, but I figured any party with cookies would be fun. I didn’t realize it at the time, but as a result of that meeting, I would find a group of lifelong friends and connect with inspirational professors who truly shaped my professional career.
After that initial introduction, I joined the chapter and eventually took on leadership roles. I vividly remember during the fall of my senior year when my accounting professor asked me to stay after class. She was the faculty advisor for our IMA chapter, and since I was the president that year, she wanted to know when I was going to start studying for the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) exam. I recall staring at her awkwardly—I was juggling a senior class load, managing my duties with the IMA chapter, working at an internship, and looking to start preparing for the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) exam, as I was planning to pursue a career in public accounting. I couldn’t imagine adding one more responsibility to my plate.
Fortunately for me, this professor wasn’t about to take no for an answer. She asserted that the CMA would be vitally important in my professional career, even in the world of public accounting. She encouraged me throughout my study journey (and even nominated me for a CMA Scholarship) and was one of the first to congratulate me for passing the exam and earning this prestigious certification. Looking back now, a few years later, I can honestly say that she was right—the CMA designation is a truly invaluable tool.
When I tell people I work in public accounting, they tend to assume I do tax returns all day. While taxes are certainly a part of my job, I prefer to envision my role as an interpreter. No, I don’t speak another language—at least, not in the traditional sense. Accounting is often referred to as the language of business, and it’s my job to interpret that language into something meaningful for the small businesses that I work with each day.
Small business owners are amazing; they have a passion and are excited to share it with the world, whether they’re running a manufacturing plant, a dental office, a craft store, or even a farm. Almost always, accounting and taxes are far from that passion, so it’s our job as accounting professionals to not only speak the language of accounting, but also to interpret it in a way that gives meaningful information to business owners so they can continue to pursue their dreams.
The CMA exam focuses on the knowledge and skills accounting professionals need to fulfill this valuable interpreter role. From budgeting, cost management, and internal controls to financial statement preparation and decision analysis, the subject matter tested on the CMA is part of my daily life. As I continue my career in public accounting, I know I’m well equipped as a CMA to serve the small businesses in my community. I’m certain that while decorating cookies as a college student, I never could have imagined that I would be where I am today, but I’m thankful for the part IMA played in that journey.