One thing became abundantly clear as I climbed the ladder in finance: My B.S. degree in poli-sci wasn’t terribly impressive in that world, nor did it speak to the considerable experience I’d gained in various accounting and finance roles along the way.

What to do?

My first thought was getting an MBA. And so I did. After that, I was lucky enough to land a trade finance role with my current employer (the fortune of my years in banking and my freshly minted MBA). That was great, but it pigeonholed me into more of a “banker” type role than an accounting or finance one. Movement through the various finance roles wasn’t forthcoming.

Then a fabulous opportunity opened up. My employer decided to sponsor 25 CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) candidates, including training, membership in IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants), and exams. Of the 25 who started, two had the tenacity to stick to it (after all, it’s no walk in the park!). I was one.

Holding the CMA designation is like waving a banner that reads, “I can do this! I know this stuff!” It gives me credibility and mobility that I didn’t have before. I have held two vastly disparate positions at my company since obtaining my CMA, and I credit the designation for opening those doors. In addition, the CMA offered proof of competence and a supportive credential to obtain an adjunct faculty position at the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Saunders College of Business (in management accounting, of course).

For nearly a decade I was content with my silent presence in IMA, an organization from which I’d received so many benefits with nothing more than a quick annual renewal of my membership fee. All of that changed in 2010 when the Rochester Chapter historian reached out to me to see if I might consider joining the board of directors. Me? I had never served on a board in my life. What did I have to offer? Turns out, I not only had something to offer, but the experience of serving on the board was the icing on the CMA cake! The experience I gained serving on the board, first as an assistant director of programs, then treasurer, and ultimately president, has given me the opportunity to hone my networking and organizational skills, which I now consider critical to my professional survival.

The feeling of accomplishment when you pass that final exam is like no other. The gratification of connecting with like-minded professionals in a supportive environment only enhances the experience. What are you waiting for? Pursue that certification. I promise you won’t regret it!

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