After graduating college with a degree in economics, I began my career selling commercial real estate. I was successful, but I didn’t really enjoy the work. I wanted to focus more on financial analytics inside an organization than financial services for outside clients. In reality, I wanted to be a management accountant, but I was unclear of the best way to make that happen.

In 2004, I started my own business focusing on real estate appraisal. Though still not perfectly aligned with my long-term career goals, it allowed me to use financial analytics in my work. And in 2006, with the U.S. housing crisis looming, I again felt the need to make a career shift by going back to school for my MBA.

I graduated in 2008 and was hired as a senior financial analyst at a major wine and spirits manufacturer, finally getting my chance to work in the management accounting field. Financial decision making: check. Lease accounting: check. Capital budgeting and return: check. Planning and reporting: check. Process and controls: check. I had made it to my field of dreams.

After a few years, I was looking for a way to further distinguish myself. I knew about designations and certifications for a whole host of vocations but not for management accounting. Through some simple internet research, I found IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) and the CMA certification in 2014. I requested that my company pay for the program costs and that we include earning a CMA in my development plan. In late 2016, I earned my CMA and started attending meetings of IMA’s San Francisco Chapter.

You don’t have to be a CMA to be involved in IMA, and involvement can be very rewarding. After a few months, I was nominated to be director of outreach, where I focused on promoting the chapter, IMA, and the CMA to local universities. Then I joined IMA’s Campus Influencers program, which has similar goals. I truly enjoy this important volunteer work as I get to interact with the next generation of management accountants and increase awareness of IMA and the CMA.

My career has already taken several twists and turns, and as I write this article I find myself in transition once again. But this time I have IMA and the CMA certification on my side. The network of IMA members has been an amazing resource as I explore new opportunities, and the CMA certification is well respected and highly regarded by employers. Furthermore, several promising opportunities have come directly from my IMA network.

I encourage you to get involved with IMA. Join a committee or the board of directors of your local chapter, attend a conference (for example, ACE2018 in Indianapolis this month or in San Diego in June 2019), volunteer (for example, the Campus Influencers program)—whatever suits you. It’s member involvement that enriches our network. It can be a very rewarding experience by itself, and when you find your own career in transition, you’ll be happy to have made the valuable IMA connections.

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