In college, I pursued history and language studies, earning my bachelor’s degree in Japan Studies from the University of Washington’s Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies. To pay for my education, I continued working in inventory and clerical accounting positions.

It wasn’t my international studies degree that paid the bills after college, but my work experience in accounts payable, accounts receivable, and general ledger bookkeeping roles. After several years, I accepted the fact that I was following a business path and chose to pursue an MBA at the University of Washington’s Michael G. Foster School of Business. It was there that I first learned about the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) certification, and I knew it was for me. I realized I had been avoiding the public accountant path, and that the internal management accountant path was my true calling.

I wanted to keep learning after graduation, so I joined IMA® in 1992, purchased CMA review materials, and enrolled in a review class. But then I landed a position as an accountant at a steel manufacturer, and I soon became so involved in a multiyear start-up and modernization effort that I lost track of my intentions to become a CMA. From that start-up in Seattle, where I became division controller, I went on to another steel plant start-up in Memphis, then to corporate headquarters in audit and finance special projects, then financial planning and analysis (FP&A).

It wasn’t until 2005, more than 10 years after joining IMA, that I decided it was time to reenergize my brain and update my skills. I began taking the four parts of the CMA exam one at a time and earned my CMA in 2008. I’m so glad I did. During the global recession of 2009, I became one of many professionals looking for a new job after layoffs.

I’m certain that my newly minted CMA certification made my résumé stand out. Three years of studying also gave me the confidence to apply for challenging positions and bring real substance to the interview process. I was able to start a new FP&A leadership position immediately.

I continually encourage others to pursue the CMA, other certifications, and advanced degrees, with lunch-and-learn gatherings and one-on-one coaching. I encourage others not to wait many years like I did to go after that next step. I heeded my own advice and studied for the CSCA® (Certified in Strategic and Competitive Analysis) credential, which I earned in November 2019.

In addition to my corporate finance job at United Technologies, I also own a business with my husband and volunteer for a nonprofit that provides training and coaching to other entrepreneurs. With my experience and certifications, I now have the confidence and knowledge to develop and conduct training sessions to help others pursue their dreams—and for that, I am grateful.

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