JEFF THOMSON, CMA, CSCA, CAE, IMA president and CEO, says: “There is no secret to success in a literal sense. Everyone defines success differently. I define success as making a difference in my personal and professional lives, keeping the fire burning in my passion to learn new things regardless of age or experience, and having some fun along the way. For management accountants and others, that could mean being humble, being an active listener, and having a willingness to engage in fierce conversations (vs. getting personal, or at the other extreme, succumbing to artificial harmony) to advance business outcomes. No secrets, just common sense that works for you.”

DENNIS WHITNEY, CMA, CFM, CAE, senior VP of certification, exams, and content integration at IMA, says: “There is no one secret to success. The journey for everyone is unique. The key, though, is to be prepared to take advantage of opportunities and always strive to improve. Developing a strong technical foundation is very important. Earning my MBA and CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) certification was only the start; I am always learning something new.

It’s also important to be willing to take risks, to go outside your comfort zone. Early in my career I was nervous about public speaking, but I knew that if I wanted to succeed I would have to become more comfortable speaking to groups. I kept taking that risk until I felt more confident.

The soft skills of leadership and communication are probably most important. Being technically proficient doesn’t make you a good manager or a good leader. You have to be willing to be vulnerable, to listen, and to communicate a clear vision. You can attend classes and read books about leadership and communication, but the best way to learn is to emulate a good leader and to learn on the job, oftentimes by making mistakes and then learning how to do better. Be ready to seize the opportunity!”

RAEF LAWSON, PH.D., CMA, CSCA, CFA, CPA, professor-in-residence and vice president of research and policy at IMA, says: “The ‘secret’ to my success is always being open to new experiences and opportunities, working hard, and having a passion for learning new things. The management accounting profession is entering an era of unprecedented change, and having the ability to learn and change will become increasingly necessary for career success.”

How do you define “success”? How have you become a successful management accountant?

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