Zara McMullan, CIMA student
BSc management, Queens University
Finance manager, iON
Zara McMullan is finance manager with iON (www.ionology.com) which she describes as a vibrant, digital marketing strategy company of ten people based in Belfast. Working with an SME provides Zara with exposure to a wide range of areas and she has gained a lot of experience since she first joined iON in 2007. Zara is studying for her strategy level exams with the Richard Clarke Academy, a Northern Ireland based tuition provider.
I chose CIMA because I believed it was the best accountancy qualification to have whilst working in industry, your learning can be very easily applied to the workplace and it sets you up to be a great manager and decision maker.
A CIMA qualification shows high levels of motivation and intelligence that can be applied easily to any industry and I have no doubt it will be key for me in building a successful career in the longer term.
What does your role as finance manager with iON involve?
I enjoy a very varied role with a number of responsibilities and report directly to the finance director. On a monthly basis, I prepare and present our month end accounts to the board of directors, reporting particularly on variances from budgets and project profitability.
On a day to day basis I manage the cash flow and credit control, process the monthly payroll, prepare VAT returns, keep a tight control on costs and ensure our commercial team are hitting their sales and billing targets and that they have enough resource capacity to ensure this can happen.
The finance function in an SME is a very diverse role and you must be integrated with every function within the business. I feel I have gained a lot of experience in different areas from working for a smaller firm. Not only do I report on the past, I get to plan for the future, which can be very empowering.
How did you find studying CIMA?
Studying for CIMA has had a direct impact on my career prospects and has resulted in my being promoted within the company. I found the performance pillar of the CIMA syllabus extremely relevant to my role which varies from week to week and can involve revising a budget, performing an investment appraisal or managing working capital.
CIMA also focuses heavily on risk and control strategies which is extremely relevant in the current economic climate. Since embarking on the CIMA qualification I have become a more informed manager.
Many people believe numbers are boring, however, they provide a great basis for reporting, learning from your mistakes, building on your successes and planning for the future. I am more effective at risk mitigation and more strategic in my thinking.
How is iON providing support for you to fulfil the CIMA professional development requirements?
Being part of a ten man operation requires flexibility for both employer and employee. Studying and working full time can be stressful. However I am fortunate to be working for a flexible employer and this has been key to my reaching strategic level.
In addition, CIMA’s broad syllabus means I can relate it to the workplace particularly when I find myself working on non finance related issues, such as HR, and CIMA covers all of this.