When did you become a CIMA student?
I became a CIMA Student in November 2014.
Why did you choose CIMA as your professional qualification?
I chose to become a CIMA student in November 2014 for several reasons, but the biggest attraction was the international appeal of the CIMA qualification. I’ve always liked the idea of being mobile and travelling to different cities and countries to work. I wanted a qualification that has credibility internationally so that I could move to a different country or city and still progress in my career.
How did you balance study with working full time?
Initially, this was a very difficult task! My way of balancing study and working was to plan my exams around the quieter times at work. I usually did my exams in short bursts to take advantage of this downtime and studied with extreme focus for 6-8 weeks, I then took a break for a few weeks after the exam was finished. As time during the week was scarce, the weekend was really the best time to study but doing short pieces of study such as practice questions or revising notes in the early mornings or lunch breaks at work is a good way to get more study done during a hectic day.
Work can be unpredictable as anyone who has worked in accounting can relate to, I always found that you must allow yourself to be flexible when studying for exams. If you have to stay late in the office on Monday, make the time up later on in the week and don’t get too worried about it.
What skills have you gained through studying CIMA and how have they contributed to your role?
The CIMA qualification places priority on strategic thinking and I feel that this is one of the best skills that I gained. As you progress throughout your career, there is usually a greater emphasis on strategic thinking and understanding the strategic context of the business to a greater degree. I’ve found that being educated on strategic models and frameworks gives you the confidence to make suggestions or provide valuable input into corporate strategy, even if it is just in a small way.
In my previous role, I definitely “stood out from the crowd” as I understood the corporate strategy of the company and based much of my work around furthering that strategy and providing input on how it could be achieved in the context of the areas that I controlled.
When did you become a CIMA member?
I became a member of CIMA on 29th March 2018.
What does your current role involve?
My current role as Director of CIMA Content at VIVA Financial Tuition involves putting together and overseeing all of the CIMA educational content for the company.
It is an extremely varied role which involves teaching students across the world various different subjects from the CIMA professional qualification, as well as writing educational materials such as mock papers, objective questions and articles. I also oversee the work of others and give the final seal of approval before materials are released to our students.
I work quite heavily across other business functions as well, such as sales and marketing, which I really enjoy about this particular role.
How has CIMA membership and the CGMA designation contributed to your professional career?
Being CIMA qualified and having the CGMA designation gives me credibility as a finance professional and helped me transition into my first fully qualified role, which was a fantastic job and had a substantial amount of responsibility. Having the CGMA designation helps bring more confidence over the input I am providing, plus it also helps give an initial trust factor to the relationship.
Being CIMA qualified has also helped me transition into a career that really suits my skills and plays to my strengths. I originally started off working in management accounting, and I then moved into business partnering. Eventually, I transitioned into accountancy education, which I would describe as my dream field. All of these moves and transitions would not have been possible without being CIMA qualified.
In one sentence, describe the value the CIMA qualification has added to your career.
The CIMA Qualification has given me credibility as a finance professional on an international scale.
What are your biggest accomplishments/ways you have added value to your company or colleagues over the years? List more than one if you want.
The biggest achievement in my professional career was helping to drive £12+ million worth of cost savings for a company I previously worked for. I partnered with two business managers and together we managed to make changes to operations, that allowed us to drive serious cost savings within a year.
How is your company providing support for you to fulfil your CIMA Professional Development (CPD) requirements?
I am very lucky and fortunate that I work in the education space, which requires me to constantly learn and engage in development on a daily basis in order to deliver higher quality content for our students.
My employer is very encouraging when it comes to CPD, and within the business, we all take lifelong learning very seriously. Since we are an education business, we definitely see the value in constantly improving our skills and updating ones that have not been applied in a while.
How do you see CPD as being of value to you in keeping your qualification relevant to the constantly changing business environment?
Learning does not stop after you have qualified, CPD courses are a great way to sharpen skills that you can directly apply in the workplace. The great thing about CPD courses are that you can pick and choose the ones that are applicable to you, if there is a part of your role that you feel weak on, there is normally a course to help you improve on that particular skill. I’ve done several CPD courses in the likes of Excel and PowerBI training and found it to be one of the most valuable decisions I made in my career so far. I’ve gotten to be really efficient when using these pieces of software and this increased level of automation, allowed me to focus my energy on more value-added activities in previous roles.
What do you see as the biggest challenges currently to the Irish Economy and to your job?
There is no doubt that COVID-19 is going to affect the Irish economy for years to come. That being said, I often worry that the property market in Ireland’s largest cities is greatly overheated and will eventually force talented people to leave the country. Ireland is an excellent country to do business in, but the cost of living is somewhat prohibitive for most.
In terms of my job, the pandemic has certainly had an impact, but luckily we deliver our courses online, which means that students can continue to work their way through the CIMA professional qualification in a COVID safe environment with us. My biggest challenge is trying to keep students motivated and on track towards progressing through the CIMA professional qualification during this difficult time.
How do you think technology is transforming your job and the market?
As an online education company, we are constantly using technology to improve the level of service we give to our students. One thing that I have noticed quite recently is the power of automation. We have started to use more tools to automate processes that ordinarily could take hours, and the effects are dramatic. I find automation to be a game-changer because it gives me the space to focus more time on value-added activities.
In terms of the market in general, technology is making it easier to facilitate flexible working. I think this is an excellent trend personally, although I know it is not something that everyone universally agrees is a good thing. I do believe that employers over the coming years will place more priority on providing flexible working for finance professionals as it is the type of role that can often be done at least partially from home.
Has your current role been affected by digitalisation?
I am very fortunate because my role has only been made possible through digitalisation. We provide tuition to a substantial amount of students worldwide, and these students are turning to online education because of the improvements that have come about through an increasing amount of digitalisation.
Digitalisation across the world has also made it more acceptable to use services such as online education. As technology improves over time, people are starting to realise that online education can offer a learning experience that can often be superior to non-online education if it is applied appropriately. I believe this makes my role more exciting and undoubtedly more busy as time goes on!
What are your perceptions about the CIMA 2019 Syllabus focusing on reinventing Finance in a Digital World?
I believe CIMA is right to be focusing some of their syllabus on Finance in a Digital World. Anyone who works in accounting can tell you that the accounting function is going to change significantly in the next 10-20 years and finance professionals need to be trained in different skills, in order to keep up with developments in technology. It is undeniable that as AI technologies are introduced into the finance function, that the job of a finance professional will change radically. It’s my opinion that CIMA is recognising this fact and building this into their syllabus to prepare the finance professionals of the future. It’s a very forward thinking and positive action from CIMA.
What advice would give to anyone thinking of studying the CIMA qualification?
The best advice I can give is to consider where it is you want to go with your finance career and to choose a qualification based on what job you would like in the future. If you want to be involved in business decisions and to be close to the strategy and operations of a company, then the CIMA qualification is likely to be the right choice for you and you should start immediately!
The CIMA qualification is at least a three-year commitment, so you need to be sure that you are doing the qualification for the right reasons. If you are just out of university, you might not know what you want to do, so I strongly advise at the very minimum, that you make contact (LinkedIn is great for this) with people who are successful qualified accountants and ask them what their job entails. This might give you a flavour for what you could expect in the future depending on what path you take. You’d be surprised at the amount of people that will get back to you, I get loads of messages on LinkedIn with students asking me questions in relation to careers and CIMA and I’m always happy to help.
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