Education: BSc International Business, Maastricht University 2009. MSc organisation, Maastricht University 2010. MSc corporate finance, EDHEC business school, 2010.
Unilever is one of the biggest global FMCG companies, with brands such as Dove, Lipton, Ben & Jerry’s and TRESemmé.
Julia joined the Unilever future leaders programme for financial management in 2010 and has since then worked in their global oral care team and in the controllers’ department for the UK and Ireland. She recently started working as the finance business partner to the Simple brand.
Is there anything that would surprise us about your role?
Having done a number of roles throughout the graduate scheme, I was surprised by the variety of roles there are within finance in Unilever and how much you learn about other areas of the business as well.
You are not only an expert for finance and numbers, you also have to understand other functions such as marketing and supply chain to be a good business partner. The roles in Unilever really provide you with this breadth of experience.
Why did you choose to study CIMA?
Having already studied accounting and finance at university, I liked that CIMA focused on the skills that you need when working in industry and provided a mix of financial and management accounting, combined with business knowledge and application.
The lectures and exams are often related to real life situations, with case studies where you can recognise the types of decisions that would be made within your own organisation.
How has Unilever supported you through your CIMA studies?
The support from Unilever has been great all the way through my CIMA studies. Everyone in Unilever finance values the CIMA qualification very highly, which is why managers really support you in getting your qualification, even if it means you have to leave work early for a class from time to time.
Do people have any misconceptions about your role and accountancy in general?
A lot of people see finance and accounting as number crunching and doing your debits and credits, when there is so much more to it. Working in finance means understanding the business, not only the numbers.
Numbers are a part of it but if you cannot understand the story behind the numbers and the bigger picture, you will not be successful. Sometimes, you might actually have no numbers at all and you will have to make decisions based on your business understanding and perception of the situation.
How will getting your CIMA qualification make you feel?
I started CIMA straight after coming out of university, and finishing it will actually make me feel for the first time like a fully qualified professional accountant and not an accountancy student. I will not only have finished my studies, but also an internationally recognised professional qualification, only two years after leaving university; which is great.
How do you see CIMA contributing to your future career progression?
In Unilever UK CIMA is a must-have if you want to be a manager, and it is a well recognised qualification all over the world. It gives you the external accreditation that means even if someone does not know every single role you have done, they know that you are professionally qualified and you have worked hard to get there.
If CIMA was an ice cream flavour, what would it be and why?
Unilever being the biggest ice cream manufacturer worldwide, this is a good question! Maybe the brand new ‘Magnum Infinity’; it’s one of our best ice creams so the price you pay might be a bit higher, but it's worth it!