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Usman Tariq

Finance Manager, Sodexo

"CIMA was suggested to me by many finance experts at Sodexo because of its reputation and relevance to the potential roles I would be doing"

Education: Studied Accounting and Financial Management at the University of Sheffield

How did you start out in your career?
My career started in September 2012, joining an organization not many people had heard of although being one of the largest in the world.

Usman Tariq - SodexoMy first two days involved inductions and introductions to key people in the organization and learning about Sodexo’s culture, policies and procedures.

Following this, I entered into a whole new territory of beginning my first placement in Business Shared Services. I continued my graduate journey by carrying out 6 to 9-month placements across the business over 3 years.

Why did you choose to study CIMA?
CIMA was suggested to us by many Finance experts in Sodexo because of its reputation and relevance to the potential roles we would be doing.

The focus of our roles was on internal reporting and analysis and therefore going for a qualification which was more geared towards management accounting was more desirable especially as I am working in industry rather than practice.

How has your organization supported you through your CIMA studies? 
Sodexo has been excellent with supporting us through all of our exams and studies through funding of lectures as well as time off from work.

Sodexo fully paid for our tuition and revision classes but also allowed us to have sufficient time off in order to be successful at passing our exams.

This is not to say that it was straight forward as we still had to manage our day to day work, however if we did have any issues or problems, there was always someone available to listen and come up with a solution. 

Tell us about your current role and what’s great about working for your company?
My current role as a Finance Manager is to manage £17m worth of business with a Client in the Oil & Gas industry. The role is very varied and can be operational at times due to the size and complexity of the contract.

The main responsibilities are to manage the budget and expenditure of our services and report this back to various stakeholders.

Daily tasks can vary and range from supporting operational staff to putting forward business cases for changes or savings initiatives. 

The best thing about Sodexo is the diversity, size and culture of the organization. Sodexo has some great values and no matter which country you are in, you all feel part of one team or family.

In addition, due to the size of Sodexo, work experiences are very varied and include a lot of exciting travel which most finance or accounting roles may not have. 

Tell us about a project you have worked on that you are particularly proud of and why?
As part of my graduate scheme I had a placement with the Contracts Optimization Team.

This team has been put into place to help improve the performance of poor performing or loss making contracts.

Besides from the daily tasks I had, I was involved in producing a Practical Negotiation Guide which was rolled out across the UK business.

I was proud of this because it was used across the UK to help managers run their contracts more efficiently and successfully.

This will not only help them, but the overall satisfaction of other key stakeholders including clients.  

How do you see CIMA contributing to your future career progression?
The key for me is the recognition CIMA gets from potential employers.

It is a well-known and prestigious qualification which will help members stand out from the crowd.

It helps show that I can work in difficult and challenging situations through having to balance studies and work at the same time but also shows that I have gained significant and important financial knowledge. 

Do people have any misconceptions about your role and your profession in general? 
To an extent, people assume all accountants or accounting roles are the same.

However, many people don’t understand how varied they can be and in certain instances they aren’t very “accounting” related at all.

My role is extremely different from a traditional accountant and is much more exciting than people think it is.

The general misconception is that people think I can help them with tax issues they are facing!

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of studying towards the CIMA qualification?
Definitely do it! Don’t be put off by the amount of exams or time it takes to complete because it flies by.

It does take commitment and personal sacrifice, however if you manage your time well, there is no reason why you cannot still have a good work life balance and social life.

My main piece of advice would be to plan ahead and stay on top of studying, revision and exam practice. The support is out there especially with the tuition providers so use them to your advantage!

Finally, having completed all the exams and case study, I can assure you it is no-where near as bad as people make out!

What’s next for you? Having recently completed the graduate scheme and starting this new role as a Finance Manager, I would like to continue this for foreseeable future.

My aims are to stay within in the finance function in Sodexo and hopefully progress up the career ladder as well as potentially managing any future finance graduates. 

If CIMA was a holiday destination where would it be and why? 
Mount Kilimanjaro – this is because a lot of effort has to be put into the training beforehand i.e. studying for exams and then the real hard work commences as you start climbing the mountain, just like when sitting the actual exams.

As you work your way up to the top you can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel and once you reach the summit, the sense of achievement is massive.

It is something you can be proud of and talk about in the future with friends and family. 

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