Life has a way of teaching us lessons, and I hope some of the lessons I’ve learned can help others avoid the same pitfalls.
The year was 2002: I was living in Russia, working at the representative office of a large Japanese multinational. I had earned my master’s degree two years before and was considering what to do next. Thinking that more education was a wise choice, I started a Ph.D. program in finance, but I quickly discovered it wasn’t for me. It was too theoretical—I wanted something more practical. What I thought was the answer soon became obvious. Most of my friends were working at Big Four firms, which sponsored Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and CPA (Certified Public Accountant) qualifications for their employees, so I decided I also needed the CPA.
Thus began what I now call “the year of CPA.” I invested considerable time and effort into studying and made a huge financial investment as well: I personally covered the costs of travel to the United States and all my preparation materials, which totaled about half the cost of my one-bedroom apartment in Moscow. After I got my CPA exam results (I passed on the first attempt), I found myself both happy and sad. On the one hand, I was gratified that my efforts had paid off, but on the other, I knew that I didn’t want to be an auditor and that controlling was always closer to my heart.
I truly believe things in our lives don’t happen by accident—that certain events that appear to be random are just a part of your journey. So it came to be that two years after becoming a CPA, I was at work discussing how to better measure results and address complaints from some of our business line executives who didn’t think it was fair that they had to pay a larger share of HQ expenses just because of their strong performance. Here was a problem in front of me, and I lacked the knowledge of how to deal with it.
Soon thereafter I was talking to a consulting partner from a Big Four firm in the U.S. and complaining that I had been disappointed by my high hopes for the CPA. He asked me, “Have you ever heard about the CMA? Maybe that’s what you need, as it’s very practical, close to the controlling world, and helps people from finance support business decisions and management of a company.” I had never heard of it, but that conversation would prove to be a game changer for me. The next day, after doing my research on the IMA® website, I bought my online course and books (if you ask me, this was the best value for money investment for my education). I read the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) review materials like thrillers, as I found them filled with fascinating concepts and ideas that I was keen to start trying in my daily job.
That was 18 years ago, and I can honestly say I’ve used my CMA skills every day since. In 2019, I also earned my CSCA® (Certified in Strategy and Competitive Analysis) to further develop my strategy skills. My journey to the CMA took a while, but I’m glad I learned my lesson and am proud to call myself a CMA.
The Best Investment by: Ekaterina Emelianova CMA, CSCA, CFM
Strategic Finance Magazine, February 2023