Management Accounting: An Exciting Career Path

By Mitchell, Carol Magner | Strategic Finance, May 2019 | Go to article overview

Management Accounting: An Exciting Career Path


Mitchell, Carol Magner, Strategic Finance


I wasn't sure what career I wanted to pursue, but when I got a job in the Operations & Maintenance Department at the University of Hartford to help pay my tuition, it showed me new possibilities. It was being run like a separate business within the university (the other departments were its customers and were "buying" its services). My boss was very involved with its information systems in addition to the finance/accounting aspects of the position. I was intrigued and could see myself doing this. After all, my one accounting "filler course" in high school had gone quite well. So I decided to complete a BSBA degree in finance and economics. While at UHart, I learned about the CMA[R] (Certified Management Accountant) certification. Though I didn't pursue it immediately after graduating, it was always in the back of my mind.

My first job out of college was my dream job. I landed in a five-year accounting/finance leadership training program with Emhart Corp., a global conglomerate that primarily owned industrialtype manufacturing operations. Every eight months I moved to a different financial department at headquarters, then to the accounting department at a field manufacturer. I also spent a year in internal audit (even going to New Zealand for one audit). The exceptionally strong financial people were clearly acting as business partners, and the company was very focused on internal controls, asset management, return on investment, and other management accounting areas. So they told me to go back to school and take more accounting courses. I promptly pursued a graduate certificate in accounting at UHart. Not having a CMA was still bothering me, but I also thought it was important to complete a master's degree, so I transferred into Rensselaer's M.S. in Management program in international business. I had one semester behind me when Black & Decker, Inc. pursued the idea of buying Emhart Corp. I was close to finishing my five-year training program and was already deciding which path I wanted to take. I requested the Treasury Department or an international assignment. As luck would have it, Emhart's Glass Machinery Group headquarters was moving to Switzerland, and its CFO asked me to come along as his financial (consolidation) analyst. While there, I learned about strategy, general business risks, consolidation issues, hedging/ exchange rates, managing with a tight corporate cash situation, and much more. It also was my first chance to implement a consolidation system.

AM I REALLY A MANAGEMENT ACCOUNTANT?

After three-and-a-half years, I returned to the U.S., and, despite holding a couple more management accounting roles, I kept asking myself: Do I have the right to call myself a management accountant? Do I know enough? So as soon as I completed my master's degree, I began studying for the CMA exam. Those were the days of four parts and several handwritten questions. I recall walking out of the exam, which I took in two days and which former IMA[R] Chair Carl Smith proctored, with cramps in my hands and not being confident about passing more than one or two parts. It seemed to take months to receive the results, but one day the envelope arrived. …

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