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While studying abroad in the Netherlands several years ago, Kurt Riddle got plenty of questions about his last name, one he shares with the villain of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. But Riddle now has claim to another, much more positive distinction: He recently became IMA's 40,000th CMA.
Riddle currently serves as a senior financial analyst at the Recon Memphis plant of Cummins Inc., a long-time proponent of CMA certification for its finance and accounting staff. Riddle began at Cummins as an intern during the summer before his senior year at Indiana University, Bloomington. After earning his bachelor’s degree in finance and accounting in May 2011, Riddle was offered a job as a financial analyst at the Recon Memphis plant. In June 2013, he was promoted to his current position.
As an undergraduate, Riddle had heard about the advantages of different certifications, but it wasn’t until he began working full-time at Cummins that he seriously considered becoming a CMA. “I’m very glad that I took the exam so soon after finishing school,” he said. “I was familiar with most of the topics, and using self-study materials just really helped to refresh my memory.”
Riddle passed both parts of the exam by October 2012 and, after completing two years of work experience, he became a full-fledged CMA in August 2013. “I definitely think it helped me get my promotion back in June,” he said. “It clearly gives you credibility and tells others that you’ve mastered a certain skill set. No matter what I plan to do in the financial world, I believe that the CMA will serve me well. It covers such a broad array of topics that I know I’ll be able to apply the skills and concepts to nearly any finance job.”
Wanda Wallace recently had an unusual experience for an accounting and finance professor. She was walking down the street in her home town and overheard two people talking about Elixir. No, they weren’t discussing the latest therapeutic drug; they were speaking about a character from one of her novels.
Wallace, who has published three novels, enjoyed a long and distinguished career as an educator and author. After earning her Ph.D. in Accounting from the University of Florida, she served as a professor at the University of Rochester, Southern Methodist University, Texas A&M, and, eventually, the College of William & Mary, from which she retired in 2005.
It was during her years at the University of Rochester that Wallace decided to pursue her CMA, even though she was already a CPA. “I was teaching MBA students, and I learned about this relatively new exam that the NAA [IMA’s predecessor organization] was offering. I took it because I thought it would help me better communicate this material to my students and, frankly, I’ve always loved a challenge,” she said.
As the holder of numerous certifications, Wallace firmly believes in what she calls “signs of competency.” She explained, “It’s very important that people demonstrate mastery of a subject by earning an objective sign that they’ve achieved a certain level of competency. That’s why the CMA is such an excellent certification: It shows mastery of a very broad range of subjects.”
Wallace is certain that her business sense gives her a unique advantage as a novelist. She also believes that writers need many of the same skills that are necessary for success in business, especially perseverance. “Most things in life that are worth doing take an enormous amount of energy and commitment. You’ve got to work hard, but the rewards can be spectacular.”
Julie A. Lagacy has spent her entire professional career at Caterpillar Inc., one of the world's leading manufacturing companies. During her more than 25-year tenure, Lagacy has served in numerous professional roles, including pricing analyst, commercial manager, human resources manager, and chief financial officer for the company’s mining division. She is currently the vice president for Caterpillar’s finance services division. In 2011, she became a CMA – and earned the ICMA Gold Medal for highest exam score in her testing period.
Regarding her decision to pursue the CMA more than 20 years into her professional career, Lagacy explained: “As a manager, I had encouraged many members of my staff to pursue their CMA or CPA certification. I decided that it was time to lead by example and become one myself.”
Lagacy followed a strenuous study schedule, and made a smart decision that paid off: “I set my testing dates six weeks out, and I told myself I couldn’t change them. Having those dates really helped me to stay on track and gave me specific goals to shoot for.”
Since becoming a CMA, Lagacy has found that the skills tested on the exam have been “tremendously relevant” to her work, particularly in the areas of planning, analysis, costing, internal controls, and corporate finance.
The process of studying for and doing so well on the exam not only set an excellent example for her staff, it also provided inspiration for those closer to home. As a working mother of school-age children, Lagacy often studied at the dining room table while her kids did their homework: “I hope I showed them that learning never ends, that even after all this time working, I’m continuing to improve myself. I think that’s an important life lesson for them – and for me, too.”
Professor Mark DeRemer is on a mission to ensure that every student he teaches knows about the CMA exam and the benefits of taking it before graduation.
“For accounting and finance students, it’s a no-brainer,” he said. “If I were an undergraduate today, I would definitely want to take that exam – and I would certainly hope that my professors would tell me that I should.”
DeRemer serves as a professor of accounting at Concordia University of Wisconsin in Mequon, Wis. The idea of discussing the benefits of taking the CMA exam as part of his class assignments came when DeRemer took the exam himself about four years ago.
“I took the exam when it had four parts and covered a broad range of subjects. When it changed to two parts, I realized just how directly relevant it was to any accounting or finance major. It covers what they learn in class, and it isn’t a far stretch for them to prepare for an exam like this.”
Beginning in 2013, DeRemer has made assignments about the CMA exam – the advantages of taking it and what needs to be done to pass it before graduation – part of the requirements for his managerial accounting and cost accounting classes.
Since beginning the initiative, DeRemer knows of at least two students who have already become CMAs (one of whom was the recipient of a CMA scholarship).
DeRemer considers his efforts just part of his role as an educator. “I see it as my goal to help students and to be a positive influence on their lives. I really believe it’s my duty to tell students about the advantages of this exam and what it can mean to their careers,” he said.