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IMA’s “myCMA” series spotlights valued members of the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) community. Learn about their journey with the certification—and get tips on advancing your own. This issue’s featured CMA is:
|Name:||Brigitte de Graaff, CMA, CSCA|
|Company:||Vrije Universiteit (VU) Amsterdam|
|Title:||Lecturer in Accounting and Researcher|
|Location:||Amsterdam, the Netherlands|
When and why did you become a CMA?
I became a CMA in 2014 while pursuing my Master’s in Dutch Criminal Law and Accounting & Control. The university where I studied has had a strong CMA prep course since 1991, and I worked as an assistant for this program. After meeting so many people with such a wide variety of backgrounds and work experience—all of whom decided to take the leap and study for their CMA certification—I wanted to learn more about this program as well. And, ultimately, I decided I wanted to become a CMA myself!
- Can you share something specific that the CMA has enabled you to do or describe how the CMA has helped you to reach your personal goals or the goals of your organization?
After graduation, I started a research track at my university to pursue my Ph.D. in Integrated Reporting and Thinking. While working on my research, I realized that this field was still very much developing and that although much was being written about it, this mostly has an external reporting focus. It would be essential for the field to connect this with the work of management accountants and financial professionals. The knowledge I gained from the CMA program provided me with the key skills required to link integrated thinking to management accounting practices, increasing the understanding and practice of this concept in the field.
- Complete this sentence: I make a difference as a CMA because…
I connect sustainability challenges with core management accounting concepts in my case study research, helping to create solutions and opportunities for a better, sustainable future world. In addition, being a CMA instructor enabled me to connect students here at my university with IMA and the CMA program through the CMA Scholarship, which helps to kickstart their careers with a huge advantage.
- Is there a moment or experience that you are particularly proud of as a personal or professional accomplishment?
Because I’m a CMA instructor, my proudest moments are when people come back to me after passing their CMA exams and share their stories. I especially love it when my students return and tell me that they are serving in leadership and mentoring roles in IMA chapters or their professional jobs, knowing that the CMA certification contributed to this.
- What’s your favorite past-time?
In addition to my job, I work as a travel writer, so most of my free time is spent abroad. What makes travel so special to me is that while on the road, you are always learning. It challenges you at times, and thus it really helps you to become a more open-minded person, and it enriches my academic perspective. Whenever I am teaching, I use what I have seen and experienced in my lectures. And, of course, it is also great fun as well to travel around the world. From hitchhiking through the Middle East, to ice-swimming in Russia, to hiking in Idaho, to enjoying great food in Central America: I really love every aspect of it!
- Do you have a role model (real or fictional), and if so, who is it and why?
If I had to name one, it would be Valentina Tereshkova. As a kid, I always dreamed of becoming an astronaut, and she was the first woman in space. Her career trajectory demonstrated how women can accomplish anything they set their minds to, no matter what background they have.
- What advice would you give to someone looking for a career/job in accounting or finance where they can make a difference??
First, decide what you find important. For me, this was to engage in sustainability topics and how the accounting and finance profession could further sustainability in the broadest way imaginable. But I also wanted to make a difference for other people, which became possible through being a CMA instructor and chapter leader. Once you know what you find important, then find a job in the finance or accounting profession where you can make a difference on exactly the topic that is so essential for you!