CMA Profile: Eboni Wilkerson
Every parent aims to be an inspiration to their children, to set an example for them to follow, and to demonstrate the power of perseverance. For Eboni Wilkerson, the quest to earn her CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) wasn’t an easy one. But in the ups and downs, in the failures and eventual success, she taught herself, and her kids, what it means to set a goal and to not give up until you’ve achieved it.
Eboni currently works as a finance director at Microsoft, a mid-career professional who’s gathered considerable accounting and finance experience along the way. As she explains, “After graduating college with my accounting degree, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. Luckily, I landed a position as a staff accountant at a manufacturing company, which introduced me to work that I loved – things like supply chain management, cost accounting, accounts payable, receiving, payroll, and the like.” Over the years, Eboni worked in various industries, including forest products, food, plastics, and technology.
Although she was successful in her career, Eboni had always wanted to earn a certification. She considered the CPA, but when she started studying for it, she discovered it wasn’t grabbing her attention the way she expected. Fortunately, about four years ago, she met a CMA and eventually did her own research on the certification, which seemed to align perfectly to the kind of work she was currently doing.
Eboni started studying for the exam in January 2021. She found the process of studying beneficial right away: “It was fascinating, because I would come across topics that were exactly relevant to my day-to-day work: job costing, make vs. buy decisions, financial analysis, budgeting, forecasting. I remember studying something in the evening and then applying that exact knowledge or formula the very next day.”
Eboni wisely chose to schedule her first exam as soon as she started studying (a practice she recommends, “because it gives you a goal to shoot for”), and she handily passed part one, which she took in July 2021. She admits that her success made her a little overconfident, and she thought part two would go equally well. It wasn’t to be: life and work events didn’t allow her to focus as well as she had wanted to. She took part two in October 2021 and didn’t pass. She took part two again in February 2022 and didn’t pass a second time.
“By then, I was pretty discouraged,” she recalls. “It was hard for me to see social posts from people who were sharing the good news that they had passed the exam. No one talks about failing the exam, so I did – I talked about how I failed not once, but twice.”
The experience offered Eboni a true-life lesson: “How do you fall down twice and continue to get up and finish what you’ve started? For me, it was important to reach the goal I had set for myself—not just for me, but for my kids, to show them that sometimes, you’re going to fail, but you have to keep going and have to keep trying.”
She eventually did succeed. Finding time to study was always a challenge, however. With four young children, Eboni had to carve out time where she could. She sought out “pockets of time,” finding spare moments while waiting for her kids in the pick-up line, waking up early on Saturday mornings to go to a coffee shop before the family woke up, and even booking a hotel for a few days so she could focus on studying.
For Eboni, earning her CMA adds a level of distinction to her career. “It says I’m a professional at something. It says I have verified skills and a level of knowledge to make business decisions.”
For CMA candidates, Eboni offers this sage advice: “Don’t give up. You’ve started something, so be a completer, a finisher. The value of the CMA will come, but you need resilience and perseverance to stay the course until it’s done. That feeling of relief when you’ve done it is amazing. And once you’ve earned it, you have the technical knowledge to take with you wherever you go in your career.”