IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) recently hosted a Facebook Live session with Mark McCrillis, CMA, a financial analyst at iHeart Media. A trained bass guitarist, Mark is combining his love for music with his passion for accounting. During his session, Mark shared some of his experiences as a CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) and his advice for new college grads. You can see the full 25-minute interview on YouTube

How did you hear about the CMA and what motivated you to pursue it?

I learned about the CMA during my undergrad course in accounting. I was taking a cost accounting course, and I really enjoyed the subject matter. I’d often reach out to my professor and just talk about the course, because the idea of the flowing of costs through the manufacturing process was the coolest thing to me. One day, my professor said, “Hey, I realize you like this material. There’s this certification out there, the Certified Management Accountant. It’s really highly regarded, and I think you’d be the perfect candidate for it.” She also told me that what’s great about it that you can study for it while you’re still in school. So, I did some research and sure enough, I said, “Wow, this is right up my alley. It’s covering subject matters that really engage me.” So, I decided to pursue it and when I did pass the exam, of course, she was one of the first people I shared the news with.

Why do you think being a CMA is especially important now?

The year 2020 threw so much out of whack. The experience with this global pandemic has made companies start looking internally and say, "Oh my goodness, are we prepared for this?" And who did they turn to? They turned to their financial professionals.

And I think that’s what makes CMAs so valuable, because we can provide strategic value to top-line management, provide them with special insights, up-to-date insights, that they can use to pivot or make complex decisions. 

What are some of things you learned when you first joined the company?

I always find when you're new to a company, there's a certain freshness about your outlook. Other people who have been doing it for a long time might not see the same things that you do. It goes back to efficiencies, looking at what the organization has done prior to you getting there, seeing it with a fresh pair of eyes, and saying, “Hey, why don't we do it this way? This might shave off 10 minutes." And 10 minutes times how many times you do it in a week, that's real time that you can spend elsewhere. So, you want to be creative in your problem-solving skills, sharpening those skills and trying to think outside the box, approaching things from a different angle and in ways that might be more beneficial or efficient.

Do you look for CMAs in your hiring decisions?

Absolutely, no doubt. One, I know what it takes to go through the exam. And the exam, it's tough and jam-packed with knowledge that is very beneficial and that you need to know. And so, I know that they can do that. Also, I know they know about professional ethics and standards. So, I know they have that framework when it comes to decision-making skills. And I know that they tend to think strategically as well, which is such a vital skill these days.

You’re a musician who found a job working for a music and entertainment company. What’s a piece of advice you would give to new college graduates?

That's the beauty of our profession, every industry needs accounting and financial professionals. So, I would say, look in those industries that you're really passionate about. For instance, even before I applied for the iHeart position, I noticed that my favorite NFL team, the Saints (Go, Saints!), were hiring an entry-level staff accountant, and had I just been entering the field, I absolutely would have applied to that and probably been bugging them, knocking down their door. But it was entry level, so it wasn't a great fit, at least for my career at that point. 

So, definitely look for the industries that you're passionate about and get your foot in the door, because when you're able to marry your passion—whether it’s music, or education, or medicine—to your skills, it doesn’t become a job, it becomes a career. You’ll get up every day and want to make a difference and know everything about the business. It’s like that saying, “Do what you like, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Visit the IMA website to learn more about CMA certification