IMA Life: CMAs, the Original Data AnalystsBy
The emerging field of data analytics fosters demand for qualified data professionals across all business verticals and disciplines with a forecast for U.S. employment of 2,720,000 by 2020. Data analysis involves drawing actionable insights from raw data and all of the steps involved in this process.
In order to complete an analytics project, we need to implement a framework defining a problem, formulating a solution, establishing success factors, and monitoring progress. Critical thinking skills and the ability to ask the right questions are key success indicators in the analytics-related field. Arguably no one fits this demanding bill better than finance and accounting professionals. As IMA® Chair Alex Eng eloquently notes, an accounting background forms a “solid foundation for life… [and] allows someone to identify, enjoy, and maximize the use of their greatest assets.”
Finance wasn’t my first career choice. After earning my management information systems degree, I initially embarked on an IT track. A strong believer in lifelong learning, I wanted to get a better understanding of the business side of things, so I went back to school to earn my MBA in finance. My decision to pursue the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) credential came out of the practical desire to differentiate myself from other job seekers, especially in the less-than-booming metro Detroit job market.
After I landed my first job in finance, I earned my CIA (Certified Internal Auditor) certification before qualifying as a CMA. I feel that this progression, as well as a massive practice-question bank, helped me to eventually pass the CMA exam. My CMA preparation not only filled the gaps in my finance knowledge, but it allowed me to get X-ray vision, or a bigger picture of the business, from planning, decision making, and performance management to budgeting, forecasting, and even cost management. IMA’s commitment to solve the skills gap and IMA Leadership Academy webinars satisfied my thirst for knowledge even more.
My CMA studies also helped me formulate better questions, determine cause-and-effect relationships, spot trends, extrapolate the unknown, make valid assumptions, and shape strategies. My new career focus in the ever-evolving world of marketing analytics requires continuous learning to keep abreast of the latest developments.
While life-cycle management, conversion rate optimization, marketing-mix modeling, campaign strategy, promotional tactics, digital-channel attribution, voice-of-customer studies, and other marketing concepts don’t seemingly align with the CMA syllabus, my CMA journey gave me confidence in my ability to learn new skills and to adapt to become an analytics leader. Able to synthesize data, I can now make valuable contributions to business strategy. The CMA gave me a much-needed boost to continue on my self-improvement path, mastering new domains, changing career tracks, and overcoming any obstacles in my way.