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IMA Life: The Path Taken

By Derek A. Fuzzell, CMA
February 1, 2017
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My first exposure to accounting and finance was through my father’s grocery store in the middle of rural Arkansas. From the age of 14 until I left for college, I worked in many areas of his store, including receiving, cash management, and many other positions that I considered unglamorous. I decided then that the business world, at least as I knew it, wasn’t for me. I decided to go to college and be a political science major.

 

Before long, I realized I didn’t belong in the world of politics. I took a few years off from college to get my bearings and to decide what I wanted to do. I worked in the restaurant industry as a national trainer and quickly discovered I was very talented at analyzing processes to look for efficiency. I was soon promoted to a restaurant manager where my knowledge of bookkeeping and proper staffing from my father’s store proved to be a valuable asset. Though I grew weary of the late nights and long hours, this is where it hit me that management accounting was where I wanted to focus. I soon returned to complete my degree.

 

After graduating from the University of Houston, I moved to the Washington, D.C., area and began working for a large credit union. In searching for ways to jump out of operations and into my desired field, I came across one job posting seeking a CMA® (Certified Management Accountant), which I had not heard of. I dug deeper and found IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) and even discovered my favorite accounting professor from college was a CMA. Soon thereafter, I found a role as a financial analyst for a large global firm while studying for the CMA exam. As I studied, I found myself becoming more confident and competent in the knowledge and skills necessary in my role.

 

Then I was recruited for a finance role reporting directly to the CFO of another large credit union. During the interview with the CFO, we discussed not only my résumé but the benefits and knowledge required of a CMA. In discussing the requirements for the certification, my future boss indicated that the skill set was exactly what she needed on her finance team. She became one of my biggest advocates for achieving certification within my first year at the credit union while pushing me further in my career.

 

Today I lead a finance organization focused on treasury, investments, and financial planning and analysis. My certification and the underlying knowledge have pushed me to the forefront of my organization as a valuable business partner and member of senior management despite my relative youth. As a 31-year-old member, I encourage everyone starting out in accounting or finance to consider the CMA designation to chart their own way. My professional course to the vast world of finance and accounting may have been different from that of my peers. In fact, it wasn’t a path that many people would have predicted or even recommended. But looking back, one thing is clear: The road to my success was paved by the CMA.

 

Derek A. Fuzzell, CMA, is the assistant vice president of Financial Planning & Analysis for Northwest Federal Credit Union. You can reach him at dafuzzell @gmail.com.
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