IMA LIFE: REACH YOUR POTENTIALBy
Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, I always made sure to get good grades so that I could eventually get a college scholarship. Because my parents didn’t have the opportunity or funding to go to college, they wanted to make sure my two sisters and I earned college degrees. So I received a scholarship to John Carroll University in Ohio and started out as a math and computer science major. At the beginning of my sophomore year, I changed my major to accounting—and I still graduated with my class. I had started working full-time during my junior year, and while my classmates were being interviewed by the Big 8 accounting firms, I stayed at my job as an accounts receivable specialist and received a nice raise when I graduated. My classmates believed they needed to be a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) to be successful, but my perception of it was negative: “I’m not going to work those crazy hours. Auditing? No way!”
The next 20 years took me to a variety of management accounting positions, starting with doing budget analysis at a company that shipped scrap. Then I moved to a large international company as the capital accounting supervisor. My manager encouraged me to join an organization that would help me build my accounting skills and continue my lifelong learning. I joined IMA® in 1976 when it was the National Association of Accountants (NAA), but I didn’t really participate in the organization. After being in that position for six months, a controller offered me a job as a cost accountant for a new manufacturing plant. I accepted because it meant I could live in Atlanta, Ga.—a warmer climate than I was used to. After nine years with that company, I became the assistant controller for a large shoe retailer in Charlotte, N.C. Then I worked in IT and led the implementation of a new point-of-sale (POS) system. And I did M&A work in the retail industry in Minneapolis, Minn., before I ended up back in Atlanta in a VP role for a magazine distributor. While in Atlanta, I attended IMA meetings and got more involved with the organization. I became chapter president in 1997 (and would later be elected to the IMA Global Board in 2007).
Around this time, the glass ceiling was still ever-present in my profession. I recognized that I needed a certification to move ahead, so I got my CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) certification in 1996, which opened more doors for me. In 1997, I moved to a public accounting firm. I couldn’t believe they needed management accounting expertise. I found the perfect role based on all my past experiences in management accounting and have been with Deloitte for almost 18 years now. I’ve held a variety of roles that include the dreaded audit—it wasn’t so bad after all! But the one thing I’ve learned is that you don’t need to begin in public accounting to make it in public accounting. Work in the areas that you love, continue learning, and get certified to show that you’re a professional. You’ll get to that perfect role. Cost accounting was my first love, but becoming a CMA opened the doors.