These two case studies from the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) show that you can get into a career in management accountancy whether you're coming straight from school or as a graduate.

Sophia Klair

Sophia Klair: Walsall Housing Group

Combining work and study as a finance apprentice at Walsall Housing Group (whg) means Sophia’s career is safe as houses.

Why did you apply for an apprenticeship at WHG?

After leaving school I was unsure about my career so the opportunity to start a finance apprenticeship and study at the same time made a lot of sense. Looking back, I’m glad I made this choice, rolling the practical and academic aspects together is great for my career. 

What does a typical day at whg look like for you?

My apprenticeship exposes me to many different areas of finance like processing and production of management accounts, including accruals and prepayments journals and forecasting. Reconciliation of balance sheet items and the fixed asset register. Preparing information for audits and liaising with auditors. I’ve also learnt a lot about whg’s business, this is really important because it gives me valuable knowledge and experience to complete the CIMA qualification.

Is there anything unusual about your job? 

Being an apprentice at WHG gave me the opportunity to go to Gambia on a community based project. We helped a community to build sustainable energy sources and improve the standards of living; it was a fantastic experience that I wouldn’t have had if I wasn’t working for whg.

Are there any advantages to working for a small-to-medium enterprise over a larger employer?

The main advantage is I’m involved in many areas of the business and not restricted to looking after one area of the accounts. whg are always seeking new ways to improve processes and procedures so I’ve been able to be hands on and make real changes that positively impact the organisation.

Why did you choose to study CIMA?

The CIMA qualification is recognised worldwide and highly respected by employers. I prefer the direction of CIMA over other similar qualifications as it’s more versatile and will lead to strategic roles as my career develops.

How has whg supported you through your CIMA studies?

whg are fantastic and provide day release for my course and study leave for my exams; it’s a big help towards achieving the study results I want. My colleagues are extremely supportive too; they have a wealth of knowledge (from their time studying CIMA) and are happy to answer my questions. From my point of view seeing how the CIMA qualification has furthered their careers, confirms to me that I have chosen the right career path. 

How do you balance work and study? 

Work and study integrate really well so I am never stuck between any conflicting demands. During study I can use experiences from work for a clearer understanding and at work they allow time for study or to answer any queries with colleagues. 

What advice would you give to anyone thinking about studying CIMA?

I would encourage anyone wanting to become a finance professional to research the CIMA qualification. CIMA focuses on both financial and management accounting where as other qualifications concentrate mostly on the financial side. By studying CIMA and looking at management accounting you will have a more dynamic career at the forefront of driving business forward.

How do you describe what you do to your friends?

Typically their first reaction to accounting is book-keeping. However, management accounting is completely different; it involves analysis, strategic planning and driving the business forward through innovative thinking. It’s far more than being a number cruncher! 

Where do you see your career going in the future?

After completing the CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting and progressing onto the Professional Qualification I would like to be within a stable role (hopefully still at WHG) working my way up to a management position.   

Hiren Patel

Hiren Shah: Senior Consultant, Ernst & Young

‘CIMA means success in the Big Four’

How did you get into your role at Ernst & Young?

I joined the company as a graduate on a two year consulting scheme.

Why did you choose to study CIMA?

Coming from an economics background, I wanted to do a qualification that gave me a solid business education. However, I wanted my main focus to be on decision making and management rather than pure accounting so CIMA was the obvious choice.

Management accounting provides more relevant skills for consulting. For example, decision making techniques, project management skills and costing skills. Having CIMA on my CV will give people confidence in my skills and ability to complete a job to the highest standard.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

Consulting is a project based career and therefore I have many different roles within different projects. For example, I was part of a team that designed the operating model for a charity and then a few months later I was part of a cost reduction team at a global energy company. What I enjoy the most is the variety of people I meet.

And I travel a lot! For example, as part of my role I held a two day workshop at a company that makes construction machinery on the outskirts of Dusseldorf.

What skills have you gained from studying the CIMA professional qualification?

CIMA has provided me with a core foundation in business skills. I have learnt how to navigate my way around group accounts and use the information to make decisions. In particular, the skills I have learnt around costing have been useful. I used activity based costing analysis for one client to identify cost savings in the region of £20m.

How has Ernst & Young supported you through your CIMA studies?

Ernst & Young have put me through evening classes and weekend revision classes closer to exam time. I also received support from my managers and colleagues – they have given me time to study and helped me through some tough subjects.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of studying towards the CIMA qualification?

Firstly, make sure that it fits in with your career ambitions. Secondly, plan your time well in advance; you’ll meet many challenges along the way so make sure you’ve set time aside to study. Finally, be committed and never lose focus on the end goal. It can be difficult when you’re in a library studying while everyone else is watching the Champions League final.

If CIMA was an Olympic sport what would it be any why?

Modern pentathlon: like CIMA it’s modern, a test of endurance and multi-disciplined.