Career Advice: The Moment That Mattered for Us

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IMA’s top thought leaders are sharing the best career advice they’ve ever received, which helped shape them into the professionals they are today.

 

JeffACE20160619-_MTMspotJeff Thomson, CMA, CAE, is IMA’s president and CEO. Undoubtedly, he has received much career advice throughout the years, but what stuck with him the most pertained to becoming a business partner:

“To add value in your position, learn the business. This gives you the context to learn, grow, and influence. Simple as that! ‘The business’ includes your industry, how value flows, your customers, how decisions are made in your company, and what are the levers to being an influential business partner.”

 

Dennis Whitney, CMA, is IMA’s senior vice president of certifications, exams, and content integration. The advice he received early in his career helped him balance his workload:

“When I was in my late 20s, a supervisor/mentor told me to work hard, but have fun, and don’t worry about the things you can’t control. This advice helped me be both more productive and happier as I work toward focusing only on what matters most.”

 

Debbie Warner, CPLP, is IMA’s vice president of education and career services and was inspired by career advice about continuing education:

“Make learning a lifelong adventure. Not only is it fun to continually expand your horizon, but the knowledge you gain is something you will ‘own’ throughout your life and helps to determine your uniqueness.”

 

Linda Devonish-Mills, CMA, CPA, CAE, is IMA’s director of technical accounting activities. The best career advice she received was in the area of advocacy:

“Take control of your career, and become your strongest advocate. Carve out and identify your area of expertise, and develop a career path accordingly. That advice is why I think I was considered for my original position at IMA 10 years ago, as director of professional advocacy. As I continue to be an advocate for my career, I am also a strong advocate for IMA and love opportunities that allow me to talk about IMA’s membership benefits, including the CMA® [Certified Management Accountant] designation.”

 

Raef Lawson, Ph.D., CMA, CPA, is IMA’s vice president of research and professor-in-residence. He was inspired at a young age to strive to reach his goals:

“One of my high school teachers wrote in my yearbook something to the effect that in order to succeed, you need both ‘smarts’ and perseverance; one of these alone was not sufficient.”

 

Doreen Remmen, CMA, CAE, is IMA’s senior vice president of operations and CFO.

“The best career advice I received was the advice I gave myself: ‘Get certified!’”

 

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received? Did it help you grow personally and professionally? How else did it change you? Leave your comments below!

 

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Cyberhygiene in Small Businesses: What You Need to Know

Technology helps push business forward. Yet, at the same time, it makes us—and our companies—vulnerable to cyberattacks and data breeches.

Many small business owners don’t think they’re targets for cyberfraud because of their size. On the contrary, hackers see small businesses as easy targets because they lack the resources, personnel, and/or budget to ensure proper safeguards.

And, because hackers go where the most valuable information is (i.e., financial and customer data), accounting and finance professionals are the most vulnerable to these threats. Therefore, it’s essential for those working in small businesses to fully understand cyberhygiene.

Medic Robot. Laptop repair concept.

What Is Cyberhygiene?

Cyberhyiene means ensuring best practices are in place to properly safeguard your most valuable data. Implementing software that can track traffic, has antivirus capability, and/or can report on machine operations; hiring internal or external IT professionals trained in security basics to constantly survey the cybercrime landscape; and updating your cybercrime tactics can help protect your company.

Hackers use sophisticated tools to launch their attacks and prey on busy professionals who might not second-guess what they’re clicking on. Phishing scams that trick people into clicking a link containing malware and ransomware attacks that hold hostage company information after clicking an infected link are two popular cyberattack schemes.

Who Is Affected?

Small businesses must change their mind-set from “we’re too small to be noticed” to “is a cyberattack already happening to us?” Reputation damage, loss of customer trust, and the financial impact of a cyberattack are devastating for small businesses.

When a data breach occurs, the company’s reputation is damaged and its customers become less trusting. It’s the company’s responsibility to protect customer data. Therefore, accounting and finance professionals should take the lead in creating and implementing a risk-management strategy, such as the COSO Internal Control—Integrated Framework.

How Can Cyberattacks Be Prevented?

The combination of the amount of data and changes in how we collect, store, share, and access it makes us vulnerable. Social media is an increasingly important communications tool for many small businesses; however, they should be cautious as to what information they share and who has access to the accounts. Companies should establish an employee policy about social media etiquette to protect their data and brand.

Password Box in Internet Browser

Another cyberhygiene best practice at the employee-level is to regularly change passwords and to create a password using a combination of 10 characters that represent a phrase or set of items that you can relate to but have nothing to do with your personal or business life. For instance, you can use the first four digits of a previous zip code in combination with street names from that zip code in an order that you will remember.

Staying Ahead of the Game

Hackers have been scamming people for years, but as technology continues to evolve, so will hackers’ schemes. To stay one step ahead, continuously monitor the cyberthreat landscape, stay up-to-date on current trends in security, and close any knowledge gaps by taking advantage of education. Make yourself familiar with the various tools that monitor the landscape.

IMA and its Technology Solutions and Practices Committee work hard to bring education about cybersecurity to our members. In July, IMA will be launching a new webinar series called “Tech Talk Mondays,” which will feature technology professionals who ensure cyberhyiene in their companies. Stay tuned for more details.

Written by Linda Devonish-Mills

 

Related Articles:

“Cybersecurity – Fighting Crime’s Enfant Terrible” – ACCA/IMA

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Why Diversity and Inclusion is Essential for Global Organizations

With changing technology and emerging global markets, it’s common in today’s world to find yourself working with or for people of different cultures and backgrounds. Therefore, the importance of adopting a diverse culture isn’t only a “nice to have” but a “must have” in order to have mutual trust, respect, and understanding of each other and to ultimately serve your members better.

To show how we embrace the various backgrounds of our members, IMA recently created the Diversity Thought Leadership Pipeline Committee, which celebrates the uniqueness of each culture within our membership. As quoted in the Committee’s governance statement, diversity involves establishing an environment where there are equitable opportunities for individuals from various backgrounds to express their thoughts and ideas.

Creating a committee and investing in a diversity and inclusion initiative strengthens an organization’s global position. It makes a statement among members that your organization isn’t only focusing on the needs of members in the U.S. At IMA, we pride ourselves on being a diverse company in a global marketplace.

So what does it take to be considered diverse? Let’s break down the Committee’s governance statement to find out:

“Through the backgrounds and experiences of our global membership base, we gain perspective and insights that impact the strategic and operational direction of our organization.”Innovation-Gears---1

A company that has a diverse, global membership network has a 360-degree view of the industry and the people who work to improve it. Having a broad membership base gives you various perspectives on issues facing your company or industry.

A company environment that fosters diversity also fosters innovation. A diverse staff will undoubtedly propose new, innovative ideas that can expand your company’s overall contribution. Your company will gain valuable insights from members and staff who come from diverse cultures and backgrounds.

“The global governance of IMA acknowledges and embraces the diversity of our membership and considers an inclusive atmosphere essential.”

SpiceStarIt’s important to have a diverse board of directors that represents your stakeholders because you need various opinions to operate as an unbiased organization. When your board members and top management are from different backgrounds, experience, and generations, you’ll better understand the marketplace and what your stakeholders expect from your business. IMA benefits from a diverse board to get input on what products and services should be offered to members from different regions.

“Our global diversity also provides new ideas and alternative perspectives that expand IMA’s contribution to the profession.”

A diverse company offers products, services, and events that appeal to a wide variety of professionals. Knowing your audience—their background, culture, and objectives—is the first step in producing and delivering these offerings. Then work on understanding how your audience likes to receive this information. IMA offers continuing professional education (CPE) credit through many avenues, including live and on-demand webinars and in-person events such as instructor-led courses and conferences. IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo alone includes 50+ sessions about management accounting competencies as well as sessions about soft skills training. Another example is IMA’s Women in Accounting Leadership Series, which is a platform for discussing the issues women face as being a growing part of IMA’s diverse membership.

The Future of Your Organization Depends on Diversity

Similar to other initiatives, global companies can benefit from developing a diversity committee that focuses on developing training programs or other outputs to strengthen cultural awareness among employees and volunteers. Having such a committee or initiative confirms a company’s commitment to global diversity and inclusion by projecting that your organization values the differences in people.

Written by Linda Devonish-Mills, CMA, CPA, CAE

Related Articles

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Finding Your Life Balance in the Workplace

These days, it’s difficult to balance work and personal life responsibilities. For mothers working in business, it’s especially hard to work full time, take care of a family, and have a social life. Before my first daughter was born, I was working at a Fortune 500 company in New York City and commuting from New Jersey every day. After I had my daughter, it became difficult for me to maintain that long commute, so I made a career move to a nonprofit that allowed for a more flexible schedule. In today’s business landscape, there are a few things you can do to maintain your work-life balance.

1. Prioritize Your Life

What’s most important to you at this point in your life: your career or your family? When I was younger, advancing my career was my top priority. Working at a Fortune 500 Prioritizecompany early in my career showed me that I could be successful, but then I wanted something more. I wanted to become a mother, so family became my number one priority.

After I had my second daughter, I realized that I couldn’t do it all myself. Don’t be afraid to ask for help at work or home when you need it. I adopted the theory that it takes a village to raise a family. I was fortunate that I could rely on my parents to help with my daughters as they were growing up.

2. Make Time for You
Time for self

To alleviate stress and realign your balance, make sure you reserve time for yourself at least once a week. You can do recreational activities you enjoy but haven’t done in a while, spend time with family and friends, or find a new hobby (like knitting or playing an instrument). As a way to decompress after my first daughter was born, I would have a girl’s night a couple times a week or have a date night with my husband.

3. Ask for a Flexible Schedule

Make sure that your employer supports work/life initiatives. A company that doesn’t have such initiatives may not be a good fit for someone trying to balance personal and professional obligations. I’ve been fortunate to experience the benefits of a flexible work schedule since I have been in the nonprofit industry most of my career, primarily working from home once a week. This schedule is optimal for a working mother who needs to be home with her young children.

Employees tend to be more productive because they appreciate having the flexible work schedule. An IMA’s Annual Salary Survey revealed that a majority of respondents in the U.S. prefer a flexible job schedule over quick career advancement, which in turn increases their job satisfaction.

Keeping the Balance

Now that my daughters are grown, they are forging their own paths in the real world. They will have their own work-life balance struggles to deal with, so I’ll be there to help them along the way, like my parents did for me. Just remember what matters most to you, and you’ll find a way to keep the balance.

Written by Linda Devonish-Mills, CMA, CPA, CAE

Related Articles
Promoting Work-Life Balance From the Top Down – Jeff Thomson, Forbes
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Personal Branding: Be an Advocate for Yourself

While your everyday job may offer various opportunities to be an advocate for your industry, company, or products and services, how often do you advocate for yourself and work on improving your personal brand? A personal brand is how you portray yourself both online and in person. As with a company brand, your personal brand should be consistent across all channels and should represent who you are.

iStock_000014300896_Small1. Decide what you stand for.
First, determine who you are, what your values are, and how you want to represent yourself. Choose three to five values that guide your moral compass, and design a strategy from there. Personally, I would use “trustworthy,” “committed,” and “respectful” to describe myself.

In my role as staff liaison to IMA’s technical advisory committees, these three values are essential. I conduct myself in a way that committee members have faith in how I communicate and respect their position on technical issues that impact the management accounting profession.

2. Share relevant content often.
Always be careful of what you post on a public social media profile. Delete inappropriate pictures or content on your profile that might discredit you, or make your profile private. Instead, post blogs or articles you wrote or share relevant research in your field. This will show your enthusiasm for knowledge sharing and career development. Creating a posting plan will help you stay organized and ensure you maintain a healthy stream of content.

It’s also important to share content with your coworkers who may have similar interests. This knowledge sharing at work can boost your reputation and can prove your integrity as an expert in your field. In turn, your coworkers might advocate for you as well.

3. Network and get involved with groups that interest you.
Connect with companies and causes you’re interested in to show what you’re passionate about outside of work. Not only will this boost your brand, but connecting with these companies online will give you real-time news updates and research in your news feed. You’ll also stay informed with industry networking events and meetings.

For example, I follow IMA® and Fairleigh Dickinson University, my alma mater, on LinkedIn. It’s a great way to stay connected with my company and what’s going on with other alumni at the University. I use the discussion forums as networking opportunities and as a way to search for in-person events the alumni association holds.

Your Personal Brand at Work
Becoming a self-advocate means you stick to your values. Since mobile apps are so readily available, your digital persona is at your fingertips 24/7. It’s very easy to share information these days. You can use it to your advantage, but don’t lose sight of your values and what you stand for. Being a professional online is just as important as acting professionally in person. As we become more and more tech savvy, don’t forget about the value of in-person connections. These interactions can leave impressions stronger than any digital footprint.

Written by Linda Devonish-Mills, CMA, CPA, CAE

Related Articles:
The Value Of Personal Branding For Small Business – Forbes
5 Steps to Fix Your Personal Brand When Insults Stick – Entrepreneur

Become the Gatekeepers of Big Data

More financial professionals working in business are using Big Data in their decision-making process. And the explosion of data generated each day plays a huge role in how management accountants perform their day-to-day duties. Although there are many positive aspects of integrating new technology into our companies and using analytics to interpret data, there are also drawbacks. Here’s a breakdown of Big Data and how management accountants can become the gatekeepers of this information.

What Is Big Data?girl on phone - connect to customers
In 2013, IMA® and ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) published a report titled “Big Data: Its Power and Perils,” which defines Big Data as “the vast amount of data continually collected through devices and technologies such as credit cards and customer loyalty cards, the Internet and social media and, increasingly, Wi-Fi sensors, and electronic tags.” Big Data can help improve company performance and productivity to increase company revenue and stakeholder trust. Management accountants use Big Data to identify risks in real time and to make valuable business decisions.

What Are the Trends?
Big Data is changing the landscape of business. Companies are going from using predictive analytics to prescriptive analytics – they’re collecting data from their customers’ cell phones and other mobile devices to analyze customer profitability. This allows companies to cross-sell and up-sell their products. Management accountants are charged with analyzing this data and distilling it into bite-sized chunks so that management, who might not be familiar with the analytics, can find it easier to digest. As gatekeepers of this information, the management accountant’s role will become increasingly important.

What Are Some of the Risks?
As the amount of data grows, so does the risk for hackers to steal information and other actors to commit fraud. Although more data might make it easier to make decisions, it also requires an increase in both physical and digital internal controls. Securing your physical data warehouse and controlling who has access to it will help deter wrongdoing. And because hackers are everywhere, cybersecurity should be top of mind for every company – large or small. As a result, improved tools and techniques are being developed daily.

In addition, not knowing how to analyze so much data can lead to erroneous conclusions and decisions. There’s also an opportunity cost of gathering, storing, and analyzing bigger data instead of making other core investments. In other words, picking the wrong tools and hiring the wrong people to use them will increase the likelihood of misallocation of resources.

What Are the Rewards?
On the flip side, there are many opportunities for company growth and market expansion because of Big Data. Like I mentioned previously, companies can harness a new market by emerging in the mobile market. Mobile devices can be accessed through Wi-Fi (or if the customer downloads the company’s app – another opportunity for expansion), which makes it easier to connect to your customers and advertise new products. In turn this improves analytics, and thus, you can learn how to better serve your customers, increase revenue, and develop targeted services to niche markets.

How Can We Protect Company Data?
When using Big Data, companies should always consider a data governance strategy, which will help mitigate risk. The strategy should cover the availability, usability, or utility of information and the integrity, quality, and security of information. Management accountants play a large role in protecting company information, systems, data centers, and more through effective controls and monitoring. After all, you are the gatekeepers of Big Data.

To become part of the conversation, visit the Technology Solutions & Practices (TS&P) Committee on LinkUp IMA: http://bit.ly/1SrwFHe.

Written by Linda Devonish-Mills, CMA, CPA, CAE

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Advocate Spotlight: Gerhard Mueller and Zhang Xinmin

Advocacy is very important to the success of IMA and the global expansion of the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) credential and the management accounting profession. As part of our advocacy program, every year we award individual advocates (members and nonmembers) for enforcing IMA’s mission and values around the world.

I want to take a moment to acknowledge a few outstanding people who helped make IMA the organization it is today. They make the moments matter for students, academics, and professionals around the world. This year’s winners of our Distinguished Advocate Awards are Gerhard Mueller and Zhang Xinmin.

gerhard mueller

Gerhard Mueller, CPA, Ph.D.
Gerhard (Gary) Mueller is a retired accounting professor at University of Washington, Seattle. He is known as the Father of International Accounting Education because of his early advocacy of international accounting recognition and education. Gary is also a former member of the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB).

Although Gary isn’t an IMA member, he has advocated on behalf of IMA for many years. It began with the publication of his book A New Introduction to Accounting in 1971, his involvement in the Accounting Education Change Commission in 1989, and culminated in his support of IMA’s Consortium for Accounting Education Improvement, which produced the 1995 and 1999 Practice Analysis of Management Accounting.

zhang xinminZhang Xinmin
Zhang is the vice president of the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) in Beijing, China, and is a board member of the Accounting Society of China (ASC). He is well-known for having founded financial reporting quality analysis theory.

Zhang has helped IMA sign a strategic alliance contract with UIBE and has helped establish IMA’s Chinese Education Steering Committee, which promotes the management accounting education system established by IMA’s Higher Endorsement Program. With Zhang’s advocacy, interest in IMA and the CMA program has grown, and continues to grow, in China.

Advocating for the Future
On behalf of IMA members, IMA’s advocacy committees engage and suggest solutions to standard setters and regulatory agencies, such as the FASB, Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), and others.

In addition, our Campus Advocate Program allows academic leaders to be ambassadors for IMA. Campus Advocates are the key link between IMA and their college/university. They help shape the future of their students and the management accounting profession.

For me advocacy means supporting a cause or proposal in a way that results in a positive influence toward the cause. In the world of management accounting, advocacy efforts make a positive impact if they result in relieving management accountants from less complex accounting standards and financial disclosures. What does advocacy mean to you?

Written by Linda Devonish-Mills, CMA, CPA, CAE

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