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Interview with a CIMA Graduate & Chartered Accountant

Interview with a Chartered Accountant

Daniel Dudley is a recent CIMA graduate, who completed the CIMA qualification, and gained ACMA and CGMA status in just 3 years!

He also earned a First-Class Bachelor’s Degree, and once he left University, Daniel started working for Fujitsu on their Finance Graduate programme where he worked as the Finance Lead, managing a cost base of over £20m per year before becoming a Finance Manager, providing financial support to a portfolio of businesses. Services include offering business planning and budgeting advice, Tax Planning, Software Implementation, Investment Appraisals, and more!

If you’re new to the Accounting sector, earning your full CIMA qualification and becoming a fully qualified Charted Accountant typically involves completing four qualifications:  

We dive deeper into Daniel’s background, experience and journey to Finance Manager below, in our exclusive interview with him, as part of our ‘Interview with a…’ series.

Explore our full CIMA course range today.

Section One: The CIMA Journey

Daniel, you’ve recently fully completed the CIMA qualification. How did you find studying CIMA while working, and how did you manage your work/life balance?

The CIMA qualification is such a great qualification to have, and it’s recognised so widely. Now I have finally finished and am a Chartered Management Accountant, I can look back on the amount of sacrifice and studying I had to do for three years and can easily say it has been worth it! Studying CIMA whilst working full time was a challenge. I found a few things specifically helped to manage it:

  •    You must set goals. For every course, I set a goal of how quickly I wanted to sit and pass the exam. My default was 10 weeks for the standard objective tests and 7 weeks for case studies. Knowing I only had 10 weeks forced me to plan what topics I would cover in each of those weeks; when I would do mock tests, how many practice questions I would do and so on; then track yourself against this. I had a very detailed study plan and set targets of how many hours I would study that week. When I was falling short of where I should be, I would change my schedule to get me back on track. Set goals and work consistently to reach your goals.
  •    Be consistent. I worked with a colleague who would sit several papers at once but take 3 weeks off work, cram like crazy and then sit 1-3 papers. That worked for him but would never work for me. I found that a consistent approach was best for me. I would get to work an hour early and study (I got into a great habit of doing this every day). I found that I could get through the content of the course in 6-8 weeks. Since it was a consistent effort, my retention of the knowledge was secured for the long term.
  •    Be realistic with your study plan. Early on in my studies, my wife and I had our first daughter. As you can imagine my studies dropped significantly as other things in life took over. You’ve got to be realistic with your study plans; there are aspects of life that will take over from time to time. Year ends, forecasts or budget cycles for example might mean longer hours at work. However, if you factor those into your plan and be realistic with what you can commit to, you’ll find that you can stick to your plans better and get through the papers in no time.

We have many people looking to undertake a CIMA qualification with e-Careers. What advice would you give to individuals contemplating starting a CIMA qualification right now? 

Let me first say that CIMA is a great qualification! I’ve spoken to many people in business that wish they had done CIMA. If it interests you, start now. The key with CIMA is to get experience alongside your studies. The knowledge is great but for it to be valuable you really need to see how finance works; the knowledge CIMA gives will make it easier to understand but you will need to see it and learn it.

From all the knowledge you’ve gained from CIMA so far, what has been the most important thing you’ve learnt? 

Be curious. Obviously, CIMA covers quite a wide range of topics that as an Accountant you need awareness of. The most important lesson CIMA has taught me is to be curious. I found my experience studying CIMA has been enriched by proactively trying to understand topics in depth.

How often do you use the skills you’ve learnt from CIMA training in your day-to-day life at work?

All the time! Variance Analysis is a Management Accountants’ bread and butter! I use this all the time to understand why performance is not as expected. There are just so many skills you can learn if you really throw yourself into studying CIMA. The qualification will equip you with the knowledge you need to do well, however if you really invest in understanding and seeking ways to apply the knowledge; you’ll find that the skills you develop will serve you in many situations in and out of the finance function.

CIMA Qualifications: Everything you need to know

Section Two: The End Goal - A Career in Accounting

What made you decide on a career in Accounting?

University. I did a Business and Management Degree at University and during my first semester I had a Financial Accounting module. I did really well in the class and found that it matched a) my interest in Business and b) my skills and the way my mind works. From that course onwards it was the main area I was interested in. However, one of my actual goals, more so than to become to Accountant, was to have a real solid understanding of how finance works, and I saw doing CIMA as an important goal for this.

Describe what a typical working day for you looks like.

As my role is so varied, there isn’t a typical day. However, some days might involve meeting with Solicitors/ Accountants, and meeting the business owners/investors. Some days are empty and on these quiet days, I might prepare the accounts for a business, do some bookkeeping, work with business owners in setting budgets or set up better management reporting.

Do you find a career in Accounting rewarding? If yes, how so?

I find it very rewarding. Accountants are such an important part of any business. What I find Accountants particularly good at is finding out how businesses are actually performing and being able to track that. That’s what I find rewarding as an Accountant - helping the business to really understand what is going on.

Section three: University Graduate programmes

Due to your hard work and dedication, you were accepted onto the graduate programme with Fujitsu. What was the whole process like?

The whole graduate scheme process is actually quite intense and definitely caused a lot of students’ stress in the final year of their degrees. The typical process when I was applying back in 2016 was an initial application (basic personal info and an application form with questions to be answered). If successful, the next step was psychometric testing then either a telephone interview or video interview (with pre-recorded answers). Only after passing all these steps would you be invited to an assessment day where you were with 10 other people and had a series of tasks/ interviews. I applied for 17 jobs, did applications and psychometric testing for most, had 1 assessment centre and scheduled 1 phone interview resulting in 1 job offer.

The assessment centre at Fujitsu was intense but also a very good learning experience. The day started off with an exercise where we had to create a business plan for a charity initiative with a profit-and-loss account and how we would raise the funds needed for the charity. I then had a 30-minute interview with one of the assessment panel before breaking for lunch. Lunch was an important part as well as you had a chance to sit with the assessment panel and have normal conversations with them, providing an informal way for them to get to know us and to discuss why we’d like to work with them. After lunch we had to present our business plan for the charity in a 1 to 1 situation with an assessor and then do some group work projects whilst under assessment. It was an intense day!

I can’t comment on whether this is typical for other graduate schemes, but they offered me a position on the Fujitsu graduate scheme the next day, which felt very quick (although I was grateful for the quick response).

What was your overall experience like on the graduate programme? Do you think the scheme supports graduates and opens new opportunities, they otherwise may not have had? 

I’m a big fan of graduate schemes! If you can secure one, they’re a supportive and safe way for people to grow. They usually have a good, structured development programme with scheduled training, mentor programmes, graduate cohort social events and job rotation, etc. A typical finance graduate scheme would give you the opportunity to move around into different areas of finance (Project Accounting, Treasury, Cost Accounting etc.) where this might be far more difficult to do outside of a graduate scheme.

My overall experience was fantastic, and it set me up with the skills and knowledge to get into other Management Accounts roles thereafter. I would highly recommend them to anyone.

One of the downsides you rarely hear people speaking about finance graduate schemes is how it is easy to miss the fundamental building blocks many great Accountants need. A good well-rounded Accountant will have good insight into how the overall finance function works and how the different aspects of finance impact each other. Many graduates join companies in roles which would have taken someone on an apprenticeship 3-5 years of work to get into. There are knowledge gaps that someone who doesn’t have 3-5 years of experience (typically in AP/AR or simple Financial Accounts) has to bridge. This is really important to understand, as graduates need to make sure they a) identify those gaps and b) make a plan to bridge them.

Thank you, Daniel.

The benefits of studying a CIMA qualification

  •    The CIMA qualification is recognised across 179 countries, enabling delegates to have plenty of opportunities to work abroad
  •    CIMA is highly recognised by employers, with 96% of FTSE 100 firms employing CIMA qualified individuals
  •    CIMA graduates enter the industry with access to a wide range of opportunities, which include Finance, Consultative and Management roles
  •    CIMA members (CGMAs) earn average of £66,000*
  •    63% of CIMA students expect to receive a bonus within 12 months of qualifying*

*Source - 2019 Association of International Certified Professional Accountants Salary Survey

Why study CIMA with e-Careers?

  •    We have trained over 555,000 delegates
  •    We only use training materials which have been officially approved by CIMA
  •    Study at your own pace, where and when it suits you
  •    Where possible, eLearning, Study Books, Exam Preparation Guides, Pocket Revision Kits, Unlimited Tutor Support and Case Study Familiarisation Workbooks are included
  •    We offer Interest-Free Payment Plans
  •    Exceptional Pass Rates

If you’re currently considering undertaking your CIMA qualification, speak with one of our Accounting career advisors today on +44 (0) 20 3198 7700, or visit our website, to find out how to get started.