What is your current role and what does it involve?
I’m the Finance Governance Manager for all of Virgin Media’s property, facilities and fleet - so that’s all their real estate, repairs or project work. I’m the halfway house between the Operations team, who are the guys doing all the work, and the Finance team. I sit within the Property team, but I'm kind of a branch of the Finance team too.
Lately, I’ve been making sure the offices are COVID secure and helping with all the contract work and legal side of things, which I wouldn't normally do. But with the time restraints everyone was encouraged to get involved with whatever we could. I feel lucky to have a job throughout the COVID pandemic, and even more fortunate to have a job where I’m busy.
What do you enjoy about your role?
My previous roles at different companies were about technical finance. I’d be doing the journal, the accounting policies and things like that. I like that in this role, I see more than just numbers. I get the bigger picture of what’s going on and see that there are so many different factors that go into making the finance work.
I find my work very rewarding. I've got a lot of responsibility and being the only finance person in the Property team, I’m kind of my own manager. At first I was quite daunted, but I’ve had to learn a lot very quickly.
Why did you choose to study with CIMA?
I studied Accounting and Finance at university but I hadn’t heard much about CIMA until I started working. When I graduated, I got a job at the place where I did my university work placement and CIMA was the qualification they put their employees through. Once I did some research I realised I preferred management accounting to financial accounting, so CIMA suits me well. I like learning about strategy and business management and applying it to my role.
Also, CIMA is world renowned. Laws all over the world change, but people don't change. That's why CIMA's good. There’s a focus on the management side of things, and you can manage things all over the world by taking the same approach.
Tell us about your CIMA journey so far.
I started CIMA almost three years ago now. I got a job as soon as I graduated, but I wasn't really in the mood to study again. Thinking back, I left it probably a little bit too long, because as you work your way up through a job and a career, you get busier and busier. I probably should have tried to get my CIMA qualification done as quickly as possible.
I actually failed my first CIMA case study exam. I emailed CIMA for feedback, and ended up speaking with Andrew Harding, Chief Executive of Management Accounting at CIMA. His encouragement helped me re-sit and pass my case study and we’re still in touch now.
Now I’ve almost completed the Strategic level of the Professional Qualification and hoping to be qualified by May 2021.
How have you found sitting your CIMA exams online in response to the COVID pandemic?
I had my first exam scheduled the day we went into lockdown in March! So I was one of the first to sit an online exam in May. It was a bit daunting at first, because it was unknown and the exam formats were different. In the test centres, for example, you get a pen and paper to jot down your notes but at home it's a clear desk policy and you have to take a photo to prove that.
But I was told about the differences prior to the exam, so I was able to prepare. And I passed it, so actually the new style suited me. I preferred sitting the exams at home. There's no stress of having to go to the exam hall or test centre. And you're in your own study space. It's your desk. It's your equipment. And I quite benefit from cramming! I could study right up to the last minute until I pressed the button to start the exam.
I think that the online moderators, the people who talk to you before your exam, are very good. They're welcoming and make it quite personal. It's not a formal group event like traditional exams. And you can talk to them throughout the exam in case you need anything or have any questions.
You get your results straight away, and you get an email confirmation an hour later to say if you haven't checked already, they're available.
Has your employer Virgin Media been supportive throughout your CIMA studies?
They've been so supportive, especially with COVID when my studies were put on hold for a few months before online exams started. Virgin already see the value in my CIMA qualification and have even talked about future positions, as when you're qualified you can take a step up in a management band or get a pay rise.
How relevant to your role is what you’re learning in your CIMA studies?
It’s really relevant, even more relevant than I thought it would be. The more I progress in my career, the more what we learn in the Enterprise pillar becomes important - the management policies and techniques. It makes you think about different people and different ways people want information. That's what's I’m applying to my job now.
What would you say to someone thinking of studying CIMA as a university graduate?
Definitely do it. I'd also advise doing a plan laying out when you want to qualify by and how you’re going to make that happen. I had a plan to be qualified before I was 25. And having that plan is what’s pushed me to do it – to keep studying, keep booking exams and having clear milestones.
What's next for you in your career?
I really like automation and robotics. Virgin Media has a robotics team who you can get in touch with if you're doing any kind of mundane tasks that are really taking up your time. You can work with them to find a solution. I want to put that automation spin on the financial side, because to me, it's the future. It will take away the copy and paste jobs and give you time to really analyse the data. I want to be able to dictate in the business about where I want to go. Knowledge of robotics will set me apart from someone else.
Finally, what is the biggest opportunity that CIMA has given you?
My job! Virgin wanted someone who was already CIMA qualified, but because I impressed in the interview and was already working towards my Professional Qualification, they hired me. Also, networking. Studying CIMA has really got my name out there. You become trusted. It makes you in demand for a job. CIMA gets you in the door. It gets you the opportunity to prove yourself.