Sic Parvis Magna

Ken Photo“Sic Parvis Magna” – Thus great things come from small beginnings, this was the belief of Sir Francis Drake, one of the most famous strategists and privateers that had lived in the 16th century. An aphorism I would adapt to remind me of where I want to be.

I’ve always viewed the accounting profession as a two way path – either you go for external reporting (financial statement preparation, audit, and taxation) or internal reporting (cost & management accounting, and consultancy). I already confided myself to take the internal reporting path because I believe it is dynamic between the two. Having been employed as a management accountant in a multinational BPO, I’ve experienced interacting with a lot of business executives and learning from them. It also has a great sense of responsibility because, as consultants, what you advise to leaders often stirs up the organization to that direction as well. Whereas financial accounting has guidelines in reporting fairly financial results to stakeholders, management accounting uses simple logic and straightforward computations in reporting results of operation while driving them to act on matters to improve sustainability or growth. It was only then natural for me to get the credential for management reporting the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) title.

I started to do some research on how to get it and my readings took me to the IMA site where I also decided that it would be the most relevant for me because the headquarters of my company is located in the US. I also learned that IMA is endorsing Wiley CMA Review materials as their partner so I hurried to their site to get information where I can get it. This is where I learned of Insights Financial Review School as the official distributor of the materials in Philippines. What was supposed to be an initial email regarding the price of study materials (Wiley CMAexcel is the approved study material) became the official start of my CMA journey.

I met Sir Angel and instantly laid him my plans on taking the exams. I told him that I will be taking it on October 2014 since I needed time to prepare both mentally and financially. But he challenged me to take the exams earlier in the May/June window! It was from here that he invited me to his office as it would be best to discuss it personally rather than email exchanges. Perhaps it was his genuine sense of desire to help that I accepted his challenge though I was extremely reluctant. So my plan was pretty simple, take Part Two in May as I would need more time to review it while Part One will be delayed to June because I have more familiarity on its exam coverage.

Unlike before when I prepared for the CPA (Phil.) where I was a full time student back then, now I’m a full time employee and a part time student. I was always amazed by stories of people who worked while taking CPA board exams and passing it. Now I have the chance to experience it (though I only have two comprehensive exam parts compared to their 8) and it thrilled me more than anything. This is where time management is a critical success factor. There has to be a balance between work responsibility, study and that thing called “life”.

I know this has been mentioned like a million times before but I guess what they fail to emphasize is CONSISTENCY, all those careful planning will mean nothing if the plan will not be followed strictly. I was so determined to follow my schedule that even when I close my eyes, all I see is the word consistency in order to remind me of the task at hand. I made it a point to always answer multiple choice questions a day, even if it’s only for five items. I remember I had to receive notes and questions, a day before the exam just to make sure that I’d get the net tax effect on cash flow from sale of old asset in capital budgeting.

Of course this journey would not be one without any sacrifices. There was less socializing for me during company events; no summer outing in Palawan or Boracay; no scheduled trips for an out of town with family or friends. Virtually any time I could save away from work, I devoted to study. There were times that I wanted to just quit only to realize that it was I who wanted this in the first place and I have no right to complain. It was during these times that my determination was tested. Whenever I feel exhaustion, I’d tell myself to go back to the day I decided I’ll be a CMA with all the reasons I had back then and how I can let down all the people who helped me as well. Surprisingly it’ll move me off my bed and get to work on answering those exercises. Again, consistency is the key because it becomes a habit. And when it becomes a habit, you don’t have to drag yourself to answer questions, like breathing it becomes second nature to you.

A support system is very important to any candidate who wishes to pass the exam. I was very fortunate to have very supportive people around me while I was doing this. I had the best coach in Sir Angel, up until now I kind a feel the shiver when he messages me on Facebook with “How are you Ken?” and then I’d be like “Oh my! I haven’t finished yet the questions he gave me to answer!” A very supportive family who prepares the food I eat to the clothes I wear. They make sure everything is taken care of and that I have nothing to worry about. My team and bosses at work were helpful too. They would let me leave office earlier than usual so I can have ample time to review.

I believe the most important of all, the Almighty Father who had given me the opportunity to experience all of these. I would take this time to say my deepest “Thank You” to all. Know that none of this would have been possible if not for your individual contribution, patience and understanding.

I also think that a candidate must also stay healthy by taking necessary nutrition during the course of preparation. Remember that all the hard work will not pay-off if you’re sick during the examination day. Also, have time to relax. Putting too much pressure on something will break it and it could be you. In addition, reading success stories from other candidates who passed was helpful for me. It made me more inspired knowing that they have struggled too but was able to overcome it; if they did it, then so can you and I!

Finally I know that passing Part Two is only a portion of the beginning. I’m still waiting with Part One results and I’m extremely hopeful that I make it as well. I think the real challenge still lies ahead, after the certification has been awarded. It must be put into good use – by giving value in the organization. More than the mastery of knowledge, I believe that the CMA certificate is also a testament to the bearer’s character.

A CMA is a proven challenge taker, one who focuses the drive and perseveres to achieve their goals to become successful. I hope with all of this I am able to spark a fire somewhere and I would strongly recommend that you act upon it swiftly.

For always remember, great things come from small beginnings – SIC PARVIS MAGNA.

About the Author – Kenneth Lapez is a graduate of Colegio de San Juan de Letran in 2006, and passed and earned his CPA license in the same year. He is presently connected with Accenture Philippines as a Finance Specialist for more than five years now. Eyeing for a solid role as business consultant, he pursued the CMA designation early this year and had recently completed the requirements of the CMA Program, passing both parts of the CMA examinations in May/June 2014 testing window.

A Marvelous Detour

ErikaHow do you tell a story when its climax is yet to unfold?

It’s a question I was tempted to ask Sir Angel, my mentor – but better decided not to. After all, I’ve already said “sure” to the task, hadn’t I?

So here I am. After passing hours of thoughts adrift and heaving sighs I lost count on, let me share to you my CMA journey…

It was the in-between of finals week and graduation when I was formally introduced to the path of becoming a CMA.  Though snippets about a certification for management accountants had been going around before, it was too short-lived to turn “interests” into actual “commitments”. On top of that, my mind is already preoccupied on planning that out-of-the-country vacation I have been saving for so long. Singapore, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia were in fact among the places pinned; and setting foot on the land of Wiley, Gleim or Hock is absolutely far off the grid.

However, my life – as always – had been an endless string of ironies.

While bracing myself for a last round of battle against one of my management subjects, Sir Randell, an accounting instructor in our college who is also under the mentorship of Sir Angel and not to mention among the new CMA passers, approached and offered me the ticket to this wholly unexpected trip. On the same day, I received a Facebook friend invite from “The Angel Valdenor Secerio” and upon accepting, was asked if I am interested in discussing the details of the program. As I said, I’m already set to what I want to do after graduation and NOTHING can pull me out of it. But perhaps inquiring “a little” about this opportunity will not hurt. Besides, this man is but a stranger who is miles away and the person I could least expect to drive me down a detour.

I underestimated him though – and missed the most obvious sign. The man is named “Angel” for a damn good reason! Not only was he prompt in responding to my questions but had the tenacity of a real angel as well when I almost let the chance slip away.

My justifications on turning down the offer at first were: too expensive (despite the privilege of availing a student discount), too soon (final exams are not even over), too late (already singing “Leaving on a Jet Plane”), too risky (could be a scam), too tired (give me a break) and the list went on. But truth is, all my excuses boils down to this…I was simply too scared – of the uncertainty, by the thought of failing and of the soundness of my capabilities.

In reconsidering the offer, I had to read and reread Sir Angel’s message countless of times until a point where I had to weigh between which taste I’d rather endure later on – the temporary bitterness of failure or the perpetual pungency of curiosity. Obviously, with fingers crossed, I picked the former. At an instant, my course is changed by two brief words, “I’m in”.

From there, everything seemed to have gone so fast. Before I can even make sense of what I just put myself into, I am officially a member of IMA (Institute of Management Accountants) and had registered for a 2-part exam.

The review stage was rigorous and demanding. And when an e-mail promises voluminous test drills? Buckle up because, indeed, “voluminous” knows how to live to its promise. With no exaggeration, it was my four-year undergrad accounting exams jammed in a three-month review. Through every unfamiliar intricate topic aggravated by the sweltering summer heat came the strong urge to desert the flight. But I’ve already taken off and lost sight of the ground hence there is no going back.

Then days turned into weeks…weeks into months…and alas, I have arrived at my destination (or checkpoint rather)! The actual exam is certainly everything you can expect from securing such a world-class title. It will not only drain your energy but also all that confidence you’ve earnestly tried to build-up during the months of review. And just when you thought you’ve scaled the most difficult phase, the agony of waiting will immediately prove you wrong – an agony from which I am yet to be released.

In view of this, I still couldn’t offer much on the “secret formula” to passing. However, in the context of taking risks, here’s what I’ve learned.

Everything starts and ends with you. The world can throw all the best opportunities on your way but it’s up to you to seize them. I’m not saying that the answer should always be a yes. It’s okay to take a moment and ask yourself, “Can I do this?” Definitely. “Will I succeed?” Well, that’s where risk comes aboard. You may or you may not. Nevertheless, you will realize as you go along that the more precious intangibles – such as the new bonds and lessons – are the ones that truly make the whole journey worth taking. But just in case you do fail…Guess what? You are not the first in history and life goes on!

As for the climax of my story, I can only imagine the Big Boss from above calling out, “Coming soon, Erika”.