Student Q&A: Margaret Anderson

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Finance and administration manager,
Birmingham Contemporary Music Group.

You have a musical background, so what prompted your change in direction?
If you had told me three years ago that I’d now be studying to become a chartered management accountant, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. I took a roundabout route into finance. My second job, after graduating from the University of Birmingham with a music degree, was as an assistant education project manager with a choir called Ex Cathedra. It was a new role, which allowed me to design my own path, and I got interested in analysing the education department’s expenditure. But I was improvising at that point, because I’d had no formal financial training. This made me realise that I wanted to learn more about the subject and get the bigger picture.
First, I gained a certificate in bookkeeping with the Association of Accounting Technicians, which was a great start. Then I started exploring what CIMA had to offer, spending evenings looking through the syllabus on its website. I was lucky that a job came up at Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (BCMG) that involved managing the company’s finances, as well as helping with concert management. BCMG signed up as a CIMA training partner, allowing me to begin the certi­ficate level in February 2010. I have just started on the professional level. 
 
How much have you gained from your stu­dies so far?
Coming from a non-financial background, I’ve learned loads. Everything is new to me. I’m spending a lot of time working out how best to apply what knowledge I’ve gained from my studies to BCMG. At the moment I’m focusing on overhead allocation apportionment and variance analysis. I’ve also been able to feed in a lot of lessons from the management accounting course into my job - especially on various forms of budgeting. And the business mathematics course has really helped me to use Excel formulas effectively.
 
You were highly commended in the “distance learning student of the year” category of the latest CIMA Annual Awards. How have you found the distance learning format?
I was a little apprehensive about doing it this way at first – it did take me a couple of weeks to get into the rhythm of it. But since then it’s become second nature. The key is to balance your work, studies and social life. I’m using BPP Profess­ional Education’s online distance learning classroom programme, which suits me well.

How do you hope to use your CIMA qualification over the longer term?
I plan to stay within the arts – particularly music – and hope to move up the career ladder gradually. I still have a huge amount to learn, so I am eager to make the most of this experience and see where it takes me.

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