Owen Nolan discusses how studying online with CIMA allowed him to study from the comfort of home in his own time and explains the benefits of his newly obtained financial management skills in his current career

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Owen Nolan

Owen Nolan, asset operations, Irish Water

In 2012, I had more than ten years’ postgraduate experience and had been working in a consulting engineering firm for a number of years on water and infrastructural projects.

My role as a project manager consisted of the design and management of these projects, incorporating a significant amount of stakeholder management. I found increasingly that clients were seeking advice on the financial implications of projects in their entirety or on individual elements of projects.

The financial management of projects was always something that I enjoyed and had an aptitude for. I decided that I wanted to gain a qualification that would improve my own knowledge and understanding and would allow these skills and knowledge to be recognised more easily.

I attended a CIMA talk at Engineers Ireland and it covered the syllabus, which is more weighted towards management rather than accounting. This was something that really resonated with me, as I had no desire to become a financial accountant, but financial and business management was the part that really interested me.

  • How has the CIMA qualification advanced your career in engineering?

When I started the CIMA qualification it was around the same time that Irish Water was coming into existence. I had already obtained my certificate and that was certainly a factor in helping me get my first job in Irish Water as a project manager in business change, managing business improvement projects.

I progressed to a lead role in wastewater operations which I am still currently in. This is in an area that requires an engineering background, but I find that I probably apply my skills and knowledge gained from CIMA more than my engineering qualification in this role, but they leverage each other.

  • How did you find studying the CIMA exams?

Being able to study and do online exams really suited me as I could choose when I wanted to do an exam. My wife was expecting at the time, so I could put the foot down to get exams done when I needed to and then when I had other commitments, I was able to take a break from CIMA.

Initially, when I did the diploma they were written exams at prescribed sittings. I found this a lot tougher, as I didn’t have the flexibility I wanted or the opportunity to progress quicker with the exams to suit me. However, that changed with all exams now online and as I also study online, I don’t need to spend time travelling to lectures and when the opportunity of a couple of spare hours presents itself, I take it.

  • Would you encourage other Engineer Irelands members to study CIMA?

I would absolutely encourage engineers to study CIMA. Whether we realise it or not, we are all operating in a business environment of some description, be it a commercial or public sector entity that we work for and finance will feature in all of these.

Even if it is just the Cert that they are seeking to complete, it will give a great foundation of business and management and they will find that it will probably give structure and context to a lot of what they do already and a vocabulary to approaches that they already apply.

  • What advice would you give to anyone thinking of studying towards the CIMA qualification?

They should focus on the fact that the benefit to engineer’s is in the M and not the A. CIMA is not about debits and credits and what might be perceived by engineers or the public at large to be an accountant. It is a business qualification with the focus on enterprise management and the further on I have gone with this qualification the less it is about numbers and the more it is about strategic thinking.

  • What skills have you gained or developed through studying CIMA that have been most relevant and useful to your job?

Obviously, financial management is probably the most relevant skill that I have developed. This has allowed me to have a greater understanding of our operational expenditure and has enabled me to work with our service delivery partners in the local authorities to get greater clarity on our financial expenditure figures, identify our cost drivers and identify opportunities for efficiencies through the application of on the ground technical knowledge and the economy of scale that Irish Water provides.

CIMA has also shaped my thinking from an enterprise management perspective and enables me to take a systematic approach to challenges as I encounter them. As Irish Water is such a new company and there is so much work being carried out across the different functions, CIMA has given me the knowledge and understanding to be more equipped to collaborate with my colleagues particularly in the areas of finance, HR and IT.

  • What does the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation mean to you?

To have the internationally recognised business and accounting qualification will mean a huge amount. While I have continually applied my learning from CIMA in my job, to be able to say that I am a chartered engineer and CGMA will demonstrate that I have the knowledge and that I have put in the work to achieve this qualification.

I also feel that in a utility business in particular the designation will breakdown the misconceptions about the view of engineers and my experience can be utilised across a wide range of areas of the utility business.

  • Is CPD important to you?

I think that CPD is crucial to professional and personal development. As technologies and systems change so fast, we must keep abreast of the technical changes as they occur, but through CPD you can also ensure that you are equipped with the tools to be able to embrace and progress with change itself in whatever form that takes.

For further information on CIMA Ireland’s range of qualifications contact our student recruitment manager  Claire.lambert@aicpa-cima.com or visit our website to find out more http://www.cimaglobal.com/Qualifications/cert-ba/

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In 2012, I had more than ten years’ postgraduate experience and had been working in a consulting engineering firm for a number of years on water and infrastructural projects. My role as a project manager consisted of the design and management of these projects, incorporating a significant amount of stakeholder...