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Amy Ford, Gleim Instructor, Talks About Her Career in Accounting

Photo of Amy Ford in studio filming CMA Gleim Instruct

Gleim is proud to feature Amy Ford, one of the professors leading the video lectures that accompany our exam review courses. Amy is an Instructor of Accountancy at Western Illinois University (WIU), the 2011 IMA Faculty Mentor of the Year, both a CPA and CMA, lead CMA Gleim Instruct professor, and an all-around delight to learn from.

Many of you may already be familiar with Amy from her cheerful instruction in our Gleim Instruct videos. This month, we wanted to give you a break from costing systems and spend some time teaching you a bit more about this Gleim all-star.

We asked Amy to share her story and some helpful tips for future accountants—and she did not let us down!

Video Transcription

Hi I’m Amy Ford, and I wanted to share with you a little bit about my background and how I came to be an accounting professor and an accounting professional.

So my story is maybe unique in that I come from a really really really small town and I know some of you are thinking, “Oh yeah, my town is not that big.” No, my town is tiny. 800 people – where I grew up, a very small town, very small town in Illinois, so farming community. My graduating class in high school had 35 people.Growing up in that environment really shaped the person that I am and the accountant that I am.

My dad tells a story of – I was in kindergarten everybody’s learning like the alphabet and you know basic words and then when you get to math, you’re learning your numbers maybe like one plus two, and my dad was like no no no, you were learning your multiplication tables when you were in kindergarten. And I always laugh because I really don’t remember that at all, but it just kinda reminds me that you know, from a very young age, I was good at math, and that sometimes is something that women aren’t as strong in or women aren’t as promoted in kind of those stem activities, right? Now, just because you’re good at math, is that going to mean you’re going to be a good accountant? Not necessarily. There’s so much more to being an accountant, and that’s we’re growing up in a small town really shaped the person and the communicator and the manager and all those other skills that are necessary to be successful in business.

So being from a small town, you got to be involved in a lot of different things. So, for example, growing up I did all kinds of different sports. I played softball. I played basketball, volleyball. I ran track. I’m not really that great any of those things; let’s just be honest, but when you’re from a small town, it takes five people to play basketball. There were only six of us in my whole class. It’s an experience that you don’t always get to have when you’re in a large community. How does playing middle school basketball make me a better accountant? Well, I was a part of a team. In business, don’t we have to be parts of a team? Working together, communicating, working towards a common goal? So being part of a sports team when you’re 12 years old helps you develop skills that you need later in life.

All through middle school and high school, I was a cheerleader, and I laugh doing the Gleim Instruct Videos. I tend to smile a lot and I think that that’s just because I was a cheerleader.

I had a lot of great cheerleaders in my life too. I’ve had educators from elementary school all the way through college who helped me and I think my teaching style takes a little bit of each one of those people. So I had a lot of great women who encouraged me to sit for the CPA Exam. I can still remember sitting in a professor’s office and saying, “I don’t know if I should do this. I don’t know if I can.” She looked at me, and she said, “Amy, you can do this.” That was a really pivotal moment in my life. You know, yes, you can do this, you should sit for the CPA Exam.

Now, here’s a little fact that you might not know. I am a first generation college student. Neither of my parents graduated from college, but it’s a little apprehensive going in as a first generation college student. That’s where having your advisers, having peer groups, getting involved . . . so when I was at the University as a student, I was so when I was at the University as a student, I was active in Beta Alpha Psi. Now, that’s the professional business fraternity for accounting and finance professionals. I was the president of Beta Alpha Psi, and that really gave me a lot of involved on campus, so I always tell people when they’re, when they’re looking at college, get involved.

Now that goes beyond the college years, so this is all building up to this atmosphere of if you’re active, if you’re engaged, if you’re involved, you’re volunteering, when you get out of college and become a young professional, or like me, I’m not quite a young professional anymore. I’m more like an average professional, I’m not an old professional. I wouldn’t use that at all, but seriously, you you still engage in those outside activities. Now where has that taken me? I help a local not for profit organization with some of their accounting. Hey, I’m helping people. I’m helping with accounting. Those are my skill sets. It’s really enjoyable. I volunteer with my children’s activities because you know, I’m in that small town.

I’m still in that small town, by the way, can you believe that?

So, I attended Western Illinois University in So, I attended Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois, and that’s actually where I teach now today. So I took a traditional path. I went in right as an accounting major. I always knew I wanted to be an accountant. So I took a very traditional route. I had to have the 150 hours that was the choice that I had to make as I was planning out my college career, so I got my undergraduate degree in accounting and then I stayed for my master’s degree.

I have a Masters of Accountancy as well from Western Illinois University, and within a one week time period, I graduated from the University with my master’s degree and sat for the two day, that’s like 16 hours all four parts on my first try and I was a CPA.

So after that, I had my CPA, I had my Masters in Accountancy. I went to work at a mid-sized accounting firm in public accounting. So I worked as an auditor for several years, about five years as an auditor in a public accounting firm, and out of the blue, I had a phone call from the University that they were needing an instructor, and it was like July and they needed an instructor in August, and so you know I went back and I thought, what do I really enjoy, what do I enjoy most? You know, I like accounting and this is what I always tell people. I like accounting, I like debits and credits, I like numbers, but I love teaching. So if I get to teach accounting, it’s like the best thing in the world for me, so I’ve been teaching at Western Illinois University my alma mater for 13 years now.

You might also say well wait a second, when did you get that CMA? Well, I was back at the University teaching. I was teaching managerial accounting, and I was like, wait a second, what’s the CMA? Certified Management Accountant? Maybe I should learn about this. So I started learning about the CMA exam and I thought, you know what, this is a great certification. I think my students, my students should be taking this exam. So in order to mentor my students, in order to help other people, I thought you know what, I’m just going to take the exam. So a lot of years after graduating and going to school, I was teaching accounting, and I sat for the CMA exam, and so I’ve been a CMA since 2011.

When I was working in public accounting, I had a baby in the middle of busy season. I know, I didn’t plan that very well, did I? But it was all good. You know, I was very supported. I actually worked under two female managers. These two women, you know, shaped my career and they were both moms, so it was really great to work in public accounting where they understood if I needed some flexible hours or I needed to work from home, and they love to see baby pictures too, so that was okay too.
Now that I’m at the University, that work-life balance continues to be something that I have to balance. I have teaching, a full time job as teaching, I have my students, and I have my family, and I have my volunteer activities, and it’s really hard to say no, it’s really hard for me to say no, and so I have had to find that because I’m very analytical, there’s only so many time spots in a calendar there’s only so many time spots in a calendar and you have to make sure that you plan for time that’s downtime. You know, you can’t fill every spot with every possible activity.

So the message that I want to share with you is that to be successful, it takes a lot of different characteristics. You it takes a lot of different characteristics. You have to be able to communicate, you have to be a member of a team, you have to make sure that you’re balancing your work-life balance.

Think about the steps. Did I get here in a day? No, I’m getting old, it’s been much more than even a few years to get to the point where I’m at, but it’s important that I think about each step along the career path and how that’s going to build your skills. So this job is building the skills for the next job and that volunteer activity that you’re working on, that’s giving you skills managing a team so that when you’re ready to manage a team in your workplace environment, you’ve got some experience. So make sure that you take each step along your career path and build those skills to be a successful accountant in your future.

Follow your passions

Amy has always liked accounting and numbers, but as she says, teaching is what she loves. Marrying those subjects is what led Amy to her position at WIU and made her a perfect fit for Gleim.

Accounting is a huge industry, and within it are numerous jobs. Accountants can be educators, tax preparers, auditors, financial advisers, authors, politicians, and even detectives. While some accountants pore over financial records at large firms to provide shareholder reports, others may work for small not-for-profits, like an animal rescue, streamlining expenses to feed as many homeless pets as possible.

Key takeaway: As your career develops, find ways to merge the things you love.

Learn from all of your experiences

Amy’s story shows the importance of drawing skills from different experiences and learning to apply them to your goals and struggles. Skills like teamwork, communication, and goal-setting can be learned outside of the classroom—and outside of accounting. Whether learned through playing sports, acting in theater, or running a club, the skills needed to succeed in accounting can come from all over.

Key takeaway: When you’re faced with a new problem or setting a goal, don’t discount your experiences that might not seem to apply at first.

Get involved in your community

Community involvement is often praised, and for good reason. By helping a not-for-profit with accounting, Amy found a role that lets her give back to her community while also developing a skill she is passionate about.

From taking on a leadership role in a student organization to contributing your expertise to a not-for-profit, there are opportunities for growth and engagement for every level of professional.

Key takeaway: Developing new relationships (i.e., networking), establishing a support network, and honing your skills can all be done while giving back to your community.

Never stop growing

Amy was in the workforce for 10 years before she became a CMA, and it wasn’t even a designation she considered while in school. She didn’t choose to become a CMA to land a new job, but because she realized how valuable the CMA designation could be to her students. She came across a growth opportunity, and she seized it. Later, her decision would make her the IMA Faculty of the Year and the Gleim Instruct lead professor.

Key takeaway: It isn’t always possible to predict the future, but by embracing a mindset of continual growth, you can be prepared to seize the opportunities that come your way.

You are your best asset

In high school, Amy was a cheerleader, and today she brings that enthusiasm to every lesson. In college, she committed to becoming a CPA with the encouragement of a trusted mentor, and now she mentors countless students to accounting success. Eight years ago, Amy made the decision to become a CMA to benefit her students, and today she helps thousands of CMA candidates earn their certification. Each of these decisions led her to where she is today, and we here at Gleim are thrilled that they led her to us.

Amy Ford and Gleim

Amy Ford joined the Gleim Publications family in 2015, and we learned quickly that she was a perfect fit for Gleim because her story mirrors our own. As a professor at the University of Florida, Dr. Gleim created Gleim Publications to help his students pass the CPA Exam. A short time later, he expanded his offerings to cover the CMA, CIA, and EA exams to encourage more students and professionals to expand their careers through education and certification. By following his passion, Dr. Gleim has helped over a million professionals achieve success in and out of the classroom. And with the help of outstanding instructors like Amy Ford, we hope to help a million more.

For more information on a career in accounting, check out our breakdown on getting started in accounting.

See more of our Gleim Instruct team

If you’re like us and you can’t get enough of our amazing Gleim Instruct team, check out all of our free videos for CIA, CMA, CPA, and EA candidates. Want to see Amy’s CMA Gleim Instruct Videos? Check out our CMA Review System demo to see one study unit for free!

And be on the lookout for future Gleim spotlights!