Tojo John, CPA, MBA, CGMA

Tojo John, CPA, MBA, CGMA

CFO
Harvard Club

Tojo John works as the CFO at the Harvard Club in New York City. Tojo is tasked with making sound business decisions, driving profitability, achieving cost targets, at the same time, improving quality and service of the club’s offerings.  In the CFOs role he leans on his many years of experience in the hospitality industry to advice the club’s board and drive the strategic direction of the club. The club depends on Tojo for financial reporting, information technology, data management, treasury & cash management and all other finance functions of the club. When not working with numbers, Tojo may be found in the kitchen trying out the latest recipes as he is a trained chef with over 10 years of professional experience. He believes that his newly acquired CGMA designation and other qualifications that include a CPA and an MBA will be very valuable in corporate boardrooms to achieve business excellence.

Motivation to get the CGMA designation 
I consider the CGMA designation as a testament of management accounting skills. Unlike the earlier days when the designation was awarded to CPAs without an exam, the new requirements to obtain the CGMA designation are both challenging and rewarding. I decided to take the exam as I view the CGMA title holder as someone who is recognized as an expert in finding suitable solutions for real business problems. I also enjoy taking challenging exams such as CGMA; so the decision to take the exam was natural.

The journey through taking the live and self-study learning and exam
Preparing for the exam was not as easy as I originally envisioned. The materials available online was a tremendous help. Unfortunately, I could not attend any of the live Q&A sessions; however, the archived versions were very useful in answering many of the questions I had. I utilized the case studies found online extensively. In my view, the case studies are the best and the most effective way to prepare for the CGMA exam. Additionally, I prepared for the exam by finding solutions to some hypothetical problems found in routine business dealings. Encountering situations at work, similar to the ones detailed in the case studies also helped me prepare for the exam. These situations increased my familiarity with the type of problems encountered in the business world. 

Thoughts on the CGMA exam; the format
The exam was challenging and I thought it was mainly due to the requirement to come up with a cohesive answer to the problem presented in a relatively short period of time. The situations presented generally resembled actual problems one might encounter in day-to-day business transactions.  The amount of time allotted for each session forced me to think quickly using available information and prior research to deliver the most suitable answer. It was a good measure of “delivering results under pressure”, very common in the business world. I felt that the format of the exam slightly favored someone with a very strong writing abilities Vs someone with a very strong analytical abilities. I may be biased in my view as I prefer to use tables, graphs and other visual tools in addition to written responses. I liked the fact that the exam tests real-life business skills. However, I would have preferred if the candidates were able to use tables, charts and other visual representation to supplement their answers.  

Going through the CGMA Program
First and foremost, I learned that there may be several approaches and solutions to a given problem. There may be more than on precise solution to a problem. Preparing and taking the exam gave me a different perspective; it showed that one needs a broad and comprehensive view point to arrive at the right decisions, especially in the new globalized world. The program has been a tremendous help in my line of work where experts from various disciplines need to work together and consider all possibilities before taking impactful strategic decisions. I felt that the program guides you to be inclusive and open to “new” ideas and “out-of-the-box” thinking.

I would certainly list CGMA as an accomplishment if pursuing a new job. I consider expertise in management accounting a prerequisite for strategic decision making in the business world.  I believe the CGMA certification is an endorsement of the title holder’s abilities as a collaborator, strategic thinker and technical expert in the field of management accounting. I am convinced that the title will provide validation to the hiring manger that the person, with a valid CGMA designation, being considered has the appropriate education and skills for the job.

Value of the CGMA designation
After going through the process of obtaining the CGMA certification, I am encouraged to recommend the CGMA program to my peers. I think, CPA and CMA holders have an advantage in writing the exam because they are not only familiar with the exam format, but have most of the technical knowledge required to pass the exam. I am of the view that the current CGMA holders have a duty, through their conduct and competence, to further improve the value of the CGMA designation in the future. For these reasons, I think all CGMAs would be proud to endorse the program and recommend it to their qualified peers. 

Skills learned as a result of obtaining the CGMA designation and those acquired through years of experience in the field guides me in my day-to-day decision making. It helps me to look five, ten or more years into the future and anticipate the potential needs of the members, community and clients of the organization. The knowledge and skills learned helps me work together with other experts in the business to shape decisions that are aligned with the long-term goals of the organization. Preparing and taking the exam also taught me to weigh the cost and benefits of speedy decision making with relevant inputs from all stakeholders. I am humbled by the journey to obtain the CGMA certification and strongly believe that the process has provided me with the right tools and knowledge to make the best possible decisions for my organization.