CMA Profile: Julie A. Lagacy

Julie A. Lagacy has spent her entire professional career at Caterpillar Inc., one of the world's leading manufacturing companies. During her 23-year tenure, Ms. Lagacy has served in numerous professional roles, including pricing analyst, commercial manager, and even human resources manager. She is currently the CFO of the company’s mining division. This past winter, she became a CMA® (and an award-winning one at that, earning the ICMA® Gold Medal for highest exam score in her testing period).

Ms. Lagacy’s decision to pursue the CMA at this point in her career made sense on several fronts: “I didn’t really follow a traditional accounting path: I majored in management and economics in college and although I eventually got my M.S. in business administration, it’s really only been in the past five years that I’ve worked exclusively in accounting and finance. As a manager, I’ve encouraged many members of my staff to pursue their CMA or CPA certification. I decided that it was time to lead by example and become one myself.”

Equipped with her review materials and setting passing the exam as a personal and professional goal, Ms. Lagacy followed a strenuous study schedule. Her plan: to devote 12 weeks to studying for the exam, six weeks for each part. She started studying for Part 1 on December 9 and took that exam on January 15. The next day, she started studying for Part 2, which she took on February 24.

One strategy that paid off was to schedule her testing dates early on: “I set my testing dates six weeks out, and I told myself I couldn’t change them. Having those dates really helped me to stay on track and gave me specific goals to shoot for,” she said.

Now that she’s passed the exam, Ms. Lagacy has found that the skills tested on the exam have, in her words, “tremendous relevance to the work I do as a CFO, particularly in the areas of planning, analysis, costing, internal controls, and corporate finance. Preparing for the exam really gave me a crash course in all the important concepts I use in my daily work.”

And the process of studying for and doing so well on the exam not only set an excellent example for her staff: it also provided inspiration for a few folks closer to home. As a working mother of school-age children, Ms. Lagacy often did her studying at the dining room table while her kids did their homework. “I hope I showed them that learning never ends, that even after 23 years of working, I’m taking a test, and continuing to improve myself. I think that’s an important life lesson for them – and for me, too,” she said.