Venturing Beyond the Beltway: How Cindy Miley EMBA '15 Reached Her Goal to Become CFO

The letters C, F, and O hold a great deal of meaning for Cindy Miley EMBA ’15. As a career financial professional, she had aspired for many years to move up into a more senior executive role. But several personal and professional setbacks had prevented Miley from taking the steps she needed to reach her goal of becoming a CFO.

In 2013, Miley decided it was time to make her long-time dream a priority.

“I mapped out my strengths, the areas I needed to improve upon, and the obstacles I might face,” she explained. “One of those obstacles I identified was not having an MBA.”

Miley’s research led her to William & Mary and the Executive MBA program at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business. At the time, she was living and working in Washington, D.C. Though there were many reputable universities in the greater metro area offering MBA programs, Miley wanted to fully immerse herself in the experience and connect with her fellow classmates.

“William & Mary was an economical choice and it put me outside of the beltway,” she said. “Not attending a local program allowed me to deepen connections with my cohort which has had a significant impact on my career professionally. Had I gone to a program in D.C, I would have gone to class, come home, and not developed those personal relationships.”

Whiteboard with CFO 2015 written on itTo ensure her success, Miley developed a visual aid to help her stay motivated and reach her end goal. She wrote “CFO 2015” in the middle of her whiteboard, at home, when she established her goal to become CFO in 2013. It remained there until she was promoted to CFO in 2015.

“There were many times throughout that time I was working towards the promotion to CFO – tough days – where I almost erased that goal,” she said. “But I would not let anyone, including myself, say that I was not qualified or deserving of the title or position.”

Miley coordinated with her employer to take Fridays off so she could travel to Williamsburg to attend class. On days she needed to be plugged into work, she was able to do so remotely from Miller Hall and from the accommodations reserved for her by the Executive MBA program staff.

“They made all of the arrangements, so I didn’t have to think about anything except my classes and assignments. That was especially important to me as a busy executive,” she said. “I didn’t have to worry about anything – my food, where I was going to stay. Everything was taken care of by the program and that was vital to my success.”

Academically, Miley looked to the Executive MBA program to strengthen and deepen her business toolkit. She studied accounting as an undergraduate student at George Mason University and accumulated nearly twenty years of professional business experience by the time she began the program. The Executive MBA gave her the tools to think strategically and she deepened her understanding of strategy, organizational behavior, finance, design thinking, and marketing.

“The faculty is a huge asset to the program,” she said. “The professors are all truly amazing.”

Just before the last semester of the Executive MBA program started, Miley was promoted to CFO at her company. She believes strongly that this achievement would not have been possible without the support of the Mason School.

“I think the team at William & Mary wants you to be successful and is willing to help you in any way,” she said. “The program really provided value to my professional development and also to my organization.”

Since completing the program, Miley has pivoted into the world of non-profit leadership. She currently serves as the CFO of Melwood Horticultural Training Center, Inc. which is an organization dedicated to providing employment and recreational activities to individuals of differing abilities.

“I was on the board of a nonprofit that served children of people with differing abilities. A former colleague of mine gave my name to a recruiter and they reached out to me. They saw my resume and that I had a passion for people of differing abilities. My resume was sent to Melwood and the rest is history,” she explained.

Her next endeavor is to enter the world of angel investing. She joined Golden Seeds through a connection she met through the Society of 1918, a new university initiative to support lifelong engagement and leadership opportunities for William & Mary women.

“The firm is focused on helping women fundraise for their start-up organizations,” she said. “I made my first investment last fall and I’m really excited about that. That’s what’s next for me.”