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Member Spotlight: From CFI Learner to Leader, Stephen Moerane’s Journey from Finance to CFI Community Builder

May 21, 2024 / 17:25 / E6

In this special episode of FinPod, host Anna Talerico shines a CFI member spotlight on Stephen Moerane, a remarkable individual whose journey has come full circle within the CFI community.

Stephen’s story begins as a CFI learner and progresses to a CFI team member. Listen in as Anna and Stephen discuss his inspiring transition from non-finance roles to a career in finance and his journey to becoming a valued member of the CFI team.

Stephen shares insights into his academic and professional pursuits, highlighting the connections between his love for music and his passion for finance. He also discusses his recent transition into a community-focused role, emphasizing the importance of supporting CFI learners and fostering connections within our community.

This is a conversation about the power of lifelong learning, personal growth, and the impact one can have in creating an active, thriving community.


Anna Talerico (00:13)
Welcome to CFI Member Spotlight. I’m here with Stephen Moerane. I’m Anna Talerico your host for today. And I could not be more excited for this CFI Member Spotlight because this is a special one for us. Stephen, you were a CFI learner, a CFI member, and now a very important part of the CFI team. So welcome to the Member Spotlight.

Stephen Moerane (00:39)
Thank you very much, Anna. I’m delighted to be here.

Anna Talerico (00:42)
And I am delighted to be here with you. We’ve gotten to work together for, I wanna say, almost two years now, and every day has been a joy and you have added so much to CFI and to our learners. So I’m excited to talk to you about your own learning journey and your own career journey as well. So maybe we just start with a little bit of background about how we met.

We were doing a big initiative with ALX, an African leadership organization, and we were training about 50,000 people in 2022. And we wanted to provide support for those learners that would be going through the CFI programs in Africa. And we wanted to be able to provide support in their time zones.

And so we reached out to some of our active CFI learners who had gotten certifications and asked for people that might be wanting to work with CFI and supporting our learners. And we were blessed that you reached out and raised your hand for that. So tell us a little bit, what did you do before you joined CFI?

Stephen Moerane (01:53)
Yeah, well, before I joined CFI, I was with an organization that works with sport for development here locally. And so I was working in a role in operations and then I took the FMVA program right as I was ending my MBA. And I thought, wow, this is

the definition of finance. This is exactly what I needed through the MBA and I didn’t actually get it in the MBA, but the FMVA was the missing piece. The FMVA was exactly what I needed. So after taking the FMVA program, I transitioned into a finance role within that organization and I couldn’t have been happier. So yeah, that’s basically what I did before CFI.

Anna Talerico (02:46)
This journey of being in a non-finance role, going through something like FMVA or other programs or going through an MBA process and then transitioning into a finance role is a common path. I think a lot of people don’t realize that can be a path to finance. But even before we talk about that, tell me about…

your decision to go pursue an MBA, what made you pursue that? Tell me about just what your own internal motivations were, your own career aspirations. And then I wanna ask why you thought you might wanna do something like FMVA on top of your MBA, but first just tell me about your decision to go pursue your MBA.

Stephen Moerane (03:23)
Okay, so my undergraduate studies were in music theory and composition, and I did a minor in mathematics. And you know, I’ve always had the numerical background and I’ve always loved numbers. And I thought if there’s anything that I would do professionally, it would have to do with accounting or finance.

But in my undergraduate school, I didn’t have an accounting degree or we didn’t have, we had economics, which was different. And I didn’t think that’s where I wanted to be. But music was my passion, continues to drive my motivations daily. And so I focused on music and I focused on mathematics.

And after I completed my undergraduate degree, this was where I came into the workforce. But I realized if I wanted to do something that was meaningful, at least to my life, it needed to go back to the foundations of mathematics, numbers, figures. And so I thought an MBA is a good way to do that. I was in a role in

I just need to remember exactly, it was in data analysis and data collection as well. So I wanted, you know, a bit more involvement in finance rather than data, just the data aspect of it.

And the MBA provided some information on the management aspect of it. And so when I thought about that, when I looked for finance programs, I was looking for a master’s in finance, but then I stumbled upon the FMVA program and it was gold.

Anna Talerico (05:02)
I’m so happy to hear that. Before we jump into your experience with FMVA, you know, it’s interesting. A lot of people don’t realize there are so many connections between music and mathematics. And a lot of people in finance have an interest in music, which is so interesting. I think it’s like a little insider secret that people on the outside might not realize. The same is actually true for software development. A lot of software developers have a musical background as well. So I have to ask.

Do you play instruments? Tell us just first a little bit about your passion of music.

Stephen Moerane (05:32)
Okay, well, I just grew up in a musical family and I’ve been singing throughout my whole life and when I got to college I discovered the piano. So I took piano lessons and I played the piano. So right now, piano is my primary instrument.

Anna Talerico (05:51)
I love it. And do you still sing as well?

Stephen Moerane (05:53)
I still sing, but less that I do piano now.

Anna Talerico (05:57)
Oh, I come from a very musical family, but I have not a single musical bone in my body, but I like to listen to it, so. Okay, so you are winding up your MBA and you decide that you stumble upon FMVA or you’re researching and things like that. So what made you decide to do an additional program on top of your MBA? Was it just that you felt like you needed more practical experience? Or just tell me more about that.

Stephen Moerane (06:05)
I’m going to go ahead and turn it off.

So the role that I was involved in was in operations and I was the director of operations within the Sport for Good, Football for Good organization.

And, you know, with a lot of operations, you get some exposure to finances, because I had a lot of meetings with our finance director asking about the operations out in the field, when we collect the data, you know, he wanted to understand where the funds were going, you know, and getting that kind of exposure helped me realize that

finance was really where I wanted to be. I wanted to be the one asking those questions so that I could drive the work being done that way.

So when I took, when I decided to take the MBA, it was so that I could cement my background so that I could get more information on how to become a leader, right? A people leader, and then hopefully it would give me the strategic financial management that I required in a finance role. But I didn’t get enough of it in the MBA.

I felt it focused on a lot of management aspects and it focused on leadership, but not enough on finance. And so, you know, in my goal to maybe become a leader in finance, I thought, what if I go on and get a master’s in finance? But, you know, the cost of another master’s program and the time it would take.

Those weren’t just factors I couldn’t afford at the time. But when I stumbled on the FMVA, I thought, why not give it a try? I remember taking Excel Fundamentals as the first free course, and then I thought, yep, I’m going all the way after that one course.

Anna Talerico (08:20)
So many people come to us from the Excel Fundamentals program and, you know, every course and many too, it’s very similar to be wrapping up study or, you know, pursuing a degree or MBA and decide to layer in a program from CFI. We hear that a lot. So it’s great to hear about your journey. After you got the FMVA, at some point you also got your BIDA certification, right?

Stephen Moerane (08:45)
This is true. Yes, I got the BIDA certification because I thought, wow. Yeah, the BIDA was great. And I thought it was a great addition onto the FMVA because now, instead of just looking at the financial component of it, you get to understand financial data and how to analyze it in a way that, you know, will be helpful towards driving financial growth or whatever financial goals you might have for the company.

Anna Talerico (08:48)
How was that? So tell us about that.

Stephen Moerane (09:13)
You know, in terms of visualizing data, I had used R a little bit, but not Power BI so much, and neither had I used SQL. And so those were some of the tools that I thought were very helpful in terms of understanding how to collate data, how to analyze it, how to visualize it. So that was a very important part, I think, in addition to the FMVA.

Anna Talerico (09:39)
Yeah. And then in a twist of fate, we reached out to our learners and asked for, to see if anybody wanted to join us. So you responded, you had sent in an application. And you know, I, if I’m not mistaken, when the team saw your application, they said, they kind of instantly knew that they wanted to be able to work with you. And so you joined us for a bit supporting our learners

through the ALX partnership. And I recall some of those early days, this was an important part and partnership, obviously so many learners that we were supporting and wanting to get through the program. And we had a short amount of time to bring in this new team of program specialists, what we called program specialists to support the learners. And right away you hit the ground running. Like we felt that you had so much empathy for the community, for the learners. You were…

so responsive and addressing their questions and helping them and pointing in the right direction and cheerleading them. And I think it was so inspiring to be able to work with somebody who had been through the program and two of the programs and knew so much about the content. So I remember those early days just hearing such good things about you and how you had just kind of come in and started right away doing that program specialist role. And I think you did that for almost, was it almost two years before?

We’ll talk a little bit about your new role, but was it? Yeah. And so the program specialist role that you did before this new role that we’ll talk about, tell us just a little bit about that kind of day in the life. What is a day in the life for a CFI program specialist?

Stephen Moerane (11:06)
We’ll see you here.

Yeah, yeah. I remember when I first received that email and I thought, you know, there must be a lot of FMVA certified individuals out there who are far more qualified than I. And I thought, you know, I probably won’t make the cut, but you know what, I love this organization so much. I’m going to send in an application and I’ll see how it goes. And I was delighted. I was surprised when I heard back and

it’s been such a ride since that day. So when I joined the team, it was really inspiring to see how much the team within CFI works hard, they support the learners. And so as a program specialist, the role is we need to…

sort of be like the mediaries between CFI and the learners. We understand what the learners are going through, we understand internal processes and so we need to bridge the gap and you know close the feedback loop.

So whatever challenges the learners are going through, we need to convey them to the internal team. And whatever the internal team is working on to resolve the challenges, report these to the learners. And in addition to that, support the learners using the resources that exist, but also additional information that we might have. Because I was already involved in a role in finance.

A lot of the information that I learned within CFI was applicable to me and what I was doing. And so I was able to put it to, you know, real use cases. And so when I helped the learners, I was able to understand exactly, you know, what they needed or how they could put those principles in practice. So yeah, definitely empathy was a big factor towards understanding what they went through. And, you know, some of the experiences that I had

it was being a tutor for like a mathematics tutor. So that also helped me at least understand how to effectively help learners.

Anna Talerico (13:23)
I think that you’re right, that does. And again, the empathy just that you brought to the learners. And so we, you know, at CFI, the people that create courses, we call them subject matter experts. And in many ways, the program specialists are subject matter experts because you’re fielding questions from the learners about the content, about the courses, about studying, and then…

Any questions you can’t answer, you do escalate internally to subject matter experts who might’ve created the courses, but most questions are really addressed by, you know, the program specialists. And so, and you know, again, you just excelled at that and just brought so much to your interactions with learners that recently, this year, I think you moved into a new role as a community manager, right?

Stephen Moerane (14:10)
Yes, ma’am.

Anna Talerico (14:10)
Yeah. So tell us a little bit about that role. I think it’s probably similar, but also different. So tell us about that one.

Stephen Moerane (14:17)
Correct, yes. The community manager role is, it’s more like an expansion on the program specialist role because now in the program specialist role, it’s a one on one. I help one learner at a time in the community. We’re having public conversations.

and you know you can send in your question we can discuss it five six people we can send in our discussions. Any any of the topics that we discuss they’re publicly shown to our members and anyone can chime in.

It’s really interesting and I’m learning a lot from the learners themselves. Um, and it opens an avenue for the learners to speak directly to our subject matter experts and our instructors. And yeah, it’s really rewarding. Now, the other aspect of it is the community platform needs to be managed, right?

There are a lot of settings, a lot of the feel of the platform, the look, it needs to be managed and that’s part of it. There are also some of these live events that we’re running. We’ve got office hours coming. We’ve got the live bootcamp, the FMVA accelerated bootcamp. And yeah, those fall within my purview as well.

Anna Talerico (15:34)
Yeah, you really make sure those happen exactly. So if our members, our learners are on the CFI community that’s available inside the LMS, or if they’re even in the LinkedIn community, they are likely to get to see your name or get to interact with you at some point. Just a couple of questions before we wrap up, Steven. Do you consider yourself a lifelong learner?

Stephen Moerane (15:58)
Absolutely. Yeah, I’ve been learning for as long as I can remember and I keep thinking of new things that I want to learn every day. Yeah, so, yeah, absolutely. Yeah.

Anna Talerico (15:59)
I’m sorry.

Anything that you’re learning right now or diving into or thinking about exploring in the future.

Stephen Moerane (16:17)
Well, currently I’m really interested in risk. Operational risk, it seems to be a huge thing. And yeah, I’ve been taking the courses, the CFI courses on risk. And in addition to that, I’m thinking about the financial risk manager certification as a long-term plan.

Anna Talerico (16:36)
I love it. Well, Stephen, thank you for letting me chat with you today. I, again, when we said we’re gonna do some CFI member spotlights, I knew exactly the first member that I wanted to spotlight. And we’re just, again, so grateful that you’re here supporting our learners and creating a community, you know, an active, thriving community where members can interact with us, but not only us, more importantly, with each other too. And…

So thank you for everything you do for CFI and for our members and our community. And thanks everybody for listening. See you next time.

Stephen Moerane (17:08)
Thank you so much, Anna. Thanks for this opportunity.

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