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A mature student from Tipperary has been named the overall winner in the CPA Ireland Student Development Award 2014 and will now receive €5,000 towards achieving her goal of becoming a professional accountant. Shortlisted from hundreds of entries, Martina Woodlock from Thurles impressed the judges with her commitment to pursuing a career in accountancy after working as a dental nurse for more than 20 years.

Martina is currently studying for a degree in Accountancy and Finance from LIT Tipperary and on completion will progress to studying the CPA qualification following her success in this competition.

Speaking about her decision to make a career change she explains, “When my boss retired I turned my attention to what I wanted to do and decided to pursue my original dream, which was to study accountancy.  I contacted LIT to explore options, and luckily they were able to offer me a place immediately due to a deferral. I finished work as a dental nurse on a Friday and began my career in accountancy the following Monday!”

On qualification, Martina hopes to pursue a career in financial risk analysis in industry.  “The best thing about accountancy is that there is such a broad spectrum, there’s so much to learn and there is the opportunity to go down a few different avenues.”

Martina was announced as winner by CPA Ireland President, Mr Cormac Fitzgerald, and will receive €5000 to be used to fund her CPA accountancy education. Aleksandra Bobro, originally from Poland and now living in Arklow, Co. Wicklow received a runner up prize of €1000 bursary.

Other finalists in the competition included Aoife Byrnes of Strandhill, Sligo; Olga Pyrka of Kinsale, Co Cork and Milosz Brozek, Balbriggan, Co Dublin.

This the 4th year of the Student Development Award, and entrants were initially asked to submit a written application via the Institute’s Facebook page, Finalists were then required to make a presentation to a panel of judges, including CPA Ireland President, Cormac Fitzgerald, Marc O’Dwyer, Managing Director, Big Red Cloud and Alex Fisher, Head of Skills & Training State Street .

The CPA designation is the most commonly used designation worldwide for professional accountants and the Institute’s qualification enjoys wide international recognition. A CPA qualification offers students the unique flexibility to study at their own pace and allows students choose how and when they move through the qualification.

Unlike other professional bodies, when studying for a CPA qualification, a student can choose how many exams they would like to take at a time and when they want to take them so that every student progresses at their own pace. To find out more about CPA Ireland please visit or the Institute’s Facebook page


Marc O'Dwyer

After completing a Graduate program in Marketing, Marc’s impressive sales career began at Allied Irish Banks, Pitney Bowes and Panasonic where he received numerous Irish and European sales performance awards and consistently exceeded targets and expectations. In 1992, Marc’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to set up his own business, Irish International Sales (IIS). Initially, this company was a reseller for Take 5 Accounts and Payroll software. Within four years, IIS became the largest reseller of Take 5 in Ireland, acquiring four other Take 5 resellers. He also found time to set up two mobile phone shops under the Cellular World brand and a web design company offering website design services for small businesses. In 2001, he bought the majority share in a small Irish software business, Big Red Book. At that time, the company was losing money. The company became profitable within two months, and Marc then acquired a payroll company to compliment Big Red Books Accounting products. In 2003, IIS were appointed as Channel Partners with SAP for their new SME product, SAP Business One. Marc sold his Take 5 business and concentrated on developing this new market for SAP As a result, by 2007, IIS was recognised as the largest Channel Partner for SAP in EMEA (Europe Middle East and Africa). In 2008, the IIS Sales Manager bought the Company from Marc in an MBO. He launched Big red cloud in June 2012, the online version of big red book, to date the company successfully converts 59% of trials into sales and the number of customers is growing rapidly. Marc continues to run both Big Red Book and Big Red Cloud which now support 75,000 businesses. He is a very keen sportsman, having played rugby for 20 years, represented Leinster at under 16 and under 20 levels, and league squash with Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club for 10 years. Marc has competed in 11 Marathons, including the London and Boston Marathons, and has completed several Triathlons and Half Ironman races. He has also completed six Ironman Races in Austria(x2), Frankfurt (Germany), Nice (France) , Mallorca (Spain) and Copenhagen (Denmark)

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