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​​​On the Rise

Meet Internal Auditor’s 2015 Emerging Leaders — they’re bright, ambitious, and eager to advance the profession. ​

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​If this year’s Emerging Leaders represent the future of internal audit, then the future of internal auditing isn’t just bright, it’s a supernova. The 15 professionals profiled here — representing five countries and nine industries — are well-educated, and many are pursuing advanced degrees and already hold professional certifications. They’re excited by internal audit’s evolving position as trusted adviser on just about every endeavor an enterprise undertakes, and they have little patience for its old-fashioned reputation as the “Department of No.” They’re much, much more than just internal auditors, getting involved in their communities and taking leadership roles in ​their local IIA chapters and institutes. Internal Auditor congratulates these outstanding practitioners — a distinguished group that will undoubted​ly have a positive impact on the profession.

Jesus Valdez, CIA

Auditor II, Southwest Gas Corp.

Jesus Valdez embraces change. “The best aspect of internal audit is that it is constantly changing,” the 29-year-old University of Nevada, Las Vegas graduate says, adding that he enjoys working on multiple audits at a time and the challenge that comes from juggling priorities. “It’s amazing how agile one has to be to adapt to change and still provide valuable information on challenging topics,” he says. One additional change Valdez would like to see concerns the negative perception of internal auditors. “Regardless of how pleasant or capable an auditor may be, clients often perceive us as the bad guys, thinking, ‘They are only out to get me.’ That’s outdated and must change.” He expects the next decade to be a busy one and has specific career goals in place — five years from now, he wants to become a manager, and in 10 years he plans to be a director. “Ultimately, I want to serve as vice president of the company,” he says. Valdez appears well-positioned to achieve those goals. His department is aggressively rebranding its functions to emphasize consulting engagements using analytics software, and he’s been instrumental in advocating those services, helping to generate consulting and data analysis requests. The Las Vegas-based practitioner, who has almost five years of internal and external audit experience, is also working toward a master’s degree in accounting, the Certified Public Accountant designation, and the Certification in Risk Management Assurance. His past experiences as a student bode well: When he was 14, he was in the top 1 percent of his class statewide and earned a full-ride scholarship to Universidad Autonoma de Chapingo in Mexico. Six months after being admitted, he moved to Las Vegas with his parents — where he learned English as a second language by the age of 15.  

Cate Neeley, CIA

Assistant Director & Internal Audit Manager, University of Kansas

Twenty-nine-year-old Cate Neeley has this to share about the profession: “If I could change anything about internal audit, it would be to have a more deliberate approach to marketing how the internal audit activity provides value to the organization through consulting and advisory services.” She cites consulting’s significant benefits to the organization and its ability to help internal audit promote change, though she adds that management “is often unaware that internal audit has the skill set and availability to provide these services.” The diehard Jayhawks basketball and volleyball fan — and MBA holder from the University of Kansas — was recruited as a college junior for a summer internship at Sprint, then was hired and promoted twice in the organization’s corporate audit department. She later made a professional move back to the Lawrence-based university. Her boss there, CAE John Curran, says “a combination of great timing and luck allowed me to snag her for our audit manager position.” Neeley’s ties to her undergraduate alma mater, Pittsburg State University, remain strong as well. She and her supervisor traveled to the university to speak to its students in The IIA’s Internal Auditing Educational Partnership; her boss says it was “special to see how she related her experiences in internal audit to a group of undergraduates soon to be starting their respective careers in the profession.” Neeley advised them to make effective use of their professional networks, including taking advantage of opportunities provided by the local IIA chapter. She plans to stay in the Kansas City area, she says, and in internal audit as the CAE at, perhaps, the University of Kansas — where she developed the first-ever dedicated internal audit resources at its academic medical center and affiliated research foundation — or at another higher education institution.

Justin Bonk, CIA, CFE, CISA

Manager – Enterprise Risk Management, Freed Maxick CPAs P.C.

Justin Bonk likes to accentuate the positive. If he could change one thing about internal audit, it would be the misperception that internal audit’s focus is on the negative aspects of an organization. “That misperception can drive an irrational fear of internal audit,” the 29-year-old State University of New York at Buffalo graduate says, “which ultimately creates barriers to communication and hampers our ability to be effective.” He acknowledges that much of what internal auditors do involves risk — which often has a negative connotation — but emphasizes that internal audit’s true focus is on adding value to the organization by addressing the risk, which he points to as inherently positive. Bringing that positive focus about requires knowledge beyond the walls of the internal audit department. “To be successful, we really need to have an extensive understanding of the organization,” Bonk says. “It’s satisfying to me, both professionally and personally, to be able to look back after an assignment and think, ‘Wow, I have been able to learn so much from this experience.’” He teaches, too, by creating templates and procedures to track and optimize staff test work on audit engagements, providing valuable data to managers for budgeting — and to staff for performance measurement. Currently based in Buffalo, Bonk received a degree in internal audit — somewhat of a rarity in terms of degree offerings, he says — and adds that he knew he wanted to pursue an accounting-related field. After doing some research, he says, internal audit “seemed much more interesting than the other options.” He says now he’s fortunate to be with a firm that he loves working for and to be part of a team he enjoys working with.

Jason Ryu, CIA

Auditor, FedEx

Successful career journeys don’t always have an auspicious start. “Quite candidly, I didn’t know anything about internal auditing before coming into the role,” Jason Ryu says. He vividly remembers the first interview question for the job: Tell us what you know about internal auditing. “I answered honestly that I only had the Google definition I researched the night before,” he says, “but that if they were willing to teach me, I would work harder than anyone else to learn.” They were, and he did. Now, the 26-year-old Mississippi State University graduate, who’s studying for the Certified Fraud Examiner designation, says the most rewarding aspect of his job is the real, tangible changes that derive from auditors’ work. But internal audit has to position itself to create value, not react to expectations, he explains. “First, internal audit needs more unprecedented and unwavering buy-in from senior management,” he says; second, it should focus on continuous and objective risk management through investment in data analytics. The “greatest irony” in internal audit, he adds, lies in the simple truth that “while we are the catalyst for change, sometimes we are afraid of the very principle that we stand for.” He also embraces personal change, noting that he plans for the short term to prepare for the long term. “I’d like to get my MBA and a couple more professional certifications, and also continue improving my Spanish because I’d like to work abroad for a little while,” he explains. “My passion has always been traveling and experiencing new places and cultures, so if I can do that and get paid at the same time, obviously that would be a win-win situation.”

Justin Pawlowski, CIA, CMA, CRMA,
SAP Certified Application Associate

Manager, Audit – Governance & Assurance Services, KPMG AG WPG

Justin Pawlowski wants to change peoples’ mind-set about the use of data analytics in internal audit. There’s a myth that data analytics is only the task of IT auditors, the 29-year-old with six years of internal audit experience explains, adding, “It’s not!” Another misconception is that data analytics may violate data protection laws. “They don’t if done right,” he stresses. Myth No. 3 is that only internal audit functions with a highly sophisticated tool can apply data analytics successfully. He’s emphatic about this one: “That isn’t true. Start small, grow big! Keep focused and risk-oriented.” Indeed, Pawlowski says he’s working to illustrate the great potential data analytics has in internal audit if applied correctly. “When it comes to the use of data analytics in internal auditing, I am challenging manual proceedings from the past and suggesting adapting the internal audit approach and coming up with new ideas and going new ways,” says the Frankfurt-based Berlin School of Economics and Law, Anglia Ruskin University, and Goethe Business School graduate. He’s specified data analytics-driven testing procedures “for various cash-relevant and process efficiency and streamlining issues, being able to demonstrate quantitative value-add.” When he’s not revolutionizing the way his company performs internal audit work, he likes to be active — and mobile. He’s worked in 15 different countries, and in the last year alone he has collaborated with colleagues from 30 countries for clients around the world. While globe-trotting, Pawlowski likes to indulge his affinity for running — in fact, he never leaves home without his athletic shoes.

Valentina Kostenyuk, CIA, CPA

Internal Auditor, Portland General Electric

A couple of college courses started Valentina Kostenyuk on her path to internal audit. “I studied accounting and finance at Portland State University and graduated with a dual major in 2011,” the 26-year-old explains. “I developed an interest in auditing after taking two audit courses that were very interesting and insightful, and really highlighted the uniqueness of this profession and all the various skills and types of roles it includes.” The next step: An accounting internship at Intel made her curious about corporations, so the day after graduation she started as an intern at her current company. “It was a great introduction, and after a few months I was sold on the field,” Kostenyuk says. She transitioned into an auditor role and got involved with The IIA’s Portland Chapter, where she now serves as president. If she had her way, internal audit would change to a more encompassing and strategic mind-set. “The significant shift toward risk-based audit plans has already occurred,” she says, “but that shift should further infiltrate into the design of audit programs, including audit steps and all other activities.” That would create greater value for stakeholders at every level, she says, by better aligning the function and activities of internal audit to the organization’s overall strategic objectives and risks. But for now, she thrives on the challenge of solving problems. “There is something very exciting about coming to a new process and getting to figure it out, section by section, puzzle piece by puzzle piece,” she says. “And realizing how much you learned from both the process and the new people you got to work with is exciting and inspiring.”

Krystle Pond

Auditor II, Southwest Airlines

Not many internal auditors can make this claim: “I have danced in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.” But Krystle Pond, 27, can. “It was a fun experience, and I loved every minute of it,” she says, adding that she now serves as one of the leaders of the Southwest Airlines Flight Brigade — meaning she gets to march in parades that Southwest Airlines sponsors, including the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, held in Chicago. She would also like to see the audit profession march forward, hoping to one day see the development of a framework for strategically aligning the internal audit plan with the organization’s business initiatives. “Internal auditors are unique in the fact that they touch every facet of an organization, from the front lines to the boardroom,” the CIA candidate explains. “Having a documented, systematic approach for aligning internal audit and business objectives will help internal audit focus on management’s key risks and concerns, leading to realistic recommendations and action plans given the priorities of the business.” Her enthusiasm for the intricacies of internal audit goes back to her college days. While at the University of North Texas (UNT), she began an organization for students interested in internal audit, IT audit, and fraud examination that became UNT’s formal student organization for The IIA, ISACA, and the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. Looking forward, the Dallas-based practitioner sees herself “teaching, coaching, serving, and mentoring future leaders who will contribute to their organizations’ success.” She adds: “My career plan is simple: Learn as much as I can and learn from all who will teach me.”

Marbelio Villatoro, CIA

Integrated Project Manager, Raytheon Co.

Marbelio Villatoro is passionate about soccer and about family. “I come from a very large family,” the 29-year-old California State University, Long Beach graduate says, “and I am part of a competitive soccer team in Long Beach” — one that includes three of his five brothers. Villatoro is also passionate about serving his community. He’s been recognized as a community leader by U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), and has been cited by Raytheon for his Employee Resource Group efforts with the UCLA Philipino Alumni Association. He’s also passionate about the interconnectivity of physically far-flung internal auditors. “The global implications that technology, economies, and regulatory requirements have on our stakeholders are creating a greater amount of uncertainty when managing global risks and opportunities,” he says. “By leveraging our global resources, training and tools, and our ability to predict future business risks and opportunities, we can evolve our internal audit organizations into global change agents.” For now, he strives to perform the function in its finest form. He was asked to lead a complex project at Raytheon that required analyzing roughly 10,000 documents and conducting multiple interviews in a short time. He used text and data analytics to synthesize the plethora of artifacts and leveraged his audit techniques to ensure objective and sound evidence was being formulated. He then used that analysis to communicate that a significant amount of future revenue was at risk — and simultaneously saved the client nearly 500 man-hours by employing these techniques.

James Go

Business Analyst, Risk Management, A Hundred Answers Inc.

James Go wants immersion in internal audit to start much sooner. “I find that young professionals are often unaware of internal audit as a career possibility,” the Ottawa, Ontario-based 27-year-old explains. “For those who are aware, it is sometimes difficult to relate to, since it is not rooted in any one academic degree, program, or faculty.” If he could, the University of Ottawa graduate, who’s pursuing the Certified Internal Auditor and Certified Information Systems Auditor designations, would raise awareness by “establishing more campus-run clubs championed by students and strengthen the role played by academic institutions in preparing students for internal audit opportunities.” Toward that end, in fall 2012 he founded the Academy of Internal Auditors Student Club — the plan is to extend its membership base to other universities in Canada. He also says he believes strongly in The IIA as an advocate and educational resource for the profession. “What is most rewarding about internal audit is the community we are building together,” he says. “I have seen firsthand the transformation taking place, as the number of interested students from universities and colleges is steadily increasing due to the care and willingness of The IIA to invest where it matters.” He serves as chair of academic relations for his local IIA chapter, and he cites five important role models: Kevin Page, the first Canadian Parliamentary Budget Officer; David Coderre, a retired civil servant who now heads his own consulting firm and teaches at the university level; Patrice Aubriot, an audit principal; and Sarah Lyons and Hash Qureshi, principals at his current firm. “They have collectively taught me three fundamental pillars that I follow to this very day,” he says, “to vision and pursue, to commit and be passionate, and to care for the changes you want.” Moving forward, he plans to mentor others and says he would like to reach out beyond the profession to help nonauditors better understand what internal auditors do. “I hope to share knowledge with other inspirational leaders and transfer their knowledge to create more great leaders.”

Jad Antanios, CIA

Head of Internal Audit

If he could make a meaningful difference in internal audit, 30-year-old Jad Antanios would enhance internal audit knowledge sharing worldwide to “make information available to those who want to invest in themselves” and help further the practice of internal audit in developing countries. Indeed, the Damascus University graduate, who is now in charge of internal audit operations at a financial institution in the Middle East, established the internal audit department at an insurance company before moving to his current position. One of his colleagues says of Antanios, who’s currently pursuing the Certified Financial Services Auditor designation and the Certification in Risk Management Assurance, “He’s one of the best leaders I’ve ever worked with. He understands the strengths and weaknesses of his subordinates, and he knows how to delegate tasks to them accordingly.” Co-workers also credit him for creating loyalty and strength within his audit group, and for having a sense of humor that helps maintain group morale. He plans to keep putting those attributes to good use: “In the next decade I see myself leading and promoting the internal audit profession through an IIA chapter my colleagues and I are seeking to establish here, or by heading an internal audit function in a way that we become a practice benchmark in the market.” He hopes to accomplish that and keep a smile on his face at the same time. “I always try to be that friendly, approachable person who gets the job done smoothly while maintaining a sense of humor,” he says.

Jamie Wilson, CIA, CPA, CFE

Assistant Vice President–Compliance Audit, Internal Audit, GM Financial

Jamie Wilson is something of an expert on the U.S. Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. The 30-year-old Texas A&M University graduate has led her Sarbanes-Oxley team through a period of great change, colleagues report, as GM Financial began to align its Sarbanes-Oxley program with that of the parent company when it was acquired as a subsidiary in 2010. She managed the change effort while keeping team morale high through transparent communication and ensuring the team had the resources needed to overcome the challenges it faced. Not only did the Ft. Worth, Texas-based Wilson and her team get the job done, they produced a work product that achieved maximum reliance from external auditors — and excellent outcomes for management. In fact, she says her favorite aspect of the job is the sense of accomplishment she experiences from helping her team reach its deadlines. “I am proud that my team’s work provides comfort to our executives about the functioning of our internal controls,” she says. Wilson actually interned with GM Financial — formerly AmeriCredit — in internal audit as a junior in college. “I really enjoyed the internal audit team and the nature of the work,” she says, “so I was thrilled to be offered a full-time position when my internship ended.” She’s been in internal audit full time since January 2007, working in operations audit until 2012, followed by a brief stint in continuous audit until transitioning to her current role on the compliance audit team in early 2013. She adds that her current boss, Vice President–Compliance Audit, Internal Audit, Laura Eakin, is her mentor: “She is great at knowing what to say and how to say it — especially in challenging situations.”

Maja Milosavljevic, CIA

Senior Internal Auditor, Erste Bank A.D.

The aspect of internal audit that many practitioners dread is actually Maja Milosavljevic’s favorite: presenting results to clients. “The results often contain findings and recommendations for improvement of business processes that the clients have not been aware of,” the 29-year-old Belgrade, Serbia-based practitioner explains. “Clients and management can directly see the significance of internal audit work and acknowledge how internal audit helps and improves the whole organization.” Where that’s not the case, she’d like to make it so. She says most people are still not fully aware of internal audit’s potential and its role as a trusted adviser. “Finding and using various new ways of presentation, quantification, and description of results achieved would be very helpful.” Milosavljevic has been involved in audit since college. After graduating from the University of Belgrade Faculty of Economics in 2009, she started her career at Deloitte Serbia performing mainly external audit work. She transitioned to the National Bank of Serbia’s Internal Audit Department, then back to Deloitte for a spell in internal audit, and then to her current position. As well, she’s pursuing a PhD in economics and a Chartered Financial Analyst designation. Milosavljevic likes to pass her expertise on to colleagues both less and more experienced than she. “I have had experience with reverse mentoring, and I find it very good for everyday work,” she says. “The combination of traditional knowledge and experience with knowledge about the modern world of social media and other forms of forward-thinking technology is best for the modern practice of internal auditing.” Ultimately, she’d like to keep exchanging knowledge by starting her own internal audit consulting company one day.

Andrew Loyack, CFSA, CISA

Manager, Financial Outsourcing Solutions

When Andrew Loyack sets his mind to something, there’s a pretty good chance it’s going to happen. At home, the 29-year-old confessed foodie and his wife set out to improve their health last year, and together they’ve lost 125 pounds. At work, he wants internal audit to “take full advantage of computerized data collection and analysis techniques to help identify control weaknesses.” The technology, he says, can help auditors explain issues more clearly to clients and provide meaningful suggestions to change the audience’s perception of internal audit’s value. He accomplishes this as an outsourced internal auditor helping several community banks. “My favorite aspect of this job is helping clients of various sizes and complexities find efficiencies and stronger controls to better their internal control structure,” the Camp Hill, Pa.-based Shippensburg University graduate says. He also points out that his co-workers are his role models and mentors. “Each day I learn something new from my co-workers: tried-and-true lessons from seasoned teammates and new technical skills and different points of view from less-tenured staff.” He adds that, despite regulatory changes shaking up the industry and changes in the way consumers bank, his ambitions will likely stay the same — no matter how much his environment changes. “Regardless of where I end up, I hope I am able to continue to use my internal audit and IT auditing skills to identify efficiencies, fraud, and control breakdowns so that the internal control structure can remain strong.”

Matt Beachnau, CISA, CTGA

Manager, Protiviti

You can learn a lot from student athletes. During his years at Indiana University Bloomington, Matt Beachnau put himself through school in part by working as an intramural sports referee for basketball, volleyball, and softball. “Besides encouraging my love for sports,” he says, “being a ref helped me develop soft skills for conflict resolution — not to mention a pretty thick skin.” Off the court, the 29-year-old says his favorite aspect of internal audit is that each day “brings something new.” Beachnau points to the opportunity many audit practitioners have to work with people from all different backgrounds, industries, and parts of the world. “That helps keep each project engaging and fulfilling, because each one presents its own unique set of challenges and experiences,” he says. One experience the Indianapolis-based Beachnau enjoys is educating. “For the past three years, I have been involved in developing and presenting an internal audit two-day training curriculum for a financial services client,” he says. Attendees include internal audit staff plus senior management in audit and compliance; the mini-course includes presentations on IT audit techniques, social media, and audit soft skills. And he participates in Protiviti’s internship program, helping incoming interns manage their schedules, advocating for them, and working with clients to ensure that interns can participate in real-time projects. As well, he’s pursuing The IIA’s Certified Financial Services Auditor qualification. His aim? To change the view of an internal auditor as someone who simply follows a work program, exposes issues, and “causes further headaches.” To do so, he endeavors to develop and nurture relationships with the management representatives involved in each audit so that practitioners are seen as advisers, not adversaries.

Morgan Abshire

Senior Internal Auditor, Pinnacle Entertainment

Morgan Abshire has learned that a college course may not best represent professional reality. She started in accounting directly out of high school and, before joining the internal audit staff at the casino she works for now, she applied for a staff accountant position. “When I interviewed, they brought to my attention the internal audit position, but I wasn’t sure of the area and, to be honest, it wasn’t exactly the most interesting subject in college,” the McNeese State University graduate says now. But when she was interviewed by the internal audit manager, the Lake Charles, La.-based 29-year-old, who’s pursuing Certified Internal Auditor certification, says she left the office knowing that internal audit was where she wanted to start her career. “Here I am six years later,” she adds, “same department and same company.” Moving forward, Abshire hopes to be an internal audit manager or director — or something more specialized, such as a data analytics senior auditor for the entire company. “I absolutely love performing data analytics, which is my favorite thing about internal audit,” she says. Indeed, she’s said to have become “obsessed with developing an audit script that would help her organization automate its compliance requirements for the U.S. Bank Secrecy Act and Title 31.” She worked for countless hours troubleshooting scripts until she developed one that detects specific suspicious activities. Now she’s developing individual scripts for 14 other properties. More broadly, she loves the fact that her work is constantly changing — even in an industry that is highly regulated. “The casino industry is continuously evolving,” she says, “which provides new opportunities and challenges, including new risks. I get to learn new things with every audit I perform.”

Choosing the Leaders

The Emerging Leaders were selected by a panel of judges comprising some of the most distinguished audit professionals in the industry. Panelists volunteered their time to review the many nominations Internal Auditor received and chose the practitioners they felt best represent the profession’s bright future. Nominees were judged in six broad areas: professionalism, leadership, certifications, advocacy, community service, and innovative thinking.

Michael Cowell, CIA,
is senior managing director and chief auditor at TIAA-CREF Financial Services and vice chair, finance, of The IIA’s North American Board of Directors.

Nancy Haig, CIA, CFSA, CCSA, CRMA,
is director, Internal Audit & Compliance, at Global Consulting and a member of The IIA’s Publications Advisory Committee.

Katie Houston, CIA,
is assistant city auditor at the Austin City Office of the City Auditor, an IIA Emerging Leaders Task Force member, and a 2013 Emerging Leaders honoree.

Princy Jain, CIA, CCSA, CRMA,
is a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers and senior vice chair of The IIA’s North American Board of Directors.

Seth Peterson, CIA, CRMA, QIAL,
is internal audit manager at The First National Bank in Sioux Falls, an IIA Emerging Leaders Task Force member, and a 2013 Emerging Leaders honoree.

Harold Silverman, CIA, CRMA, QIAL,
is vice president, Internal Audit, at The Wendy’s Co. and vice chair, professional certifications, of The IIA’s Global Board of Directors.

Renato Trisciuzzi, CIA, CCSA, CRMA, QIAL,
is corporate audit director at Walmart and secretary of The IIA’s Global Board of Directors.

Angela Witzany, CIA, CRMA, QIAL,
is head of Internal Audit at Sparkassen Versicherung and senior vice chair of The IIA’s Global Board of Directors.
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