Each year's Emerging Leaders talk less about the profession pivoting to a trusted advisor role and more about actually performing that role — and how excited they are to expand internal audit's influence into new areas. Indeed, the 2019 Emerging Leaders' diversity shows partly in the variety of experiences they've had in an advisory capacity and their specific goals for expanding the profession's profile. And as in previous years, the 2019 Emerging Leaders are a diverse, multinational group. Since the first crop of honorees in 2013, 14 countries have been represented; this year's professionals hail from The Republic of Belarus, Canada, the U.S., and Zambia. Just under half since the beginning are women, just over half are men — many of whom have advanced to positions of greater leadership and gone on to volunteer in key IIA governance and advisory positions.
As a group, this year's Emerging Leaders are enthusiastic about talking up internal auditing — to schools, business groups, and their colleagues — and about supporting the profession through expanded participation in local professional organizations. Technology, as always, is what these high-performing practitioners want to talk about. Automation and data analytics are familiar. In fact, emphasizing analytics seems almost old-fashioned to the 2019 honorees; they assume analytics are key to internal auditing and continually expand their skills — often on their own time. That expertise opens doors to more internal auditor interaction with organizations' executives, and this year's Emerging Leaders are eager to take advantage of the opportunities they see ahead to be meaningful players in their enterprises' success.
28, Senior Auditor
City of Sacramento, Calif.
Jordan Sweeney conducts “impactful audits,” as one colleague puts it, and she is hailed for following up to ensure recommendations are implemented. From day one, the University of California at Davis graduate was given sole responsibility for auditing the city’s Department of Utilities (DOU). As a result of her consistent follow-up efforts, the DOU has achieved “a realized monetary benefit of more than $15.2 million dollars,” reports Sweeney’s supervisor, Sacramento Assistant City Auditor Lynn Bashaw. “She continues to work with the department to implement recommendations made in her audits,” Bashaw adds, “as well as recommendations made in previous audits.” Sweeney says providing informal audit training to DOU staff members responsible for the recommendation follow-up efforts helps them understand what internal audit is looking for and communicate that to other staff, thereby reducing the number of documentation requests she has to submit. She also manages the city’s whistleblower hotline for reporting fraud, waste, or abuse, and so far has resolved more than 80 cases. Sweeney, who holds a master’s degree in civil engineering, came to the profession after learning about it at home — her husband is a premium auditor for an insurance company. The work seemed challenging yet fun, she explains, and used many of the same data analysis and problem-solving skills an engineering education requires. Sweeney adds: “I felt it would be very rewarding to be a part of something with such a big impact on how the government operates.”
Cheng Cheng, CIA
28, Consultant, Enterprise Risk Service
This is how Cheng Cheng characterizes his profession: "I selected internal auditing because it's challenging, nonroutine, and fun." The University of Toronto graduate started out with a degree in commerce and a master's degree in accounting; early in his career, Cheng worked on finance, assurance, and internal audit-related jobs, ultimately opting for the latter as his main focus. "Every day is a new challenge and learning opportunity," he says. One early challenge was how dependent consulting is on experience and industry knowledge, which he lacked at the time. "I forced myself out of my comfort zone," he says. "I told myself, 'Don't' be afraid to ask questions.'" And having tapped his mentor's experience to great effect, he advises those working with professionals who have extensive knowledge in the field to observe how they work. Cheng's own work encompasses internal controls over financial reporting, payroll audits, external quality assessment, and risk-based operational and compliance audits, notes MNP colleague Jim Barbour, who cites another challenge Cheng has overcome. "A recent client required him to reconstruct multiple years' payroll reporting to tax authorities," Barbour says. "He used document capture and data analytics tools to prepare and evaluate the source data for the required deliverables." Cheng points to the value of communication skills as key to explaining deliverables to clients. "No matter how technology evolves," he says, "we will always need to build relationships with people." Outside internal audit, pick-up basketball games most weekends constitute Cheng's No. 1 hobby. He's also an active volunteer in MNP's Community Activity Project and Education program and serves as treasurer for IIA–Toronto.
Blaine Fritz, CIA
29, Governance & Operations Manager/Chief of Staff
Research Triangle Park, N.C.
Blaine Fritz became an internal auditor to understand how companies work from the inside out. He hit the professional jackpot: The Michigan State University graduate has led global audit teams and conducted engagements across multiple risks — commercial practices, anti-bribery and corruption, financial controls and reporting, and supply chain, to name a few. His work has spanned multiple functions, cultures, and geographies, including North and South America, Europe, and Asia. The former audit manager, who’s since moved into Managed Markets and Government Affairs, has also led multiple initiatives to improve the internal audit function at GSK, notes his manager, John Boone, vice president, Contract Management and Operations. “He’s gathering observations on the impact of an audit from a business perspective,” Boone says, “and will feed these observations back into the internal audit function to improve efficiency and effectiveness and minimize business disruption in future audits.” Other projects include leading the Audit Ways of Working Alignment Project, which identified differences in approach between regions and among risk areas, and facilitating training on audit process and third-party oversight. The people part of the equation, Fritz says, is key. “My work provides an opportunity to gain a global perspective and cultural awareness through the people I meet around the world,” he says. Fritz focuses on internal audit’s evolving role, noting that use of the audit function as a resource for insights gained through sharing of good practices across the business represents an important change for the profession. “Auditors can share an enterprise view gained from experiences in different risks and parts of the business,” he comments. Outside the office, the soccer player and youth team coach also serves as an Early Talent Mentor for GSK’s Future Leaders Program and as a member of GSK’s Orange Day Volunteer Committee; each year, employees spend Orange Day off-site, volunteering at a charity of their choosing.
Melissa Morlan Donner, CIA
26, Audit Supervisor
Bank of America
Melissa Morlan Donner prefers people to face forward in their approach to internal auditing. "If 'well, that's how we did it last year' is the only rationale you have for something," she says, "there's probably a way to improve it." That often involves automation and, especially, being able to understand what it's doing. Already, the University of Florida graduate notes, a key skill for internal auditors is "the ability to understand how automation can be applied." Writing code is a plus for anyone to possess, she says. "But more important is being able to clearly articulate what you think an automated process would look like and have a grasp of what is possible before working with an automation expert to get it done." Donner built her audit skills analyzing and testing controls across various industries as a consultant, while also project managing the day-to-day activities of those engagements, reports current supervisor Janet Jarnagin, an audit director at Bank of America. Now Donner is responsible for board and executive management reporting, including presentations summarizing audit results, issue status, and audit department performance to the organization's highest governing bodies, Jarnagin says. Within months of starting at Bank of America, Donner designed a new monthly business review for the chief audit executive (CAE) to oversee department operations and revamped the issue management report for the CEO's management team. Donner says that's a good example of the trusted advisor role internal audit is taking on, and she adds that data visualization is an increasingly important part of it. Reporting a 1% to 2% month-over-month increase via text or a slide may not raise red flags, she explains. But seeing a line chart spanning six months that shows a 10%-plus increase — with a six-month projection if nothing happens — "can really serve as a call to action," she says. Donner is a member of The IIA's Chicago chapter and volunteers at TutorMate, an online program that helps kids improve their reading skills.
Kenson Munshya, CIA, CISA
29, Audit Manager
Stanbic Bank Zambia
Kenson Munshya first saw internal audit from the outside, and found himself impressed by practitioners' insights and deep understanding of the organizations he was auditing externally. "Over time," the Rusangu University Zambia graduate says, "I started looking at the internal auditors' reports as one of the reference points to gain an understanding of clients." Then he joined them — and started spreading the word about internal auditing. "He has a mission to make a difference in the profession," says colleague Chuma Silutongwe. He adds that Munshya was instrumental in helping parent company Standard Bank Group's Africa regions team win the firm's 2018 Group Internal Audit Mark of Excellence Award for enhancing the use of data analytics and audit automation. Plus, he's supported teams from Namibia, Malawi, Botswana, and Mauritius in providing key insight on IT-related engagements, such as cybersecurity and business continuity audits. Munshya says practitioners need to prepare for the future by improving their skills in data analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence (AI); he is piloting the automation of the company's audit process using those very skills. Still, he adds, "ultimately, it comes down to one's people skills to manage change and influence decisions." Internal auditing often involves negotiating with management, so a firm grasp of the disruptive technologies combined with people skills is key, Munshya stresses. "I'm amazed at internal audit's ability to influence an organization and be a change agent around strategy and operations, as well as around governance, risk, and internal controls," he says. Outside of internal audit, Munshya enjoys decidedly low-tech pastimes, including chess, jogging, and reading. He also volunteers for outreach programs through his church and is an active member of IIA–Zambia.
Maddie Cook, CPA
30, Senior Manager, Consulting
Maddie Cook is in the enviable position of working in a role that requires her to indulge in one of her favorite pastimes. The job requires travel, and Cook says, "I really enjoy learning about the cultures that are new to me and sampling local cuisine." And her travels provide valuable insights for her global client work, notes Pamela Hrubey, a Crowe managing director and Cook's career coach. "She leverages the business experience she has gained from working in Canada and the United States to support a variety of clients with offices around the globe," Hrubey says, "bringing a balanced business perspective along with her deep knowledge of internal controls." The University of Western Ontario graduate is also part of an innovation team considering ways to leverage blockchain technology to create internal audit efficiencies, and she's been researching the potential of robotic process automation and AI. "Clearly we will see, over time, these technologies playing a large role within our profession," she comments. To assess controls around that technology, internal auditors will need a robust understanding of how it functions, the associated risks, and the organization's strategy for integrating the technology into its business processes. "The more knowledge we have, the better we will be able to assist, review, and potentially advise management on implementation in the future," Cook says. She also points to significant opportunity to use these technologies in audit work. Companies are making the move to blockchain and other technologies to advance their businesses, she notes. "Internal auditors will need to adapt our methodologies to maximize the associated benefits of the new tools by developing audit programs that increase organizations' confidence in their use." Outside the profession, Cook has donated her time to the Boys & Girls Club of America, a community food bank, and an organization that builds bikes for kids.
Jiahui “Bella” Wang, CIA
28, Senior Internal Auditor, Computer Information Analyst
Atlas Air Inc.
Bella Wang was surprised to learn how much soft skills support the technical aspects of internal auditing. "I didn't understand the diversity of attributes a practitioner needs to have to be effective," the St. John's University graduate explains. In particular, Wang says that recognizing the importance of sales skills was a professional "aha!" moment. "We are selling our expertise, ideas, and recommendations almost every day to help add value to our organizations." Wang accomplishes that with a firm foundation of technical knowledge, says her supervisor, Charles Windeknecht, Atlas Air's vice president, Internal Audit. "She consistently exhibits a deep understanding of the risk and control considerations she is assessing," he says, "by asking challenging questions in a relevant and meaningful manner." The questions change, of course, as the technology that powers the profession changes. "Technology and automation will make changes in how, where, and when we perform audits," Wang says. Already, she has designed and built several data analytics programs to support internal audit's objective of executing more effective testing, Windeknecht notes. Wang says her department uses analytics routines during annual fraud assessments to help management isolate higher risk transactions. "Senior management is coming to us with more requests to help them identify process improvement opportunities," she says. Wang is also active with the youth education nonprofit Junior Achievement and often speaks at area college and university events about the benefits of internal auditing.
Megan Beeston, CFE
29, PRG Senior Associate
Frazier & Deeter LLC
Stephen Brown, CAE at PRGX Global, recalls the time Megan Beeston was working on an IT project for his company as part of a co-sourced team when her supervisor was injured and unavailable for an extended period. “Megan stepped up and successfully managed the project with minimal oversight, and exceeded expectations in every way,” Brown says. The Kennesaw State University graduate says the experience provided her tremendous opportunity for learning and growth. “Working in public accounting constantly involves quickly and seamlessly adapting to unexpected situations to avoid delays in projects and deadlines,” she says. She benefitted from having built good relationships with clients — and having the ear of her company’s managers. Early on, she says, she stepped back and realized that internal audit has long used data analytics. But the progress underway now is even more exciting, she adds, as technology increasingly enables internal auditors to expand their capabilities past current roles. “Integrating IT concepts into our strategies will allow us to provide the most value-add to our organizations,” she says. “Any initiative for research or training in technology and how we can apply systems to be more efficient is an important step for us.” Beeston came to the profession when a professor presented it in a compelling way — making her realize she could use people skills to make her role more successful and help people solve problems, which she saw as a perfect fit. Her internship exposed her to a variety of roles and projects, piquing her interest even further. “The ability to wear many hats — as an extension of an organization as its internal audit function, as a service auditor, or consulting through process improvements and security assessments — challenges me technically and as a person,” she says. Outside internal audit, Beeston plays tennis and watches college football. She also fundraises for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society through her company, volunteers on select weekends with the pediatric grief counseling organization Kate’s Club, and co-chairs the mentor–mentee program at her local IIA chapter.
29, Solutions Director
Aidar Orunkhanov approaches internal audit from a different perspective. The University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign graduate started out in data analytics and came across internal auditing by chance. But he noticed that the profession was beginning to implement data-driven methodologies and saw the potential to implement analytics. He’s now back in data analytics, at a start-up that applies machine learning to data unification, but comments that the massive amounts of data produced by new technology will propel internal auditing toward near-real-time functionality and other elements of automation, raising some worries about technology replacing humans. But he says the technology can’t replace humans completely: “I’d call it ‘using new tools’ rather than ‘managing robotic assets.’ Robotic process automation [RPA] is an ideal solution to frequently repeated rule-based processes.” RPA, in fact, should free up time for more creative and exciting work, he says. One example: He led development of an automated dashboard at a former employer that provides auditors with timely changes to risk profiles and data-enabled outliers for testing purposes. He also co-led a hands-on data analytics training program for 200 colleagues. In addition, Orunkhanov lectures at Boston University, teaching a graduate-level course in business analytics. On weekends, he enjoys travel photography. “The gear I carry has grown exponentially,” he says,” but an incredible Instagram picture is worth it all.” Orunkhanov also volunteers at a local food bank and helps families file their tax returns.
Marilyn Carnevale, CIA, CPA
30, Senior Auditor
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
After a stint in external audit, Marilyn Carnevale has been happily surprised by how gratifying she’s found her internal audit career — particularly the newness of each assignment. “Internal audit procedures often have to be developed from scratch to meet the unique needs of an organization,” she says. “It’s exceptionally challenging, but completely rewarding when our recommendations come to fruition.” At Rutgers, her alma mater, Carnevale was assigned to assist on “a major, multi-phased project,” reports her supervisor, Marion Candrea, manager, Audit and Advisory Services. “It was part of a highly regulated area that required a rigorous learning curve that she easily overcame,” Candrea says, adding that Carnevale started taking on lead auditor tasks right away. With that responsibility came the opportunity to work with student interns. In fact, she was so effective that she soon earned the title of internship program supervisor. Carnevale remembers people leaving her former public accounting firm for internal audit positions, but adds now: “Honestly, I did not even know if I would be any good at it.” Her ties to the university moved her to pursue the position she’s in. “The fact that I’d never heard of internal auditing until about four years into my career is partially why I believe in advocating for the profession,” she says. That includes educating students about options beyond public accounting. In her free time, Carnevale volunteers at The IIA’s Central Jersey Chapter, attends Rutgers athletics events, donates her hair to Locks of Love and Pantene Beautiful Lengths — and plays the piano.
Christopher Ballweg, CIA, CISA
28, IT Audit Supervisor
American Financial Group Inc.
No matter how much internal audit technology advances, success in the profession will always rely on people skills, according to Christopher Ballweg. With a primary focus on IT audits, he sees technological advancements as key to driving change — but the University of Kentucky graduate also stresses that “relationship-building, clear communication, and adaptability” are a practitioners’ most important competencies. Indeed, he says, auditors must be able to clearly communicate any questions or observations, regardless of the business partner. Education helps. Ballweg started at American Financial Group right out of college, notes former colleague Brian McNalley, IT audit manager at Macy’s and a 2018 Emerging Leader. Since then, he has received two key professional certifications and an MBA from Mount St. Joseph University. On the job, Ballweg has been a team leader for engagements involving cybersecurity, disaster recovery, business continuity, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, and U.S. Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 compliance. “A key challenge is ensuring that our work is adding value to our various stakeholders,” Ballweg says. Practitioners who want to be seen as trusted advisors, he adds, must know stakeholders’ goals and ensure that engagements are focused on delivering value. That, he says, requires flexibility. “Continuous change is the aspect of the profession I enjoy most,” he says. When he started, cybersecurity audits and the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology Cybersecurity Framework were “still in their infancy,” he says. “Now they’re on the mind of nearly every stakeholder in an organization.” Ballweg has been active in The IIA’s Cincinnati Chapter since 2013, and is a board member of his local American Cancer Society Young Professionals group.
29, Internal Audit Manager
Caesars Entertainment Corp.
Today's students at the University of Nevada Las Vegas have access to a career insight that Christiane Dolores didn't. The alumna makes a point to attend events on campus to meet students and engage them in the internal audit community, she says, because most of her time as a student was spent learning about external auditing. She's become deeply involved in the profession, having served on the IIA–Las Vegas board as secretary, vice president of Programs, and now vice president, notes her supervisor, Victor Echenique, Caesars' internal audit director. Dolores led an awareness initiative about the services internal audit provides and created a brochure for Internal Audit Awareness Month that was distributed to 145 colleagues throughout the Caesars organization. She excels at her job, Echenique says, winning the "Audit Ninja" title as internal audit's Employee of the Quarter and Employee of the Year six times in a department of more than 80 practitioners. She manages planning and execution of compliance, financial, and operational audits of business operations at casino properties in multiple states, and she's a leader in the department's philanthropy efforts. Dolores didn't set out to be an internal auditor, starting her career in Accounts Receivable and moving around the enterprise to learn several different accounting functions in the organization's nongaming enterprises. "I had no intention of working for internal audit," she says. Then, conversations with a colleague helped change her mind. Now she calls it "probably the best decision I've made for myself."
29, Chief Auditor
Minsk, Republic of Belarus
Katsiaryna Pranovich has learned the value of listening. Early on, she found communicating with internal clients to be “the most laborious, difficult aspect of the job.” But then she learned to listen more attentively to her colleagues, she says, to focus better on what they need from her. “That, plus gaining experience and exercising patience allowed me to adjust my style of communication,” she explains. Pranovich sharpens her people and public speaking skills with stand-up performances of her own comedy material in local clubs and cafes. One of her favorite parts of the job, the Belarusian State Technical University graduate emphasizes, is helping colleagues deal with difficult situations. Another is the opportunity to “engage in different areas of the organization’s activities.” Pranovich extends her internal audit interactions outside the enterprise as well, notes Pavel Varyvonchyk, CAE at JSC MTBank. “She constantly expands her professional skills by attending seminars and conferences,” he says, “which allows her to maintain professional relations with internal auditors at similar companies here and in neighboring countries.” Indeed, Varyvonchyk adds, Pranovich is a two-time winner of the firm’s Best Employee Award. One reason is her involvement in a project examining data mining for automated internal auditing, which aims for continuous monitoring of key departmental indicators of possible process violations. Another project Pranovich heads up is creating automated workpapers and options for management decision-making following audits. Pranovich is, in fact, lauded for her methodologically accurate documents. “The devil is in the details,” she says, “especially with the increasing speed of work and changes in business processes.”
Steve Spittler, CPA, CISA
28, Senior IT Internal Auditor
Fort Mill, S.C.
Steve Spittler is a technology enthusiast with strong people skills — two important assets for an internal auditor specializing in IT engagements. “As companies move to the cloud and increase use of third-party vendors,” says the Bentley University graduate, “even practitioners who mainly perform business or compliance audits need to understand the implications cybersecurity could have on their engagements.” Nearly every audit his team performs has cybersecurity considerations, he notes. A recent challenge involved leading both the Vendor SOC1 testing program and the cybersecurity audit for the enterprise, reports co-worker and unofficial mentee Anja Erlandson, senior analyst, risk management, at LPL. “He not only completed the tasks,” she says, “he assisted the business in creating new internal controls, making recommendations consistent with industry best practices.” He also has added visual analytics to audit reports, analyzed large data sets to identify discrepancies, and tested the effectiveness of department policies and procedures. The first few years of Spittler’s career were spent as a public accountant conducting external financial audits; he says the move to his current post represented an opportunity to grow his skills. His social network also has expanded. Spittler says: “What I love about my job is the level of collaboration and the people.” Most of his engagements are integrated, with the business audit and IT audit teams working together, he notes, citing the value of building relationships with clients. Practitioners often can see firsthand the improvements made because of their recommendations, he adds. Off the clock, Spittler volunteers at the Humane Society, the Metrolina Food Bank, and the Boys & Girls Club of America.
Sarah Murray, CIA
27, Senior Auditor
Savannah River Nuclear Solutions
For Sarah Murray, early career inspiration came from an audit class project that involved creating flowcharts and identifying control deficiencies. "It was totally different than anything I had done in my accounting studies thus far," she says. The Augusta University graduate enjoyed it enough to apply for an internal audit internship and ended up "falling in love with the work and the variety of people that you get to meet." One part of the job she's especially fond of is working with data. "It always has a story to tell you," she notes. Former Augusta University accounting lecturer and current colleague Steve Loflin, principal internal auditor at Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, says Murray's skills in analytical and substantive testing are exceptionally advanced. "As much as she impressed me as a student," he comments, "I've been even more impressed by her abilities as an internal auditor." Loflin adds that Murray is known for her timely and effective auditing and her ability to build relationships. Murray does have an agenda: She's out to end the "gotcha" and "take no prisoners" stereotypes of internal auditors. She makes a point to find ways to minimize nervous tension during engagements by checking clients' work spaces for clues to a favorite football team or new grandchildren. "I get them talking about those things to loosen them up," she notes, "and see audit as a function that is truly there to help." Murray also volunteers with local youth ministries, and with the River of Life, which provides exterior home repairs and improvements to local community members. In addition, she's active in, and a former officer of, The IIA's Central Savannah River Area Chapter.