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​From Emerging to Leader

Past Internal Auditor Emerging Leaders share how their careers have progressed since they were recognized.

Leslie Bordelon
Associate Director 
Protiviti

Alex Rusate 
Senior Associate, Risk Consultant, IT Audit and Assurance 
KPMG

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How has your career advanced since becoming an Emerging Leader?

Bordelon Since being recognized as an Emerging Leader in 2014, I have received multiple promotions. I’m now an associate director at my firm. I’m still at the same great firm 14 years after starting as an intern in 2005. I also have expanded my family and have a four-year-old son and a two-year-old daughter. Trying to set a good example for them and show them that I have a job that I love and can excel at while also being present and visible for them is a daily goal.

Rusate Since 2017, I have further developed myself professionally by obtaining my Certified Internal Auditor, Certification in Risk Management Assurance, and Certified Information Systems Auditor designations. Working for my current employer has given me the opportunity to advance my skills, while working alongside industry experts, in an environment that openly promotes and rewards individuals for professional development. 

What is your advice for new internal auditors? 

Rusate Never stop learning. You can always obtain more knowledge through certifications, internal business processes, industry level knowledge, etc. I have pursued a variety of internal audit skill sets because I expect that the internal auditor of the future will need to have a strong background in financial, operational, IT, and regulatory matters to keep relevant in the evolving business landscape. New technology, such as intelligent automation, will help scale down the tedious tasks that consume auditors’ time and allow them to work on more sophisticated matters that require a higher skill set. 

Bordelon Don’t overlook the soft skills of listening, being friendly and respectful, asking questions, having a strong work ethic, etc. You can learn the hard skills through research and on-the-job training, but you often cannot teach soft skills. These are usually the distinguishing characteristics between leaders and the status quo.

What skills have helped you most in your career?

Bordelon Maintaining a positive outlook/disposition regardless of the project, client temperament, location — travel or not — or circumstance has been an essential skill that has helped me in my career. I try to look at all situations in a positive light and see all projects as an opportunity to add one more arrow to my quiver of skills. Having this outlook has helped me when deadlines are tough or I’m traveling away from my family. Another skill that has helped me is flexibility. I’m a planner by nature and love to know what I’m working on for the next week, year, or even five years. Being a consultant in internal audit has challenged me in that area as my schedule/work commitments change almost daily. Trying to go with the flow and be flexible has been a skill that I’ve had to develop over time, but one that has served me well in my career. 

Rusate Thinking critically and taking on new challenges with enthusiasm are two traits that have helped me most in my career. Thinking critically has helped me when I have identified opportunities for improvement for unaddressed risks during walkthroughs and testing, and not simply taking management’s explanation at face value. Typically, management will know significantly more about a process than you; however, when you combine critical thinking with your holistic knowledge of the company, you can identify risks and opportunities for improvement. Taking on new challenges, such as auditing areas not traditionally reviewed or subject matter that I do not have experience with, has helped to enhance my career. When encountering these situations, I make sure that I have or develop the skills needed to conduct the engagement before accepting it in accordance with IIA Standard 1210: Proficiency. When you have the ability to identify risks, discover process improvements, and step up to address engagements that are important to the chief audit executive, management, or the board, it helps make you a trusted advisor.

What has been your most satisfying moment as an internal auditor?

Rusate My most satisfying moment was when the global controller reached out to the internal audit team to ask that we help at an advisory level to investigate a potential accounting issue at a manufacturing plant. The figures were not consistent with management’s expectation or the fiscal performance of the other manufacturing plants, and management did not have resources available to look into the irregularity. I was assigned to the engagement and was able to determine the root cause of the issue — the implementation of a new ERP system the previous year. Identifying the root cause enabled management to implement corrective actions that led to the company having increased profitability from that plant on a consistent basis. 

Bordelon I worked on a project last year with a very tight deadline, a mountain of work, and a good bit of travel. I had a team of all stars, and we worked together to accomplish more than anyone thought possible in such a short period. In fact, we not only completed the project on time, but delivered extra value in many ways and built some great friendships and bonds along the way. It’s a project that I won’t soon forget.

What frustrates you most in your work?

Bordelon I get frustrated with the negative connotation some people have regarding Sarbanes-Oxley work. I think that work is a fantastic way to learn all aspects of a company, build relationships with clients, and expand your knowledge of an industry. Sarbanes-Oxley work has been invaluable in my career and has afforded me the ability to work on both my hard and soft skills.

Rusate A challenge in the profession is working with engagement contacts to make sure you maintain a good balance between achieving audit deliverable dates while still being cognizant of their day-to-day responsibilities. Maintaining a mutually respectful relationship with the engagement contacts will help ensure the audit is received in a positive manner and ensure the sustainability of effective audits going forward. 

Why do you stay in the profession? 

Rusate I stay in the profession because of the diversity of the subject matter, growth opportunities, and the ability to add value across the entire organization. This profession allows me to gain exposure to functions across businesses, which then enables me to more accurately identify key risks within processes. Furthermore, internal auditing is growing faster than most other professions, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As reported in the last issuance of the bureau’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment for internal audit professionals will grow 10% from 2016 to 2026, faster than the 7% national projected average for all occupations. The main reason I stay in the profession is to add value to the organization. Whether it be through identifying risk and working with management to mitigate it down to an acceptable level or identifying process improvement opportunities that drive revenue or cut costs, those are some of the most rewarding aspects of the profession. 

Bordelon I stay in the profession because I enjoy the mentoring that my job enables me to participate in and being able to help my clients solve problems and achieve their goals. My colleagues, teams, and mentors are an extension of my family, and I truly feel valued and appreciated in my company and by my clients. 

I’m also excited about the future of internal auditing. As companies start to embrace new technologies such as machine learning and robotic process automation, internal audit teams have to really rethink how they approach their work. Adopting more agile practices and understanding both the opportunities and the risks presented by these technologies will put next-generation auditing in a great position to help companies transform their businesses. I’m really looking forward to being a part of that process.  

Staff
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