It isn't often that people use the words inspiring and uplifting in the same sentence as internal auditing and accounting, but a new documentary appearing on the program "Roadtrip Nation," produced in collaboration with the Center for Audit Quality (CAQ), accomplishes just that.
"Making It Balance: Will the Work Be Worth It?" introduces viewers to three aspiring accountants who embark on a road trip to discover whether accounting and auditing will fulfill their career objectives. They spend several weeks traveling across the country interviewing accounting and audit professionals, from former Deloitte CEO and current WNBA Commissioner Cathy Englebert to Bryan Ford, a New Orleans entrepreneur and blogger who quit less than a year into his accounting career to follow his passion for baking. IIA member Cynthia Boon, CIA, is one of the featured interview subjects, as well.
In just one hour, the film manages to put a face on the profession that is passionate, inspired, vulnerable, and wholly human. This is something the internal audit and accounting professions have struggled to accomplish for decades. The interview subjects "share their road" and offer sage advice to the young trio, often connecting at a mentoring level.
Some of those inspirational messages are worth repeating:
- Boon, a native of Ghana, began her studies at Texas Southern University in engineering, but she soon moved to the business school, where she majored in finance. After a short stint at EY, she left to open a clothing line with a friend. She candidly tells the group that her dream didn't work out. But that didn't stop her. "Failing is not the end of you," she said. "You can always try again. You can always reinvent. You can always go for the next thing that you want." Today, Boon has worked her way to internal audit manager at Live Nation Entertainment, a Los Angeles-based producer of live entertainment events around the world.
- Dawn Brolin, CEO of Powerful Accounting in Hartford, Conn., exudes genuine and palpable excitement about the profession, debunking the myth that accounting and auditing are only about math. "We can put the numbers into words that most people can't," she said. "Open your mind to what your passion is, and you can find it in accounting."
- Sarah Elliott, a former accounting firm partner, left the profession to found the leadership consulting company Intend2Lead. Her counsel is that it is all right to not have all the answers now. "Most of us live in this world of limitation and fear and scarcity, and the thing is, when we live in that place, we live small," she said. "If there's one thing I'd be willing to bet money on, it's that 20 years from now you're probably not going to be where you thought you'd be. Give yourself grace and space to see what happens."
- Michael Horsey, chairman and CEO of a Birmingham, Ala. accounting firm, inspired Da'Rell Bratton, a young African American man struggling to find a fulfilling career that can provide for his family. "I've never seen anybody in accounting get to that high level of CEO who looks like me," Bratton said. "That, to me, was like watching someone make fire for the first time."
Englebert offered the wide-eyed novices a work-life balance analogy that is a variation on the work of author James Patterson. Imagine you are juggling four balls representing family, health, integrity, and work, she tells them. It is important to discover early on that the work ball is made of rubber and will bounce back if dropped. The other three are made of glass and can easily shatter if they fall.
CAQ has set up a website where auditing and accounting professionals can relate their career arcs to educate students about accounting and auditing. I urge internal auditors to go to the website and share their work histories. I'm certain there are thousands of practitioners who have intriguing personal stories, and we need to share those with young, eager professionals who will serve as the next generation of internal audit and accounting innovators.
Many of the inspiring thoughts shared in the documentary mirror views that I have shared over the years, particularly in urging my readers to live their lives in color. I closed my first book, Lessons Learned on the Audit Trail, with just such encouragement:
Regardless of how the lives of future internal auditors might differ from ours, I expect our profession to continue adding value as long as those in it approach their work with open minds and positive attitudes. Attitude is like a paint brush with which you add color to the world. If you have a true passion for the profession, if you cherish your yesterdays and envision bright tomorrows, and if you live every day in full color rather than black and white, I believe you will find internal auditing among the most rewarding jobs on the planet.
Passion for discovery, willingness to work hard to achieve, and commitment to doing work that benefits the public comes through clearly in "Making It Balance: Will the Work Be Worth It?" These are lessons all of us should take to heart.
As always, I look forward to your comments.