​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Taking the Lead

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Leadership often is not sought; rather, it presents itself as an opportunity that can be taken or left behind. And in some instances that opportunity appears in disguise, lying in wait inside a new career move or an unexpected promotion. It's up to the person presented with it to recognize the opportunity to lead, seize it, and then make the most of it. Many of the audit practitioners recognized by Ia magazine as this year's "emerging leaders" saw such opportunities, recognized them for what they were, and leapt at the chance to lead. Few, in fact, actually intended to pursue an internal audit career, let alone an audit leadership position. But they heard the proverbial knock and answered the door, leading to an area they may not have even realized existed — or that didn't seem intuitively like the next big career move. Some came from accounting backgrounds and made the switch to internal audit on the advice of a trusted colleague. Others pursued career opportunities in finance and then shifted focus. One initially expected a career shouting "Buy!" on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange; another started out in retail; and one traces leadership's beginning to a chance conversation at a strip mall. But all of this year's honorees saw a chance to build a career in internal audit, and then an opportunity to become a leader.

Shakeya McDow CIA, CPA, CFE

Senior Manager, Healthcare Advisory Services, EY

Shakeya McDow didn’t start her career thinking she’d be in internal audit. “A chance conversation and job opportunity that I had at a strip mall in Durham, N.C., landed me in an internal audit function in Dallas three years later,” she says. Fast forward to today, and the 35-year-old is virtually immersed in internal auditing; she works in the health-care sector, focusing on risk and compliance. She serves as president of The IIA’s Dallas Chapter — one of The Institute’s largest — and was instrumental in obtaining funding for the endowment of the Center for Internal Auditing Excellence at The University of Texas at Dallas. She also served on The IIA’s Academic Relations Committee and is currently audit committee chair for the AIDS Interfaith Network, a mentor to many young professionals, and a frequent speaker to university groups. “I find that college students want to hear your story more than a ‘key message,’” she says. “’How did you get where you are?’ ‘What mistakes have you made?’ ‘What opportunities have you been presented with?’ ‘How did you overcome setbacks?’ I find that when I have a candid dialogue with them, they appreciate it much more than going in with prepared remarks.” Making a meaningful connection is important to her as an internal audit leader; indeed, as a leader in general. “I read a blog in the Harvard Business Review last year that describes a leader perfectly,” she says, “and I carry this around with me daily. The blogger said, ‘Leaders lead us not to a place, but to a different kind of destination: to our better, truer selves.’”

The Judges​​

This year's emerging leaders were chosen by a panel of judges comprising a host of distinguished audit professionals, including practitioners recognized among Ia's 2013 "20 Under 30." Each of these individuals volunteered their time to review the many nominations Ia received and chose who they felt represent the best and brightest of today's emerging internal audit leaders.

Julia Hann, CIA, CPA, is director, Internal Audit and Advisory Services, at Georgia College & State University, and served on the formation committee for the recently established IIA–Middle Georgia Chapter, where she serves as president.

Mike Jacka, CIA, CPCU, CFE, CPA, is chief creative pilot for Flying Pig Audit Consulting and Training Solutions and a member of The IIA's Publications Advisory Committee. He also writes for Ia and coauthored The IIA Research Foundation book, Auditing Social Media.

Jade Lee, CIA, CMA, is manager, Audit Services, at Precision Drilling Corporation, where she's subject matter expert in the integration of governance, risk, and compliance. In 2013, she was recognized as one of Ia's "20 Under 30."

Michael Levy, CRMA, CISA, CISSP, is a manager in Deloitte's advisory practice. He specializes in the design, implementation, assessment, and optimization of business process and general IT controls, and he was profiled as one of Ia's 2013 "20 Under 30."

Brian Mannix, CIA, CFSA, CPA, is corporate vice president of audit at New York Life Insurance and was the 2012–2013 president of The IIA's New York Chapter. He serves on the Board of Governors of IIA–New York and on a 2014 Northwest Regional Conference committee.

Carolyn Saint, CIA, CRMA, CPA, is the 2013–2014 chair of The IIA's North American Board of Directors and vice president of internal audit at 7-Eleven Inc. Her blog, "Saint on Getting Stuff Done," appears on Ia's website.


Brian Matthews, CISA

Internal Audit Manager, Autozone

Brian Matthews, like many college graduates with a business degree, didn’t know exactly what his career would look like or where it would lead. “I remember researching the internal audit profession after seeing an internal audit internship posted on the University of Memphis website,” he says, “and I was immediately intrigued by the broad-scope, project-based nature of the exposure.” Now he views the chance to understand the business at large — and to effect change therein — as the great opportunity it presents. “More than ever,” the 28-year-old Memphis-based Matthews explains, “we’re expected to be plugged in to the business and provide valuable insight and recommendations through the execution of enterprise risk-based audit plans.” He’s credited with developing strong working relationships with management — partnerships that are strengthened through constant communication. And he’s credited with “the uncanny ability to focus a team on a common goal and most effectively delegate and direct efforts to achieve that goal.” A colleague calls him “very charismatic and intelligent,” and he’s considered a subject matter expert in store and distribution center inventory management; he regularly audits those areas while providing management with opportunities for process improvement. He’s also a former president and current board member of the Memphis IIA Chapter. And because innovation is a key element of his department’s mission, data analytics capabilities have been a development focus area. As a result, during a recent supply chain logistics audit, using innovative thinking, data from several different systems and organizations, and a SQL-based tool, his team found more than US $2.5 million in annual savings opportunities — the first time the data had been evaluated in that way.

Louis Seabrooke, CIA, CPA, CA

Internal Audit Principal, Office of the Comptroller General, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat

Louis Seabrooke has a theory about leadership: “I believe that true leaders make everyone around them better, and make the most of the opportunities and challenges they face.” He cites another commonality among those he considers to be strong leaders: “They all treat others with respect, regardless of their positions, views, or background.” Indeed, Seabrooke notes that he’s worked for three accounting firms and three government departments — experiences that he credits with helping him relate to a variety of individuals. He’s inspired, he adds, when a chief audit executive encourages a junior auditor to speak up in meetings; he’s motivated when a busy senior auditor takes the time to explain audit concepts to a summer intern; he’s refreshed when a client takes time to discuss findings with the audit team. “Simple actions like these help us develop young auditors, create strong working relationships, and promote a culture of mutual respect and professionalism,” he says. The 35-year-old Ottawa-based practitioner manages the execution of audits across departments, working closely with their internal audit groups and audit liaison officers. As a member of the Canadian government’s central agency internal audit group, he’s able to influence — and improve — internal audit over government as a whole, colleagues note. One example: He led the development of a governmentwide, three-year risk-based audit plan after extensive internal consultations. “As a proud Canadian,” he says, “there is an additional level of satisfaction that comes with using my skills and knowledge to serve my country.”

Agnessa Vartanova, CIA, CPA, CFE, CRMA

Manager, Internal Audit, Ball Corp.

As what a colleague calls “the best evidence of her leadership qualities, professionalism, and performance,” 32-year-old Agnessa Vartanova was recently awarded Ball Corp.’s Award of Excellence, given to only 15 employees worldwide every other year. She was honored in part for her dedication to continuous improvement and close collaboration with business management and for being a significant catalyst for driving the firm’s recently revised internal audit strategy. “The business environment today is evolving at record speed,” she says, “forcing companies to adapt their priorities and strategies to remain successful. An internal audit leader has to be in tune with senior management and constantly focus on the right projects to create the most value for the organization.” That’s where reviewing, reengineering, and aligning processes comes in, she says, adding that typically, her projects begin from scratch, as opposed to following an existing audit program. “We are constantly challenged to be creative in our approach, perform root cause analyses, and offer solutions to problems.” It’s a challenge the Bloomfield, Colo.-based Vartanova has shown she’s up to. A colleague reports that she has transformed some of the enterprise’s key internal processes to be more effective and efficient, calling it “a truly remarkable transformation in a very short period of time.” Says Vartanova: “Internal audit brings the challenge of being an expert in finance, operations, and compliance issues, but grants the opportunity to work side by side with some of the best minds in our company.”


Head of Internal Audit, Translink, South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority

As the letters after his name suggest, Derrick Li is committed to continuous education. And as a frequent speaker at universities, Li actively promotes the Certified Internal Auditor credential to students. “Continuous education is very important,” Li says, “but it should not be focused solely on technical auditing skills. Education efforts should also be aimed at developing business acumen and presentation and negotiation skills.” They should be complemented by personal ties, too, Li says. Indeed, he started IIA–Vancouver’s Internal Audit Employer Co-op Subsidy program, which connects internal audit employers with co-op students. And when the now-31-year-old was 25, he got the chance to manage the enterprise risk management function for one of British Columbia’s largest public sector organizations , giving him exposure to executives and the board. “I was able to gain an understanding of how they view risks and the importance of delivering ‘short and sweet’ presentations,” he says. He gives credit to Christine Dacre, the organization’s chief financial officer (CFO) and his mentor at that time. “I started my career expecting to work as a management consultant or, as I like to say, a ‘business doctor,’” he says. “To me, an internal auditor is essentially a business doctor. An audit is an examination performed to check the overall health of a business area.”

Christina Hardy, CIA

Manager, Corporate Audit, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska

Christina Hardy finds motivation in the contribution internal audit makes to the success of an organization. “We have the opportunity to work closely with individuals throughout the entire company, and I really enjoy that part of the job,” she says. “Our soft skills are becoming just as important as our technical ones.” Hers are well-honed. A colleague reports that clients make comments such as, “I’ve met a lot of auditors and don’t think I’ve been more impressed with someone’s approach” and “Christina is quite possibly the best client contact I have.” Early in her career, Hardy says, she started focusing on her communication skills and learned to work with a variety of personality types. “The same approach didn’t work well with everyone, and I learned to adapt quickly. I also put a lot of effort into being respectful of people’s time. If I need to meet with someone, I plan and research well ahead of time to ensure I can make the most of it.” The 34-year-old Omaha-based Hardy was recently selected to accompany her company’s CEO to the Business Ethics Alliance Emerging Leaders Initiative Event, an opportunity for rising stars to discuss ethical topics with business and community leaders. Courage in ethics was discussed — and Hardy remembers its relevance to internal audit. “We need the courage to be objective,” she says, “ask the right questions, and report accurately.”

Leslie D. Bordelon, CIA

Manager, Protiviti Inc.

To Houston-based Leslie Bordelon, the definition of a good leader is someone who strives to help others as much as him- or herself. “I see my job as twofold,” the 29-year-old says, “delivering excellent service to clients in the area of internal audit and taking an active role in the career development of teammates and co-workers.” She leads multiple internal training efforts; one is a learning map for the firm’s national energy industry team. She also formally mentors several consultants and provides coaching to her project teams to ensure continuous learning and development — and to ensure that her advisees receive meaningful work to expand their skills and are afforded opportunities to make an impact. “I have learned so much about my own development through the coaching of others,” she says. Recently, a colleague reports, she was working with a Big Four firm on U.S. Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 testing issues in areas recently scrutinized by the U.S. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. She devised an approach for each issue that involved a detailed risk assessment and then a mix of testing approaches for those that rose to the top. The colleague adds: “The Big Four partner commented that this was one of the most well laid-out processes that he has seen.”

Bryan Kallstrom, CIA, CFE, CPA, CMA, CRMA

Auditor, Hennepin County, Minn.

Bryan Kallstrom gives credit where credit is due. “My parents taught me the importance of wrong and right, and my grandpa — who only had a sixth grade education — worked twice as hard as me and taught me the importance of hard work,” he says. He adds that an officer in the Minnesota Army National Guard, where his service included a one-year tour in Iraq, taught him the importance of respecting everyone with whom he worked, and his current internal audit director helped him appreciate the value of continuous learning. Kallstrom spent two years working for a public accounting firm and then came to his current post. The 32-year-old Minneapolis-based Kallstrom especially appreciates the variety of work — and the diversity of the people he works with. “One day I might be discussing an audit with a diesel mechanic in our Public Works Department,” he says, “and the next day I’m sitting in a room with a couple of county commissioners. This requires that I constantly work to improve myself so that the people I meet can trust that the insight I provide is valuable.” It must be. He’s often sought after for his opinions on single audit compliance and for fraud projects. Moreover, his leadership has led to increased program compliance and decreased external audit costs for the county, and he is constantly looking for ways to enhance efficiency and effectiveness.

Jennifer Radke, CIA, CPA, CFE

Supervising Senior Auditor – Corporate, Safeway Inc.

A changing world requires business functions to keep up with evolving technology and tactics — or the businesses behind them will stumble. That creates opportunities for enterprises and for their internal auditors, which appeals to Jennifer Radke. “Internal auditors have been forced to creatively adapt,” she says, “resulting in tremendous opportunities for professional growth. We continuously add sustained value to our respective organizations by encouraging management to focus on its strategic objectives and incorporate those changes necessary.” In her own organization, the 33-year-old Phoenix-based Radke has led several high-risk audits and is consistently acknowledged for her personal commitment, attention to detail, and sense of responsibility. Her leadership and mentoring on projects, colleagues report, have led to several key contributions in cost savings, increased revenue, and more effective controls and oversight. During a recent inventory audit, Radke identified an opportunity to automate the manual processing of more than 180,000 inventory adjustment forms a year. She also identified opportunities to strengthen purchasing-card controls and created a continuous monitoring report for the business to monitor ongoing activity. Indeed, she’s led numerous compliance and operational audits in payroll and human resources, retail accounting, labor relations, contracts, journal entry review, quality assurance, perishable procurement, merchandising, and pricing. As well, she’s on the board of directors of the Arizona chapter of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners and is active in the community. “Internal audit leadership reflects a continual, unwavering demonstration of high ethical standards,” she says, “and a desire to grow the profession through mentoring and focusing others on the need for integrity, accountability, and dedication to ‘doing what’s right.’”

Brian Shute, CIA, CPA, CRMA

Internal Auditor, Akamai Technologies Inc.

Brian Shute likes to get his proverbial hands dirty; he’s an internal audit fan, he says, because it “provides a great variety of work activities that contribute to the development of highly transferable leadership skills.” He started his career as a financial statement auditor at international public accounting firm Grant Thornton. He later transitioned to internal audit upon joining the audit function at Raytheon Co., and is now continuing that path at Akamai Technologies, where he just landed in January. As well, the 30-year-old Cambridge, Mass.-based Shute sets challenging goals beyond his internal audit responsibilities. For example, he was a teaching fellow for the Strategies for Sustainability Management course at Harvard University in 2013, and at Raytheon he was asked to join a cross-functional Streamlined Life Cycle Analysis team. He leveraged his external network to introduce a subject matter expert in sustainable procurement to the team, who greatly strengthened the proposed business case; Shute then drafted and presented the initiative to leaders based on Six Sigma themes to gain executive support and sponsorship. He was also Raytheon’s Young Employee Success Network — or “YESNET” — Northeast Corporate Co-lead. YESNET is Raytheon’s employee resource group committed to fostering a culture that supports early-career employees. And when Raytheon’s engineering function launched a companywide Innovative Challenge and asked employees to submit suggestions to resolve real-life customer issues, he teamed with two engineers and submitted an entry — the first time an internal auditor had done so, demonstrating innovative thinking and positively impacting the internal audit brand.

Sarah Lipps, CIA, CRMA

Senior Audit Leader, Wells Fargo

Sarah Lipps understands that leading isn’t always about doing the talking. “Having the ability to actively listen is integral to internal audit,” she says. “To audit effectively, you have to understand the business; listening to the business is a key way to gather information and learn what the business does.” And listening to the concerns of all stakeholders — regulatory bodies, for example, and business and audit management — is another way for internal audit to demonstrate its dedication to providing value-added audit coverage and recommendations. Lipps is also a believer in the ability of internal audit to lead organizational control efforts. “Internal audit’s key to success is intertwined with the success of all other risk management and business groups in the company,” she says. “Effective internal audit leadership can influence strong risk management practices, gain agreement on tough issues, and drive the overall success of a company.” In one recent project, the 26-year-old Charlotte, N.C.-based practitioner helped guide the team through the implementation of a new audit tool and methodology, taking prior audit coverage strategies and updating them to the new methodology and documentation standards. She’s also a part of the audit function’s Scheduling Team, which recently updated the department’s long-standing audit scheduling model to maximize learning opportunities for audit staff so they can participate in all phases of an audit. She’s also described as the audit team’s “go-to person” for training and mentoring new team members and is regularly sought to lead and participate in major team initiatives because of her stature and reputation as a capable leader in the organization.


Director, PricewaterhouseCoopers

Paying what may be the highest compliment an internal auditor can receive, a former colleague says of 32-year-old Joseph Harrington that “fellow bank leaders see his internal audit engagements as valuable, and not a dreaded inevitability.” The New York City-based Harrington himself notes that the internal audit role has evolved from somewhat of a policing control to a more strategic business partner and says that has helped him stay focused on continuing to add value to the business. “Protecting shareholder value continues to be more and more important for companies,” he observes, “and testing assumptions and questioning decisions can help ensure shareholder value is not eroded through large-scale failures or unforeseen regulatory actions. Internal audit is in a unique position to do just that.” And through his partnership with one company’s risk management function, he’s credited with helping ensure that the internal environment and control culture was independently assessed and championed on the back-end as well. As a result, business owners now embrace the internal control environment throughout their business processes and include risk considerations during new product and delivery roll-out. Colleagues say part of the credit goes to Harrington’s rock-solid ethics. “The internal auditor must possess high ethical standards to perform the job effectively,” he says. “Bad news needs to be delivered if warranted, and a strong ethical compass within the internal audit department can help ensure that management is aware of the risks associated with current operations and their alignment with the strategy and risk appetite of the organization and its stakeholders.”

Tamara Baugh-Brissett, CRMA

General Manager, Audit Services, Development Bank of Jamaica

Tamara Baugh-Brissett is a change agent. Outside the office, she’s played an integral role in the rebuilding and rebranding process for IIA–Jamaica, including efforts to ensure timely submission of reports, keep members informed, and provide advice on seeking certification. She also coordinated the institute’s participation in Jamaica’s first National Mathematics Expo 2013, which introduced thousands of students to the internal audit profession. Moreover, her company selected a proposal she submitted, “Team Performance Management Suite,” as the top individual idea — out of more than 600 submissions — for its 2012 Audit Innovation Contest in the category “Executing Audit Work.” The 34-year-old Kingston-based Baugh-Brissett’s reputation as an advocate of progress comes down, she says, to “attitude, a drive, and a thought process that focuses on moving to an expected state rather than languishing in the present circumstance.” She says she also believes in the value of transformation, asserting that “transformational leadership has proven to command the greatest successes in organizations globally, because transformation dictates no position of rest.”

Edward Hill, CIA, CPA, CISA

Senior Audit Manager, AT&T

Edward Hill didn’t set out to be an internal auditor. “It was more like I wandered into it and liked what I found,” he says. As an undergraduate, he planned to pursue a career in finance; he later sought to become CPA-eligible by taking graduate accounting courses. Eventually he took an auditor position with a residential home-building company, and never looked back. He’s motivated by the impact internal audit can have on an organization. “I think it’s a rare job where a manager or staff member, as opposed to a vice president or other executive, can materially change how a corporation, or a part of the corporation, does business,” he says. At both of the internal audit organizations he’s worked in, Hill’s testing work and the audits he’s managed impacted large parts of the business — or impacted a large number of customers — in key areas including protecting data, addressing system vulnerabilities, and deciding how to manage compliance. “I can stand back and say that both companies are better off due to my and my teams’ direct efforts,” the 33-year-old Dallas-based Hill says, “and I think that’s rare and exciting.” He adds: “It’s our responsibility to make sure that every audit we do is the best we can do, because that potential exists — and to miss it, or even worse, waste it, is a shame.”

Laura Soileau, CIA, CRMA, CFE, CPA, CGMA

Associate Director, Postlethwaite & Netterville

Laura Soileau developed her passion for internal auditing while a student in the Louisiana State University Center for Internal Auditing program. “Upon beginning the program,” she says, “I knew that I wanted to base my career in internal audit.” Early on, she left the discipline for about a year to take a role as a financial analyst. Soon, though, she realized it didn’t provide the same level of satisfaction. “So I got back to internal audit as quickly as I could.” Now, she serves as leader for the Control and Risk Advisory Service line for her company, setting the strategic direction of the group and providing leadership and guidance necessary for the team to achieve its objectives. Recognizing her leadership abilities, the firm has enrolled the 35-year-old Baton Rouge-based practitioner in Upstream Academy’s Emerging Leader program. Outside the office, she’s involved in recruiting at Louisiana State University, speaking to students about the profession. “There are a couple of key messages that I stress,” she says. “One is the importance of interpersonal skills, including communication and being able to relate well at all levels of the organization. In addition, I emphasize the importance of networking, which has proved invaluable in my career, particularly with respect to sharing best practices and learning from others.” As well, she places a strong emphasis on ensuring that her team members participate in the continuing professional education programs that will best help them grow and become better internal auditors.

Olivier Beauregard, CIA, CPA-CGA, CFE, CCSA, CRMA, CGAP, ADM.A

Director, Internal Audit, Agence Métropolitaine de Transport

Olivier Beauregard is driven by passion. “I am passionate about the work I do, the people I meet and work with, and the organization I work for,” he says. “Passion is waking up early in the morning hoping to make a difference.” It’s a passion he didn’t expect to attain. “Looking back, I wonder if I ever made a choice,” he comments, “or if the path was drawn simply by selecting options that are outside of my comfort zone.” His first “real” job involved Sarbanes-Oxley compliance work at a large IT services firm. When the project was completed, the company retained some staff members and moved them to internal audit. “That’s when I discovered that the nature of this department was exceptional,” he says. “Working in internal audit offers you a transversal view of a company, above the corporate silos. There is no routine, and each month you can challenge yourself with new knowledge to acquire and new expertise to develop.” The 35-year-old Montreal-based Beauregard always tries to promote the latest internal audit methods and, specifically, works to integrate data analytics into existing audit functions. And he accomplishes it in a courtly fashion. Colleagues call him “dynamic and collaborative,” and note that he always shares credit for accomplishments. And he’s “well-appreciated for being respectful,” one co-worker says. “He is definitely a peaceful but effective leader.”


Vice President, Product Management & Design, ACL Services Ltd.

Dan Zitting’s vision is to create a world where auditors and other GRC professionals are organizations’ most sought-after people. “Internal audit is an incredibly motivating profession for me,” he says. “When really done well, not only does internal audit provide one of the most critical services within an organization, but I think we are still only scratching the surface of the potential value it can deliver.” Zitting’s path to the profession began with his interest in IT, eventually leading to the technology side of audit. Ultimately, he started his own firm serving primarily internal audit departments, and then got into writing software for internal audit management. His drive to deliver better service led to the development of the first cloud-based internal audit management system, and the founding of a company that developed, managed, and delivered that system via Web and mobile applications. Now, he’s a data advocate, and he says he truly believes in the vital importance of data-related competency to audit professionals: “The difference in the future between a career-long ‘staff auditor’ and a strategically valuable adviser to the organization with a seat at the executive table is the ability to access, analyze, interpret, and visualize data.” He’s written a soon-to-be published book on the power of data, exploring how risk and control professionals can do more with it to enhance their work. Zitting is also a frequent presenter, featured at various industry events around the world — he’s spoken approximately 25 times in nine different countries within the past 12 months on topics including IT audit, risk management, audit technology advancement, and cloud security and assurance.

Meghan Patronella, CIA, CGAP, CRMA

Internal Auditor, Texas Department of Public Safety

Meghan Patronella has a very clear vision of internal audit’s role. “I think of it as management support,” she says. “We are part of a network of individuals and processes that aims to keep our organization from weakening or failing. To provide that support effectively, we must understand their priorities and needs.” She adds that because management’s plate is full and its time is so valuable, internal audit needs to help provide guidance around risk. With this in mind, she participated in the development of risk and control self-assessment (RCSA) courses for organizational clients and designed an internal Web page where they could view details about the RCSA process, its benefits, and how to contact the audit team to get RCSA started within their function. The 25-year-old Austin-based Patronella uses her background in the retail industry to sell audit recommendations by highlighting the benefit she genuinely believes management will receive. Those methods not only win management agreement on issues with little to no opposition, but have helped the internal audit office win management’s trust. She also uses her role as project manager to help develop her team members as well as office interns. She partnered with the University of Texas to bring a student team on board to assist with audits of performance measures. Instead of assigning small research tasks, she took them under her wing by sharing lessons learned, maintaining an open-door policy, and closely supervising work to identify and correct any misunderstandings. Patronella began her own audit career through the organization’s internship program. “I heard about the opportunity and applied,” she says. “At that time, I did not know much about the profession — but I was given a chance to find out, and I found my passion.”

Sonia Thomas, CRMA

Director, Internal Audit/CAE, First Command Financial Services Inc.

An internal audit department did not exist at First Command until Sonia Thomas created one. From Day One, she was tasked with developing a risk assessment function, establishing policies and procedures, and hiring and training department personnel. She also determined which audit software to use, oversaw its implementation, and educated the firm on the internal audit function — working to overcome what a colleague calls “the preconceived notion that internal audit is the police, only looking to find things wrong.” Thomas also developed relationships with members of the audit committee and other oversight bodies, and bridged the gaps that can form between compliance and internal audit to avoid duplication. She has, the colleague says, “molded the group into a transparent consultative wing of the organization.” You could say the Fort Worth, Texas-based 32-year-old never saw it coming. “I actually thought I would be a trader screaming ‘Buy!’ and ‘Sell!’ on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange,” she says. “I was born and raised in New York and actually started my career doing back office operations at Fleet Securities.” While working on her master’s degree in business administration, she was offered an internship at Lehman Brothers performing operations- and compliance-related internal audit work. Three years later she was a vice president in an internal audit/asset servicing area, where, she says, she “really learned the ropes.” After five years, an opportunity presented itself to create an internal audit department. “The opportunity, location, and company were perfect,” she says. “I knew I was home.”

Mark Wayman, CIA, CPA, CFE, CFF, CRMA

Assistant Vice President of Marketing Operations, The Warranty Group

Mark Wayman focuses on the whole person. The 34-year-old Chicago-based leader volunteers for a 5K fundraising race for rare genetic diseases, and last year donated his time at the Greater Chicago Food Depository. “One of the intangible benefits of volunteering together as a team is the building of team camaraderie and trust,” he says. “Everybody has personal interests outside of the office, and any way a leader can support that is important to the happiness and dedication of team members.” His own dedication is evident. During his time as internal audit manager, he helped spread the word about internal audit at his company by leading informational seminars on the profession, as well as on related topics such as risk and controls. He also took on additional projects when needed and performed staff-related assignments when staff workloads were excessive. In part because of those leadership efforts, he was recruited and promoted to his current position because management wanted his input on growing operations. “What motivates me the most is the positive impact internal audit can have on a business,” he says. “I think internal audit’s value to an organization is emphasized when consulting on important, strategic-level initiatives such as new system implementations and process reengineering.” He’s a fan of a coordinated, enterprisewide approach to risk management as well. “What also motivates me is seeing how internal audit and other assurance functions, such as the risk management and compliance departments, can really impact the organization when they work effectively together to understand and mitigate risks.” Every internal auditor has a duty to understand and communicate internal audit’s importance and role in an organization, Wayman says.

Taking the Lead Honorable Mentions 

Honorable Mentions - click image to enlarge.



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