Analytics in audit attracts people from a variety of backgrounds and I am no different in that regard. I started my career as a games room supervisor at the Boys and Girls Club and worked my way up to a guidance counsellor position. I was mainly working with disadvantaged children (and some juvenile delinquents) ages 6 –17. While the work was rewarding, the pay was not. I was working about 60 hours a week (including Saturday 09:00 – 5:00) for less than $12K/year. Also after 10 years, I felt it was time to move on to new challenges. I decided to go back to school, improve my marketability and skills, and (hopefully) get a better paying job.
I obtained my MBA from University of Toronto and went into the job market with new skills and high hopes. It was a time when jobs were more plentiful and I was fortunate to get a position in IT support. You might think this is a strange combination – a background in guidance and counselling and now working in IT, but I always felt that I was a bridge between the two disciplines (HR and IT). I knew just enough about the soft and technical sides of things that I could talk to both groups.
At first, I worked in user support – developing training courses for JCL, TSO/ISPF and a couple of mainframe application packages. I also was part of the hardware and software testing group – which meant I got access to new technologies (e.g. the first IBM microcomputer in the company – which had two floppy drives (i.e. no hard drive). About 6 months later we acquired an IBM XT which had a 10Mb hard drive – wow! You can’t imagine the joy of going from a floppy system to one which had a whopping 10Mb of hard disk space to store everything I needed – software and data files. Shortly thereafter, we acquired one of the first Apple Lisa computers – huge screen (even by today’s standards) and icons. One of the first things I did while testing the product was to move part 1 of the operating system into the garbage can. I added a few more things and the garbage can emptied itself – including the operating system. We had to reload the computer in order to be able to use it again. The next version of the software had an icon for the operating system that was too large to fit into the garbage can – a visual indication that you cannot trash the operating system.
Over the next two years, I learned more about the PC including software packages like VisiCalc and Multiplan (early spreadsheet software), dBase II, and WordStar (an early word processor). It was an emerging technology with many software vendors and lots to learn. The functionality and capability of the PC was growing rapidly. Lotus1-2-3, an integrated word processor, spreadsheet and database application, was soon available and suddenly it was easy to move tables from the database or spreadsheet to text document.
A short time later I started work for a small consulting company working on analyzing management processes and (sometimes) recommending that our company provide programming services to address the problems identified. This lasted about 2 years when – out of the blue – I was asked if I was interested in a position as an IT auditor at an organization where a friend of mine was working. I wasn’t even sure what an IT auditor was but the position was intriguing; and, before I really gave it much thought, I was an “internal auditor”, more specifically an “IT auditor”. I still retained my consultant status – doing a few jobs here and there each year.
Lessons-learned: By providing some personal background, I wanted people to understand that you do not have to be a programmer to be good at data analysis; nor do you have to have a financial or even auditing background. Certainly these can help, but the important thing is to have an inquiring mind with an analytical bent and a desire to understand how systems (manual and automate) work and can be improved upon. As the analytics capabilities increase, it will also require leadership, strategic and tactical goal setting, audit process knowledge, team coordination, integration, and good project management. The skills required to remain effective in an increasingly technologically complex world must be developed, nurtured, and supported. In addition, to efficiently and effectively implement and use data analysis by all auditors with a variety of computer skills, the organization needs to develop a standard, user-friendly, integrated environment; provide specialized training and IT support; and provide ongoing encouragement. The benefits of analytics are significant and well worth the effort.
Next: my first experience as an IT auditor in a large organization that had hundreds of mainframe legacy IT systems and too many system development projects to count (over 300 IT projects costing over $1M each).