Monday, April 12, 2010
A day in a life of an internal audit professional - an interview with James Weicher
James Weicher is an internal audit senior consultant in Protiviti's Chicago office. We asked him the following questions to get an idea of what his day to day responsibilities are as a internal audit professional. Below you will find his responses and advice if you are thinking about entering into this profession.
What was your college and your major?
I attended the University of Notre Dame and majored in economics.
What courses did you find the most helpful to prepare you for your current position? What advice do you have for students about choosing a major and choosing courses?
There are not any courses I can specifically point to that contributed the most to my current position. An understanding of accounting principles is required, but I wouldn’t say that it ends there – most of what we do involves being able to learn and understand a business or business processes quickly, and that’s not something one course teaches more than another.
For choosing courses, there is no reason you can’t study the things you’re interested in along with those that may more likely be considered “practical.” If someone is interested in business, then having an accounting and finance background is helpful, but as an economics major, working in an accounting and finance dominated industry, one doesn’t necessarily have to major there.
What are your primary work activities on a day to day basis?
When I am working on an internal audit engagement, my responsibilities typically include the execution of the work plan and job administration. This involves talking to the client managers and process owners, understanding and documenting what’s going on, and reviewing documentation of what they do to test how things are operating. This fieldwork we then use to develop our report to deliver to the client.
If I’m not working on a client, there’s always work to do performing research, helping with proposals, and other activities to assist around the office and help develop the pipeline.
What industries have you worked in?
Since starting with Protiviti, I’ve worked mostly in financial services – banks and a capital management company. I have also had some interesting engagements in retail, logistics and distribution, newspaper publishing, and a wireless telecommunications company. All were great experiences.
What do you enjoy most about your profession?
Mostly, I appreciate that I have the opportunity to focus on the industries and areas I’m most interested in, but also get exposure and experience in other kinds of industries and work. Protiviti offers such a wide variety of solutions and services to clients, there’s no real excuse to not find something you’re interested in, stay engaged, and keep learning.
What I enjoy the least is that it can be frustrating or discouraging to be “the auditor,” although I prefer to consider this aspect a learning opportunity. People tend not to like auditors, because to them we take their attention away from their “real” job, by asking questions, looking for documentation, and generally critiquing what they do. Although, consultants are there to help the company and not get anybody in trouble, that dynamic is sometimes not appreciated from the client’s perspective. That in itself is a learning experience because it requires a certain sensitivity, demands that you develop interpersonal skills, and makes it all the more important to forge healthy working relationships.
What advice would you give to students interested in the internal audit/risk consulting business? Anything you would do different or change? Any success strategies to share?
I would say come work for Protiviti (seriously). In audit – audit consulting in particular, you get to see all kinds of businesses, industries, different companies and cultures, and are able percolate throughout these organizations the way someone even working for that company wouldn’t be able to. The most important thing in the industry is not to allow yourself to stagnate – every new project, and even every day on a project, the primary job requirement is to understand and analyze something new, so you’ve got to keep learning. You have no idea how little you know coming out of college until you start working in an industry like this. Be open to that, and accept it as a challenge.