On the Frontlines: My Journey from Accounting to Internal Audit
Blogs Noora Al Marri, CIA Aug 03, 2022
To students considering the jump from accounting to internal audit or trying to decide between the two professions, don't think too long; it is only natural to evolve and progress. You'll gain a much more in-depth perspective of the business as an internal auditor. This, to me, has been the fulfilling part of becoming an internal auditor. I have access to the entire business cycle and decisions important to the business. I can assess the impact of such decisions and even assist in highlighting risks or control improvements that could benefit the business.
Here is my story of moving from accounting to internal audit:
I consider myself lucky to have worked while still a university student. My major was accounting, and I first worked as an accounting clerk. Both activities were full-time. At that time, I was wondering what I had gotten myself into, but I came to realize years later that this was a big advantage to me, my career, and my life in general.
I worked in accounting for seven years and saw the entire cycle of accounting. What I loved about accounting was how it makes everyone honest and how, at the end of the day, it translates the results of the company activities in black and white. Seeing it and understanding the entire cycle and the consequences of my work on the rest of the cycle was a fascinating experience. But to me, seven years was a long period to stay in one company. Although I loved accounting, I felt that there was more out there for me.
During my time as an accountant, at times, my attention was drawn to a group of people who used to come every quarter and sit together in a room, always with the door closed. I was interested in understanding what they did. Everyone in the department was alert when these people arrived. Later, I learned that these were the external auditors. This was my first time hearing about auditors, so I searched out more information and tried to learn as much as I could.
I became even more interested as I started to see another team of people, who also began visiting us with no defined frequency. They had the same habit of sitting in a room with the door closed. These were the internal auditors. I was told this team's scope was different than that of the external auditors — they were not only limited to the financial statements and the accounting cycle, but they were looking at processes. To me, this role was more interesting and adaptable than external audit.
Eventually, I decided the time had come to start exploring different opportunities. I had my bachelor's degree in accounting, and I was ready to see and experience something different than the oil and gas industry where I had worked for so long. I wanted to experience a more competitive and demanding industry, from a customer point-of-view.
My opportunity came in the telecom industry, where I was being considered for either an accountant or internal auditor position. The selection was clear to me at this point. I pursued the internal auditor position. While it was only an entry-level role, I was ready to learn more about this fascinating profession and evolve in it. At that time, I thought I would give it five or six years before deciding to move on to a different role.
Now 13 years later, I'm still enjoying being an internal auditor. My career has prospered, and I've advanced from an internal auditor to a senior director. But that is not what keeps me engaged in this profession. I'm engaged because of the variety of experiences and challenges that I have witnessed and been a part of. When I joined the internal audit function, it was on the verge of becoming a group function, overseeing the internal audit functions of multiple subsidiaries. I was blessed to have joined at that time and to meet a team of professional internal auditors.
I have been engaged in so many audit engagements, investigations, and special assignments that have had a huge impact on me personally and were defining moments for my team.
When thinking about leadership opportunities or a chance to grow as a potential leader, there is definitely no better place to start with than the internal audit function.