Guide dogs lead an auditor to an adventurous life.
Retired IT auditor Mike Royal guides us on his inspiring personal journey and shares what a real "can-do" spirit looks like.
Blogs Mike Royal, CIA, CISA Mar 02, 2022
I was diagnosed with a retinal degenerative disease, retinitis pigmentosa, in kindergarten. By the summer after high school graduation, I was legally blind as I had less than 20 degrees of remaining central vision. Nevertheless, I could still see things directly in front of me and read normal-sized paper documents and computer screens. Most of my college life I tried to hide my blindness.
In May 1993, I spent 28 days training at Leader Dogs for the Blind in Michigan to get my first guide dog, Cody. I had already earned undergraduate degrees in accounting and management information systems and was working on an MBA, but I realized I would need to improve my mobility before graduation to expand my employment options.
By the fall of 1993, Cody and I were becoming a solid handler and guide dog team, and I started my post-MBA job search. Between undergraduate and graduate school, I had spent more than seven years traveling around the University of Nebraska's Omaha campus, but never so stress-free and easy. I no longer worried I would run into someone or trip over an unseen obstacle, resulting in someone learning I had a vision problem. Instead I found myself explaining how a blind man using a guide dog still had some useable remaining eyesight.
In January 1994, I started my internal auditing career with Union Pacific's corporate audit staff. They offered me both the internal auditor and IT auditor position. These two offers were the only ones I received. Lucky for me, Union Pacific could see past the dog and base their hiring decision on my academic and prior employment accomplishments.
Fast forward a few years to May 1, 2002, which is my CIA certification date. My vision loss journey had traveled through the magnification, reverse images, large font, and fatty pen stages of blindness. Because I could no longer read paper documents or see the computer screen, the IIA's certification staff and I had to come up with an alternative way for me to complete the CIA exam. Ultimately, a copy of the screen-reading software I use was installed on a computer at the IIA's headquarters so I could take the exam onsite.
I competed in my first U.S. Disabled Water Ski National Championship tournament during the same time that I was taking the CIA exam. The IIA's headquarters and the tournament lake were located near each other in Florida. Since then, I have competed in world championships held in the U.S., France, and Australia.
I also ran 20 marathons over a 10-year running career, beginning in 1988. The first blind competition award I won was third place at the 1993 Boston Marathon, which set me on a quest to make a paralympic or world championship team. Ultimately, I was never fast enough to make an international running team. However, I did finally realize my dream to win an international individual gold medal in waterskiing at the 2019 International Waterski and Wakeboard Federation World Disabled Waterski Championships in Norway.
As I traveled the globe over the years with the assistance of my five guide dogs, I have shared with students, corporations, and clubs my "can-do" story. I attempt to keep my presentations light and full of humor, as I describe how getting my first guide dog allowed me to accept blindness, and subsequent journeys have taught me to advocate for myself and other guide dog users.
Back in 1998, while sharing my "can-do" story during a membership drive with a focus on how athletics and exercise played an important role in my life, I found myself distracted by the young lady who managed the corporate fitness center. My wife and I have been married over 20 years now and are raising a teenage daughter and son. Collectively I refer to them as The Royal Family Boat Crew. I cannot thank the crew members enough for all the support they provided during my work and athletic careers.
Having taken an early retirement package in November 2019, this January represented the start of my third calendar year of retirement after a 25-year internal auditing career. It is probably past time that I volunteer and give a little something back to the profession that allowed me to support a family, fund my athletic pursuits, travel the world, and meet so many interesting people along the way.
Looking forward, I plan to volunteer with the IIA's learning management team as they enhance the accessibility of their courses, pen another blog post or two on diversity, equity, and inclusion and, perhaps, speak at your local IIA chapter.
In 2022, will you volunteer your talents to support the IIA or some other organization? Maybe you have been inspired to pursue a new sport or certification. If you elect to take the CIA exam, I challenge you to do it with your eyes closed…trust me you "Can Do" it.