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Being a Good Auditor
By Michelle Swaby

Being a good auditor is not a final status nor a set time that is reached through qualification, experience, and work-related training. Being a good auditor is a continuous process of improvement throughout one’s profession that never ends. You may have noticed that I use the term “good auditor” rather than “great auditor.” This was deliberate, because when we use the word "great" it may be perceived that we may have minimal or no areas for improvement. Using the term “good auditor” is more humbling, and it can be implied that there is always room for improvement.
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There is much literature that provides certain characteristics on being a good auditor, and that leads you to believe that once you have gained these skills you will achieve success. These characteristics include having a strong skillset that consists of: communications, critical thinking, integrity, technical expertise, attention to detail, etc. These skillsets are the basic requirements for just being an auditor, not a good auditor.

The evidence for the need for continuous improvement in this or any other profession is the requirement to maintain a certain number of Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits per year. But even with the combination of qualification, work experience, and CPEs, this is just what is needed to be an auditor, not a good auditor. The continuous improvement that is needed to be a good auditor requires a deliberate act of independent self-improvement, which I have coined as “Continuous Independent Self-Improvement” (CISI). CISI involves both the continuous obtaining and sharing of knowledge.


OBTAINING KNOWLEDGE

Knowledge should be obtained through activities such as reading books, articles, and audit reports by other institutions/industries, and even obtaining a mentor.

The reading of books and articles should not only include writings on hard and soft skills related to auditing, but should include books that are outside the field and that are broader in scope, which, for example, involves emotional and interpersonal intelligence. Reading autobiographies of people you admire can also help you to develop by allowing you to see the world from the eyes of another, and through their experience you will gain wisdom. A good auditor will always be able to find the relationship between non-audit reading material and the audit profession. Reading audit reports from other audit institutions and from other industries will not only sharpen your knowledge in auditing but will also improve your ability to incorporate technical language when you speak and write. Obtaining a mentor is a way to fast-track learning, because it is one-on-one, specific, relevant, and provides an avenue to network with the right people.


SHARING KNOWLEDGE

Knowledge should be shared by writing articles, doing presentations, participating in online discussions or forums, and being a mentor.

Writing articles and doing presentations reinforces what you have learned and forces you to research, which will increase your knowledge, understanding, and research skills. Your publications and presentations will be rewarding because it allows others to learn from you. Participating in online discussions or forums is a very convenient way to network, it helps to keep you informed of what’s new to the industry, and it can provide insight on issues that staff, seniors, or managers may be facing. Being a mentor not only helps the mentee, but improves your communication, management, and leadership skills, which is vital for success in any environment.

The time that we are living in now affords us the opportunity to easily obtain and share information in a convenient and cost-effective way. No longer do we have to go to the library and sit for hours reading a book, or travel from point A to B to give a presentation; everything is at our finger tips through our electronic devices. We are in an era that is conducive to carrying out acts of continuous, independent self-improvement.

They say variety is the spice of life, and so it should be in your working life. Variety is achieved when you are able to do different things that are interrelated. For this variety to add “spice”, it has to be creative, be a choice, and make a contribution. Practicing independent self-improvement will provide that variety, turn your job into a passion, and positively contribute to mastering your profession. The best skill to be successful in any profession is the skill of continuous learning. It should be developed to the point where it becomes a natural habit, as breathing is.

Being a mom of two elementary school children, working part-time, and having a mental illness, at first I found it extremely difficult to find time for continuous independent self-improvement, between taking care of my children and myself. I have over a decade of experience in public accounting, with approximately three years at the managerial level. Currently I am a part-time senior internal auditor with only one year internal audit experience, so I have no choice but to learn. Therefore to make time, I realized that I just needed to swap out activities that are irrelevant to my life goals and replace them with those that are. These swap-outs included scrolling social media and watching soap operas. My independent self-improvement has made my life much more interesting and goal-oriented. It makes me feel more in charge of my ship rather than being guided by things that are nonfactors. I personally do not have an end-goal, because I feel end-goals put a limit on my potential. Instead, I have continuously evolving goals. Continuously evolving goals have no final stage or time to be achieved; it is a form of ongoing preparation for the next levels that are to come.

Independent self-development is something that we are in control of through our thoughts, choices, and actions. It gives you a feeling of being empowered, exemplifies that you are a self-motivator, and it demonstrates that you are committed to becoming the best version of yourself. In order for self-development to be effective, you not only have to do it continuously, but you have to be persistent and consistent, and find the creative means of getting it done.

The information that I am providing here on how to continuously self-learn is not law, and it does not have to be taken word for word. It should be used as a guide for your own thoughts, and from it you can create your own philosophies on how to continually learn to be a “good auditor,” since there is never one right way to get something accomplished.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michelle Swaby is a part-time Senior Internal Auditor for the Cobb County government offices, with over a decade of public accounting experience, including working at 2 big 4 firms. She holds inactive licenses for CPA and ACCA. She has worked in Jamaica, Canada, and the United States, with experiences in auditing law firms and real estate on Wall Street, theatres on Broadway, and hedge funds throughout America.