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Quarterly: Spring 2020 - Andrew Scoggin

Junior Auditor Column: Authenticity, My New Friend

By Andrew Scoggin

Greetings! Newbie auditor here. I’m excited to join y’all in the auditing community and to hone my audit-themed comedy. I’m not quite there yet, but maybe an ALGA conference stand-up act is in my future.

I made a mid-career switch from journalism to auditing, and I can’t imagine having a better transition. True, there are a lot of similarities between being a reporter and being an auditor, like interviewing people, working in the public interest, and that moment of terror when you realize you have to turn a mountain of information into a piece of writing that other humans can understand.

It also helped that I interned in our office while in grad school and that our office has a summer-long, every-Friday training session for new auditors. I’d never experienced something so extensive at a workplace.

What made my transition especially smooth was just how comfortable I feel in the office. I’ve never felt more seen at work, and I knew this would be the case from the start.

We have this big glass wall in our office that functions like a polling place. Every so often, a new question or topic will appear for the office. Here’s a sampling:

  • Thanksgiving dinner preferences
  • Austin pizza places, ranked
  • Ideas for office podcast names
  • Noodle shapes, ranked

(Rigatoni is No. 1, obviously.)

It’s good fun and gets me out from behind the computer. It also helps us get to know each other better—like, for instance, how my Michigander family makes something called “pink stuff” for holiday meals.

This glass wall caught my eye the first time I saw our office, when I interviewed for my internship. I love that kind of stuff. It signaled to me that other people here do, too. It set the tone for when I joined the office, that people would actually want to know and take the time to get to know me.

It makes work more fun, which is a fine enough reason. It also makes me a better auditor. I feel that much more comfortable to ask when I need help and to speak up during a meeting. I know that people see more to me than just that moment-in-time interaction, and that makes speaking up feel way less risky for an introvert like myself.

Clearly this idea of being open and sharing more about myself is on my mind. Maybe it’s just because I rewatched “Inside Out” recently. Or maybe it’s because my colleague Kelsey Thompson recently mentioned in her column how being open helps her.

Anyway, I feel inspired and committed to be my more authentic self, including while auditing. I get the feeling it’ll especially help in some specific parts of my job.

Building Trust With Auditees

Admittedly, I’ve had some struggles in communicating with auditees. It’s a little weird going from journalism—where people don’t have to talk to you—to being a government auditor—where people pretty much do have to talk to you. I’ve had to get out of the habit of thanking people as if they’re doing me a favor.

Still, I’d rather that people feel less like they’re complying with my requests and more like we’re working together to make the city better. Being more myself and more human helps them see me more like a teammate. Honey works better for me than vinegar in this scenario.

It’s a delicate balance. I don’t want to cede my authority as an auditor. I know that sometimes I’ll have to break out the vinegar, and I want to know how to do it.

Also, not all things are equally important in sharing my authentic self. For example, when someone asks how I’m doing, maybe they’re not the right audience for my ranking of breakfast foods. (For the record, No. 1 is toast with peanut butter and banana.) But it might help me develop a rapport with someone if I talk about how my wife and I are expecting our first child.

I suspect honing this will take time, effort, and intentionality on my part. And who knows—maybe I’ll work with that person on an audit 10, 20 years from now, and I’ll have already built that trust. And maybe they’ll ask me how my kid is doing.

Project Feedback

Feedback is hard. For me, it’s not so much the receiving feedback as it is giving feedback.

I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt. I think that’s a good quality! It helps me see things from other people’s perspectives.

Sometimes, however, this leads me to discount my own feelings and experiences. I can feel especially tempted to do this as a new auditor.

It’s important for me to remember that my perspective can be just as true as someone else’s—and that I don’t have to lose myself as a sacrifice for the greater good. In fact, contributing an authentic perspective helps the greater good become better.

Harmony is so important to me that I hesitate so much to do anything to upset it. While it might feel weird in the moment, me being authentic about my experiences will ultimately help our office in the future.

In Writing This Column

OK, so maybe this third subhead is a bit of a copout. I wanted to be authentic while writing this. I couldn’t help wondering how people like yourselves with vastly more experience could get anything from reading my writing.

So, I decided to write what I know—in this case of this column, it’s these aspirations as an auditor. The goals for hard auditing skills are there, like learning how to document evidence for reviewers and knowing when enough evidence is enough.

There’s this other big, overarching goal, too: to continue to learn how to draw from my authentic self and apply it to my profession.

Plus, it’s more interesting anyway when people write from experience. At least, I hope that’s the case in this instance.

About the Author

Andrew Scoggin is an auditor at the Office of the City Auditor in Austin, and he can totally email you that recipe for pink stuff if you ask. He just needs to double check the ingredients with his mom first.