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Why You Should Start Your Career in Internal Audit

Internal Auditor pays respect to international client

Internal auditor Joe Lyden shares how internal audit took him from Ohio to Tokyo and around the world—changing his life forever

Meet our guest contributor, Joseph Lyden! Joe began his career as an internal auditor in Japan, executing audit plans throughout the Asia Pacific region. After repatriating to the U.S., he transitioned into management accounting, financial planning, and analysis positions before progressing into leadership roles.

Joe had a lot to say on some of the often overlooked benefits of starting your career in internal audit.

Taking advantage of a career in internal audit

Accounting students typically decide between public accounting and private industry for their first career. For those who choose private industry, a position within the internal audit function provides significant opportunities and benefits compared to a staff position within accounting and finance. While internal audit is not a good fit for everyone, there are some advantages to consider when comparing internal audit with other opportunities.

Witness the full breadth of your organization

As opposed to positions in fixed locations and divisions within a company, the internal audit function is unique in that it usually has a scope that spans the entire organization. There is no better way to experience the global company culture and learn what a company does from so many perspectives (employees, management, external audit, suppliers, customers, regulatory bodies, etc.). You will interact with all these stakeholders and have opportunities to build diverse relationships within the company. This broad exposure will help you decide which future opportunities interest you.

Visibility for your work and making an impact

Your work will be highly visible to a much broader audience, including senior leadership, through your audit reports. In addition, audit in/out meetings give you the opportunity to present yourself and your work product professionally to your peers and company leadership. Many companies use the independent internal audit function through operational audits to share best practices and look for value-add opportunities. Nothing can be more rewarding than making a difference and helping drive positive change.

See the international impact of your organization

Many companies have a strong international presence. Internal audit provides an opportunity to see the world and learn how diverse the international business environment can be. I recall fondly my time in global internal audit—being exposed to different cultures and my adventures testing compliance and financial reporting risks in diverse environments. It will influence your thinking and refine your communication soft skills.

Unpredictable situations and new experiences

Every audit is unique and dependent on the situations observed. You never know how the work will evolve.

I have had some exciting moments during audits that I could have never predicted. You’re testing inventory controls one moment, and the next moment you’re in in Hong Kong investigating how your product got there when it was originally sold in Europe. Or you’re in Mexico trying to figure out what is causing inventory shrinkage controls to fail on the way across the border. I’ve had midnight calls with instructions to get on the next plane to China, not knowing why until I was there. While in Alaska, I discovered tens of thousands of dollars in petty cash and had to carry it back to the continental U.S.

Then there’s the travel. I remember spending four hours in a taxi on flooded streets in Mumbai during a monsoon. I spent a week in the French alps brainstorming a SOX implementation strategy. Skiing in Davos, walking on the Great Wall of China, seeing the Taj Mahal, and looking across the DMZ into North Korea. I had to add pages to my passport three times. Living in Japan for five years. You definitely remember all these experiences.

This work is definitely not what I would call predictable or mundane. Exciting and challenging are the appropriate attributes.

Becoming a CIA and shaping your professional view

I can think of no better way for someone to learn about a company, its leadership, its customers, and its value chain than by beginning your career in internal audit. Should you choose this path, the experience will shape your professional perspective in all future roles and responsibilities. You will cherish the unique experiences you enjoyed while honing your skills, building relationships, and carving out your own path. Becoming a Certified Internal Auditor opens the doors to all these opportunities and more.

Clearly, internal auditors have some interesting stories to tell and can offer a perspective that is gained through years of hard work. If you’re inspired to learn more about CIA experiences, finding a CIA mentor is a great place to start.

Ready to become a CIA? Start your journey towards the CIA and your own adventures with Gleim. Check out our free CIA Exam Guide to learn everything you need to know to become a CIA.

Joe Lyden, CIA, CPA, CMA

Joe Lyden CIA, CPA, CMA

Joe graduated from The Ohio State University majoring in Accounting, International Business, and Japanese. Upon completion of his undergraduate degrees, he continued to study Japanese at Osaka University in Japan. He went on to earn his MBA from the University of Colorado and his Master of International Management from the Thunderbird School of Global Management.