10/09/2018 by Andy Winterburgh
After several years working in Internal Audit in the States Janet has returned to the UK where she is currently Chief Internal Auditor at the Nationwide Building Society. We interviewed her to find out more about her career journey, being a working mum, what she thinks is in store for the Internal Audit profession in the next year and why she thinks #auditiscool
Hello Janet and welcome to your interview.
Can you tell us about your career journey? Where you started and how you progressed.
After qualifying as a Chartered Accountant, I spent several years as a systems consultant based in San Francisco. I was happily following that path when I was unexpectedly offered a role in Internal Audit. I quickly realised how varied the work is, how wide a view it gives of the business, how much impact an internal auditor can have and I was hooked.
I have had great roles at a number of banks and had the chance to work all over the world. I am now back in the UK working with a fantastic team at Nationwide Building Society.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love so many parts of my job; getting to have a wide perspective on the Society and ‘joining the dots’ to provide insights on how we can improve, helping to identify areas where we can serve our members better by tightening our controls and working with a team of talented and highly motivated auditors.
Recently I have been having a great time working with the Nationwide IA team to ‘go Agile’. It has been such a privilege to see everyone embrace a new way of working that is bringing so many benefits.
What is your proudest achievement in your career to date?
Without doubt my proudest achievement is being a working mum. My son is grown up and now launched on his own career and as I look back, I am so proud that I was able to keep my career progressing (I had my first Chief Auditor role when he was 14) while still being around for all the important stuff in his life (though many a Hallowe’en costume was constructed in the wee small hours...).
What key leadership lessons have you learnt?
I spent a long time thinking that leadership is defined by rather hard-edged attributes – things such as strength, fortitude, edge, decisiveness, and determination. I have come to learn that there are other attributes (sometimes harder to express as a leader) such as optimism, trust, humility and care that are just as important.
If you only had 5 minutes to interview someone for an IA role what question(s) would you ask them?
Are you courageous / bold / brave? – (because auditors need be all these things)
What if Internal Audit didn’t exist – what do you think would happen?
Tell me three things that make a great Internal Audit function.
What career advice would you give to an Internal Auditor at each of the following levels of seniority?
AVP - make your mark early and make it positive.
VP – help the people ‘below’ you with your experiences and influence the ones above with your aspiration.
Director - never forget your own journey, always put yourself in the shoes of others.
What is the best piece of advice you have received?
The best piece of advice I ever got was ‘Be your authentic self’... don’t try to force yourself into a mould; be true to your own personality and talk about the things that interest you. I have followed that advice ever since. Life is a lot less stressful and I feel I have been more successful as a result.
Why do you think diversity and inclusion is so important?
When building a team it is always easiest to choose people who think, look and act like just like ourselves. But bringing other ways of thinking and different operating styles into the team generates creativity and guards against ‘group-think’. As well as creating openings for people who have historically had fewer opportunities, there is real measurable business benefit in diversifying your team.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the Internal Audit industry in the next 12 months?
When I started as an Internal Auditor nearly 20 years ago, the thing we worried about most was how we increased our relevance to the business. Internal Audit was still fighting for a ‘seat at the table’. The profile of the profession has changed dramatically, the impact and influence of Internal Audit is now an important sign of the strength of an organisation’s governance. As a result, I think our biggest challenge is making sure we attract the best and brightest people to a career in Internal Audit so that we maintain the momentum that has been built up over the last decade.
What do you do to relax?
I have always loved live performance in all its forms. While I lived on the West Coast of the US, on my trips back to London I would binge on theatre with shows once or twice a day! I have calmed down a bit now I am back in London but still get to the theatre as often as I can. My partner and I also both really enjoy live music and often go to gigs with even the occasional festival in the summer.
And finally, why do you think Audit is cool?
It is such a fantastic career. It offers breadth, the chance to drive change, the opportunity to develop a wide range of skills, the ability to work with people at all levels in an organisation and the chance to innovate. Internal Auditors are often the ones leading the way in the use of data analytics, Agile, robotics and AI...clearly #auditiscool!
Thank you Janet. It has been great to hear your thoughts and views on Internal Audit.
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