May 2008 - Posts
Layoff talk is particularly interesting to hear when you're not on the receiving end. Otherwise, it sucks hard.
Fortunately I'm sitting contentedly in the latter category, as are pretty much all my friends.
The same can't be said for others, though.
Playing tennis with some other CAs I found myself in a little "Big 4" mini-conference with reps from three of the firms participating. It's always an eye-opener to hear news from another company's perspective:
Player 1: "Your firm snapped up all the best employees. They asked everyone from their competitor how much they were offering, and immediately gave them a big boost on top of that."
Player 2: "Oh yeah, and your company stole a bunch of people from my group."
Player 3: "What happened?"
Player 2: "We laid off a bunch of people, and your company hired them all."
Player 3 thinks - that sounds more like "picking up" rather than stealing.
Ah, career moves in 'the profession.'
The interesting point this raises, I find, is something that pings off Francine's interests, the indication that firms in this fair city I call home do in fact compete with their job offers. For at least some people, anyway. It should serve as some kind of comfort that the normal rules of a competitive job marketplace are still alive and well around here:
"I need good people more than you do, and I'll prove it with dollars."
My RSS feed didn't send me the news that Neil has taken his blog offline.
And, having realized it's offline, I'll twist a classic phrase and tell you that I've come not to bury his site, but to praise it.
I've known Neil since a little time before the School of Accountancy, where we got to meet face to face - and we coincidentally ended up sitting a row away from each other during the UFE - and his site has always been a great beacon of professionalism that anyone writing about their job should be keen to emulate. I hope he can bring his archives back up at some point in time.
His insights and observations were worth reading, and I think they still will be even if he doesn't talk about the Day Job. This is Krupo engaging in idle speculation, but when you work for industry the rules might understandably be totally different when it comes to how they want you writing publicly, especially when your full name is attached to everything you put out there for public consumption.
Ironically I've found myself working with internal auditors, just not Neil's company - wouldn't that be a peculiar coincidence?
Doing internal audit work, while you use a lot of the skills you've gained over the years in this setting, it's nevertheless a very different kind of job, and not just because you're now working as part of "the internal company", not the "external auditor". On the UFE you're trained to shift your mental gears for this scenario. And this is proof, really, that it's more than just a mental 'game', but a reality of life.
As this long-running conversation illustrates, it's a rite of passage for a crazy-high number of young CAs to jump to another company after they become a "full" CA. In fact, after telling some of my friends that I qualified for my CA, they immediately asked, half-jokingly, "so when are you leaving?"
Oh they're so funny.
Of course since then I've had a half dozen phone calls from recruiters. 7 calls if you count the double-call from another one of the Big Four firms.
Anyway, Neil - I hope the conversation can continue, but regardless - remember to have fun, and good luck!
I'm not really in the mood to argue.
I mean, I've had some excellent food lately, which should really put anyone in a good mood.
But I'm still shocked and appalled.
And I really should've replied to the news that photography is banned from the station with a chilly, "what for?"
You see, according to the best guess of the Montreal train station's security, I apparently must look like a terrorist. Wow, they should've seen me when I was all scruffy and bearded in university. One of my friends from back then thought I was a History, rather than a Commerce student, for that simple fact.
This is the second time in two months that I've been witness to an instruction from security to stop taking photos in a government-owned facility. And it's so stupid I wish I got drop the hammer on someone the way America's Henry Waxman does two and a half minutes into this video.
Waxman is understandably annoyed with the stonewalling he gets from the EPA about its conversations with America's worst president - something which I would find especially infuriating as an auditor used to getting answers from my interviewees - and getting those answers fast.
I, on the other hand, am annoyed on two levels:
- You really think I'm a terrorist? Are you insane?
- I know you don't, actually. But if you thought I was, is this how you're going to treat me?
Given the choice, I think I still prefer a pathetic police state to a truly vicious one, but I fear the shift from the former to the latter.
It's one thing to have to open your files to an auditor to show them how you do your job. That's what we're here for - to make sure your job is being done effectively and to help prevent some kid from off the street from causing mayhem in your office.
But harassing members of the public ... for enjoying public spaces?
Maybe they were hiding the fact that more than half the trains were late.
If you're going to do it, let's return to point #2: if I were planning on causing mayhem, would standing in a wide open area and letting everyone see me use my camera be the best way of accomplishing such a goal?
In addition to being a completely ineffective way of stopping me from doing whatever I feel like - I have gigs of photos - if you really think I got super-duper secret information - oh look, train departures! - shouldn't you quickly escort me to a secret room for interrogation?
The fact that they didn't even try and take down any information from me - "why are you taking these photos" would be a good start, but hey, I'm just a CA, and not highly trained train station security guard - is almost more chilling than the fact they think running up to me and asking me to stop taking pictures is going to do something useful.
Of course, I'm glad I wasn't whisked off and beaten like you would be in some parts of the world - check out this video of Israeli mall security - but we're quickly heading off in that direction if you're sending security agents dressed all in black to scare you away, which pushes me to speak out.
If a facility is private, then they can of course tell you to leave for trespassing - a place of business can refund your money spent and ask you to leave too if they don't want you there, as long as they're not violating your human rights in their decision to expel you.
But government run facilities better have publicly posted rules telling you what you can and can't do.
I was recently at an LCBO - an Ontario government-run liquor store - and my cousin took a picture. Security pounced almost instantly.
How they spot you.
Are we going to set off BOMBS in your liquor store? The liquor is precious and we're Polish - we'd use bombs to defend the store in the event of a national emergency, never to harm it.
No, they didn't pull a lame 9/11 hyper-reaction argument on us. They argued that the store has to protect the design of its layout so it won't be copied by the Chinese who will then open similar rip-off stores in China.
Yes, I almost fell down laughing at that explanation.
Does the Liquor Control Board of Ontario seriously believe that some Chinese will decide they won't visit Toronto because they already know what our prettier government-run liquor stores look like?
Security suggested I voice my concerns to management. That day I was in a mood for arguing, so I did without hesitation.
They said I was free to take my business elsewhere if I was displeased with their policy.
Very well and good, except that means driving to Quebec or New York state, since the government owns all the liquor stores in Ontario.
If this was a military installation, I'd understand that you have to take some reasonable precautions.
Heck, even the train station isn't completely crazy for trying to stifle photography - even though like airport security screenings, it's a largely ineffective move. At least the "national security" argument has some weak measure of validity.
But regardless, I'm not like one of these terrorists on vacation in Vegas - great video, by the way - I just feel like taking some pictures while I'm travelling.
I'm not always going to feel so cheery and happy.
If someone's going to be a jerk about this again, we're going to have some words of discussion.
This is funny if you know a few basics about quantum physics, simply because of the instant joke that stems from it: Quantum Cryptography Broken, and Fixed.
The joke is in the comments to the article - "It was actually broken AND fixed at the SAME TIME!"
It's an easy one - an earlier series of comments is even better:
> Quantum stuff is so illogical to us mortals that you'd expect attempting to break it would just make it stronger.
Which is precisely what happened.
It continues along these lines, becoming progressively more incomprehensible to people who aren't interested in this sort of thing.
Which of course is a sign that I should probably get back to studying for my exam.
Ironically, however, reading articles like these at /. (slogan: New for nerds, stuff that matters) is technically a form of studying if you focus on security issues and ignore the non-essential nerd stuff, like HP's deal to buy EDS which is important for many reasons - perhaps you own shares or work there - but it won't help you much on this exam.
There's an even greater irony, though, in the fact that I couldn't write a snappy headline in an article about snappy headlines. At least the Parisian hallway in the above looks sort of cool.
I find myself in Montréal once more.
One of my friends immediately asks by e-mail:
And what are you doing there now? Business again? Or yet another in
your endless string of vacations! I should have become an accountant,
though it may not be too late to change that.
My friend, you see, is studying for his doctorate in finance. Awesome.
I just rode the metro to buy 6 bagels, had a proper dinner of smoked meat with pickles at Schwartz's, then walked 'home' to the hotel - which was a good idea since spending the entire day auditing people generally isn't the best way to get some exercise. The walk from Fairmount to the deli was healthy enough (check out the funky google "walking map") - going all the way home was an excellent idea.
And of course, on the way home I saw horses, which weren't pulling one of the typical Old City carriages, but which were, rather, decked out in medieval regalia.
A movie shoot for a TV mini-series set in New York city, of course.
Anyone famous? Well, Mira Sorvino is in it.
Anyway, to answer my friend's question - I promised I would - I'm doing yet more audit work.
How is it that I find myself traipsing around so much?
It's little more than a matter of being the right person with the right timing.
My friends of the same experience level would do just as good a job as me at this sort of thing, but their schedule was booked, while mine was open.
If the job needed someone a month from now, I would've been out of luck since I have a nice long engagement that'll keep me busy in Toronto for most of the summer.
Fortunately some of my friends at work are either on vacation or just back from vacation, so they can't possibly be too jealous about my little adventure - besides, they'll find themselves on the road again sooner or later.
Hopefully it'll also be somewhere fun.
I have some wonderful pictures already and I would upload them, except I don't have a card reader with me. I suspect I'll find myself buying a new one in the near future - I'll return with some pictures from the movie shoot when I get a chance. Until then, I'll stick to some photos from Paris which I could almost cheat and pass off as being from Montréal.
As for the way to help people next time they're audited? It's the concept of giving brilliantly simple advice. After wrestling over some concepts with the person you're auditing for an hour or so, remind them to archive all the pieces of electronic evidence they've generated for you.
Next time an auditor rolls into town - internal, external, or something funky like a federal tax agents or SOX specialists - you'll have a folder full of examples that document how you do your job.
Of course, that pile of information will be relatively useless if you can't make heads or tails of it, so remember to label screenshots and other files appropriately so you can quickly remember what information or steps they're demonstrating.
This works best if the work you do is subject to yearly or more frequent "walkthroughs" of what you do. If you're involved in an area that's less regimented - I'm thinking of creative types here - then you may never have to worry about this sort of thing.
But then, that's probably yet another reason why you took the 'pure creative' route in the first place.
I still have a backlog of things to write about, and yet I find myself preparing for yet another professional exam.
Yes, despite having just received the big fancy CA certificate, I'm enough of a sucker for punishment to subject myself to the pain of studying once more. At least bringing studying back into my personal conversation gives me a perfect excuse to upload a picture of the alcoholic houseplant.
Because who other than students can you expect to be drinking heavily?
Well, lots of workers in the skyscrapers downtown, lumberjacks, and of course, most of Eastern Europe.
I should probably know better than to try and answer my own rhetorical question.
The new credential I'll get by successfully writing this exam is yet another set of letters that shows I'm a specialist in certain audits.
This of course means that upon opening the book, the entire first chapter is a huge unending case of deja vu.
Define what you're going to audit, design a program, do walkthroughs and tests, gather sufficient evidence to support your findings, communicate your findings?
Check to all of the above.
It goes on and on, but at the moment just parroting the concepts would bore most people to tears, so I'll stop.
I should probably keep moving quickly through the study guide until I hit the meaty "specialist" sections where I might pick up a few new tricks, but I figure a quick refresher never hurt anyone either.
On top of all this, I'm mentoring some people who are going through the 'standard' UFE process, so I have more than enough to keep myself busy. Hopefully I'll have some more time to share trenchant commentary and delicious insights while I'm at it.
A week after they sent me the e-mail making it official, my certificate finally showed up at the office, proudly proclaiming to the world that I'm a CA. Whee!
The other 1157 pieces of 'mail' where spams that hit me - roughly as much as last month. Although the ICAO should probably be ashamed of itself for actually INCLUDING some old fashioned junk mail with the certificate - an offer for insurance with TD Meloche Monex.
Whoever thought of that idea should be stripped of their CA, if they have one, for bringing disrepute upon the profession. We have a bylaw along those lines which mandates for an expulsion or a flogging of some sort. I say we enforce the rules, even if the offender does work for the Institute.
I exaggerate a bit - they're quite nice and friendly people at the ICAO. Their procedures could use some efficiency improvements, though. You see, I noticed that although my e-mail arrived last Friday, but it was the previous Monday when they actually admitted me to the Institute as a CA. That means it's been 10 days since I 'joined', but I've only been aware of it for half that time. How ironic.
I wasn't exactly bamboozled, but it would've been nice if their systems were set up to let us know sooner instead of dragging the process out the way they did.