May 2010 - Posts
To: Fieldwork Team Lead
CC: Fieldwork Research Team
From: Lab Executive Management Committee
Recent Adverse Events Associated with the Accounting Application Market Research Study
It has been brought to our attention that members of our team attempted to conduct research which led to negative publicity for our client and incidentally brought to light certain flaws in the design of the project.
The project is halted until further reviews are completed.
The Fieldwork Team Lead will be asked to receive approval from the Lab
Executive Management Committee prior to resumption of the project. A
thorough reevaluation of the research protocols to be employed will be
expected, which should include independent research through selection
of a random sample of industry participants of a statistically valid
testing size that will allow for a more scientific and impartial
assessment of market trends which avoids placing undue reliance on
unreliable or biased entities.
In the future, reading the about page of your interview subjects in advance of the interview will be a requirement prior to initiating any contact. Furthermore, when speaking with pundits - or anyone for that matter - avoid revealing the identity of your other interview subjects - although in this instance the oversight did have the saving grace of providing a notification to the Committee that an unauthorized protocol had been initiated.
Finally, please avoid carousing through breweries the night before
conducting your research. As we have noted through review of the
telephone transcripts, the results are uniformly unfortunate.
Only certain types of research are successfully conducted here.
"The sooner we finish collecting these samples, the sooner we pile back into La Tortuga."
A short, but good read: Life of an auditor talks about staff who are clearly slacking off rather than getting their job done. Managing someone when it looks like they don't feel like doing their job is a delicate task.
There are two things I need to point out about "lazy" staff. Sometimes, they really are simply lazy and it's best to sit next to them, rather than across from them, and have them take off their privacy screens if you're in a room together with no other visitors, and there's no super-confidential information being worked on. There's no need for them to keep their screen private from you!
More commonly, however, it's not that they don't feel like doing their job. The problem is that people start to spin their wheels when they're stuck - like a car without four-wheel drive on a Costa Rican hillside. The new newer or "fresher" the staff, the more you should expect to be there, to ask how things are going - whether or not they're asking you for help. They'll eventually learn to ask you for help when they're not making progress, but until you know that they "know how to ask," it's best to try and read their minds.
If you've just taught someone a new tasks, hover a close but respectful distance away for the first few attempts. If those are successful, back off - but expect the output of "audit work" to gradually get faster. Check in after a few minutes to see if things are going smoothly. With hardcore staff they'll take it as a point of pride to get things done quickly and well, and that's the expectation you should be setting if there's any doubt.
The aforementioned hardcore staff, and I'm blessed with having them assigned to my jobs, need very little of this super-supervision; it's a good idea to remember these techniques with new, untested staff though.
Speaking of teaching people things, IT Audit Security writes about how you can apply the "common sense" from old media to the newer social media stuff to stay out of trouble. I don't have much to add there, just enjoy it.
Also a good read, is his list of 10 or 12 good ways to be a lovable auditor. I wrote about this topic before - getting clients on your side - but this new article is nice and concise, and adds several fresh ideas.
You can never have too many ideas on how to be a more beloved auditor.
Think of the deep philosophical implications your work can bring to peoples' lives.
Now I'm not a regular financial auditor, but one of the things they do is test the payroll. How can a company be defrauded via payroll? By having ficitious employees on the books.
One of my friends, an English Major, work for a non-for-profit organization, and was surprised to see a random gentleman waltz into her office and her ask if there is anyone there by her name.
"Oh no," she thought. "Did I have a meeting scheduled?"
No, no meeting. Just a surprise caller.
It turned out to be an external auditor, checking to see if the people in the organization's payroll really existed. There are various ways of achieving this objective, but in this case they decided to actually wander down to the offices and look for people.
I'm pretty curious to know if this is a "standard practice" or a zany methodology whose primary intent is to haze the newbies by making them do something ridiculous. Oh, those things do exist - that's a story for another day.
Now revisit that thought about meaning and existence. Sure, you may decide that you're just an anonymous blip in life whose contribution will go entirely unnoticed. And if that's the case, you should probably get out more, since that's a pretty dark outlook on life.
Take a step back and be the auditor now: isn't it wonderful? You're that shining light of recognition that shines on those people, who may or may not be wrestling with some incredibly dark demons, and says, "hey there, how's it going? Are you a real person? Really? Not just a fraudulent paper employee that allows someone else to embezzle money? Great, you have proven, to a reasonable extent, that the people who control the payroll in your organization are on the level. Have a good day. Sorry for the awkward introduction a moment ago."
Can you really call it a two-lane road when it's not there? Is someone out there auditing this? Hello?
A reader wrote to me recently asking whether the exit opportunities are as good as people say, or if it's all a big mirage.
"Exit opportunities" refers to the jobs many Chartered Accountants end up moving on to once they complete their 30 or more months working in public accounting firms. Some leave the moment they hit their 30 or 36 month mark, others linger longer.
I'm one of those people that lingered, and continue to linger - despite the gentle teasing of my colleagues who said, "so when are you leaving" when I told them two years ago that I had completed my experience requirements.
In a way it's funny for me to answer that question given that I've stuck around for so long, as I'm clearly not someone who's run off to check out "industry," as we call living the life outside CA firms.
And yet, there are two factors which make it easy for me to answer that question:
- Out of the "class" of people I started with, the vast majority have since left for jobs as Controllers, Analysts, Managers, and in one case, even a professional photographer. I know where they went and I'm familiar with their stories and adventures.
- I continue to receive a monthly call or e-mail from different recruiters. There's no set "schedule", but once recruiters know you exist, they'll keep reaching out to you with tantalizing offers, typically offering you an immediate boost in pay to lure you into a new job. I've checked with colleagues in the USA. CPAs in the United States get those recruiting calls too: this is definitely not just a unique Canadian phenomenon. You even continue getting those calls and e-mails once you leave to work for a different company. Recruiters are kind of relentless in that nice friendly way.
If I were to find myself ready to move on either because of boredom, or a general sense that I want to do something different, I would do what my friends did, and listen to those offers with more seriousness.
I enjoy what I do though - note the fantastic things I somehow get to do like my Costa Rican adventure, for example! - so if the recruiters do manage to reach me on the phone, I will politely listen to their pitch, make a note of the offer in case I have friends looking for something new, and then perhaps encourage them to become readers of my blog if they sound like cool people.
The sheer variety of jobs available addresses that other major concern, "but will I find a job I like to do after doing my hell years in audit?"
Some people stick around the same area, switching from external to internal audit - not much comfort for people who want to venture away from AuditLand!
It's possible to specialize in a given field like forensic accounting or tax, and start working on their own or for other companies.
Others become entrepreneurs, or help people who are strong entrepreneurs but don't have the training to run a disciplined business. I could go through the list of people who graduated from the Commerce program and list out all the different fields the CA Commies headed off into, and pretty much every major industry you can think of would be covered.
The sentiment that "audit sucks" is shared not only by auditors, but by those being audited, too. Fortunately if it's not your cup of tea, there are many other refreshing ways to approach life, whether by moving around the firm you're in or by jumping at those tantalizing external opportunities.
Pure Canadian refreshment. It's not actually Coors in that pitcher, mind you, it's Keith's.