Who among us does not sometimes reflect on our journey and certain days that remain nailed to our memory, either because they were too tough to forget or too good to be true? We experience those flashbacks in certain situations, wishing that they were either handled differently, or wishing we knew something extra at the time to have had an edge. Today, I am going through one of those times, where I want to share what I wish I knew about IT audit before I became an IT auditor.
Before I get into detail about my wishes, I have to throw out a disclaimer. I am not against making mistakes. On the contrary, I am a strong believer that mistakes are crucial for the molding process of anyone’s skills and career. The lessons learned from mistakes are valuable. However, do we all agree that sometimes life can be a bit easier if we had those cheat sheets to avoid those mistakes in the first place?
To share my wishes, I have to share a bit of my story, as each wish comes with a very interesting background. To start with, let’s go back six years ago, when I was still a university student trying to figure out what I wanted, while being anxious about where I would end up. At that time, I had to go out and try several companies, hop into different positions, and try to figure out where I fit (while feeling that I might not fit into anything!). By luck, I applied to an IT auditor position at a consulting and accounting firm. At that time, I wished I actually knew about the existence of the IT audit field throughout my university studies, during which I could have directed my efforts into examining this field further and attempting to get into it earlier.
As I moved forward with my IT audit career, I was faced with daily challenges – some were basic and easily handled, but others felt impossible to overcome. Many times, I wished I had a magic wand that I could wave to solve my problems, whether that problem was due to a lack of knowledge in a certain area or an inability to understand a complex environment. Little did I know that this magical wand actually existed in the form of people. So, for my second wish, I wish I knew how important it is to have a proper professional network. You see, networking is not only limited to social and personal talks – its value can expand into a pool of skills and problem-solving techniques that can help you in any situations through brainstorming and sharing experiences.
When you hear the term “IT audit,” your first instinct might be that the field is all about technology. Well, that’s what I had in mind, too. I had this assumption that I would only be involved in technical matters. However, as an IT auditor, we are required to examine the systems and infrastructure, but our involvement does not stop there. As technology is playing a crucial part of business success these days, IT audit is required to get involved in examining the impact of technology on business processes, where a major linkage between business risk and technology risk is becoming stronger. Back in my early days as an IT auditor, I wish I had better literacy on business processes and other business areas that can assist in my IT audit work and deliverables.
Let’s step aside for a bit from the technicalities of IT audit, and talk about a time when I wish I had known the benefits of having a mentor to help take your career to the next level. There are occasions that require an “oracle” of some sort who you can reach out to – this oracle is called a mentor. A mentor is someone you can shadow and someone you can learn from on topics such as communication, negotiation and other skills that cannot be found in books. This person is someone who has been in your shoes and walked the same path you are going through, and who can help you out in avoiding certain pitfalls. Therefore, for me, back in my early IT audit years, I wish I knew how important it is to have a mentor.
By now, if you did not already relate to any of my wishes above, you might have started to focus on your own, so I will be leaving you with my last wish. Throughout my career, I came across several colleagues and made new friends. Each one brought a different experience, and with each experience, I learned a lesson. Accordingly, for my final wish, I wish that I knew when to let go of bad experiences at an early stage and cling to the good ones for a bit longer.
Editor’s note: For more career insights for newcomers to the IT audit, governance, risk and security fields, visit ISACA’s Young Professionals page.