Extracurricular activities have filled my schedule for as long as I can remember. I was always involved in academic clubs and societies, and in most I held leadership positions. But upon graduating college, everything came to a halt. My color-coded calendar was no longer riddled with meetings, fundraisers, events, socials, and more. Before graduation, I was known by professors and students of the business school. I had a network of people I could reach out to if I needed help, which suddenly disappeared as I entered a professional world where no one knew me. I struggled to come up with a way to build relationships with the people of the IT audit profession and ways to get involved, as I missed my extracurriculars activities and my color-coded calendar.
During a meeting with my manager, I brought up my concerns. He suggested that I consider joining the local Birmingham (Alabama) Chapter ISACA board. As someone right out of college, joining a board seemed like an “old person” thing to do. I was very skeptical because I didn’t think I had anything to offer the board as I was only a couple months into my career. He told me to give it a shot, so I did.
My first board position was the Programs Director, which was perfect for my personality and previous experience. In college, I held many positions where I planned events, so this aligned with my strengths. This role furthered my networking, planning, organization, and communication skills, as I had to plan the events, present them to the board for a vote, and then carry them out by making sure everything went smoothly on the day of the event.
Furthermore, I volunteered to work the registration table, which is probably the best kept secret of networking. You are in the position of learning the names and companies of people within your profession while introducing yourself to them. After a couple meetings, I knew people by name and the company they worked for, which many people wouldn’t learn if they just went to networking events and roamed among the same group of people.
Within a year, the Birmingham Chapter sent me to one of the ISACA North American leadership conferences, where I met board members from across the United States. A couple years later, I was given the opportunity to attend the Global Leadership Summit, and the leaders from the previous conference remembered me. At that moment I felt truly immersed in this profession – I never thought I would be recognized in a crowd of international board members just a few years into my career.
At the beginning, I didn’t think that a young professional could be involved in such a large organization as ISACA, with more than 140,000 members around the world. I thought only highly-experienced people could be on a board, but I was surprised to learn that a young professional can be a beneficial addition to a chapter board.
Today, I’m serving my second term as the Vice President of the Birmingham Chapter. One of my key roles in this position is to find good speakers, which is hard to do when one hasn’t been in the profession for that long. I’ve been thankful to have a supportive board, as well as coworkers, who always have a recommendation for me. This has continued to expand my networking landscape tremendously as I’ve worked to recruit various industry experts to speak at events.
To anyone looking to become involved and know people within our profession: join your local ISACA board. You are not too young or too inexperienced to make a difference. I can assure you that your business acumen will grow, and you will be rewarded with an expanded network within the IT risk and IT audit profession locally, nationally, and even internationally. In our risk-averse profession, I invite you to accept this risk and join your local ISACA board.
Editor’s note: For more resources for young professionals, visit www.isaca.org/young-professionals.