As more companies and businesses go digital in the new normal, having a secure and efficient IT infrastructure is increasingly critical for business survival - and success - during these challenging times. And playing a crucial role in keeping IT systems resilient is that of an IT auditor.
In his previous job as a financial auditor, Mr Dominic Ho scrutinised financial statements to ensure they were true and fair. Now an IT auditor with accounting firm BDO LLP, the 26-year-old is responsible for analysing and assessing his clients' technological infrastructure in relation to their financial reporting closing process. He does this to identify potential weaknesses or gaps in IT-related controls for better risk management and compliance.
"IT auditing is a niche field of work which is becoming ever more important and in demand as technology advances," he says.
Initially, the accounting and finance graduate from the Singapore campus of James Cook University (JCU) thought his interest lay in finance audit. Four months into his first full-time role at a local accounting firm, he gained an interest in IT auditing and decided to make the switch.
His biggest stumbling block was his lack of experience and background in IT. He graduated with a Bachelor of Business (Majoring in Accounting and Finance) from JCU in 2017. How would he be able to make a smooth transition from finance to IT auditing?
After all, these are two vastly different job roles.
"In finance audit, I mainly performed tests of details, such as checking documents to ensure that the numbers in the financial statement tally and are accurate," he explains.
"However, IT auditing involves quite a different skillset. I have to review and assess IT systems to ensure sufficient internal controls are in place and operating effectively. These tests involve the review of managed changes, logical access and other IT-related general controls to ensure that controls laid out by management are working effectively."
The first few months were a steep learning curve. But with the assistance of his manager and after completing his first few job assignments, Mr Ho says he is getting the hang of his new role. In addition to doing a lot of reading up and research on his own, Mr Ho's partner and managers also guide him so that he can perform his best at work. "It gets better with experience and perseverance is key," Mr Ho adds.
Gaining transferable skills
Does Mr Ho think his three years pursuing an accounting and finance degree at JCU has gone to waste now that he is not in the same field anymore?
"I don't see it as a wasted experience. It broadened my thinking and allowed me to try things that I would never have had the opportunity to experience.
"The transition from finance to IT auditing is pretty similar to how we choose new subjects during our schooling days and enter an unfamiliar classroom environment."
In addition to knowledge in finance and accounting, Mr Ho is particularly grateful that his experience at JCU instilled in him the mindset of lifelong learning so that he is quick to adapt to new situations.
His course at JCU also trained him in the essential skills to be a good auditor, regardless of which sector he is in. Through the coursework he did in auditing classes, he developed a keen eye for detail to spot any exceptions or discrepancies in the supplied evidence, as well as professional scepticism to detect any misrepresentation.
Through multi-disciplinary project modules, he also developed good documentation skills. This is essential as it allows the person reading the audit working papers and the final report to easily understand the relevant details of significant transactions.
At JCU, Mr Ho also learned soft skills that make him a good team player.
With JCU's diverse international student cohort, Mr Ho enjoyed getting to know people from different cultures and walks of life. Working with foreign peers on group projects also boosted his interpersonal communication skills. Now, he finds he is able to communicate effectively with his clients - both local and international - so that he has a better understanding of the systems he is testing.
While many JCU lecturers left a strong impression on him, business lecturer Ratna Devi inspired him the most. "Her passion for accounting piqued my interest in the line of work and built the foundation of my knowledge. In class, she was upbeat and often had a good sense of humour. I always looked forward to her classes."
Mr Ho advises accounting graduates to start out in an audit firm to gain an understanding of as many industries as possible, before joining a particular field or company.
Referring to accounting rules International Financial Reporting Standards, he adds: "As an auditor, you will also be able to familiarise yourself with the different IFRS standards, gain experience in communicating with upper management and gain time management skills.
"There is no doubt that life in an audit firm is often tiring and strenuous, but the experience is worthwhile. We are young and just starting out in the workforce, so we have the energy to persevere."
Learn more about JCU's Bachelor of Commerce and its majors which include Economics, International Trade, Accounting, Financial Management, Banking and Finance.