My Journey to Automation
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My Journey to Automation

Early in my career as an auditor, I was tasked with completing an Automated Clearing House (ACH) and Wire Transfer audit.  I was a new auditor and didn’t realize the work that I was doing was some of the first audits of automation that existed in banking at that time.

Years later, I had the opportunity to accept a position as the Chief Audit Executive at a small private company that was a subsidiary of the Oil & Gas market.  My responsibilities included compliance, IT & Finance audit, as well as SOX.  Immediately the IT portion of my role challenged me.  Numerous IT projects were being launched.  One project I was tasked with was supporting the re-implementation of SAP in Europe.  The company wanted to rely more on IT solutions and move from manual transactions to automated ones.  The problem was that SAP had been implemented in house and did not have any of the out of the box controls, hence the re-implementation project.   It was a fantastic endeavor, I learned ERPs and IT.  I was also on a project that we implemented in the US, a European tool called IFS, another ERP, I was on the team to design the framework.  I learned all about the functionality of ERPs.  We were trying to digitize as many processes as we could.  We decided as these tools were being implemented, we would also implement an accounting tool called Blackline.  Blackline allowed us to do risk assessments as it related to account reconciliations and remove many of the manual accounting transactions and journal entries.  We were able to automate much of our accounting transactions.  With the use of IFS, we automated supply chain transactions, inventory, and financial close.  SAP was redeployed with the UK/EU companies and allowed for automation of segment reporting, inventory, and supply chain.  In the meantime, my real audit job tasked me with executing audits with a small team. I say real job, but I was privileged to have a seat at the table and be a part of these projects.  My main objective was to help the company implement SOX, text controls, execute audits, and develop the company-wide compliance program that included anti-corruption and conflict mineral reporting.  I was able to automate much of our anti-corruption program using a subscription-based solution. After about three years of working at the company, the bottom, as you can say, fell out of Oil &Gas.  I watched many of my friends, my boss, and many others being laid off.  I even had a conversation with the CFO, asking him to lay me off to save my team.  He was a great guy and told me that I would not be laid off.   Things got so bad that we rationed printer toner. 

A few months into the Oil & Gas crisis, a recruiter reached out to me about interviewing for a Director of Risk, Governance & Compliance role at a large death care company.  I was very intrigued as several years prior, my friend was doing some headhunting and called me for a position at the same company in which I declined.  Well, after several interviews and I mean SEVERAL, I was offered the job.  My tasks included supporting the new ERP implementation, revamping the SOX testing program, automating workpapers and making improvements to the Fraud program.  I was thrilled.  Within two months of working at the death care company, I was on a plane to India to work with two large consulting companies as part of my governance responsibilities. The trip was terrific, I got to know my new boss and the various teams in accounting and finance, who were US-based, and with our partners in India.   Visiting the Taj Mahal was also on our itinerary; it was a dream.  During the trip, both firms presented their plan to support the ERP implementation.  We were also given a new solution – Robotic Process Automation (RPA) or BOTs.  I listened intently and I thought to myself, “this is just macros.” Both consulting firms were so passionate about RPA, I was confused over why macros would be talked about with such passion.  We left India and made our way back to the US.  All the Directors and Managing Directors were supposed to go back and review all the material and prepare to help decide on our ERP Implementation partner.  Weeks later, we had an event in New Orleans, and I told we would be taking the corporate jet – I wanted to scream!  That would be the beginning of the first of many trips on the corporate jet.  We spent a lot of time as a team discussing our choices of a partner and the implementation.  After our quick trip to New Orleans, we decided that Deloitte would be our partner.  The Oracle Cloud ERP implementation was strenuous, we gave nine months of our lives, but the implementation went well.  Oracle ERP was a very positive IT solution for our company.  I was once again able to go back to doing my full-time job and tackling this RPA BOT thing that I had put on the back burner for about nine months.  I started working with our partners, who were slowly reducing our offshore headcount by implementing RPA.  I had the opportunity to go to India jointly with a PWC audit team and see BOTs operate in using data from an email and tying the data to transactions for reconciliation purposes.  We visited both of our consulting partners and saw all sorts of transactions, I finally realized that BOTs were not macros – it was an amazing technology.  I was sold.

About a year after my epiphany, a colleague was promoted into a position at an RPA start-up.  I contacted him via LinkedIn to give my congratulations, he replied, “do you want to chat about an opportunity.”  I am always open to talk about potential opportunities, so we did.  Within a few weeks, he offered me a position as the Director of Internal Audit.   Now I had the daunting task of telling my boss, my mentor, my friend, my confidant, the person who for the last four years had taken me under her wing and supported me in so many ways even some she will never know.  I was leaving to follow my automation journey that even I didn’t understand.  I was leaving for the opportunities that would come, I was leaving a company that I loved to do something that would revolutionize the world.  She was supportive and loving and just wanted me to be happy.  The experiences to come would be invaluable that not many people will never get the chance to enjoy. At that company, I took many RPA training and received certifications – I learned as much as I could.  The entire experience was dreamy but came to an end.  I am still on the automation journey but one to automate governance and compliance functions.

I believe my true automation journey began when I was at the bank so long ago; many people and companies have supported my passions along the way for which I am grateful.  My journey to digital automation continue.

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