When I cleared my final Chartered Accountancy (CA) examination in 1997, I thought I have THE ultimate qualification and that I have taken the very last examination of my professional career. And indeed, the CA qualification accompanied by a rigorous articleship had equipped me to conduct statutory audits, tax engagements and similar assignments. Soon thereafter, as I started exploring various areas of professional practice and became interested in Internal Audit, I felt the need for deeper understanding of subjects like Internal Audit, IT systems Audit, Forensic reviews or other similar specializations. For many years, I ‘learnt on the job’ and gathered deeper understanding about risks, controls, resource optimization, governance and similar areas. However, all along, I missed not having the foundation – a structured framework of knowledge on which to position the superstructure of experience.
My hunger for structured learning took me to several post qualification courses offered by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) and also, some international certifications offered by global organizations such as the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) and the Institute of Systems Audit and Controls Association (ISACA), etc. I gravitated towards the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) certification as that was most relevant to me in the field of Internal Audit. Now, I was a working professional, with practical experience in the field of Internal Audit, opening text books and examination study material in the midst of a busy work life. I was delighted to find that the study material made intuitive sense as I could correlate my professional experience to the theory and principles stated therein – it helped me put my years of professional experience into a logical framework of understanding. Some misgivings got cleared, and I emerged well equipped, not just to execute the internal audit assignments, but also to explain the rationale to the stakeholders. It added immensely to my confidence, as I realized that my understanding and methodology were backed by a global body of professionals.
The CIA examination was different – I did not enter the exam halls with the fluttering in my heart as I had done during the CA exams; but with the confidence of a professionals whose understanding had been validated and who had enjoyed the learning process. The CIA certification thus, was a journey of consolidating my unstructured understanding into a systematic body of knowledge.
Encouraged by the experience of CIA, and observing the wide scale adoption of technology across clients, I took up the post-qualification course DISA (Diploma in Information System Audit) conducted by ICAI. At the beginning, it was more about being back in the classroom on weekends, group studies and exchanging knowledge with other professionals. As the course progressed, I learnt various facets of Information Technology and I got an in-depth understanding of the technology related risks/controls. This understanding came very handy for the process review and process re-engineering assignments as reliance on Information Technology was inevitable. Post that, I went on to do Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) conducted by ISACA, USA. Both, the DISA and CISA certification helped me to take up assignments that required in-depth understanding of IT systems and related controls.
The CIA certification helped me consolidate my knowledge in an area that I was already involved with, namely, Internal Audit; whereas the DISA and CISA certifications enabled me to develop new specializations and branch out to Systems Audits.
By now, I became addicted to challenging myself to learn and develop new areas through taking up courses and examinations. The recent years thus, saw me enrol for the Forensic Audits and Fraud Detection (FAFD) course offered by ICAI and the Independent Directors’ examination offered by The Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA).
So, here’s my take based on my experience – a professional certification will help you grow in different ways – through consolidation of knowledge, by exposure to new opportunities, by widening of network, by exploring the depths of a topic with focus, by becoming a student once again! I am a strong advocate for being a lifelong learner, and till we have the luxury and feasibility of ‘going back to school’, professional certifications offer the best opportunity for expanding our horizon during our work life.
I believe that our busy schedules don’t allow us to do in-depth study of any new subject unless it is goal-driven and time bound. These certification exams help achieving that. It facilitates widening the horizon on the subjects, which can be put to application in our day-to-day work. It offered me opportunities to interact and network with the professionals from other specializations such as Engineers, IT specialists and learn technical aspects from them which were difficult to visualise with my background and experience.
As said by Abraham Lincoln, “If I had eight hours to cut down a tree, I’d spend six hours sharpening my axe”; these certifications also work on similar lines for the aspiring Internal Auditors.
For those pursuing a career in Internal Audit, the certifications offered by the IIA, USA provide a great opportunity for ‘sharpening the axe’. What is more, right now, for a very limited period, there is a window of opportunity open for Chartered Accountants (Members of ICAI) to take the CIA Challenge Examination that combines three different modules in a single examination paper and gain an international certification. On September 18, 2021, BCAS hosted a curtain-raiser event to create awareness about the CIA Challenge Examination opportunity open to members of ICAI for a limited period.
Here’s the link to the recording of the curtain-raiser event on BCAS YouTube Channel: https://youtu.be/_vt6kbuj5Ww. For those interested in knowing more, here’s the link to the relevant information on the IIA India website: https://www.iiaindia.co/cia-challenge.
The Blog solely reflects the personal views and opinions of the author(s).
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