Ryan graduated from the University of Missouri in 2004. He first worked for a Big 4 (PWC) before moving to Sony. He is now a Senior Manager of Audit Services at the Fortune 500 Seaboard Corporation. We had an opportunity to sit down with him and learn about his career path in audit.
Internal Audit – More Like Internal Superman
We start by talking about Ryan’s role as an internal auditor at Seaboard. Seaboard is an almost $7B holding company and the only Fortune 500 business based in the Kansas City area. Its operations cover almost everything needed to get many agricultural products to the table – from farming and milling to shipping and commodities trading, as well as turkey and pork production (amongst other items). In Ryan’s internal audit position, he works across all of Seaboard’s different businesses. He helps provide Seaboard’s executive management with certainty about the financial and operational stability within each business and parachutes into many of the companies to provide on-the-ground support and advice.
“I do about half compliance and half consulting-type work.” Ryan explains “This includes helping out with due diligence during acquisitions, shaving cost and reducing risk through the implementation of new processes, and supporting investment decisions. These are really more managerial or business type functions, and the variety of work keeps my role really interesting”
Each time Seaboard makes a new investment or when one of their businesses needs some assistance, Ryan is often on a plane to go and visit in person. With Seaboard’s business covering about 300 companies in over 50 countries, Ryan has racked up an impressive travel list, including Africa, Central America, and Australia. As we spoke, he was preparing to go to Ecuador in the coming weeks.
From Mizzou to PWC to Sony and Seaboard
While at the University of Missouri, Ryan chose accounting for many reasons. He liked the math and understanding how companies make money. He also liked the idea that accounting is a path that provides good opportunity and dividends, including the fact that accountants made $7,000 – $8,000 more in their first year after graduating than most other business majors. Good grades, networking, and membership to the Beta Alpha Psi organization got Ryan noticed by the Big 4 firm PWC, where he started in Chicago. When asked why he chose to specialize in audit, Ryan makes it sound simple:
“When you’re in your last year of school, you have two primary choices: audit or tax. When I graduated in 2004, Sarbanes-Oxley legislation had just been implemented and it created a lot of complexity for clients and additional work for audit firms. This created some great opportunities for new auditors coming into the industry, and I think that still holds true today”
After 3.5 years at PWC learning the ropes, Ryan moved on to be a Senior Auditor at Sony before eventually moving to Seaboard.
Audit – The Swiss Army Knife Career
“The good thing about audit is that you get a lot of exposure early on and often to the executives and the board of directors in your company. They look to you as experts in your field and to support the decisions that ultimately determine the direction and success of the organization”
Ryan goes on to explain that, as an auditor, you get to build relationships all across the business and understand how each group works. In audit, you are one of the only departments in the company that sees and understands things across the whole business, and you become extremely valuable because of this knowledge.
This exposure and knowledge leads to a lot of opportunities. For Ryan, he has continued to focus on internal audit, where he works on projects for 4 – 8 weeks before moving onto the next challenge with a new Seaboard business. However, should he choose, the opportunity also exists to move into any of the businesses he has worked with as a manager. As Ryan says:
“Just because you’re getting an accounting degree doesn’t necessarily mean you will be an accountant.”
On Getting Started
Ryan says that you don’t always need a degree to reap the benefits of an accounting qualification. Depending on where you want to go, you may just need a certification or to have some classes on-top of your existing college major.
“Having just a little accounting knowledge opens up so many more doors to move into management, run a factory, or operate whatever business you choose. You understand what it means to buy something, sell something, and everything in between. Having that knowledge really increases your odds of success.”
Are you interested in possibly pursuing a career in internal audit? If so, head on over to our college search page and start looking for the right program for you!