Why I'm Passionate About Something I've Never Done

This post originally appeared on Cindy Fornelli’s LinkedIn profile. You can view the original post here and follow her on LinkedIn for more auditing insight.

As I’ve written on LinkedIn, I’m passionate about being near the water: beachcombing and paddle boarding in particular. I’m also passionate about public company auditing, which is the focus of the organization that I lead, the Center for Audit Quality.

The water stuff is easy enough to understand. It’s a passion I share with literally millions of people.

But why am I passionate about public company auditing?

Am I a CPA who has spent her career auditing public companies? No. I’m actually a lawyer by training.

Does my heart flutter at the thought of testing management’s information supporting account balances or observing physical inventory counts? Nope. Never done either of those things, which are both part of an auditor’s day-to-day job.

Still, auditing is definitely one of my passions, and, for anyone wondering about careers and passions, it’s worth explaining how and why.

Some Passions Need Cultivation

Some people discover career passions early and suddenly. Think of the musician who says something like, “Man, back when I was 11 and saw [insert legendary pop star here] in concert, I knew right then and there that’s what I wanted to do with my life.”

I salute people who discover a passion from an early age like that. In fact, I found my love of water and the ocean early on, somewhat ironically, given that I grew up in landlocked Kansas.

But I’ll also observe that being thunderstruck early by (and then chasing) a particular career passion certainly doesn’t apply to everyone. In fact, there’s a school of thought out there that finding work-related passion is quite the opposite of sudden.

Passion is a derivative, not a driver,” career coach Peter Caven once wrote. In other words, as he explained, passions develop and emerge over the course of a career. Under this way of thinking, telling a young person to “chase your passion” is probably bad career advice. After all, it’s hard for a person to chase something that they’re more than likely not even aware of yet.

My Path to Passion

My passion for auditing certainly emerged over years. Here’s the quick and dirty on my career:

  • I spent eight years as a securities lawyer, helping companies to structure deals, to issue securities, and to interact with the financial regulators that oversee the capital markets.
  • I then spent six years as one of those regulators at the US Securities and Exchange Commission, an agency whose thousands of employees work tirelessly to protect investors, to maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and to facilitate capital formation.
  • After public service, I spent two years in Bank of America’s compliance department, where I oversaw the bank’s adherence to regulations designed to protect savers and investors.

Through it all, my appreciation grew for our capital markets—an amazing, complex system that fosters the entrepreneurial spirit, that helps companies thrive and create jobs, and, ultimately, that helps Main Street investors to participate in the economy and to sock away money for retirement, education, and other goals. No, our market system is not perfect, but another of its marvels is that entities across the private sector and the government strive constantly to make it better.

One of those entities, of course, is the public company auditing profession.

In fact, auditors play a critical role in the markets, as their mission—at its core—is to build confidence. Without confidence, markets simply don’t work.

So in 2006, I was thrilled to become Executive Director of the Center for Audit Quality, an organization that serves investors, public company auditors, and the markets.

Since then, I’ve discovered that the profession has so many other wonderful qualities besides its core mission and values.

While its history stretches back for centuries, the accounting and auditing profession today operates on the cutting edge of technology and is a leader in exciting areas like data analytics and artificial intelligence. Its firms come in all different shapes and sizes, and many of those firms are also leaders when it comes to embracing people of all different backgrounds as well.

Now, like the markets in which it operates, the auditing profession cannot be perfect. Yet the profession, although as proud as any, doesn’t run from change or challenges. To the contrary, it proactively embraces continual improvement as a guiding principle. I see it in the dedication of the men and women of the profession whom I’m fortunate to interact with each day.

Those are just a few of the reasons why I’m passionate about auditing.

Save the Date: #AuditorProud, Coming September 28

On September 28, 2017, I will be one of thousands of people taking to social media to express my pride and passion for public company auditing. On the 28th, the profession will hold its annual #AuditorProud day.

Track that hashtag, and I promise that you will see a vivid celebration of all the good that this profession does for our economy and investors. And If you or someone you know is weighing career possibilities, be sure to save September 28 as a day to learn more about auditing, a place to build your career—and a passion.

As always, I welcome your thoughts in the comments.

A securities lawyer, Cindy Fornelli has served as the Executive Director of the Center for Audit Quality since its establishment in 2007.