Behind the W: Get to Know Ernest Anunciacion
Q: You started your career in IT. How did you make the move to internal audit, risk management, and compliance?
Let's take a journey back in time. We'll party like it's 1999, when people are playing snake on their green screen cell phones, saving documents on a 3.5" floppy disc (or a ZIP disc, if you were lucky!), and rewinding movies on a VHS cassette before returning them to the video store. The dot-com industry was booming and advances in digital technology redefined how people consumed media. Napster was the coolest thing since Voltron.
I was first exposed to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and all of its documentation requirements during an internship in 2002 at a multinational conglomerate. I subsequently accepted a full-time offer to join the company's IT leadership development program as an IT project manager, but It wasn't what I expected from a technology perspective, as I rarely worked on anything cutting edge.
Two years later, I determined that in order to become a better business leader, I needed to learn more about finance and accounting, and thus, joined the company's corporate audit staff. It was an incredible experience—I was able to move out of financial services and work in other industries such as energy, media, treasury, and healthcare/medical devices.
Since then, I've held various roles in enterprise risk management, SOX compliance, internal audit, and risk advisory consulting. I like to say that I'm not a traditional auditor. I somehow ended up in public accounting later in my career versus at the beginning. However, it was through these experiences that I gained invaluable and transferable skill sets that helped me land in my current role as a senior product marketing manager at Workiva. I'm living proof that there is life after internal audit.
Q: What's your favorite thing about working at Workiva?
Without a doubt, my favorite thing about Workiva is our company culture. Every day, we get to work on a really cool technology platform that is changing the way businesses operate. Just as important, is how we get the work done. We maintain the essence of a start-up company, even though we are publicly traded. We're allowed to take calculated risks, and if we fail, we do it quickly, we learn from the experience, and we move on to the next thing.
Workiva equips us with the tools to become the best version of our professional and personal selves. The people are amazing, and it's evident that our most important asset is our employees. We work extremely hard and play harder. As Marty Vanderploeg always says, no one has more fun than we do.
Q: What are your professional passions?
I firmly believe in continuous learning and development. One thing that has helped me in my career is reinvention. How else does one start off in IT and end up in marketing? I read a lot of books and listen to interesting podcasts (primarily on professional wrestling, sports, and business). Finally, I'm finishing up an executive MBA program, and I am considering teaching business classes in my spare time.
Q: What is the most valuable thing you learned while being an internal auditor?
Humility. Being an internal auditor is a humbling experience, and exhibiting humility is the first step toward gaining trust and credibility with your auditees. You may be the smartest person in the room, but if you don't know how to treat people with respect and dignity, you'll never convince management to agree with an audit issue.
Q: What organizations and causes do you support?
I volunteer at Feed My Starving Children (FMSC). FMSC is a Christian nonprofit organization that provides meals to malnourished children around the world. My family is from the Philippines, where poverty and food insecurity are very real issues. Hunger is, theoretically, a solvable issue—just think about all of the food we waste in the United States. FMSC aligns with my values because of the partnerships and distribution channels they've established in Asia.
Q: What's your favorite audit joke? We know you have one.
There's a glass that contains half a pint of milk. The optimistic client says "The glass is half full." The pessimistic client says "The glass is half empty." The internal auditor says "The milk is bad," then proceeds to ascertain whether the empty half is material and designs an audit procedure to obtain sufficient evidence in order to substantially conclude that the glass is indeed, half empty.
Q: Do you have any concerns regarding the future of internal audit?
Talent management and succession planning. Best practice internal audit departments are leveraged as a way to breed future business leaders. I've had the good fortune to place former team members in nonfinance or accounting roles within the organization after spending a few years in audit. But that's not always the case, and we need more seasoned internal audit leaders.
As the baby boomer generation nears retirement, there's a potential resource gap that needs to be bridged in the interim. Most colleges and universities don't even offer courses on internal audit, so the exposure to the function as a career path comes too late for the younger generation. Current chief audit executives and internal audit management would benefit from building strong benches and planting the seed early with their staff members by offering leadership opportunities earlier in their careers.
For the younger staff, consider the fact that internal audit provides a unique opportunity to really learn about an entire organization. There aren't many other functions that touch so many different parts of an organization. Take advantage of that opportunity, and immerse yourself with curiosity. Whether your career continues in internal audit or you venture into another function, the skills sets you pick up along the way will help you become a more effective leader.
About the author
Mitz Banarjee is the Executive Vice President and Chief Customer Officer. Over the past 10 years, he has been heavily involved with technology companies of all sizes at an operational level driving customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.