As we wrap up 2009 and kick off plans for the 2010 Intern Program – always an exciting time of year for recruiters like me! – I thought it would be timely to share some insights from one of our former interns.

Conni interned in our Pittsburgh office during the summer of 2008 and joined Protiviti full-time after graduation.  Below, she describes her first client experience as an intern, which helped to jumpstart her career as a consultant.

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“My first client as an intern was in a niche market in the manufacturing industry. Protiviti was in the process of completing IT Sarbanes-Oxley refresh testing that followed the initial phase testing of Sarbanes-Oxley compliance. While I was familiar with what Sarbanes-Oxley was, I was unsure of what IT SOX work entailed. When I arrived at the client, I was ready to begin my first engagement, but nervous about what the client expectations were for my team.

After the internal kick-off meeting was held, I had a better understanding of what IT SOX work involved. In short, my team needed to interview client personnel to confirm if the effective controls were still being performed and to determine if the actions to remediate the ineffective and inconclusive controls were implemented. My team was also responsible for retesting ineffective and inconclusive controls in addition to inquiry testing the effective controls.

My team consisted of myself and an experienced consultant. Working in a small team provided me the opportunity to ask more questions and work closely with a team member so that I could proactively track our progress at the client. I realized the importance of asking questions and consistently reviewing my work. By asking questions, I was able to understand the thought process that an IT auditor needs to go through in order to effectively test controls. As I reviewed my work, I learned to consistently question how I documented results, which then aided in making my work more complete. Additionally, this saved my teammate time from making additional corrections to my documentation.

This project provided professional growth because I was able to develop my written and verbal communication skills. The engagement required me to interact with IT management, as I helped to conduct interviews and draft presentations of results. One of the most rewarding experiences from my first client engagement was that I was able to attend the closing meeting where we discussed the refresh testing results and value-added suggestions. I was able to contribute my observations and findings to the final presentation, and the client was satisfied with the project execution and delivery.

Although I started my first client engagement with limited experience and knowledge about IT SOX compliance, I was able to develop the necessary skills to complete the project successfully. The engagement helped me to practice professional skepticism and to develop my auditing skills. Throughout the course of my internship, I was able use my recently acquired knowledge as background information for IT process controls. This helped me to build a solid foundation that I continued to build upon.

The most important lesson that I learned during my first engagement was that an intern needs to be motivated to learn and receptive to constructive criticism. By being proactive in seeking additional information and not taking things at face value, I was able to identify value-added activities for the client. Throughout the project, I received constructive criticism, which helped me to develop my skills. Additionally, by being willing to learn, my knowledge about the client and IT SOX developed significantly.

My first client experience gave me the opportunity to learn common IT practices and tricks of the trade. Overall, the engagement provided me with a fundamental background that I used throughout the duration of my internship.”

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