Adda Power, CAE and Director of Internal Audit at TripAdvisor, never imagined where her career would take her while studying to become a mechanical engineer at UMass. After making the decision to switch to accounting, Adda went on to apply lessons gleaned from the engineering labs to her newfound career. Today, Adda thrives on shaping and defining internal audit’s role at TripAdvisor, where she says “the runway is quite wide.” Her biggest successes have included refocusing her department’s approach to the risk assessment, identifying opportunities to use technology to automate processes, and better positioning internal audit as a valued business partner across the organization. Learn more about Adda’s path to CAE below!
Adda: While at UMass for a mechanical engineering degree, I found that although I have quite a bit of love for science and mathematics, it wasn’t fitting into my personality. In an engineering setting, unless you’re in management, you tend to do a lot of things on your own. I switched to accounting because I enjoyed interacting with other people. However, the key learnings from working in a lab that served me well in my career as an internal auditor were doing research, problem solving, and trying to figure out the answer by yourself before asking someone else.
Adda: What I’m most energized about is continuing to redefine Internal Audit’s role at TripAdvisor. I’ve overseen several acquisitions over the last five to six years. My challenge throughout this time has not only been defining our SOX and internal audit program, but defining internal audit’s role and the department’s relationship to the business as a whole. I find the runway is quite wide in terms of the opportunities to position Internal Audit as a trusted advisor to the company—and to me that’s the most exciting part.
Adda: Working with a very lean but agile team, we’re trying to maximize our coverage and manage our resources. This has extended to asking ourselves the question: “What does it mean for us to do an audit?” and we are investigating this from the procedural level up. We’re not afraid to take risks in terms of challenging tradition, but all the while we’re making sure that we’re still meeting what’s defined within our charter.
Adda: One of our biggest successes has been redefining the scope of the risk assessment. This is something that we’re continuing to refine and work through to ensure we’re successful in implementing. Oftentimes, the discussion surrounding the risk assessment is so focused on the risk and what it means, that the most important takeaway—the action items—can become buried.
In considering this, we’ve readjusted our approach to the risk assessment conversation. We now lead these meetings by clearly addressing what our goal is: to turn insights into action items. From there we are better able to drive our discussions, and in turn, use that to steer our audit plan. One of the great things about this approach is that the results are not only benefitting internal audit, but the organization as a whole.
Adda: Our peers are experiencing first-hand the benefits of an internal audit group that is effectively serving as a business connector. As my internal audit team works with groups throughout the company that have implemented best practices and successfully automated procedures, the department is then able to transfer that knowledge to another part of the business. As a result of this communication, the organization as a whole becomes better connected, more efficient, and more aligned.
Adda: The biggest benefit my team has experienced from using technology has been time savings. Part of our 2019 plan is to leverage technology, such as enterprise software and RPA, to solve many of the administrative issues inherent to SOX and other aspects of auditing, so that we can focus more time on value-added tasks, including research and problem solving, time dedicated to learning, and staying up to speed with the industry.
Adda: Outside of the regular audit work and staying abreast of what’s going on in our industry, my team makes a very intentional effort to meet weekly and talk about an article or a topic that we may not see or discuss on a day-to-day basis. This is an IA lead initiative at TripAdvisor that, since we launched, has started to invite business leaders to attend to also get their perspectives. In addition to creating thought-provoking discussions and building cross-functional relationships, this initiative has added another dimension to our team’s development and learning—something we are ingraining in our team culture that goes beyond just classroom learning.